We know little about Bulgaria until we heard about the travelling story from Radio Hong Kong in March July and I then searched the web for more information. I found many more comments about the excellent trip experiences from Pavlina ( at that moment, I was not aware of her company. Then I tried to approach this wonderful lady and requested her for a trip plan around 12 to 15 days. She then made a draft for me to comment. The overall plan was very good and I just made a little adjustments and then finalized our plan for 15 days ( July 3 to 17 2017 ). She behaves so helpful to assist me to alter the plan even it was finalized.
The plan is a combo and it includes a lot of interests: 1) beautiful scenic spots 2) cultural spots 3) some hiking within 5 hours - we requested 4) natural areas as well.
Day 1 ( July 4 2017 ): The day's focus on city tour in Sofia. Due to our late connection flight to Sofia, we could be able to start our city tour from 1100hrs in Sofia. Pavlina is so good to pick us up at the airport and asked us if we like to take tour first or back to hotel . We then decided to go around the city first and she gave us a lot of historical information about her country by a preliminary outline of her country upon introducing those famous spots. In the afternoon we got back to the hotel for a short rest and she helped us arranged a car ( she said to make sure it's safe n comfortable for us ) to us to go up to Kopitoto to take the sunset view. There we could enjoy a great sunset and have a great city view as well ( worth to go there even you don't like to take photos ).
Day 2 ( July 5 2017 ) [ today's focus = 7 x Rila lakes / Rila Monastery ) She assigned the best guide ( Volen ) to us and he took us to the Rila mountain to see those great views of 7 Rila Lakes ( due the time constraint, we could be able to see 5 lakes ) and then we down the mountain to continue 2nd both scenic n cultural spot ( Rila Monastery - UNESCO ) . [ tips: temperature at the Rlia Mountain is around 10C but no snow n so be prepared the warm clothes. And, Rila Monastery ( remember photo fee 6 lev ) - please take more SD cards because I am sure you will take many pictures over there ] After that, we went back to the hotel where we enjoyed hot spring and free dinner (provided by the hotel ) as well.
Day 3 ( July 6 2017 ) [ today's focus = high altitude narrow gauge train / Batak - sad church / Devil's Throat Cave - waterfall in the mountain ) In the morning, Volen took us the train station first and he is so good to find the local person ( a teacher ) sitting next to us to ask him to remind us where we should get off the train and even he wrote a note on paper with local language for contingency if we got any problem. Thanks. After that, he took us to Batak to hear about the say story and it's talking about the massacre about 7000 people happened in Ottoman period. Then we direct to the Devil's Throat Cave - the constant temperature is around 8C and where we enjoyed the magnificent view of a waterfall in a mountain though we had seen on in Switzerland last year. At the end of the day, we were back to the hotel in a ranch ( another kind of the hotel arranged by Pavlina ). We spent our happy time there in the evening.
Day 4 ( July 7 2017 ) - [ today's focus : Eagle's Rock / architectural reserve city - Shiroka Laka / Devil's Bridge ] Before we went to the Eagle's Rock that morning, we passed by the beautiful architectural reserve city - Shiroka Laka and Volen showed us the church ( built in 38 days - as imposed and contrained by Ottoman period ). After that, we climbed up a bit to see the Eagle's Rock ( still a lot of questions from archaeolgists ) and we direct the sightseeing point - Devil's bridge ( with some legends mentioned by Volen ) and I took a lot of photos over there. At the end of the day, we were back to the lakeside hotel ( very nice n beautiful and actually, it is not a like n is reservoir but the view is so great ).
