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Bulgaria

Treasures of Bulgaria: Ancient Ruins, Roses and Revival

Program No. 19207RJ
If you are looking for a place to explore off-the-tourist paths, then join us in Bulgaria, a nation rich with ancient wonders, natural beauty and people eager to show you their land.

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Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 18 - Apr 29, 2024
Starting at
2,999
Sep 5 - Sep 16, 2024
Starting at
3,099
Sep 26 - Oct 7, 2024
Starting at
3,099
Oct 10 - Oct 21, 2024
Starting at
3,099
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 18 - Apr 29, 2024
Starting at
3,329
Sep 5 - Sep 16, 2024
Starting at
3,489
Sep 26 - Oct 7, 2024
Starting at
3,489
Oct 10 - Oct 21, 2024
Starting at
3,489

At a Glance

Home of the world’s most exquisite roses, Europe’s oldest civilization and seven outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bulgaria is a land of superlatives in an unspoiled region of the Balkan Mountains of Eastern Europe. Join us for a special opportunity to experience a land unknown to outsiders and get to know the warm and hospitable people who have remerged onto Europe’s stage after decades of seclusion.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to 4 miles/4 hours per day, including periods of standing, on city streets, museums and sites, sometimes with uneven and hilly terrain, cobblestone, traffic and street noise. Get on and off the bus 3-4 times per day. Unavoidable stairs. Elevations up to 3,763 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn about recent breathtaking archaeological finds in the Kazanlak region, and Thracian culture at the replica site of the world-famous, fourth-century B.C. Thracian tomb — a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Discover centuries-old traditions of rose oil production at a rose oil distillery in the Valley of the Roses.
  • Take an expert-led field trip in the majestic city of Plovdiv, the oldest city in Europe.

