Discover Bulgaria

Small group journeys to Bulgaria remain still off the beaten path as destinations for many mature couples and solo travellers. This European tour is led by a tour leader and supported by local guides who provide the authentic experiences our guests seek as they explore with like minded people.

From $9,794NZD

Available

Highlights

  1. 1. See the St Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world.
  2. 2. Visit the Etar Ethnographic Complex, an open-air museum with 50 sites showcasing life in Gabrovo in the 18th to 19th centuries.
  3. 3. Enjoy a relaxing day by the Black Sea in Nessebar, a former Thracian and Greek colony, now a World Heritage Site.
  4. 4. Stroll through the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria's largest monastery and a masterpiece of Bulgarian National Revival architecture.
Discover Bulgaria itinerary

Departure Dates

Departure Date Price
01 June 2024

Ends 14 June 2024

$9,794 Twin

$10,906 Single

Available
Selected
26 September 2024

Ends 09 October 2024

$9,794 Twin

$10,906 Single

Available
31 May 2025

Ends 13 June 2025

$10,323 Twin

$11,536 Single

Available
25 September 2025

Ends 08 October 2025

$10,323 Twin

$11,536 Single

Available
30 May 2026

Ends 12 June 2026

$10,323 Twin

$11,536 Single

Available
24 September 2026

Ends 07 October 2026

$10,323 Twin

$11,536 Single

Available

Discover Bulgaria

Discover Bulgaria with Odyssey Traveller in this 14-day tour as we explore this European country's rich heritage and history. This fully guided small group tour, especially designed for mature and senior travellers, begins and ends in Sofia, the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. We will visit historic museums, cathedrals, and important monuments and ancient settlements that will paint a picture of the country's years of foreign rule and the dramatic revival of its national consciousness in the 19th century.

Bulgaria is located on the eastern portion of the Balkan peninsula and is bordered by the Black Sea to the east. During the Bronze Age it was inhabited by Thracian tribes, who were eventually expelled or absorbed by the Greeks and the Romans. Early Bulgars (from which the country takes its name) took control of the region around the 7th century. Following years of prosperous trade, expansion, and war, the Bulgars were conquered by the Byzantine Empire, followed by the Ottomans who ruled Bulgaria for centuries. In the 19th century, the Bulgarian National Revival, marked by the spread of education and a cultural renaissance, paved the way for the liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish rule. Bulgaria became a part of the Eastern Bloc in 1946 and transitioned into democracy in 1991.

On this tour, accompanied by an Odyssey Program Leader and English-speaking local guides, we will view Thracian tombs, Roman ruins and settlements, fortresses and castles, and ancient churches and monasteries with incredible paintings and frescoes. We will also enjoy city tours of:

  • Sofia
  • Veliko Tarnovo
  • Shumen
  • Plovdiv

and visit interesting spots en route as well as the historic spots on the coastline of the Black Sea.

For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right-hand side of this page.

You can learn more about Bulgaria from Odyssey Traveller. We regularly offer tours designed for the active senior or mature traveller to enjoy in a small group holiday and learning environment. The 23-day Sofia, Bucharest, and Budapest tour may be of particular interest.

We also publish articles to provide more information to both loyal and prospective participants. Articles of possible interest is this two-part post filled with travelling tips for seniors, an article providing some advice for the over-50s with respect to life, exercise & travel, and an important article about practising responsible travel.

Itinerary

14 days

Day 1: SOFIA

Accommodation: Best Western Art Plaza Hotel or similar

We will arrive at the hotel in Sofia by our own arrangements, and gather together in the evening for a welcome dinner arranged in the hotel.

Day 2: SOFIA

Accommodation: Best Western Art Plaza Hotel or similar

Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. It was originally called “Serdica” after the Celtic tribe Serdi which once inhabited the region. Today we will go on a full-day guided sightseeing tour of the city to visit places that will offer insight into Sofia’s ancient history and its connection to Bulgarian heritage. The day’s highlights include the Serdica Archaeological Complex, an excavation site displaying the remains of the ancient city. We will also see the St Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, and nearby Sveta Sofia Church and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We will visit the National Museum of Natural History, which holds more than a million species of flora, fauna, and minerals, and the Boyana Church, a World Heritage Site, which has incredible frescoes.

