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Eastern Europe Express


Embark on a spectacular journey from Romania and through Bulgaria to Istanbul, discovering the architectural grandeur and quaint cultural enclaves that make this such an intriguing part of the world. Absorb Bucharest’s austere atmosphere on a guided walking tour, compare age-old places of worship in Sofia, breathe in crisp alpine air on a hike in the Pirin Mountains, and meander back in time in the Old Town of Plovdiv. and bask in the glory of transcontinental Istanbul. Relatively short in terms of distance travelled, this nine-day trip is a fascinating study in just how much regions can change as you cross national borders.

9 days, from

$1,316

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: WMSI
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Bulgaria Romania Turkey
Accommodation: Hotel (8 nights)
Transportation: Train , Public Bus , Private vehicle , Metro , Taxi
Included Meals:

  • 6 breakfasts

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12
Minimum Age: 15

  • Immerse yourself in the communist past and vibrant present of Bucharest, a city often underrated by travellers

  • Travel through the scenic Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, mingling with monks at the 10th-century Rila Monastery

  • The ancient Roman theatre in Plovdiv’s city centre was only discovered when a landslide uncovered it in the 1970s.

  • Explore the amphitheatre and Plovdiv's other significant sights on a guided walking tour.

  • Breathe the crisp air on a hike and take in stunning view in the Pirin Mountain.

  • Stand in awe of the exquisite architectual design of Selimiye Mosque and celebrate the end of your journey in the transcontinental Istanbul.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Bucharest

Salut! Welcome to Romania. Bucharest, Romania's capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. It's worth arriving into the city a few days early to explore. Perhaps take a tour of the Palace of Parliament (former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of this 12-storied monster, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers), or check out the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. You might even like to partake in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the 'Home Cooked Bucharest' tour.

Day 2: Veliko Tarnovo

Travel by train across the friendship bridge into Bulgaria and on to the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo's history is incredible. Founded in 4500 BC by the Neolithic people, the Romans later built the first fortress walls and in the 6th century a Byzantine capital was established on Tsarevets Hill by Emperor Justinian. After the foundation of the second Bulgarian empire in 1185, it became the second most important and beautiful city in the region (after Constantinople) and trade and culture flourished for the next 200 years. In 1393 the town fell to the Turks who held the city until the Russians liberated it in 1877. Because of its importance during the second Bulgarian empire, the city was chosen as the place where the Bulgarian constitution was written in 1879 and where the official proclamation of Bulgaria as an independent state was made in 1908.

Day 3: Veliko Tarnovo

This morning join your leader for a visit to Veliko Tarnovo's imposing Tsarevets Fortress which overlooks the city. This once-magnificent fortress was first built in the 7th century and the ruined citadel is a delight to wander through. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the City of Tsars. Wander through the Old Quarter with its preserved Renaissance houses and handicraft workshops before relaxing in one of the town's cafes or 'vinarnas' (wine bars).

Day 4: Sofia

This morning, transfer to Sofia. Bulgaria's capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. You've got the rest of the day to wander, so maybe begin with a browse around the cured meats and cheese of the Central Market Hall, then take a walk through the city and see the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church. You might want to sate your cultural curiosity at the National History Museum, discover artefacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeological Museum, or get cultural at the National Art Gallery.

Day 5: Bansko

Today journey into the Rila Mountains, where you'll visit the impressive Rila Monastery. Tucked away in a valley, this World Heritage-listed site is the largest and holiest of Bulgaria's orthodox monasteries. It was founded in 927 to keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during Turkish rule. The entire monastery complex is a work of art in itself – check out stunning murals, the 14th-century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original 19th-century monastery kitchen. Then onto Bansko. Set at the base of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments. Down its cobbled streets, many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming ‘mehanes’ (taverns). Wander through pl. Vazrazhdane and check out the frescoes of the Church of Sveta Troitsa, or the paintings in the Rilski Convent. In the evening, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), washing it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).

Day 6: Plovdiv

This morning venture up into the Pirin Mountains. After a short ride on a chairlift stretch your legs with a hike into the eastern slopes of the mountains, with Mt Vihren, the range's highest peak at almost 3,000m, visible to the west. In the afternoon, hop on a couple of local train and continue to travel to Plovdiv. Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. In the evening, make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.

Day 7: Plovdiv

This morning, join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the town's history. The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use. From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city. Head back down to visit the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today. Enjoy a free afternoon in this charming city.

Day 8: Istanbul

Get ready for a long day of travel that takes you from Europe to Asia. Stop at Edirne right after crossing the border and visit the magnificent Selimiye Mosque. Edirne was the first capital of the Ottoman empire and the exquisite Selimiye Mosque was built by order of Sultan Selim II over 400 years ago and represents the highest achievement of Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan’s work, arguably the most beautiful mosque in Turkey. Then continue onto the final destination of your journey, Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans have called home. Have some free time after arrival. In the evening, maybe join your new friends for an optional dinner and bask in the beauty of a real Turkish kebab.

Day 9: Istanbul

All good things come to an end, and this morning your adventure officially comes to a close. If you would like to extend your stay in Istanbul we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).