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Bulgaria Tours: Bulgarian Monasteries Tour

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Programme Name: Programme BULGARIAN MONASTERIES
Programme Code: SIP 08
Tour Duration: 9 days / 8 nights

DAY 1
Sofia at Night Arriving at Sofia airport and transfer to the hotel. Check in. Overnight in Sofia.


DAY 2
Sofia - Alexander Nevski Church

Boyana Church
Breakfast. Walking city tour of Sofia. In the afternoon - visit to the Boyana Church dated from 13th century, UNESCO site. Overnight in Sofia.

Sightseeing during the day:
Sofia - Roads from all parts of the world have been meeting here nearly 7 000 years. Peoples have come and gone, civilizations have advanced and declined, but the city has remained. More than 250 historic, archaeological and architectural landmarks in the city which the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great once called "My Rome". Our tour includes: National Archaeological Museum, National Theatre, Russian Church St. Nikola, Parliament Square, Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral with the most valuable collection of Bulgarian Icons (13-19th c), St. Sofia Church (6th c), St. George Rotunda (4th c), National Palace of Culture.

Boyana Church is included in UNESCO list of World Heritage and is considered herald of European Renaissance. Most interesting are the frescoes (1259) which art experts today rate them as a peak of realistic art of those times. These genuine masterpieces of 13th century painting, created 200 years before the European Renaissance mark a remarkable peak in Eastern Christian Art. The portraits of the founder of the church - patron Kaloian and his wife Desislava and of prince Konstantin and his wife Irina are the supreme peak of the skill of the artist. The church is built in three stages - 11th, 13th and 19th centuries. This site is one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art.


DAY 3
Rozhen Monastery

Melnik
Breakfast. Departure towards Rozhen monastery and visit of the complex. Continue to Melnik - the smallest town in Bulgaria with unique sandstone pyramids. Tour of the town with visit the Kordopoulov's. Overnight in Melnik.

Sightseeing during the day:
Rozhen monastery - Situated far to the south in the Pirin area, 6 km from Melnik, this is the only monastery restored during the first centuries of Ottoman rule which has survived to this day. The present-day appearance of this old monastery (built by the Melnik ruler, despot Slav, during the 12th or 13th century) dates back to the 16th century. According to one inscription, the image of Christ Pantocrator together with the twelve apostles above the entrance gate of the Holy Virgin main church, was painted in 1597. Valuable monuments of 17th century painting included the external southern wall (Doomsday, Jacob's Ladder), dated with an inscription from 1611, as well as scenes from the life of John the Baptist painted in 1622 in the ossuary. The inside walls in the naos, the narthex and chapel of the main church were painted in 1732, with a strong inclination for narration, as a result of which more than 150 subject-matters were illustrated. The abundance of figures of monks and hermits unknown anywhere else, many of them, probably historic personages, contemporaries of the unknown painter, is also typical. Rozhen Monastery owes its fame above all to its carved iconostases and lecterns. Some of them are extremely complicated compositions, both in intent and in actual execution, in which Biblical themes have given full scope to boundless imagination which reached the peaks of decorativeness. Rozhen Monastery has left us with a treasure in yet another art - that of calligraphy. A unique work of the calligraphic school, which existed here as early as in the 14th century, is the manuscript "Interpretation of Jonah", taken in 1674 from the Constantinople Patriarch Dositheusm, and kept today in the Holy Grave Church in Jerusalem.

Melnik - Bulgaria's smallest town is hudding among frozen sandstones pyramids immobile for millennia, 190km south of Sofia. Thracians, Romans and Byzantines have written its history. Trace of it are preserved in unique monuments of old architecture, some of which are of national significance. Melnik's houses are spacious, with wide eaves and towers, high stained glass windows, carved ceilings and large celars here the famous Melnik wine matures. A single street leads to the finest example of the formes splendor of this small southern town.

The Kordopoulos House - with Venetian stained glass windows, spacious rooms and salons, ornamental murals, weaves and fretwork, a wrought iron gate and large wine-cellar from which caravans with the famous Melnik wine once left for Salonika, Athens, Vienna, Rome, and even Marseille and Spain.

