Essence of Bulgaria

10 Days
from AUD$ 11,019

Highlights

  • Discover Sofia’s architectural marvels, bustling markets, and culinary delights
  • Experience dining in an exclusive and historic venue atop a 2nd-century ancient Roman defensive wall
  • Immerse in Soviet nostalgia at a retro communist-themed restaurant
  • Explore Plovdiv’s rich Roman heritage
  • Discover Gela: A Mythical Haven in the Rhodope Mountains
  • Masterchef Bulgaria Experience
  • Discover the winemaking process from vine to bottle

Nestled at the crossroads of Europe and the Balkans, Bulgaria beckons with an irresistible blend of ancient history, vibrant culture, and awe-inspiring landscapes. This Eastern European gem, often overlooked, unfolds a narrative that spans millennia – from Thracian civilisations to the medieval splendours of the Bulgarian Empire.

Wander through charming cobblestone streets in Sofia, the dynamic capital, where modernity harmonises with historic treasures. Explore picturesque villages like Melnik, perched against sand pyramids, and experience the warmth of Bulgarian hospitality. Traverse the Rhodope Mountains, where folklore intertwines with stunning vistas, and indulge in the culinary artistry of local wineries. Bulgaria’s heritage is etched in the walls of Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the architectural wonders of Kovachevitsa. Whether you’re captivated by cultural immersion, mountain escapades, or gastronomic delights, Bulgaria invites you to unravel its secrets.

Journey map

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Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival in Sofia

Welcome to Bulgaria and the capital city of Sofia!  

Transfer 

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. 

The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. 

Nestled at the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, Sofia exudes an alluring charm with its diverse architectural landmarks, from the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to the ancient Roman ruins scattered throughout the city. As a dynamic European hub, Sofia captivates visitors with its lively atmosphere, bustling markets, and a burgeoning culinary scene, making it a captivating destination that harmoniously embraces its past while embracing the promise of the future. 

Accommodation 

Hotel Sense or similar 

Meals 

None 

Day 2 - Sofia to Plovdiv

Morning Walking Tour of Sofia 

Embark on an immersive walking tour through Sofia, a city that effortlessly intertwines its historical significance with modern vibrancy. Starting near the iconic St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the largest church in Bulgaria, your journey navigates through the renowned Yellow Pavements, a symbol of Sofia’s core and a pathway to key landmarks like the National Assembly, Council of Ministers, and the National Theatre. Strolling along these cobblestones, you’ll encounter architectural gems such as the Sofia city bath, Banya Bashi Mosque, Central Sofia halls, the synagogue, and the National Palace of Culture, each revealing a unique facet of the city’s heritage. To truly absorb the contemporary spirit of Sofia, your exploration concludes with a delightful break at Vitoshka for a coffee. 

Lunch Experience 

Lunch today is all about Soviet nostalgia in a retro communist-themed restaurant. Dine amongst the communist memorabilia and bask in the mid-century minimalism of bare bulbs and blocky, modernist propaganda posters. Indulge in the rich falvours of Bulgarian cuisine while basking in the eclectic soviet atmosphere. The menu, thoughtfully curated, showcases an array of dishes, from hearty mezes to expertly crafted mains, all complemented by an extensive selection of rakia, the iconic Bulgarian fruit brandy, making every bite a delightful celebration of local culinary artistry. 

Afternoon Meeting with Traditional Jeweller 

This afternoon, you will meet with an upcoming local entrepreneur, Petia Ilieva, an ambassador for Bulgarian culture who has brought the traditional style of folk motifs back to life in new modern designs. 

Transfer 

Transfer to Plovdiv. Approx 2hr (150km) 

Steeped in over 6,000 years of continuous habitation, Plovdiv proudly boasts the title of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Stroll through its enchanting cobbled streets, where well-preserved. Roman ruins harmonize with vibrant art scenes and lively cafes, creating an ambiance that seamlessly bridges the gap between the past and the present. 

Welcome Dinner Experience 

Dinner this evening is a short stroll from your hotel in an exclusive and private venue. Perched on top of an ancient Roman defense wall from around the 2nd century, the house of Hajji Aleko Tzetkov is a gem of beauty and elegance. This mansion is declared a national monument of culture. Dine in this restored historic residence amongst a collection of art from the 19th century to the present day. Sit amongst the history of the Bulgarian people after the Liberation from Ottoman dominance to modern times, embodying legends, stories, artists’ fortunes, and events. A truly enchanting experience and a venue exclusive to Crooked Compass. 

