General

PRICE FROM: 520 euro
DURATION: 7 days / 6 overnights
ROUTE: Sofia – the Rila monastery – the Bachkovo monastery – Plovdiv – the Dryanovo monastery – Veliko Tarnovo (4 monasteries) – Troyan monastery – Sofia
INFO: This tour has been designed for those that are particularly interested in the Orthodox religion and would like to see the hidden Bulgarian monasteries – a treasure still undiscovered for the world.  You will not also visit the monasteries, but will admire the beautiful nature where usually they are located. Your guide will give you full information about the Orthodox canons. Enjoy this spiritual tour and make a kind of a pilgrimage.

DETAILED ITINERARY:

Day 1 Arrival at the Sofia Airport. Transfer to the hotel, short rest or we will pick you up directly from your hotel. Walking tour in the center – visit to the Saint Nedelya Church, the Statue of St Sofia – the symbol of the city, the Parliament square, the Presidency, the National Theater, the Ruins of Serdica and the Rotonda St George 4th c. AC, the Russian Church, the St. Sophia early Christian basilica, which has given the city its name, the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – the biggest and the most beautiful on the Balkan Peninsula, the Monument of Alexander II – Tzar Liberator (1902), the Parliament. In the afternoon – time at leisure. Dinner. Overnight.

Day 2 Departure to the Rila Monastery – the richest historical and architectural monument of the Orthodox enclave, founded in 10th century and transformed to the most important spiritual and cultural center of Bulgaria. The site is recognized by UNESCO as part of the world heritage list.

Day 3 Departure to Monastery of Bachkovo (20 km from Plovdiv) – the second largest monastery after the Rila Monastery. The complex and its neighborhoods have grown into a developed tourist sight where dozens of small shops, stalls, and restaurants stand on both sides of the walkway to the gates and appeal with their variety to visitors. Breakfast. Depart for Bachkovo monastery “Assumption of St. Maria”, the second large Bulgarian monastery. It is located on the right bank of the breathtaking Chepelare River. The monastery was founded in 1083 by the Byzantine military commander of Georgian origin, Grigorii Bakuriani and his brother Abazii. Yet only the two-storey bone-vault lying about 300m to the east of the present-day complex is still kept from that time. The bone-vault is a must-see building there because of its unique wall-paintings which rank among the most valuable works of Orthodox art of the 11th –12th century. During the times of the Second Bulgarian State, the monastery was patronized by Tsar Ivan Alexander, a portrait of whom can be still seen in the arcs of the bone-vault’s narthex due to his renovation of this building. At the end of the 11th century, the monastery opens a religious school. Continue to Plovdiv. Tour of the Old town and the pedestrian area with the most significant historical and cultural monuments. Accommodation. Overnight.

Day 4 Departure to Veliko Tarnovo. On our way we will visit the Memorial Shipka Church which was built in living memory to the Russian soldiers and Bulgarian revolutionaries who died during the Russian-Turkish Liberation War of 1877-1878. Cross the Shipka Pass. To the other side of the pass we will visit “Etara” – an open air museum. The shopping street represents the way crafts were practiced locally in the mid-19th century. Continue toDryanovo monastery “Sveti Arhangel Mihail” – situated in the picturesque gorge of Dryanovo River in Stara Planina. The monastery was founded in the 12th century and gradually became centre of the Hesychasm. During the Ottoman slavery the monastery was conflagrated twice and it was built at its present place in the 17th century. The history of this captivating holy site is closely connected with the National Liberation Movement. The monastery was one of the headquarters of the Tarnovo revolutionary committee. The Apostle of Liberty, Vasil Levski and his adherents often stayed in the monastery. During the April Uprising several surviving rebels repulsed the attacks of the numerous Turkish army only in nine days. Arrival in Veliko Tarnovo. Accommodation. Overnight.

Day 5 After breakfast – tour of the town – visit to “Tsarevets” – a mediaeval stronghold located on a hill with the same name. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire’s primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces. 47 churches and 400 residential houses have been discovered in the whole complex. Fortified walls and defensive towers surround the city. The tower of Baldwin is the most famous and is an evidence for the power of the Bulgarian Kingdom. We will continue our tour by visiting the old Marketplace Samovodska Tcharshia, the churches St. Demetrius (12th c.), Holy Forty Martyrs, built in 1230 by Tsar Ivan Assen II, and St. Peter and Paul (14th c.). In the afternoon – departure to Arbanassi  4 km from Veliko Turnovo, a charming village with an eventful history and fascinating architecture. Thirty six of its 80 houses and the five local churches have been declared for national monuments of culture. Visit of the St. Nikola and Holy Virgin monasteries. From the XVI century to its tragic devastation two centuries later, the village, one of the wealthiest in pre-liberation Bulgaria, boasted with the work of skilled masters from different parts of the country. The St. Nikola Monastery was part of the widespread religious construction under the Assen dynasty, the founders of the Second Bulgarian State. Its artistic and historical value lies primarily in the surviving murals in the St. Elija Chapel, dating from 1716 and comprising of a monumental figure of Christ the Great Archangel, 12 scenes from the Holy Akathistos, and 6 scenes from the life of Christ. The effective coloring and rich palette, the confidences in the portrayal of the human figures, the unusually varied architectural decoration reveal the hand of a master. The filigree wooden iconostasis in the chapel, with its delicate and exquisite decorations, is valuable a treasure. Situated in the same village, the Holy Virgin Monastery suffered a different, though no less tragic a fate. Historians cannot tell how it survived the attacks in 1393. In this monastery too, valuable icons abound. Return to Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 6 Departure to the Troyan Monastery, the third largest monastery in Bulgaria, situated in the northern part of the country in the Balkan Mountains. It was founded in the end of the 16th century. The main church of the monastery was reconstructed during the Bulgarian National Revival period by a master-builder called Konstantin in 1835 soon after the decline of Ottoman Rule was marked. The richly decorated interior and exterior of the church were painted between 1847 and 1849 by the great Bulgarian icon-painter Zahari Zograph. The Troyan Monastery also keeps one of the holiest icons in Bulgarian Orthodoxy, the Three-Handed Virgin since the 17th century. The Troyan Monastery is also famous for its incredible wood-carving. The oldest carving is the marvelous wood carved iconostas of the chapel „St.Nikola” which is distinguished with its genuine artistic qualities. Continue to Sofia. Overnight.

Day 7 Transfer to the airport.

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