Day 5 ( July 8 2017 ) [ today's focus: Womb Cave / hosted lunch / European Macchu Picchu - Perperikon ]. In that morning, we first went to the Womb cave where there is a lot mysterious guess and the archaeolgists still thinking their man-made cave purpose ( Thracian period ). Please take care when you are there and you have to ( like us ) to prepare to climb up a steep wooden ladder to go inside the Cave. After that, we direct to a small village (turkish village), namely Zvezdelina to have a lunch hosted by Shelin who behaves so warm and nice to welcome us. She lives both Turkey and Bulgaria as well and at the lunch, she invited her relative and her friends ( Sussie n Alexander - 2 x little girls ) to sit together with us and had a photo after that. We chatted a lot and Shelin instroduced her house and garden to us after lunch. We are quite happy with this kind of interaction that we could learn more about other people's culture. Then, we headed up to the European Macchu Picchu - Perperikon ( be prepared to hike up around 30 and more mins ) and it's talking about the history ( Thracias, Romans and Byzantines ). It may not be the same as we saw in Macchu Picchu in Peru but one thing is the same = that they built up their kingdom in the mountain top with giant rocks. At the end of the day, we were back to the 2nd largest city in Bulgaria ( Plovdiv ) to see the sunset ( which is not included in the itinerary but Volen would like to show us and led us to walk to this sunset point. Great as we could have both a great city view and nice sunset as well. Thanks to our guide.
Day 6 ( July 9 2017 ) [ today's focus : city tour in Plodiv ] We got a leisure time to walk around this 2nd largest city in Bulgaria and a little more about her history background. In that evening, we went to the sunset site to enjoy this great view again ( it's talking about 15 mins walk - one way - to the point ).
Day 7 ( July 10 2017 ) [ today's focus: Rose Valley / Shipka Pass / "UFO" monument / UNESCO site Kazanlak Tomb / picturesque village - Zheravna ] In the morning, we direct to the Rose Valley to buy some sourvenirs and then Volen asked if we would like to alter the plan a bit cos he the weather may change on the day to see those sightseeing points in the mountain peak. We did agree cos he is an expert and we direct to Shipka Pass first and the went up to see another quite special monument ( others name it as "UFO" = is a past communist building ) the view over there is great and we were advised not to go inside the building cos risk of collapse is substantial. Though, the view there is worth to take a look. After that, we headed to the Thracian tomb to learn the ancient history and we were back to the hotel in the picturesque village ( is also an architectural reserve ). We like the village as it seems we are "back to the future" = the olden days.
Day 8 ( July 11 2017 ) [ today's focus = morning walk in Zhervanva / Nessebar - city near Black Sea ] At that morning, Volen took us to walk aruond this picturesque village and got inside some of the house to understand their living in olden days. I like this village very much cos it makes me sense what the meaning of " peaceful mind". Great! After that, we direct to the pearl of Black Sea - Nessebar where there were a lot of people around and Volen firstly instroduced some important points for us and then, we had our leisure time to walk around this nice city though crowds of people. At the end of the day, we stayed in the middle of the city where we can walk everywhere as we wish.
Day 9 ( July 12 2017 ) [ today's focus - Kozichene - past lemonade juice production / Varna - archaeological museum / Madara Horseman ] In that morning, we left Nessebar and headed to Kozichene where a lady still living in this house to produce lemonade by using the old machine and she is very kind to show up not just the production of lemonade but everything in her house. At the end, she helped my wife to dress up her olden lady dress to take photos in her house. Thanks for her hospitality. And we left for Varna - archaeological museum to understand more their history far from 4200 or more years ago, especially those golden artifacts (photo fee = 20 lev is the most expensive in Bulgaria ) . Then, we went to another UNESCO site - Madara Rider ( the sculpture tell of events that occurred between AD 705 and 801 ). Before that, Volen let us know the cave nearby first. At the end of the day, we were back to the hotel where some village ladies dress up in tradition to sing and dance with us. And, these ladies are so nice and they taught my wife how to their traditional bread as well. Thanks to their marvellous contribution to us.