Day 3: SOFIA - VELIKO TARNOVO

Accommodation: Hotel Central or similar

Today we will head east towards Veliko Tarnovo, which will be our base for three nights.

First, we will stop at the Emen Canyon, carved by the great Negovanka River. After this we will head to the village of Arbanasi for a half-day tour. We will visit the Konstantsaliev House Museum, a house fortress offering a unique example of Arbanasi architecture; the Church of the Nativity, whose interior is covered in paintings and frescoes dating back to the 17th century; and the richly decorated Preobrazhenski Transfiguration Monastery.

In Veliko Tarnovo we will head to our hotel and have dinner.

Day 4: VELIKO TARNOVO - ETARA - TRYAVNA - DRYANOVO - VELIKO TARNOVO

Accommodation: Hotel Central or similar

From our hotel in Veliko Tarnovo, we will head to the hills of rural Gabrovo, visiting the Etar Ethnographic Complex, an open-air museum with 50 sites showcasing life in Gabrovo in the 18th to 19th centuries; the Sokolski Monastery in Etara, the Wood Art Carving Museum in Tryavna, and the monastery in Dryanovo.

We will return to Veliko Tarnovo and have dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 5: VELIKO TARNOVO

Accommodation: Hotel Central or similar

Today we will explore Veliko Tarnovo itself. We will view the main sights, including Tsarevets Fortress which dominates the village skyline. The remainder of the day is free for us to spend at our leisure. In the evening, we will meet together as a group to dine in a local restaurant.

Day 6: VELIKO TARNOVO - SVESHTARI - SHUMEN - MADARA - VARNA

Accommodation: Boutique Splendid Hotel or similar

We will leave Veliko Tarnovo this morning and head east, bound for the Black Sea. Our first visit of the day will be to the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, a World Heritage Site and one of the most stunning of the Thracian Tombs to be seen in Bulgaria. This is a well-preserved monument to the culture of the Getae, a Thracian people who interacted with the ancient Greeks.

Next will be a half-day guided tour in Shumen, once a Thracian settlement with great sights including the Tombul Mosque, the monument to the founders of the Bulgarian State, and the Shumen Fortress dating back to the Iron Age. We have one more brief stop en route at the early medieval rock carving called the “Madara Horseman” near the village of Madara, before we continue to the seaside city of Varna.

Day 7: VARNA - GOLDEN SANDS - BALCHIK - NESSEBAR

Accommodation: St. Stefan Boutique Hotel or similar

In the morning we will visit Varna’s National Archaeological Museum before heading north up the Black Sea coastline. We will visit the Aladzha Monastery, an Orthodox Christian cave monastery complex famed for its colourful murals, and the Balchik Palace and Botanical Gardens, constructed as a summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania when Bulgaria was under Romanian control. Born Princess Marie of Edinburgh, she married Crown Prince (later King) Ferdinand of Romania in 1892.

The afternoon will be spent travelling south down the coast to Nessebar, our base for two nights. Nessebar, originally the Thracian settlement of Mesembria before it became a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site with many churches and small museums worthy of a visit. The group will have a tour of the town upon arrival.

Day 8: NESSEBAR

Accommodation: St. Stefan Boutique Hotel or similar

After a week of sightseeing, today we will enjoy a full day to be spent at our leisure in Nessebar. Consider visiting the museums or churches or enjoy a relaxing day by the sea.

Day 9: NESSEBAR - SLIVEN - KAZANLAK - SHIPKA - PLOVDIV

Accommodation: Hotel Leipzig or similar

We will head westwards back into the Bulgarian heartland, with many interesting visits en route. Following a brief stop in the city of Sliven, we will continue to Kazanlak where we will be joined by a local guide for a day of Thracian tombs sightseeing, visiting the Ostrusha and Golyana Kosmatka tombs. We will then continue to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city and our base for the next three nights.

Day 10: PLOVDIV - BACHKOVO - PLOVDIV

Accommodation: Hotel Leipzig or similar

Today we will be acquainted with the city of Plovdiv with a half-day guided city tour. The city is located in the midst of six hills that rise to a height of 400 feet (120 metres). It was known as Trimontium when it served as capital of the Roman province of Thrace. We will visit the Roman theatre of Plovdiv constructed in the 1st century and the Museum of Thracian Art which contains an exact replica of the Thracian Tomb of Alexandrovo. We will also view Lamartine’s House, where French poet Alphonse de Lamartine stayed in 1833.

