Bulgaria Tours: Fly and Drive - Museum Towns in Bulgaria and Bulgarian Traditions - Theme Tours at Pictures of Bulgaria

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Bulgaria Tours: Fly and Drive - Museum Towns in Bulgaria and Bulgarian Traditions

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Programme Code: SIP 05
Tour Duration: 8 days / 7 nights

Sofia Arrival in Sofia. Check in the hotel. Walking in the city centre of Sofia. Overnight.

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.

Rila Monastery

Breakfast. Sofia - Rila Monastery - Bansko Museum. Overnight.

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.

Bansko - The newest Bulgarian winter resort, recently discovered by the foreign tourists. Bansko provides an interesting combination between the virgin nature of Pirin Mountain and the atmosphere of the ancient Bulgarian small town. Bansko ski resort is situated in Southwestern Bulgaria, at the foothills of one of the most beautiful Bulgarian mountains - Pirin, which is a national preserve, included in the WORLD NATURAL HERITAGE list. The Holy Trinity Church in Bansko - built in 1835, the Holy Trinity Church with its fine belfry and clock tower constitutes the very heart of Bansko. It is also famous for its collection of icons and murals painted by local Bansko artists who once made the Bansko School of Painting one of the best in Bulgaria.

Rozhen Monastery

Breakfast. Bansko - Melnik museum town - Rojen Monastery - Melnik. Optional visit of wine cellar. Overnight.

Sightseeing during the day:
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.

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.


Trigrad Gorge
Breakfast. Melnik - via the Rhodope mountains to the picturesque museum village of Kovatchevitsa - Trigrad. Overnight.

Sightseeing during the day:
Kovachevitsa -Its architecture is naturally impressive, the only one completely coherent ensemble in Bulgaria. Similarly, there is also magnificent Bulgarian-style architecture in Koprivstitsa, Tryavna, Zheravna, Melnik and in the old part of Plovdiv, where people have managed to escape the pestilence of the prefabricated blocks of flats.
Its surroundings are impressively powerful with the dizzy rocky elevations, with the Kanina River gorge cascading down in the rolling hills enveloping the village. Similarly there are so many breath-taking places in Bulgaria.
The atmosphere is so charming with the narrow cobbled little streets, stone walls of the houses rising extraordinarily high, greyish slabs covering the roofs, tranquillity, countless swallows perching along the electric lines, goats climbing up the fences, fireflies in summertime. All of which can also be seen elsewhere in Bulgaria.

Phenomenon Trigrad Gorge - The Trigrad gorge is one of the most impressive places in the West Rhodope Mountain. It is reached from the town of Devin - the village of Teshel. The path is dug out the left bank in the rocks and passes through 80-m tunnel. Here you can see the outlines of the 500-meters gorge with high, above 300 m sheer cliffs. Undergrown spreading pines rise in the holes and cracks of the rocks.

Yagodina cave

Shiroka Luka
Breakfast. Trigrad Gorge - the famous Yagodina Cave - museum village of Shiroka Luka and visit of the local music school ( except Jul, Aug, beginning of Sept). Overnight.

Sightseeing during the day:
Yagodina cave is another interesting cave to be discovered in the region of Trigrad. This is the longest cave on the Balkan peninsula (10km). It is located in the canyon valley of the river Buinovska 2 km to the west of the village of Yagodina. One who dares to explore these caves will be rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience. The cave is of karsts type and it is five stories tall, with many labyrinths and abysses inside. Part of the cave is electrified and reveals mysterious formations: draperies, pipe-like stalactites, cave pearls, leopard skin and many hanging stalactites. Some of the formations inside resemble the well-known Santa Claus, Snow-White and The Seven Dwarfs, Virgin Mary and her newborn child, Elephant, and some characters from the Bulgarian culture and tradition. The New Year's hall is of great interest too.

Shiroka Luka - Shiroka Luka is a village museum /an architecture and ethnographic reserve/ well known for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history. It is the centre of a region of 5 villages /Stoikite, Gela, Stickal and Solishta/ populated by Christians and Muslems. It was founded after the most massive forceful conversion of the population of the Rhodope mountain to the Islam during the Turkish domination /17th c./.

Old town of Plovdiv

Bachkovo Monastery
Breakfast. Shiroka Luka - Bachkovo Monastery (the 2nd largest in Bulgaria ) - the village of Brestovitsa and visit of a boutique wine cellar with wines tasting. Arrival in Plovdiv Museum Town. Tour in the Old Plovdiv. Overnight.

Sightseeing during the day:
Plovdiv - The Ancient Theatre, the most impressive edifice of Roman time, was excavated during reinforcement works at the southern fortress wall. It offered almost 7 000 seats once. Nowadays it is used for staging opera and theatre festivals, concerts, municipal celebrations, etc. The present-day downtown section of Plovdiv lies on the ruins of an enormous Roman Stadium, which had a length of 180 m and was intended for 30 000 spectators. The contests held here were similar to the Greek Olympic Games and dated back to the rule of Emperor Septimus Severus (193 - 211 AD). An Ancient Forum was found next to today's Trimontium Hotel. Clearly visible here is the difference in the building structure of the Thracian agora made of sandstone and the Roman marble ruins.
The beautiful houses in Old Plovdiv are dated back to the period of the Bulgarian National Revival. Many of them have been proclaimed for cultural monuments revealing the genius of the Bulgarian builders.

All sightseeing tours include the architectural and historical reserve Old Plovdiv. The millennial history of Plovdiv is reflected here with all its cultural diversity. The Three Hills, on which Old Plovdiv was built, are named Nebet Tepe, Djambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe.

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.


Museum House in Koprivshtitsa
Breakfast. Plovdiv - Koprivshtitsa Museum town - Sofia. Overnight.

Sightseeing during the day:
Koprivshtitsa - In the Sredna Gora mountain range in Bulgaria lies the village of Kopvrishtitsa. The villige is protected in its entirety as a historical monument. The numerous museums, the old stone bridges and walls, the wooden yard gates, 100-year-old buildings and courtyards in their typical colours, all take you back to times long time ago. Although centuries old, this celibrated village hasn't lost any of its vitality. Everywhere you go, you're encountered by the diversities of rural life. Horse-drawn wagons and mule carts make their way through the streets. There are not many places left in Europe that are as beautiful, peaceful and picturesque as Kopvrishtitsa.

For Bulgarians Koprivshtitsa is a symbol for the freedom gained after hundreds of years of Turkish occupation. On the 20th of April, 1876 the first shots fell on the famous bridge, marking the beginning of the End of the 500-year Turkish occupation.

Sofia Breakfast in Sofia. Departure