General Notes

Give us a call to combine this learning adventure with select dates of "Treasures of Romania: Enchanting Castles and Painted Monasteries" (#19208) for even more learning in Europe!
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
In Search of Dracula
by Raymond McNally
This history of Vlad Tepes (AKA Vlad the Impaler), the Romanian warrior prince and inspiration for Bram Stoker’s infamous blood-drinking count, draws on oral histories and archaeological evidence and also examines Dracula’s many incarnations in film and literature.
The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Eastern Europe
by Dennis Hupchick, Harold Cox
The changing borders and complex history of Eastern Europe as told through 52 maps and accompanying essays, organized chronologically. An excellent reference, the book shows the rise of Poland, changing borders of the Ottoman Empire, Hapsburgs and fate of Yugoslavia in admirable clarity.
Bulgaria Map
by Freytag & Berndt
This detailed, single-sided fold-up map shows the country at a scale of 1:400,000. Place names are usefully shown in both Cyrillic and Latin script and the multilingual legend includes English.
A Concise History of Bulgaria
by R.J. Crampton
A highly readable, illustrated introduction to Bulgaria's history from medieval empire to Ottoman rule, revival and modernization to the fall of Communism.
Lords of the Horizons
by Jason Goodwin
Goodwin artfully combines his modern travels with scholarship, history and reflection, capturing the outrageous personalities, events and vagaries of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire.
All Along the Danube: Recipes from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, & Bulgaria
by Marina Polvay
A cookbook full of classic recipes from Central Europe, with some valuable morsels of culture.
The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-2011
by Misha Glenny
Longtime central European correspondent for the BBC based in Vienna, Glenny (The Fall of Yugoslavia) poignantly challenges the role of the Great Powers in this survey, newly revised and updated to cover developments in the region through 2011.
The Danube
by Nick Thorpe
Thorpe travels against the current on a year-long journey from the Black Sea to the Black Forest, mixing accounts of his daily morning swims with environmental research, archaeological observations and, especially, tales of the ferrymen and fisherman, shopkeepers, activists and others he meets along the way.
The Fragility of Goodness, Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust
by Tzvetan Todorov
A reconstruction of what happened in Bulgaria during World War II, detailing how Bulgaria became one of two countries not to turn over its Jewish population.
The Broken Road, From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Assembled from Leigh Fermor’s manuscripts by friend and biographer Artemis Cooper, with the travel writer Colin Thubron, this is perhaps the most personal of all Leigh Fermor’s books, catching up with young Paddy in the fall of 1934 and following him through Bulgaria and Romania to the coast of the Black Sea.
Bury Me Standing
by Isabel Fonseca
This marvelous portrait of the Roma, also known as the Gypsies, offers insight into their music, foods, religions and folk traditions and also examines their influential but complex relationship with Eastern Europe.
The Romani Gypsies
by Yaron Matras
Matras delves into the history of the Romani, an ancient and misunderstood European culture that has survived through modern times.
Blue River, Black Sea
by Andrew Eames
By bicycle, boat and on foot, British adventurer Andrew Eames (The 8:55 to Baghdad) weaves entertaining tales of his travels and the people he meets along the Danube from the Black Forest to Romania and the Ukraine into an insightful contemporary portrait of the region.
Balkan Ghosts, A Journey through History
by Robert D. Kaplan
Kaplan interweaves history, art and culture with his travels through Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece in this regional portrait.
Stork Mountain
by Miroslav Penkov
A stunning debut novel that takes readers high into the Strandja Mountains. A young immigrant returns to Bulgaria to find his grandfather. He traces his grandfather's footsteps to the giant oaks where black storks nest, bringing a hidden past to life.
Street Without a Name, Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria
by Kapka Kassabova
Born in 1973, Kassabova traces her coming-of-age in Communist Sofia and bittersweet return to a land transformed over the last 30 years in this captivating, candid memoir and travelogue.
Bai Ganyo, Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian
by Aleko Konstantinov
An award-winning English translation of the 19th-century Bulgarian classic. The interlocking short stories, which are, by turns, humorous, satirical and dark, feature the folk hero Bai Ganyo. A solid literary introduction to Bulgaria. Translated by Aleko Konstantinov, Victor Friedman, Christina Kramer, Grace Fielder and Catherine Rudin.
Black Sea
by Neal Ascherson
In this skillful regional portrait, Ascherson weaves his own travels and impressions with a fascinating account of the Black Sea's history. From ancient mythology to modern politics, he admirably never loses sight of the sea itself.
Crown of Thorns, The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria, 1918-1943
by Stephan Groueff
A biography of the famed Bulgarian monarch, who ruled from the end of World War I to the middle of World War II, when he defied Hitler's wishes for expelling Bulgaria's Jews.
The Turkish Gambit
by Andrew Bromfield (Translator), Boris Akunin
Detective Erast Fandorin is caught in Bulgaria in the middle of the brutal Russo-Turkish war in this thriller set in 1877. The third book in the series.
Eyewitness Guide Bulgaria
by Eyewitness Guides
This visually rich guide features outstanding maps, essays and travel information.
The Balkans, A Short History
by Mark Mazower
With eloquence and clarity, Mazower addresses issues of geography, nationalism and nation in this indispensable survey.
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12 days
11 nights
25 meals
10 B 8 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Sofia, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Sofia
D
Eurostars Sofia City Hotel

Activity note: Driving transfer to the hotel is about 10 miles, approximately 15 minutes driving time. Hotel check-in available from 2:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Hotel check-in is available at 2:00 PM. We may store our luggage with the front desk while we explore the area on our own while we wait for our rooms to be available. After checking in to the hotel and getting your room, take some time to freshen up and relax before our Orientation session. Orientation: 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will learn from the Group Leader and a series of local experts who will give lectures and lead field trips. Program-related travel and transfers will be via private motorcoach. Periods in the schedule designated as "Free time" and "At leisure" offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the even of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Sofia, Boyana Church, Lecture on Bulgaria Today
Sofia
B,L
Eurostars Sofia City Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 8.5 miles (13 km), approximately 45 minutes riding time, Walking up to 1 mile and standing up to 2 hours; indoors, pavement, stairs in museum; Extent and duration of walking and other activities during free time according to personal choice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Expert-led city excursion in Sofia including the National History Museum, where magnificent Thracian treasures of ancient gold are on display; and the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Boyana Church is one of the most important and valuable antiquities, of exceptional historical and artistic significance. It is situated at the foot of the mountain of Vitosha. The oldest part of the church dates back to the early 11th century. In 1295, the second part of the church was built and the rest was added in the middle of the 19th century.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Our walking excursion continues in the downtown area to see some of the city's most significant landmarks: St. Alexander Nevski memorial church; St. Sophia's Basilica; St. George's rotunda (4th century); and Roman Serdica fortifications dating from the 3rd-5th century. Then enjoy some free time in town. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities, which can be found in the first Information Packet. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. Later in the afternoon, hear a lecture on "Bulgaria Today."

