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This guided 10-Day Bulgaria and Romania UNESCO Heritage Tour through history explores Bulgaria and Romania’s precious UNESCO Monuments. In each location a local guide will introduce you to their homeland and take you to towns and structures that need to be seen to be believed.
In Romania, you’ll enjoy the best of the three big tourist regions: Maramures, Bucovina and Transylvania. Each region has its own age-old traditions and culture peculiar to the area. The culture in Maramures has changed very little in the past 100 years, allowing you to flash back in time without the need of a flux capacitor. Explore the ancient wooden churches, gates and historic villages that make it like nowhere else on earth. Bucovina boasts the famous Painted Monasteries created by Stephen the Great. Then it´s off to Transylvania; a land of amazing medieval towns, castles and the legend of Dracula.
Next stop, Bulgaria. First is Veliko Tarnovo, which was the historic capital of Bulgaria during the medieval ages. Here, you will see the magnificent citadel on Tsarevets Hill. Before reaching Sofia, stops at other picturesque sites will be made, such as the Thracian tomb in Kazanlak, Plovdiv, Rila Monastery and much more.
Sofia International Airport
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Enjoy the convenience of being picked up on arrival at Sofia airport, where an equally convenient private transfer from the airport to your hotel will be provided. Today holds a sightseeing tour of the Bulgarian capital for you, including the central area and entrance to the National History Museum, which holds precious Thracian silver and gold treasures. No visit would be a proper one without an awed look in Boyana Church – something UNESCO has taken quite a shining to – sitting as it does at the foot of Mount Vitosha. Probably begun in the 11th century, it was then enlarged and decorated again in the 13th century by the local magnificently-named Lord Sebastocrator Kaloyan. A magnificent dinner is included, along with a folklore show. Afterwards, it’s off to your hotel for a perfect night´s rest.
After a sumptuous breakfast, you’ll be driven southward along the valley of Struma river to the Rila Monastery. Built in the 10th century, and hidden away within the recesses of Mount Rila; this is the largest, and one of the oldest, monasteries in all of Bulgaria. Desecrated by unpious thieves and fires several times, it has always been built again, each time bigger, better constructed and decorated. The final manifestation of this complex was achieved in the first half of the 19th century. Peer out from the medieval defensive tower in the middle of the monastery yard, a precious relic from the 14th century. It is known as The Hrelyo Tower, named after the feudal lord who built it before he was laid to rest in those very grounds. Next, it’s off to Plovdiv for the night.
This new day will bring you all the treasures of a sightseeing tour of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-biggest town. Roam through the old part of town and its typical Bulgarian houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit the ancient Roman Theatre and the intriguing Ethnographic museum. After such marvels, it’s off to the centre of the Rose Valley and the town of Kazanlak. Visit the UNESCO-loved Thracian tomb, (4th-3rd c BC) which was prepared for the local Thracian ruler way back in the 3rd or 4th century BC, and decorated with great Hellenistic mastery. Drive to the Black Sea Coast to stop at the UNESCO-fancied museum town of Nessebar, which juts out on a small peninsula connected to the main land by the narrowest of isthmuses. The settlement was founded in the 3rd century BC, and was an important fortress through the ages. It flourished particularly in the medieval period – and ruins from its fortress walls and well-preserved churches are just waiting to be seen. The town has typically charming old houses, and is a resort centre as well. Later in the afternoon, it’s time to drive along the Black Sea coast to the town of Varna, where a dinner and luxurious sleep are waiting to charm you.
Morning will see you indulging in some sightseeing in the capital of the Bulgarian Riviera, Varna. Head to the History Museum to see the oldest gold treasure in the world, dating back to the 5th century BC, and then visit the village of Madara to see the oldest bas-relief monument in Europe. This amazing treasure is sculpted right into a rock face 23 metres above the ground, and consists of the figure of a horseman, a lion and a dog all in motion. Then, proceed to Bulgaria’s ancient capital, Veliko Turnovo, to take in the famous Tsarevets hill light and music show.
A famous breakfast precedes a sightseeing tour of Veliko Turnovo and the royal Tsarevets castle. Then, it’s off to the town of Isperih to reach the village of Sveshtari and its UNESCO-worthy Thracian tomb. Although built in the same period as the tomb in Kazanlak (3rd century BC to be more exact), the two complexes couldn’t be much more different. The one at Sveshtari is a unique multifigural complex, decorated with ten dancing “caryatids” dressed in exquisite costumes. Each figure’s face expresses its own character with its unique expression. The UNESCO-sanctioned Ivanovo Rock monasteries – cut out of rocks in the Russenski Lom River canyons – are next on the bucket list. An absolutely rocking lunch will then be appreciated in the city of Rousse on the Danube river. In the afternoon, it’s time to switch over to Bucharest in Romania.
