Round Trip to the Ancient Wonder of Sveshtari
This tour takes you on a round trip to the archeological reserves of north-eastern Bulgaria. We’ll see the remains of two of Bulgaria’s former capitals – Pliska and Preslav. This tour’s main attraction is the UNESCO protected Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari – a unique example of ancient burial architecture. Another UNESCO-protected sight is the Madara Horseman – a 7th century rock relief with a mysterious meaning that is subject to intense debate among historians. We’ll stop by Fort Ovech and enjoy the gorgeous view from the cliffs it sits upon. The tour ends in Varna, often called the maritime capital of Bulgaria – a city known for its beautiful Seaside Garden and centuries-worth of history preserved in its museums, old churches and buildings.
• Travel to Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria
• Visit Pliska, the first historical capital of Bulgaria, and tour its Old Town open-air museum
• See the Madara Horseman rock-relief – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
• Tour the archeological reserve of Preslav and its Round Golden Church
• Delve into the spectacular Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari – recognized by UNESCO for its unique artistic value
• Explore Fort Ovech and enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding landscapes from a bird’s eye view
• Go sightseeing in Bulgaria’s maritime capital – Varna
• See its gorgeous Seaside Garden
• Visit the Aladzha Rock-Monastery, built in the 12th century
Arrival at Sofia Airport. You’ll get the chance to relax and settle into your hotel room. Overnight in Sofia.
The second day is dedicated to exploring Sofia's top attractions. Its busy streets, the beautiful Baroque architecture in the Center and the park possess a lively charm that leaves you eager to explore, but the monuments and landmarks it is most famous for deserve our full attention.
The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the largest Orthodox Christian cathedrals in the world and the second largest on the Balkan Peninsula. Its impressive size and intricate design mark it as one of the most stunning architectural marvels in Bulgaria and Sofia’s most recognizable landmark.
The Saint Sophia Basilica is a red-brick church is stands atop the foundations of a sacred temple built in Roman times. The huge burial site under its floor allows visitors of the church to explore its catacombs and get lost in a labyrinth of ancient tombs and corridors.
The Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker is a beautiful golden-domed church designed in the Russian Revival Style. Visually, it is unlike any other Orthodox church in Bulgaria. It is believed to be able to grant wishes.
The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is an example of neoclassical architecture is so spectacular that you will want to carry the memory home with you.
The Church of St. George, built by the Romans is in the 4th century, is an early Christian red brick rotunda that is considered the oldest building in Sofia.
The bustling Vitosha Shopping Street perfectly embodies the dynamic atmosphere of the capital of Bulgaria.
Overnight in Sofia.
In the morning, after breakfast, we’re heading off for Veliko Tarnovo in Stara Planina mountain.
Located in Stara Planina mountain, built upon its steep slopes, with a beautiful river winding through the heart of the city, Veliko Tarnovo is a picturesque settlement with a rich history commemorated in the many historical and cultural landmarks strewn across its territory.
Veliko Tarnovo’s most popular tourist attraction is the medieval stronghold of Tsarevets. Built high atop a hill, it towers over the city and offers a beautiful view of the area from up high. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire’s primary fortress from 1185 to 1393, comprising the royal and patriarchal palaces.
The Holy Forty Martyrs Church is a medieval church built during the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen II in the 1230’s. It has been restored, its collapsed parts rebuilt, and it is now open to the public.
In the Museum of the Bulgarian Revival and Constituent Assembly visitors can trace the development of Christian art from the end of the 14th century to the end of the 19th century in a collection of works by master wood-carvers. The Revival Period exhibition is dedicated to Veliko Tarnovo in the 18th and 19th centuries, showcasing examples of the traditional crafts practiced in this city at the time.
The Samovodska Charshia is the old market in Veliko Tarnovo. In the early 19th century, when the town was rapidly developing emerged a market centre with numerous workshops, bakeries and cafes. Today, the workshops on this street preserve the spirit and the original atmosphere of the Revival Period.
We’ll go for a walk in the “Veliko Tarnovo – the spirit of the thousand-year old Bulgaria” miniature-park – the first and only park-museum in Bulgaria, where visitors can walk amongst miniature models of the most significant landmarks in the country (scale 1:25). Here we’ll see Plovdiv's Ancient Theatre, Sofia's Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Fort Baba Vida and so much more, all in one place.
Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
First thing after breakfast, we’re setting off for the village of Sveshtari – home to one of the most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria.
The Tomb of Sveshtari was built sometime in the early 3rd century BC and it’s speculated that it was the final resting place of Dromichaetes, king of the Thracian tribe of the getae.