We will then head south to visit the 11th century Bachkovo Monastery before returning to Plovdiv.

Day 11: PLOVDIV - STARA ZAGORA - HASCOVO - PLOVDIV

Accommodation: Hotel Leipzig or similar

We will take a full-day return excursion from Plovdiv to Stara Zagora and Haskovo. In Stara Zagora we will visit some of the best preserved prehistoric sites in Europe at the Neolithic Dwellings Museum and the Regional Museum of History. We will then push on to Haskovo to see the actual Thracian Tomb of Alexandrovo, a replica of which we’ve seen the day before. We will also view the Blessed Virgin Mary Monument, which stands at a total height of 31 metres or 102 feet with a chapel in its pedestal. We will return to Plovdiv and have dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 12: PLOVDIV - BANSKO

Accommodation: Overnight Hotel Tanne or similar

We will spend the morning visiting some of the remaining points of interest in Plovdiv. Today we will see the Ethnographic Museum at Koyumdijioglu House and the Regional Archaeological Museum. We will head southeast to Bansko, a popular ski resort in winter and a idyllic rural town in the summer months. The remainder of this day will be spent at our leisure in Bansko; the group may explore the surrounding countryside or simply rest.

Day 13: BANSKO - RILA - SOFIA

Accommodation: Best Western Art Plaza Hotel or similar

The group will begin today with a morning walking tour of Bansko to see the key points of interest with a local guide. We will visit the Holy Trinity Church, famous for its tall belfry and beautiful interiors, and the nearby Velyanova House Museum.

We will then head to Rila for a guided tour of the Rila Monastery, saving the best for last in a way as this is the largest and most famous of all monasteries in Bulgaria. The Rila Monastery is a World Heritage Site founded in the 10th century in the name of St John of Rila. The original monastic complex was destroyed by a fire at the beginning of the 19th century and was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862. It is considered a masterpiece of Bulgarian National Revival architecture.

We will return to Sofia for the night and have our farewell dinner.

Day 14: SOFIA

The end of breakfast marks the end of the tour and our services.

Includes / Excludes

Inclusions:

  • 14 nights accommodation.
  • 14 breakfasts and 8 dinners.
  • Transportation in modern, air-conditioned coaches.
  • Entrances, fees and tipping.
  • Services of an Odyssey Program Leader
  • Detailed information booklet.

Exclusions:

  • International airfares
  • Airport transfers.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Items of personal nature like laundry, phone calls, etc
Level 2 - Moderate

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.

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Make it a private tour

If you have a group of 6 friends or more you can book this tour as a private departure, with all the benefits of our small group tours.
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Easing your journey

Crossing international borders with restrictions

The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:

Pre-departure checklist for travelling across International borders.
Support over email or phone available 24/7 for any questions you have.

For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.

Book With Confidence

If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.

See Terms and conditions for details.

Peace of Mind Travel

The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.

See Peace of Mind Travel for details.

Reading List Download PDF

Bulgaria - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Juliana Tzvetkova

Bulgaria, situated in southeastern Europe on the Black Sea, is one of Europe’s best-hidden secrets. A haven for nature and history buffs, this beautiful sunny country welcomes the traveler with bread and salt, a red rose, and ? wooden vessel full of sparkling wine. These three emblems of ancient treasures, rose oil, and natural beauty symbolize its distinctive culture. This youngest member of the European Union has been riding a roller-coaster of radical transformation since emerging from the Eastern Bloc and becoming a market economy twenty years ago, changing dramatically in many ways and yet preserving its own particular charm and slow-paced way of life. Invasions and waves of migration, dating back to neolithic and classical times, have contributed to a unique cultural mosaic. The country boasts the oldest hoard of gold treasure in the world. The seventh-century Bulgarian empire dominated the Balkans and was a powerhouse of Slavonic culture. Later, Ottoman conquest and Soviet influence left their mark on the national psyche. Culture Smart! Bulgaria provides a key to understanding the Bulgarian people. It outlines their long and complex history, shows you what everyday life is like there today, and offers advice on what to expect and how to behave in different circumstances. This is a small country of proud and persevering people. More than the golden sands of the “Bulgarian Riviera,” the vast thickly forested expanses of the Rhodopes or the Rila and Pirin ranges with their snow-capped peaks and emerald-green lakes, the music and dances and the warmth and cordiality of the Bulgarians will conquer your heart and bring you back time and again.