Phenomenon Melnik Pyramids - The pyramids of Melnik are rocky formations (earth pyramids) in the south-westen peripheral slopes of the Pirin mountain. They are located in the surroundings of the town of Melnik. These magnificent natural sculptures are outlined in various forms and shapes, looking like haystacks, Egyptian pyramids, Gothic temples, minarets, ancient towers and loop-holes, giant obelisks, rising jumpers with incredible resemblance to colossal stone mushrooms.


DAY 4
Rila Monastery

Breakfast. Leave towards Rila monastery - the most famous and the most fascinating monastery in Bulgaria, under UNESCO protection. Tour of the monastery and visits to the monastery church and museum. The tour continue to Plovdiv. Overnight in Plovdiv.

Sightseeing during the day:
Rila monastery - It can briefly described as a combination nonumental architecture an rich history. It was founded in the X century by Ivan Rilski and used to be the primary spiritual and cultural center of Bulgaria and the whole ortodox enclave. The library contains 16000 volumes including 134 manuscripts from l5th to 19th century, numerous incunabula and documents. The monastery's unquestionable authority influenced the Turkish sultants who confirmed the rights granted by the Bulgarian kings by special firmans. Retaining the names of the donors and the exact date of donation, they represent an original chronicle of the national consciousness, of those pure patriotic feelings and hopes which were inspired throughout centuries in every Bulgarian by the Rila Monastery - the country's largest spiritual and cultural temple.


DAY 5
Old town of Plovdiv

Bachkovo Monastery
Breakfast. Tour of the Old Town of the city . In the afternoon visit Bachkovo Monastery- the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria . Continue to Kazanlak. Overnight in Kazanlak.

Sightseeing during the day:
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria. Being older than most of the oldest towns like Rome, Athens, Carthage or Constantinople, almost contemporary of Troy, Plovdiv is a town built upon layers of towns and a culture developed upon layers of cultures. Plovdiv is a picturesque town, with many parks and gardens, museums and archaeological monuments. Its old part, called the Old Town, is an imposing open-air museum situated on the three hills of the ancient Trimontium. One of the most remarkable sights of the town, the Ancient Theatre (a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre), is located there and is still used for open-air performances.

Bachkovo Monastery - One of the oldest monasteries in the Bulgarian lands, it rises in the picturesque Chaya river valley, 29 km south of Plovdiv. Founded in 1083, Bachkovo Monastery is chiefly known for its original architecture, rich collections of old icons, jewelry, coins and church plate. The library preserves many valuable incunabula and old manuscripts. Its most remarkable feature, however, are the paintings that are seen everywhere - in the church and ossuary, where the figure of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander is discernible among the 11th and 14th century murals, in the refectory (1601), in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin main church (1604), and in the Holy Trinity and St. Nicholas church (1840), which contain some of the first murals painted by the celebrated National Revival artist Zahari Zograph.


DAY 6
Kazanluk

Dryanovo Monastery

Etur
Breakfast. Visit to the Museum of Roses and to the ancient Thracian tomb. Departure for Veliko Turnovo. En route, visit the Etara - Bulgaria's only open-air museum of authentic traditional crafts and Drianovo monastery. Arrival at Veliko Tarnovo - the ancient capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

Sightseeing during the day:
Kazanluk. The town is located in the centre of the valley bearing the same name, whose eastern part is known beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria as the Valley of the Roses. In the Eneolith and Bronze Age was found the Thracian state of Odrissi. From those days are more than 12 burial tombs already found, the most inportant of which is, by no doubt, the Kazanluk tomb, offreing a unique insight into the life of the ancient Thracians. It is one of the 9 cultural, historic and natural sites in Bulgaria included in the UNESCO list of monuments of global importnace. By the end of the 19th century Kazanluk had become well-known for its production of rose oil.

Drianovo monastery of St. Archangel Michael is situated 4km south-west of Dryanovo, in the picturesque valley of Dryanovska River. The monastery was founded in the l2th century and in close proximity to the summer residence of the Bulgarian rulers from the Assen dynasty in the place of Tzurkvishteto.