Day 10 ( July 13 2017 ) [ today's focus = UNESCO site Sveshtary Tomb / small town - Ruse ] In that morning, we departed to the UNESCO site to see 3rd/4th century BC tomb where a unique architectural decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals inside. After that, we stopped at the small town Ruse and took a look her beauty. At the end of the day, we got back to the most beautiful hotel where it locates in the Mechka village overlooking the Danube river. Both the view and the hotel facilities are very good and I took a lot of photos on sunset and sunrise as we..
Day 11 ( July 14 2017 ) [ today's focus - UNESCO site - Ivanovo Rock Church / Sistine Cjapel - The Nativity of Christ / hosted dinner in Arbanassi / 2 x fortressess in Veliko Tarnovo ] In that morning, we went to the church to see the wall painting from 14th century and hiking to this rock church is a little bit easy ( not much hiking ) and then we direct to Veliko Tarnovo. Firstly, we stopped at the Sistine Cjapel ( The Nativity of Christ ) to see those beautiful wall paintings and we then got to the 2 x fortresses for a walk to understand the history from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom ( 1186 - 1396 ). We then back for a dinner hosted by a twin ladies. They behave so warm and stood at the door to welcome us. Until we finished our dinner, they took us to go around her garden and took photos with them as well. For us, it's a good time to interact with people in Bulgaria as they are so nice to get along with. Thanks. At the end of the day, we were back to the hotel where it sits in the middle of the valley and thus we could have a good view to look at the city. And, it is a close proximity to with the city center as well ( just walk a few minutes through those village lanes ).
Day 12 ( July 15 2017 ) [ today's focus = Tryavna village / Etara open air museum ] This morning, we departed to the small n picturesque village - Tryavna first where Volen showed us the church - St. Michael church and the 18th century school and then we had a leisure walk around this small village. After that, we direct to the Etara Open Air museum where presented a lot of crafts that people used in 18th and 19th century. The lunch over there is great and Volen introduced to me their traditional food - Sarmi ( those rice dumpling wrapped with Loza leaves - quite delicious ) and of course, we tried the special bread, namely Pitka and he told us how to take it with their traditional powder ( mixed with some pepper, I think ). After that, we back to the same hotel in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 13 ( July 16 2017 ) [ today's focus = Eyes of Gods Cave / Belogradchik ] In that morning, we had to leave a bit earlier cos we had to take a long way back before staying in Sofia. Firstly, we went to the Eyes of Gods Cave. All of us did have a little bit worry about the weather that day, luckily, when we got there, not much rain happened and we got in the cave safe. After taking some pictures, we continued our trip to Belogradchick. Over there, Volen just took us to have a look to the fortress first ( great view over there ) and then we joined the safari trip by a 4-wheels drive jeep to take us around the Belogradchik areas. The driver/guide ( Andrew ) is a very nice guy and he would stop at the suitable point to expain or interpret those rock's stories ( of course, we have to use some imagination ) and the riding experience in this jeep is wonderful and a little bit crazy and so we have to hold the handle tightly cos the road (it may not be a road ) is quite bumpy but we enjoy it very much. The road back to our hotel in Sofia is long and we we could be able to return to hotel before 9pm.
Day 14 ( July 17 2017 ) our last day in Bulgaria. Since our flight left in around 1:40pm and so we got a lot of time to walk around city again. Pavlina came to pick us up to airport at around 1115hrs.
Overall, we did have a very good, happy, wonderful and amazing time in Bulgaria. Her country is full of ancient culture and their people ( mostly ) is very nice even some may not speak English. All of them are easy going. In comparison with what we see in Peru last December, I would rather say, their people are vey warm and nice and I got no worry when I take my camera walk around both the cities and villages ( in Peru, I have to hide it in my bag ). July is a very good season to go around and I just came across a day with shower only and most of the time, we could be able to take sunrise and sunset photos. Thanks to Pavlina's marvellous trip plan that we could not only learn about her country culture but enjoy the different setting and atmosphere by different hotel planning. We are sure we will go back to Bulgaria again with some combo with other countries nearby. ( our happier experience - from Hong Kong July 2017 )