Bulgaria - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Bulgaria and Bulgarians A Brief History

Plamen Pavlov

Republic of Bulgaria is a state located in South-east Europe and covers the central and eastern parts of Balkan Peninsula. To the north it borders with Republic of Rumania; to the east, with the Black Sea; to the south with Republic of Turkey and Republic of Greece, and to the west, with Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Serbia. Bulgaria`s surface area is 110 993 sq. km. The greatest distance from the north to the south is about 330 km, and from the west to the east, about 500 km. The population of Bulgaria, according to the census of 2001 is 7 973 673. About 85% of it is ethnic Bulgarians, 11% are Turks, nearly 4% are Gypsies and less than 1% is of other ethnic groups: Jews, Armenians, Greek, Russians. Bulgaria`s capital city is Sofia. It is also the largest city of the country with a population of 1 114 476 people. The next largest city is Plovdiv (population of 341 374), followed by Varna (population of 308 601), the main seaport of the country. Bulgarian is the official language. As regards religion almost 90% of the population is Christians and of these more than 80% are Eastern Orthodox. The second most numerous community, nearly 10%, is Muslim. There are also Judaists. As regards its state organization Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic with a single chamber parliament (People`s assembly). It consists of 240 people`s representatives of a 4-year mandate. The head of state is the President of a 5-year mandate. The central body of the top executive power is the council of ministers. The monetary unit of the country is the Lev (the international code is BGN). One Lev equals 100 stotinki. The value of notes is 2, 3,10, 20, 50 and 100 Levs, while that of coins is 1, 2, 5,10, 50 stotinki and 1 Lev. From AD 1999 the Lev has been tied up firmly first to German Mark and then to the Euro: 1 EUR = BGN 1,95583. March 3 is Bulgaria`s official national holiday. Since January 1st, 2007 Republic of Bulgaria is a full member of the European Union.

Bulgaria and Bulgarians A Brief History

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History

Robert D. Kaplan

From the assassination that triggered World War I to the ethnic warfare in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, the Balkans have been the crucible of the twentieth century, the place where terrorism and genocide first became tools of policy. Chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, and greeted with critical acclaim as "the most insightful and timely work on the Balkans to date" (The Boston Globe), Kaplan's prescient, enthralling, and often chilling political travelogue is already a modern classic.

This new edition of the Balkan Ghosts includes six opinion pieces written by Robert Kaplan about the Balkans between 1996 and 2000 beginning just after the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords and ending after the conclusion of the Kosovo war, with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power.

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The Balkans: A Short History

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Throughout history, the Balkans have been a crossroads, a zone of endless military, cultural, and ecomic mixing and clashing between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam, Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In this highly acclaimed short history, Mark Mazower sheds light on what has been called the tinderbox of Europe, whose troubles have ignited wider wars for hundreds of years. Focusing on events from the emergence of the nation-state onward, The Balkans reveals with piercing clarity the historical roots of current conflicts and gives a landmark reassessment of the region s history, from the world wars and the Cold War to the collapse of communism, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the continuing search for stability in southeastern Europe.

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The Fracture Zone, A Return To The Balkans

Simon Winchester

The vast and mountainous area that makes up the Balkans is rife with discord, both cultural and topographical. And, as Simon Winchester superbly demonstrates in this intimate portrait of the region, much of the political strife of the past century can be traced to its inherent contrasts. With the aid of a guide and linguist, Winchester traveled deep into the region's most troublesome areas--including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey--just as the war was tearing these countries apart. The result is a book not just about war but also about how war affects the living. Both timeless and current, The Fracture Zone goes behind the headlines to offer a true picture of a region that has always been on the brink. Winchester's remarkable journey puts all the elements together--the faults, the fractures, and the chaos--to make sense out of a seemingly senseless place.

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