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

DAY
4
Rila Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Plovdiv
B,L,D
Ramada Plovdiv Trimontium

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 211 miles (340 km), approximately 5.5 hours driving time over course of the day; walking about a quarter of a mile and standing up to 1.5 hours; cobblestones and some stairs.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: Depart Sofia for Plovdiv. En route we visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the majestic Rila Mountains. The monastery is an original national museum with a history that dates back to the 10th century. The present building was built in the mid-19th century (1816–1848). Located amidst gorgeous mountain scenery, it is considered the highest achievement of Bulgarian monumental architecture of the National Revival period.

Lunch: At a restaurant in the mountains.

Afternoon: Continue our scenic drive through the Rila Mountains via the town of Samokov, where we will stop for a short walk. Arrive in Plovdiv and settle in at the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Plovdiv
Plovdiv
B,L
Ramada Plovdiv Trimontium

Activity note: Walking approximately 1.25 miles, approximately 3 hours; Standing for up to 2.5 hours total; The streets in the Old Town in Plovdiv are mainly made of cobblestone. It can be difficult to walk on, as the stones are sometimes big and have gaps between them. It is also hilly, and has many stairs.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: Plovdiv is majestic! The ancient city of Plovdiv has an astonishing historical and cultural heritage, an amazing Old Town, and has applied to the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage. We will begin our morning with an expert-led walking tour to the fabulous Roman Theatre (built in the 2nd century during the time of Emperor Trajan); a National Revival House museum in the old town; and view the permanent exhibition of Ziatyu Boyadzhiev, a most authentic and original 20th century painter.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We visit the amazing Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis 4th- 6th c. with exceptional architecture, design and decoration, and beautiful Roman mosaic floors, covered with two layers of Roman mosaics with total area of over 2000 sq.m. The archaeological research, conservation and restoration of the Basilica were supported jointly by America for Bulgaria Foundation and Plovdiv Municipality. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time in town. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities, which can be found in the first Information Packet. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

DAY
6
Transfer to Kazanlak, Dinner with Folk Dancing
Kazanlak
B,L,D
Palas Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 68 miles (110 km) for approximately 2 hours; Walking up to a mile, approximately 30 minutes, and standing up to 2 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will begin our transfer to Kazanlak. We will take a picturesque drive through the famous Valley of Roses to explore the town of Kazanlak. The Valley of Roses is the home of the exquisite Bulgarian rose oil, also known as "attar of roses," and is Bulgaria's major center of rose oil production. We'll visit a rose oil distillery in the area to learn about centuries-long traditions of rose oil production and its modern development. The area around Kazanlak became famous for recent breathtaking archaeological finds dating back to the golden times of the Thracian city of Seuthopolis, and therefore has been named Valley of the Thracian Kings. Here we'll learn about Thracian history and culture and will visit the replica site of the world-famous 4th century BCE Thracian tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Kazanlak we will check-in at the hotel before taking a sightseeing walk in town, including a visit to the beautiful History Museum Iskra, housing the latest breathtaking archaeological discoveries from the Valley of the Thracian kings. We will see the bronze head of Seuthes III, King of Odryssoi, the founder of Seuthopolis; an incredibly beautiful gold wreath; and many other gold and silver artifacts from 4 BC - 3 BC. Afterwards, we will enjoy a private choir performance by local non-professional singers. Before dinner, you will have a little time to walk around, shop for rose products, or have a coffee.

Dinner: At the hotel. Enjoy Bulgarian folk dancing.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

DAY
7
Transfer to Varna, Nessebar
Varna
B,L,D
Golden Tulip Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 198 miles (320 km), approximately 5 hours; Walking up to a mile over 2 hours, standing about 1.5 hours; cobblestones and pavement.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will depart for Varna. En route, we will stop to visit Nessebar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nessebar, which was once ancient Messambria, is another renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bulgaria. It is particularly beautiful both in its location on a headland by the sea, and because of its many brightly painted 18th and 19th century traditional timber houses and cobbled streets. It is also famous for the impressive remains of fortifications and for the well-preserved late Byzantine churches (built in the period 11th - 14th centuries at the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom).