Accommodation 

Hotel Vizualiza Residence or similar  

Meals 

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 

Day 3 - Plovdiv - Dragomir Winery – Gela

Morning Food Tour 

Begin your journey through the charming cobbled streets, where the enticing aroma of traditional Bulgarian delicacies fills the air. Our expert local guide will lead you to hidden gems, from bustling markets to tucked-away eateries, unveiling the diverse flavours that define Plovdiv’s culinary identity. 

Savour mouthwatering banitsa pastries, aromatic kufte kebabs, and the famed Plovdivian specialty, Kapama, a rich and savory slow-cooked meat stew. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Kapana district, where modern cafes and traditional taverns coexist, offering a delightful blend of contemporary and timeless Bulgarian flavours. Along the way, discover the city’s passion for wine as you sample local varieties and learn about the rich winemaking heritage of the region. 

Roman Ruins 

As part of your walking tour, you will also be introduced to Roman ruins in Plovdiv. The entire city is constructed on top of ruins dating back to the Roman Empire which are still being excavated today! The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis, a marvel of Roman engineering, stands as a testament to the city’s rich past. Built-in the 2nd century AD, this amphitheatre once hosted grand performances and gatherings, and today, its well-preserved seats offer panoramic views of Plovdiv. 

The Roman Stadium, another striking relic, unveils itself beneath the city’s bustling streets. Originally accommodating athletic contests and competitions, this well-preserved structure showcases the grandeur of Roman architecture. As you traverse the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, they encounter remnants of Roman walls, gates, and buildings, revealing the lasting impact of Roman civilization on Plovdiv’s urban landscape. 

Iconographer 

We have co-ordinated an exclusive meeting with a fascinating Iconographer. An iconographer is an artist specialised in the creation of icons, which are religious images typically used in Eastern Orthodox Christian worship. The role of an iconographer goes beyond mere artistic expression; it is a deeply spiritual and sacred vocation. Iconographers follow a tradition rooted in symbolism, theology, and specific techniques that have been passed down through generations. 

An iconographer is such a rare trade connecting the earthly and the divine. Our delightful host is one of few in the world today. With such a steady hand, the skill of an iconographer is incredible. Witness works she is restoring dating back to 800 years old from various churches around Bulgaria.  

Transfer 

Transfer to Dragomir Winery on the outskirts of Plovdiv.  

Dragomir Winery 

Dragomir Winery Estate is situated in the heart of the Thracian valley, which is famous for its traditions in winemaking dating back to ancient times. The Thracians are known to be among the best winemakers in the Antiquity. The aromatic, strong wine, they were making, is famous around the world, and even Homer writes about its qualities. We transfer history in present days with the name of our emblematic wine PITOS – ancient Thracian vessel, used for wine production and storing. 

Embark on a sensory journey at Dragomir Winery, where the essence of Bulgarian winemaking comes to life in a private tour and exclusive tasting experience. Nestled amidst picturesque vineyards, this boutique winery in Bulgaria invites guests to explore the intricate process of wine production, from grape to bottle. Led by our knowledgeable oenologist, delve into the vineyard’s terroir, witness the meticulous winemaking techniques, and conclude the tour with an exclusive private tasting of Dragomir’s exquisite wines, each sip revealing the nuanced flavours that define the region’s viticultural excellence. 

Accommodation 

Hotel Vizualiza Residence or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast 

Day 4 - Gela

Transfer 

This morning, you will transfer to Gela. Approx 2.5hrs (100km) 

Legend has it that Gela, nestled in the enchanting Rhodope Mountains, is the mythical birthplace of Orpheus, who ventured into the nearby Devil’s Throat Cave in search of Eurydice. Steeped in ancient history, the village’s name derives from the Thracian Bes tribe, revered as the Priests. Founded by the Thracians, Gela boasts remnants of a Thracian fortress near its borders, echoing tales of times long past.  

Perched high in the mountains, Gela feels like a secluded haven, inviting you to embrace its timeless charm. Renowned as one of Bulgaria’s three major energy centres, Gela is blessed with crisp mountain air and the rejuvenating Fion wind from the Aegean Sea, offering a haven for respiratory health. The village exudes a serene ambiance, fostering a profound connection with nature and a sense of tranquil solitude. 

Gela’s allure extends beyond its natural beauty, drawing music enthusiasts to the annual National Bagpipe Festival held in the heart of summer. Nestled in the Rhodope Mountains, a global hub for bagpipers, Gela becomes a stage for over 10,000 attendees to revel in the magical symphony of this iconic instrument, adding another layer to the village’s cultural significance. 

