STEAM AND SPA IN BULGARIA
OCTOBER 3-14, 2020
Bulgaria is a Balkan country with spectacular mountains and a coastline on the Black Sea. For around 500 years it was part of the Ottoman Empire, although the Orthodox tradition remained strong, and today has ancient history, a favorable climate, varied cuisine and hospitable people.
Join us on a rail-based tour around the central region visiting the best of the ancient and cultural sites. You will see wonderful monasteries, Thracian tombs, the ancient capital of Bulgaria, Europe’s oldest inhabited city and much more, as well as traveling on some very fine railway lines, including the “Alpine railway in the Balkans”. From the lively capital city of Sofia, to small remote picturesque villages, known for superb folk art, we guarantee that Bulgaria will entrance you.
Day 1 Friday October 2:
Arrive at Sofia. Hotel check-in and relax. Welcome Dinner in the evening
Day 2 Saturday October 3: (B,D)
City tour of Sofia – the capital city of Bulgaria, which Emperor Constantine the Great once called “My Rome”. The city covers ancient Serdica, founded 4,000 years ago by the Thracians, while its numerous monuments and buildings reveal as well Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian influence. Visit the National Museum of History with its golden and silver Thracian treasures, Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral, St. Sofia 6th c basilica, the Parliament Square, the Old City garden and the former Royal Palace, National Theatre, Presidency, St. George rotunda (4th c, the oldest building preserved in Sofia ), the ruins of Ancient Serdica and Arena di Serdica. Free afternoon for own discoveries. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 3 Sunday October 4:(B,D)
Departure by charter train with steam via Iskar gorge to Cherven Briag. We will travel on part of the longest rail line in Bulgaria, which is regarded as the busiest passenger line, crossing the country from west to east, up to the Black Sea coast (at Varna) with total length 340 miles, opened in 1899. In the section from Sofia to Mezdra Railway station we will cross the picturesque Iskar Gorge, where the railway follows the course of the Iskar River through a winding, scenic canyon of the Balkan Mountains. There are many small villages with railway stations bearing names from the legends and history of the region. Opposite Lakatnik railway station you will see the magnificent rocky massif with vertical walls. The lime here is cut by many caves, entrances and galleries. Leaving the Balkan Mountains, we will pass via Mezdra – the 2nd most important railway station in Bulgaria after Gorna Oriahovitsa. Transfer to Lukovit. Overnight with dinner at your hotel.
Day 4 Monday October 5: (B,D)
Breakfast and transfer by coach to Svishtov – a city located on the right bank of the River Danube. Svishtov is identified with the Roman colony Novae mentioned by Ptolemy (1st -2nd c AD) and served as a base of operations for Roman campaigns against Barbarian tribes. Svishtov is included in the list of 100 top tourist sites in Bulgaria and its main landmarks include the old fortress, the clock tower from 1764, St. Trinity Church and the port of Svishtov is the southernmost harbor on the Danube river. Board our steam train hauled by locomotive 16.27 from Svishtov and depart to Troyan via Lovech. The decision for connecting Svishtov port with central Bulgaria and Varna port had been taken in 1897. The first section till Levski was constructed in 1909 and the section till Troyan was completed only after the 2nd WW (1948) with the voluntary labor of 12 000 young men and women from all over Bulgaria, with full support of the local population. Future plans suggested the continuation of this line from Troyan to the south station on the Sub-Balkan railway line, which required the construction of a 12,860 m long tunnel. Overnight and dinner at the hotel in Troyan. If time permits – visit Troyan monastery nearby (the 3rd largest in Bulgaria).
Day 5 Tuesday October 6: (B,D)
Breakfast and transfer from Troyan to Veliko Turnovo. Panorama tour, with the coach, of Veliko Turnovo – the medieval capital city of Bulgaria, picturesquely located on 4 hills above Yantra river. Transfer to Gorna Oriahovitsa railway station with steam to Stara Zagora. We will cross the central and highest part of the Balkan range enjoying a panorama of mountain peaks, small river valleys and picturesque villages. Our train will stop at Triavna – a museum town, regarded as main centre of woodcarving and icon painting in Bulgaria. Old Triavna was the cradle of Bulgarian craftsmanship. In the mid-19th century there were 40 icon-painting workshops there, hence the epithet “the Bulgarian Florence” that foreign travelers attached to Triavna. We will proceed south by our train to Tulovo and Stara Zagora to spend the night. Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Stara Zagora
Day 6 Wednesday October 7: (B,D)
Breakfast and departure hauled by steam locomotive at 5:01am to Dimitrovgrad and further to Plovdiv. The section to Dimitrovgrad was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century with the idea to be extended further to the Aegean sea – a project which has been stopped with the beginning of the 1st WW. We will change direction and depart west towards Plovdiv – the 2nd largest Bulgarian city, considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. City tour of the Old Plovdiv architecture reserve, awarded golden medal for architecture by UNESCO. Admire the remains of the Roman forum, Stadium, Ancient Amphitheare, the complex of National Revival houses and churches. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.