The open air ethnographic museum "Etur" was built in the middle of 20th century in the vicinity of the town of Gabrovo, an old industrial centre of Bulgaria. It was created to preserve for the coming generations the appearance and the spirit of the old time Bulgarian mountain villages and the manufacturing traditions of the region. The museum was built on the two sides of a small river and all the buildings and sites have their authentic appearance, the same as they had during the 19th century. The buildings are differentiated into three groups:
1. Workshops using simple machines moved by the running water of the river, most of them are unique and unknown in Europe.
2. The second group of buildings forms the trade and manufacture street (charshia). There are 15 examples of houses, where manufacturing workshops and small shops are situated on the first floor and the museum items are situated on the second floor.
3. The third group of buildings has public functions: a clock tower, bridges, stone water fountain and gravestones.


DAY 7
Veliko Tarnovo

Arbanassi

Petropavlovski Monastery
Breakfast. Tour of Veliko Tarnovo town with visit of the medieval fortress of Tsarevets, the old Marketplace Samovodska Tcharshia and other landmarks. In the afternoon arrival at the village of Arbanassi, Visit the "Nativity" church and Konstantsaliev's house. Visit the Petropavlovski monastery. Overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

Sightseeing during the day:
Veliko Tarnovo - One of the most picturesque Bulgarian towns. Known under the name of Tsarevgrad Turnov (i.e. King's Town) and Turnovgrad. In the town and its outskirts traces have been uncovered of life dating back to the late Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, the Bronze and the Iron Ages. After the foundation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1186), the town becomes its capital. In 1393 the town is conquered by the Turks and burned down. During the years of Ottoman rule it is a fortress of the Bulgarian national spirit and one of the centres of the struggle for liberation. In 1879 the Constituent National Assembly has its first session here and adopts the Constitution of Turnovo - the first constitution of the Bulgarian state liberated in 1878.

Arbanassi - Austere houses that resemble minor fortresses on the outside with high, solid walls and heavy gates, iron, rids and secret hiding-places, but which are spacious and comfortable, richly decorated and furnished on the inside.


DAY 8
Troyan Monastery Breakfast. Departure towards Troyan monastery. Our of the complex. Drive to Sofia. Free time for leisure and shopping. Overnight in Sofia.

Sightseeing during the day:
The Troyan monastery is known above all for the creative work of Zahari Zograph who painted both the exterior and the interior (a rare practice for the time) of the main church built in 1835, 7 km from the town of Troyan. It is a fine example of the impact of the popular conception of the world and the influence of housing architecture on religious construction. Here, Zahari Zograph repeated the social and moral in religious painting (the compositions Doomsday and the Wheel of Life), left his second self-portrait signed with amazing self confidence in spite of the Ottoman bondage, and painted the figures of Bulgarian and Russian saints. Besides, he painted a completely secular group portrait of the monastic brotherhood in the refectory - something highly unusual for the time.


DAY 9
Sofia Breakfast. Transfer to the airport. Departure.


All rates are in euro per person in double room.

The package price includes:
  • Transportation with luxury vehicle /according the tourist number/;
  • Accommodation at 3 star hotels in standard rooms on BB basis;
  • English / French / German / or Spanish speaking guide during the whole tour;
  • Entrance fees;
  • 1 FOC in single room for groups over 20 PAX.
The price excludes:
  • Meals not included in the programme;
  • Porterages;
  • Tips;
Transportation with:
  • 2 pax car, 3+1 seats, A/C;
  • 3 - 4 pax (minivan), 6+1 seats, A/C;
  • 4 - 5 pax (minibus), 8+1 seats A/C, Citoen Jumper or Volkswagen Caravelle - models 2003, or similar
  • 6 - 10 pax, 18+1 seats, A/C, Mercedes Sprinter or Peugeot Boxer -  models 2003, or similar
  • 11 - 20 pax, 29+1 seats, A/C, microphone, Mitsubishi Prestige - model 2004, or similar
  • 21 - 40 pax, 45+1 setas, A/C, microphone, Iveko - model 2000, or similar
  • 45+ pax, 52+1 seats, A/C, microphone, Neoplan - model 2000, or similar
Supplements:
  • Supplement for single room use - please look at the table
  • Supplement for lunch /3 coarse menu+mineral water/ - 8 euro pp per day
  • Supplement for dinner /3 coarse menu+mineral water/ - 10 euro pp per day
  • Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and Dutch-speaking guides - upon request