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will begin our expert-led excursion in the Old Town of Nessebar adventuring through the Archaeology Museum and St. Stefan Church. After, we will continue our transfer to Varna. Upon arrival, we will check-in and settle in at the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Varna Archaeology Museum, Free Time
Varna
B,L
Golden Tulip Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to a mile, approximately 15 minutes, standing up to 1.5 hours; stairs and pavement; Extent and duration of walking and other activities during free time according to personal choice.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: During our stay in Varna we visit the fabulous Archaeology Museum to see the renowned collection of the world's oldest manufactured gold. It was excavated in a prehistoric necropolis close to the city dating back to 4600 - 4200 BC. Varna civilization was a highly developed civilization, the most ancient civilization of Europe, which was even older than the Mesopotamian and the Egypt civilizations. That civilization still keeps its secrets and sacred knowledge.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time in town. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities, which can be found in the first Information Packet. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Horse-Rider Rock-Cut Relief, Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
Veliko Tarnovo
B,L,D
Meridian Hotel Bolyarski

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 214 miles (345 km), approximately 5.5 hours; Walking up to 1.25 miles over approximately 1 hour, standing for about 3 hours; ascents, descents, and stairs (during rain, stairs may be slippery)

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: We will check-out of the hotel, and begin our transfer to Veliko Tarnovo. En route we will visit some of the most remarkable sites of northeastern Bulgaria, including the outstanding 8th century rock-cut relief of Madara Horse Rider, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one of this kind in Europe. The sacred rocks of the Madara plateau and the caves inside them were a major spiritual center during the period of the First Bulgarian State (681-1085). In 2008, this site was declared the national symbol of Bulgaria, based on the results of a national survey.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We will continue our drive to visit the fascinating Thracian tomb of Sveshtari, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, the tomb is an incredible monument of Thracian art and architecture. Upon arrival in Veliko Tarnovo, we will check-in to the hotel and take some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi, Bulgarian Cooking Class
Veliko Tarnovo
B,D
Meridian Hotel Bolyarski

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 6.25 miles, approximately 30 minutes; Walking up to 1 mile, approximately 30 minutes, standing up to 2.5 hours; cobblestones, pavement, ascents, descents, and stairs.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: The scenery of Veliko Turnovo is breathtaking. Perched on steep hills overlooking the Yantra River, Veliko Turnovo is one of the most picturesque Bulgarian towns. The glory of Veliko Turnovo comes from the middle ages. It was a capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185 – 1396), where arts, culture and spiritual life flourished. During the time of the Bulgarian National Revival (18th – 19th century) it was an important center of education, crafts and trade, and played the major role in the establishment of modern Bulgaria after the liberation from Ottoman domination in 1878, being the birth-place of the First Bulgarian Constitution. This morning we will enjoy an expert-led city excursion through the medieval fortress on Tsarevets Hill and the Museum of the National Revival, where the First Bulgarian Constitution was adopted in 1879.

Lunch: Explore local fare on your own.

Afternoon: We will explore the nearby village-museum of Arbanasi, famous for its traditional architecture, and beautifully decorated churches and monasteries, dating from the 17th to 18th centuries. We will visit the most beautifully decorated St. Nativity Church. It was painted in 1597 and 1638. The Church is famous with its fascinating scene - Circle of Life. After that we will have a lesson on how to make Bulgarian yogurt (Kiselo Mlyako). Bulgarian yogurt is one of the symbols of Bulgaria. Since ancient times it is connected with health and longevity. Bulgaria produces the healthiest yogurt in Europe. A local Bulgarian woman will show us how to make this authentic yogurt, and we will eat the healthy homemade yogurt with banitza (a cheese pastry). Then enjoy a short walking excursion in the Old Town where you will have some free time to explore before dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

DAY
11
Transfer to Sofia, Etara
Sofia
B,L,D
Eurostars Sofia City Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 168 miles (270 km), approximately 4.5 hours; walking about .25 mile, standing up to 1 hour; cobblestones

Breakfast: Hotel dining room.

Morning: After check-out, we will begin our transfer back to Sofia. En route we will visit the ethnographic and architectural reserve of Etara, which is a beautiful museum-village with numerous artisan workshops. It is a unique open-air museum of traditional architecture and ethnography, reflecting the atmosphere of a typical Bulgarian town of the 18th -19th centuries.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route.

Afternoon: As we arrive and check-in to our hotel in Sofia, take some time to settle in and prepare for dinner.

Dinner: We will share our favorite Road Scholar memories during our Farewell Dinner, at a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
Sofia
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 p.m. See your program's "Getting There" information regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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