Day 7 Thursday October 8: (B,D)
Breakfast and transfer by coach to Septemvri railway station. Steam locomotive 609.76 + cistern and carriages 901, 558 and 502 along the narrow gauge (760mm) to Velingrad. Check in at the hotel in Velingrad, time to relax, use the spa facilities and the swimming pools with mineral water of the hotel, dinner and overnight. Beautiful nature and deposits of mineral waters make Velingrad one of the leading balneological resorts on the Balkans. Velingrad is No1 location in Bulgaria in terms of abundance and diversity of mineral waters, the temperature of which varies between 82 and 91 degrees. Velingrad is also famous for the largest karst spring in Bulgaria, called Kleptuza. Its output is from 600 to 1200 l/sec, and supplies two ponds with a separated resting area with water wheels on the side. Use of: indoor and outdoor swimming pools with mineral water, sauna, steam bath, whirlpools at the hotel.
Day 8 Friday October 9: (B,D)
Departure by steam locomotive 609.76 + cistern and carriages 901, 558 and 502 from Velingrad to Avramovo, Bansko and Dobrinishte. Along the route you will cross 3 mountains (Rila, The Rhodopes and Pirin) and 7 municipalities. Along the narrow-gauge line there are 35 tunnels, 11 stations and 10 stops, among which is the highest Railway station in Bulgaria – Avramovo which is 4157 feet above sea level. You will enjoy the varied relief of southern Bulgaria with the forests of the Rhodope mountains, small river valleys and stone bridges, the breath-taking alpine panorama of Pirin Mountain National Park (UNESCO site) near Bansko museum town. Arrival at Dobrinishte station and transfer by coach to Bansko museum town, located at the foothills of Pirin Mountain National Park (UNESCO). Bansko is an an international centre for winter and summer tourism. Dinner and overnight in Bansko – hotel with spa facilities.
Day 9 Saturday October 10: (B,D)
Breakfast. Transfer to Simitli railway station – regular service train Simitli – Petrich, the last station, at the most south-western part of Bulgaria and close to both Northern Macedonia and Greece. Due to political reasons, after 1920, the 21-km section going to Zlatarevo, and the border, was dismantled.
Transfer by coach to Melnik – the smallest Bulgarian town declared a museum. The unique architecture of Melnik make it a popular tourist destination. The town is also associated with the impressive natural sand pyramids in various forms, resembling giant mushrooms, ancient towers and obelisks, spread in an area of 11 miles square near Melnik, Kurlanovo and Rozhen. The town has also been famous for producing a strong wine since at least 1346. The local wine from the varietal Broad Leave Melnik Vine was reportedly a favourite of Winston Churchill’s. We visit Kordopulov House (1754) and tasting some red wines. In the afternoon – transfer back to Bansko for dinner and 2nd overnight at the hotel.
Day 10 Sunday October 11: (B,D)
Breakfast. Morning walking tour in the center of Old Bansko to see St. Trinity Church and the complex of National Revival houses with their typical architecture – thick stone walls, narrow and dark loop-holes, iron wires on the windows and the heavy doors. Transfer by coach to Rila Monastery UNESCO site. This is the largest monastery in Bulgaria, located at an altitude of 3763 feet above sea level in Rila Mountain National Park. Admire wooden balconies, azure fretwork, collonades, facades and colourful frescoes, silhouetted against a fantastic panorama of mountain peaks. The monastery was founded in the 10th century. It is a National Historical Reserve since 1976 and part of UNESCO list since 1983. Transfer to Sofia. Farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Day 11 Monday October 12: (B)
After breakfast end of tour.
all prices are per person
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$3,575
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$195
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED.$800
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY JULY 3, 2020
* 19 meals
* Fully escorted
* All hotels are 4 star
* Bansko – St. Trinity Church
* Melnik – Kordopulov House
TOUR CONDITIONS FOR 2020 **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% conveyance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.