Bachkovo Monastery 

Regarded as the second largest and profoundly significant Bulgarian monastery, this sacred site stands as a cultural crossroads, blending influences from Byzantine, Old Georgian, and Bulgarian traditions. Established in 1083 by Georgian brothers, the monastery houses the oldest carved wooden iconostases in the region, alongside a treasure trove of original icons, frescoes, church artifacts, and manuscript book covers. A jewel within its walls is the revered icon of Our Lady of Vlaherna, shrouded in silver and revered for its miraculous aura, although its origin remains shrouded in mystery since its appearance in the early 19th century. The monastery’s extensive library, with its wealth of books and manuscripts dating back to the 1930s, adds another layer to its cultural and historical richness. 

Afternoon Village Walk 

Embark on a captivating walking tour through the picturesque village of Gela in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, where ancient history and natural beauty converge. As you traverse the charming cobbled streets, your knowledgeable guide will unveil the village’s Thracian origins, showcasing remnants of a bygone era, including the legendary Thracian fortress. Gela’s serene atmosphere, enveloped by mountain peaks, creates a perfect backdrop for an immersive exploration. 

Delve into the rich flora of the Rhodope Mountains as part of a unique foraging experience for wild mushrooms. Led by a local expert, you’ll meander through lush landscapes, learning to identify an array of edible fungi hidden beneath the forest canopy. Your foraging adventure will be infused with insights into traditional mushroom-picking practices passed down through generations. 

Accommodation 

Hotel Gela and Spa or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 5 - Kovachevitsa

Transfer 

Drive towards Kovachevitsa.  

Masterchef Bulgaria Experience 

Meet Maria Jekova, the winner of Bulgarian Masterchef. Now with her own TV show, The Taste of Bulgaria, Maria’s culinary journey extends beyond the screen – she has transformed an abandoned hamlet into a charming guesthouse and kitchen, using her Masterchef winnings. Witness the revival of this once-forgotten mountain village as Maria gradually lures locals back by providing employment in this remote and rejuvenated location. 

Immerse yourself in a hands-on cooking adventure with Maria, utilizing ingredients sourced from the surrounding forests and mountains. This is more than a cooking class; it’s a mountain-to-plate odyssey, where you’ll not only learn the art of crafting authentic Bulgarian dishes but also partake in a culinary narrative that breathes life back into an abandoned village. 

Transfer 

Continue to Kovachevitsa.  

Kovachevitsa, a charming village nestled in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, captivates visitors with its timeless allure and rich cultural heritage. Its well-preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture, featuring traditional stone houses adorned with wooden details, transports visitors to a bygone era. 

Accommodation 

Lavanda Bed & Breakfast or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 

Day 6 - Zornitza 

Transfer 

Transfer to the captivating villages of Leshten and Delchevo. 

Leshten 

Leshten welcomes you with the timeless beauty of Kovachev architectural style, where houses perch gracefully on the mountain’s steep slopes, preserving the authentic spirit of Bulgarian village life. 

Delchevo 

In contrast, the village of Delchevo, founded during the era of Turkish slavery, boasts houses that reflect the architecture of that time – characterized by stone foundations, charming facades, and numerous windows. These houses appear nestled into the rocks, utilizing natural formations as walls. Positioned high in the mountains, Delchevo provides breathtaking panoramic views of the Mesta Valley and the Rhodope Mountains from nearly every vantage point. 

Zornitza Estate Tour 

Begin your exploration with a stroll through the lush vineyards, where the estate’s exquisite wines take root. Learn about the winemaking process, from the meticulous cultivation of vines to the artistry of crafting fine wines, as you visit the state-of-the-art winery. 

Continue your journey through the olive groves, where the estate produces its exceptional olive oil. Delight in the sensory experience as you witness the harvest and pressing of olives, gaining insights into the estate’s dedication to quality and sustainability. 

The tour extends to the exquisite culinary realm with a visit to the estate’s kitchens. Here, indulge your senses as talented chefs transform locally sourced, seasonal ingredients into culinary masterpieces. Discover the secrets behind the estate’s farm-to-table philosophy, celebrating the richness of the region’s flavours. 

As the tour unfolds, immerse yourself in the luxurious ambiance of the estate’s boutique hotel and spa. Marvel at the seamless integration of modern elegance with the natural surroundings, offering a retreat where relaxation and sophistication harmonise. 

Dinner Experience 

Experience a culinary delight at Zornitza Family Estate with our exclusive BBQ Dinner in a secret location. An enchanting evening that combines the rustic charm of a barbecue with the sophistication of the estate’s luxurious surroundings. As the sun sets, guests are invited to a specially curated outdoor setting, where the enticing aroma of grilled delicacies fills the air. BBQ Dinner unfolds with a selection of premium meats and fresh, locally sourced ingredients expertly prepared by skilled chefs. Indulge in a feast that showcases the rich flavours of the region, with succulent meats grilled to perfection and accompanied by an array of delectable side dishes. 

