Legends from northwest Bulgaria – unique and… yet unknown
8 days/7 nights tour
Sofia – Etropole – Pravets – Vratsa – Belogradchik – Vidin – Belogradchik – Chiprovtsi – Varshets – Gara Bov – Sofia
This tour will unravel a unique yet relatively unknown part of Bulgaria that stands apart from the mass tourism routes – The Northwestern region. It spreads from the capital city of Sofia to the Danube River, one of the largest rivers in Europe, and includes the territory neighbouring the Serbian border. Incredible nature phenomenon, mineral springs, historical heritage dating back to antiquity, authentic local culture… A colourful bouquet from this part of sunny Bulgaria that will undoubtedly ensure many new friends of the country all around the world…
Day 1Welcome to Sofia
Arrival in the Bulgarian capital. Airport transfer and accommodation at a local hotel. Overnight.
Day 2Sofia – Etropole (B)
After breakfast, we will enjoy a panoramic tour of one of the oldest cities in Europe, referred to as “My Rome” by Emperor Constantine the Great. The highlights of this tour will be: “Ancient Serdica” /Serdica being the old name of the city/, the St. George rotunda from the IV century – the oldest Christian temple in the city and presumably the oldest building still intact, “the quadrangle of tolerance” where 4 temples of the main religions in the country are gathered on a small territory – an Eastern Orthodox and a Catholic Christian churches, a Synagogue and a Mosque, the Battenberg square with the King’s Palace and the National Theater, the Golden paved boulevard – one of Sofia’s trademarks, the King Liberator’s monument, the Parliament, St. Sophia basilica, the patriarchal cathedral St. Alexandar Nevsky – one of the largest Christian orthodox worship buildings on the Balkans and other landmarks of the capital. In the afternoon we will also visit the UNESCO-listed Boyana Church, with frescoes from the XIII century predating the renaissance. In the late afternoon, we will depart for the small town of Etropole, nestled at the foothills of Stara Planina. Accommodation at a local hotel and some free time to have a walk and enjoy the crystal-clean mountain air. Overnight.
Day 3Sofia – Etropole – Etropole Monastery – Pravets – Vratsa (B)
After breakfast, we will visit the Etropole Monastery – one of Bulgaria’s most notable enlightenment centres during the XVI-XVII centuries, famous for its calligraphic school. Next on the agenda is the city of Pravets, situated near a picturesque lake. We will visit the house-museum of the former communist leader Todor Zhivkov who was the head of the Bulgarian state for nearly 33 years. Here we will see an exhibition of gifts that were given to Zhivkov from other country leaders from all over the world. Many of the objects are real works of art. We then continue to Vratsa. In this city we will first see the Rogozen Thracian treasure /VI-IV century BC/, the biggest treasure yet found in Bulgaria, a combination of silver and golden artefacts. A part of this exhibition was displayed in the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris. It is a well-known fact that jewellery was an integral part of the Thracian culture – the oldest civilization that inhabited the Bulgarian lands. Next is a visit to the Ledenika cave where the first underground concert in Bulgaria was held. It was so successful that such events became frequent here. The largest cavern with the most amazing stone formations is called “The Concert Hall” because of its remarkable acoustics. Accommodation at a local hotel in Vratsa. Overnight.
Day 4Vratsa – Belogradchik (B)
After breakfast, we will head for the city of Belogradchik, where an incredible nature
phenomenon awaits us. The Belogradchik Rocks with their fantastic figures – the Horseman, the Madonna, the Monks, the Schoolgirl and many, many more are an inspiring creation of nature’s genius. This rock formation was nominated to be one of the present nature wonders of the world. Among the inaccessible hills stands the Belogradchik fortress, built by the Romans in the I-II century, it is one of the best preserved defensive facilities from that period. Next, is the second cave in our program – “Magurata”, famous mostly for its wall paintings from the bronze age, painted presumably between 1200 and 3000 years B.C. They depict figures, animals, plants and ancient rituals. Particularly valuable is the solar calendar. At the final of the day’s program, we will visit “Rabishа” lake, the biggest in the country, known for the legend of an aquatic monster with a bull-like appearance that lives in its waters. A Bulgarian Loch Ness some may say… Accommodation at a local hotel. Overnight.
Optional: A hot air balloon flight above the Belogradchik rocks.
Day 5Belogradchik – Vidin – Belogradchik (B)
After breakfast, we will head for the city of Vidin on the bank of the Danube River. First,
we will visit Baba Vida – the only fully preserved castle from the middle ages in Bulgaria, that majestically stands above the Danube shores. A panoramic tour of the most important landmarks of the city: St. Demetrius cathedral, Krastata Kazarma, the mosque of the Ottoman ruler Osman Pazvantoglu, the synagogue, the city park and others. We will conclude our visit with a boat ride on the Danube. Return to Belogradchik. Overnight.
Day 6Belogradchik – Chiprovtsi – Varshets (B)
After breakfast, we will visit Chiprovtsi, a city famous for its unique carpets and
therefore our main theme for this visit will be a carpet-weaving factory. For Bulgaria, the Chiprovtsi carpets are what the Brussels lace is for Belgium! We will visit the weaving house and we will get to know the specifics of this craft. After this, we will see a family-run business that puts a new light on the Chiprovtsi carpets – as a product, adequate to the modern market demands. We will set off for Varshets. En route, we will visit the Loposhanski monastery, presumably founded in the XIV century, but destroyed during the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans. It was built in its recent form in 1850 and poses one of the most beautifully crafted iconostasis in the country. The monks here produce excellent wine! A walk and accommodation in Varshets, a city known for its warm mineral springs and soft mountain climate. Overnight.
Day 7Varshets – Gara Bov – Sofia (B)
After breakfast, we head for Gara Bov. The route passes through the extremely picturesque river gorge of Iskar, the longest Bulgarian river. After each turn, a magnificent view is revealed before our eyes. Especially impressive are the Lakatnishki rocks, forming rocky slopes and vertical rock walls more than 260 meters high! They are one of the most popular alpinist training places in Bulgaria. We reach the village of Gara Bov. According to a local legend, the village was first founded by the Latin knight Sen Beuf, captured and enslaved by the Bulgarian king Kaloyan after the battle between the Bulgarians and the Crusaders in 1205. A knight battle reenactment is held here each year. We will visit the captivating Skaaklya waterfall which descends from more than 200 meters. Nearby the waterfall is the place where the patriarch of Bulgarian literature, the national poet Ivan Vazov came to seek inspiration. Lastly, we will visit an Eco farm to taste its wonderful products – milk and cheeses. The farm has its own horse stable and a reserve where you can see deer, wild goats and boar. Departure for Sofia. Accommodation at a local hotel. Overnight.
Day 8Goodbye Sofia (B, D)
After breakfast – transfer to the airport and flight back home.