In the morning, take the time to see the sights of Romania’s capital, before departing for Sinaia; rightfully dubbed the “Pearl of the Carpathians.” Here, spectacularly backdropped by the Carpathian mountains, the Palace of Peles is a masterpiece of German Renaissance architecture. This is the retreat in which Romanian Royalty used to summer. The Palace’s 160 rooms are adorned by the finest examples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows, walls covered with Cordoba leather, Meissen and Sevres porcelains, and ebony and ivory sculptures that would have Paul and Stevie in raptures. Its medieval collection of swords and nights armour are also simply astonishing. We will continue our journey to Bran and its famous Castle. This is Dracula’s Castle itself. The castle got its fame from Dracula`s legend written in 1897 by Bram Stoker. The oldest known documents referring to the Bran Castle were written way back in 1377; and in 1912, the Brasov municipality donated it to the Romanian royal family as their residence. After glutting yourself on the Dracula legend, depart for Brasov, where you will check into your spookily good hotel.
After a hotel breakfast fit for a Count, you will tour Brasov, a Saxon city vital for Transylvania. Highlights include the Black Church, the Council Square, the Hirsher House, the many old Saxon houses, and the White and Black Towers. Next, pass your way through the Bicaz Gorge on the way to Bucovina.
A delightful breakfast in your hotel will put you in the right mood to explore the Bucovina region, home to the unequalled Painted Monasteries. Voronet, which UNESCO has also taken quite a liking to, was founded in 1488 by Stephen the Great, and represents the most accomplished example of Moldavian architecture and painting. The doors of the porch are framed in high Renaissance style, while the stone carvings of the broken arches at the doors and windows are pure Gothic. Its rich colour has caused it to be known as the Oriental Sistine Chapel. Moldovita, something UNESCO just can’t get enough of, is replete with imposing towers and high, thick walls. This church is decorated with scenes from 16th century Moldavian life; these fresh and vivid frescoes are some of the most perfectly preserved youre likely to come across. Sucevita is the last and the most magnificent monastic achievement among Bucovina’s Painted Monasteries, and comes across as a honest-to-goodness fortress, with all the towers, buttresses and watch-roads you expect in a right-proper fortress. The depictions of Catholic Iconography, from the Ladder of Virtue, the tree of Jesse, to the Last Judgment, are beautifully-preserved triumphs. Besides these sublime old monasteries, time will also be dedicated to visiting the local, uniquely talented craftsmen in their painted eggs workshop and museum; and a Marginea pottery center. In the evening, you’ll return to Gura Humorului to catch some sublime zees.
After a memorable breakfast, it’s time to check out Romania’s northern region and Maramures, the land of wooden churches and proudly preserved traditions. Today, Ieud’s wooden church deserves a visit, as, being built in the 14th century, it just happens to be Europe’s oldest wooden building. Then, at Dragomiresti, we’ll visit the Maramures Woman Museum, where you can learn about the rich traditions of the Maramuresean way of life. A perfect end to your day is provided by a rich traditional Marumuresean dinner.
After your superb breakfast, continue to explore Maramures by experiencing the Barsana Monastery, and then breathe some authentic country life with its old rustic villages and craftsmen. Become part of the community by visiting an old workshop and local household. After such country living, it’s back to Transylvania with you. Stop at the UNESCO-sanctioned Sighisoara, which people also call “The Pearl of Transylvania.” This is a city wonderfully trapped in a truly medieval atmosphere. The citadel built in the 13th century by Saxon settlers was a vital cultural and artistic centre back in those days. This old spot is considered one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns, and you’ll quickly agree.
After your vital breakfast, Sighisoara beckons with all its treasures. The Church on the Hill, the Clock Tower, the Tinsmiths Tower, the Covered Stairs are all right out of picture storybooks. Depart from Sighisoara on a route that crosses ancient villages beautifully displaying classic Saxon architecture. Places such as Biertan or Malancrav just add to this olde-worlde delight. Lap it all up, because after that, it’s on the road again. This road takes you to Sibiu, Transylvania’s oldest and biggest medieval city. This former capital isn’t lacking when it comes to highlights: the Little and Grand Squares, Evanghelical Cathedral, Lier’s Bridge, Bruckental Museum, and defensive towers and fortifications are so photo-friendly it’s almost obscene. Your enchanting journey through history has to end at some time, and so, regrettably, it’s time to head to Bucharest and your airport, hotel or wherever else you’re heading. You’ll probably want to come back, though.