This unique piece of architecture instantly stands out with its size larger than usual size – an uncommon trait for a Thracian tomb that is meant to be hidden under earth and flora, where the rest of the king buried within can never be disturbed. Its corridor and three square chambers are arranged asymmetrically, and the Ionic freize is paired with a Dorian anta capital, which further sets it apart from other Thracian tombs. The use of acroteria as a decorative element is atypical of the Hellenistic style the Thracians often used.
The burial chamber bears what is perhaps the tomb’s most striking feature – a row of ten sculpted female figures called caryatids supporting the ceiling. The figures are 1.20m tall, dressed in flowing dresses curved around the edges like elegant flower petals, hands raised to hold the ceiling up, with traces of paint on parts of them, showing that they were once painted.
From there, we’ll go on towards Pliska and Preslav – the first two historical capitals of Bulgaria. Today, they are archeological reserves.
Pliska is the first ever Capital of Bulgaria. The remains of its Old Town are now an open-air museum and one of the best preserved archeological museums in Bulgaria.
Our next stop is the Madara Horseman – an early medieval rock relief and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was carved into the side of the cliff in the 7th century and depicts a horseman thrusting a spear at a lion before him, a dog running in his wake. The relief is 23 m above ground and the figures are almost full-sized. Its origin and meaning are unknown, some claiming that it represents a Bulgar deity, some relate it to the Thracian Horseman motif, while others say that it depicts the Bulgarian Khan Tervel.
Our next stop is Preslav – the second historical capital of Bulgaria. Its architectural reserve features restored and reconstructed structural elements from the former city. A major attraction is the Round Golden Church – an early medieval architectural masterpiece, once richly decorated in carved marble, painted ceramics and glass mosaics. It owes its name to the gold coating that once adorned its dome. These ornaments have been lost to the ages, and the remains of the church now lie bare, but one can still enjoy the beautiful architecture and gain a sense of its former size and layout – some of its walls, columns, arches and other features remain to this day.
Adjacent to it is a museum showcasing 1500 artifacts, among which are the Preslav gold treasure, a ceramic iconostasis from the historical Dvortsov Monastery and other examples of the white ceramics typical of the Preslav area.
Overnight in Pliska.
After breakfast, we’ll visit Fort Ovech.
Ovech is a Medieval fortress located on a plateau over the town of Provadia, surrounded by a wall of sharp 15-20-meter-tall rocks on all sides. It was originally a Byzantine fortress, built in the 4th century, but it fell out of use in the 7th century and lay abandoned until the 9th century.
To get to the northern entrance of the fortress, we’ll walk down a 150-meter-long bridge high over the town of Provadia, from where we’ll get a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscapes.
After we’re done exploring the fortress, we’ll go down to Provadia for lunch. From there, we’ll head for Varna – the marine capital of Bulgaria – and see its top attractions.
Its Seaside Garden is the largest in Varna and follows the Black Sea coastline. It is one of only 3 man-made natural reserves in Bulgaria, home to rare and endangered plant species. It is said that if one walks backwards over the bridge at the entrance of the main garden alley with their eyes closed and make a wish, that wish will come true. On its northern side is the Varna Dolphinarium, and on the southern side – the Varna Aquarium. The Varna Zoo and the Planetarium are also located within the garden’s bounds.
Located in the heart of Varna, the “Assumption of the Holy Mother of God” Cathedral is the largest Christian temple in Varna, and the second tallest in the country after Sofia’s St. Alexander Nevski. Its impressive size and external and internal architectural style make it one of Varna’s top attractions.
Among its many fascinating exhibits, the Varna Archeological Museum houses the oldest gold treasure in the world. Discovered in the Varna Necropolis, the jewelry dates back to 4600 BC.
We’ll visit the Aladzha Monastery – an inactive Medieval Orthodox Christian cave-monastery that dates back to the 12th century. The cambers, doorways and stairs are carved right into the rock.
Overnight in Varna.
We’ll have breakfast and head back to Sofia. Those who wish may travel from Varna Airport to Sofia Airport by plane as an optional extra.
Inclusions / exclusions
The price includes
• 5 overnights in stylish 3 and 4-star hotels in double rooms with private facilities
• All breakfasts and dinners
• Professional tour guide
• Car/bus transfers
The price does not include
• Flight to/from Bulgaria
• Flight from Sofia Airport to Varna Airport: 100 € per person (optional)
• Flight from Varna Airport to Sofia Airport: 100 € per person (optional)
• Single room: +15 € per night
• Entrance fees
Price for groups of over 10 people: on request
The tomb of Sveshtari is only open to visitors from March to November, and tour groups can only enter in small numbers at a time, accompanied by a member of staff. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Photography is prohibited inside the tomb of Sveshtari.
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