Accommodation 

Zornitza Family Estate or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 7 - Melnik, Sand Pyramids, and Rozhen Monastery

Village of Melnik 

Start your day with a scenic drive to Melnik, the smallest town in Bulgaria but abundant in cultural and historical charm. Wander through the cobbled streets lined with traditional Bulgarian houses, many of which are national monuments. You may wish to visit the Kordopulov House (not included), a well-preserved 18th-century mansion showcasing the region’s architectural heritage.  

Sand Pyramids Exploration 

Depart for the Sand Pyramids, a natural wonder formed by erosion, creating whimsical sand formations. Take a leisurely walk around the pyramids, marvelling at the unique shapes sculpted by wind and water over time. Capture stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes from the elevated viewpoints. 

Lunch Experience 

Relish a delightful lunch at a local restaurant in Rozhen Village, offering traditional Bulgarian cuisine with a modern twist. Savor regional specialties, including local cheeses, grilled meats, and fresh salads, paired with renowned Melnik wine. 

Rozhen Monastery 

Continue your journey to the Rozhen Monastery, a significant cultural and religious site. Explore the monastery complex, featuring the Nativity of the Mother of God Church, adorned with remarkable frescoes and icons. Take in the serene atmosphere of the monastery’s surroundings and enjoy panoramic views of the Pirin Mountains. 

Leisure Time 

The afternoon is yours at leisure to relax and enjoy some of Zonrnitza’s spa treatments and facilities. 

Dinner Experience 

As the sun sets over the picturesque Melnik region, you are welcomed to a charming pre-dinner reception. Sip on a glass of Zornitza’s finest wine or enjoy a refreshing cocktail amidst the lush vineyards and scenic beauty that surrounds the estate. 

Chef’s Tasting Menu: 

The Chef’s Tasting Menu, curated by the estate’s talented chefs, showcases a symphony of flavours, artfully presented in a sequence of courses. Each dish is a masterpiece, highlighting the freshness of locally sourced ingredients and the creativity of the culinary team. 

Wine Pairing 

Complementing the gastronomic delights, Zornitza’s knowledgeable sommeliers guide guests through a thoughtfully curated wine-pairing experience.  

Accommodation 

Zornitza Family Estate or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 

Day 8 - Zornitza 

Today is yours at leisure to relax and enjoy some of Zornitza’s spa treatments and facilities.  

Accommodation 

Zornitza Family Estate or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast 

Day 9 - Sofia 

Morning at leisure.  

Rila Monastery 

Founded in the 10th century by the revered hermit St. Ivan of Rila, the UNESCO listed monastery has undergone expansions and renovations over the years, now revealing a harmonious blend of architectural styles that include elements of the Bulgarian Renaissance. The main church, adorned with vibrant frescoes depicting biblical scenes, captures the attention of visitors with its stunning iconostasis and gilded altar.  

Transfer 

Transfer to Sofia. Approx 2.5hrs (175km) 

Accommodation 

Juno Hotel or similar 

Meals 

Breakfast and Lunch 

 

Day 10  - Departure 

Transfer 

Transfer to the airport for your onward departure. 

Accommodation 

N/A 

Meals 

Breakfast 

Don’t have time now?

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What’s included

  • Return airport transfers 
  • 9 nights’ accommodation 
  • Meals as per the itinerary 
  • Entrance Fees as per the itinerary 
  • Services of English speaking local guide 
  • Sightseeing as per the itinerary 
  • Air-conditioned private transportation 
Exclusions
  • International flights 
  • Drinks unless otherwise mentioned 
  • Visas 
  • Travel Insurance 
  • Tips 
  • Inoculations 
  • Items of a personal nature 
  • Anything not mentioned in the itinerary 

**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.

* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.

* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.

A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.

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Start Date
28th Sep 2024
End Date
07th Oct 2024
Duration
10 Days
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Available
Price
$11,019 AUD
Start Date
27th Apr 2025
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06th May 2025
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10 Days
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11th May 2025
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20th May 2025
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22nd Jun 2025
End Date
01st Jul 2025
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10 Days
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$11,790 AUD
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29th Jul 2025
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07th Aug 2025
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10 Days
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$11,790 AUD
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28th Sep 2025
End Date
07th Oct 2025
Duration
10 Days
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Available
Price
$11,790 AUD
Start Date
12th Oct 2025
End Date
21st Oct 2025
Duration
10 Days
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Available
Price
$11,019 AUD