Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia & Northern Greece
“Attending festival of Roses in Bulgaria”
May 23 to June 08, 2019
The focus of this tour will be the dramatic mountain scenery and exquisite jewel-like villages, farms, churches and monasteries of the four countries visited. This simple, agrarian way-of-life is a vestige of the culture that once dominated the continent but has virtually disappeared in western Europe. Expect to be entertained by craft traditions, folk music and dance. The towns are equally impressive; most of the overnight stops are in medieval walled burgs built by Saxon settlers. Romania is noted for its vineyards and interesting cuisine, heavily influenced by Hungarian specialties. Continue on to Bulgaria, one of the smallest countries of the Old Continent but with a wealthy history in the Balkan region. From settlement on top of settlement Bulgaria is a repository of ancient sites from many civilizations that inhabited the region through millennia. Buffeted by Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman influences and dotted with beautiful lakes, threaded together by a network of rivers, Macedonia is a repository of history surrounded by beautiful scenery. In Northern Greece you’ll discover grandiose archaeological sites, picturesquely labyrinthine villages and the great city of Thessaloniki, famous for its dazzling Byzantine heritage, outshone only by that of Constantinople (Istanbul) itself.
Tour cost (Air and Land): $5,995.00 Per person sharing in double occupancy
Single Supplement: $800.00
Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 14 participants
Credit for not using our included airfare $700.00 Air from NYC and select east coast destinations.
Led by local expert guides
II Active – Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.
*** - **** Superior: Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (3 or 4 stars)
Your tour does not include
- Airport taxes, fuel surcharges and security charges (Est. $490.00) - subject to change.
- Alcoholic beverages and any soft drinks with meals.
- Items of personal nature: laundry, phone calls, internet service, and other items not listed.
- Meals not listed.
- Travel insurance. Highly recommended.
- Entry Visas (US citizens don’t require visas).
- Camera or video fees at museums and sites.
- Any cost increase due to currency fluctuation.
- Hotel accommodations necessitated by changes in air schedules or misconnections.
- Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled dates.
Your tour includes
- Meeting and assistance upon arrival.
- Transport by air-conditioned vehicle.
- Accommodation mostly at first class (4 star) hotels with a few exceptions in a couple of small towns in 3 star hotels.
- Accompanying expert English speaking guides during tours.
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B: breakfast, L: lunch and D: dinner).
- Entrance fees to visited sites mentioned and Rose festival.
- Bottled mineral water on vehicle during touring.
- Roundtrip international airfare from NYC (or some other East Coast cities).
- Tips/gratuities to drivers and guides. (With required minimum participants)
View Tour Itinerary
Thursday, May 23
US - Thessaloniki (Greece)
Depart USA and next day arrive to Greece where you will be met and transferred to the hotel. Free time until dinner. (D)
Friday, May 24
Meet with your local guide in the hotel lobby and depart for you tour of Thessaloniki. Founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, Thessaloniki's history spans over 2,300 years. An important metropolis by the Roman period, it was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to numerous, notable Byzantine and Paleochristian monuments. The tour begins with the Arch of Galerius in the lower town. Visit Agios Georgios and Agia Sofia whose interiors are preserved precious mosaics. Explore the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Art. Return to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, May 25
Thessaloniki – Pella – Vergina – Kalambaka
Visit the ruins of Pella the ancient capital of Macedonia. Founded by Archelaus I it became the capital of the kingdom of Macedonia and was home to the empire of Philip II and Alexander the Great. In 168 BC, after the defeat of the Macedonians by the Romans at Pydna, the city was sacked and stripped of most of its treasures. Head to the UNESCO site of Vergina to see the royal necropolis, believed to be the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia. The museum houses material found in the area that is considered to be one of the greatest archaeological collections in all of Greece. Check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, May 26
Kalambaka – Bitola (Macedonia) - Ohrid
Visit the UNESCO site of Meteora (the word means suspended in the air in Greek). The monasteries are built on rock pinnacles of deltaic origin, known as Meteora, which rise starkly over 400 m above the Peneas valley and the small town of Kalambaka on the Thessalian plain. Depart for Macedonia where you will meet your guide upon arrival at the border. Short visit to Bitola: conquered by the Turks in 1382, the city has since been renamed Monastir. Dozens of mosques built by the Turks during their occupation that lasted for more than five centuries. Continue to the city of Heraclea founded by Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, in the mid-fourth century BC. Among the most interesting relics to see are the baths, colonnades and amphitheater. Stop at the remains of two churches, both displaying colorful mosaics from the 5th century that depict geometric shapes, trees, birds, flowers and animals. Upon arrival in Ohrid head to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, May 27
Visit the old center of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Macedonia and one of the most fascinating on the Balkan Peninsula. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid, it is known for its pretty white houses, winding streets and an abundance of art treasures. Visit the Cathedral of St. Sophia, built in 1037-1056 with interesting frescoes from the 14th century, the Roman theater, the Church of S. Bogorodica Perivlepta of 1259 with Byzantine forms, the Samuil fortress, the Plaosnik and the Church of St. Kaneo (one of the symbols of Ohrid). Depart by boat to visit the Monastery of St. Naum. Return to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, May 28
Ohrid – Tetovo - Skopje
After breakfast depart for Tetovo. Visit the Painted Mosque constructed in the 15th century, also known as the Mosque Aladza. This jewel of Islamic Art was built in 1459 with donations from two noble Muslim women - Hurshida and Mensure, whose tomb is located in the garden. The mosque is presented in the form of a cube, fully decorated both inside and outside with floral and geometric motifs. It was rebuilt and expanded by Abdurrahman Pasha in 1833 and the frescoes and wooden interior dating back to this period are all in excellent condition. Head to the capital city of Skopje where you will explore the narrow streets of the old bazaar. The pedestrian walk is comprised of similar, one floor structures that house shops containing jewels, carpets, clothes, books, etc. See the Mustafa Pasha Mosque (16th century) and the Church of St. Spas. Visit the Cathedral Kliment Ohridski, the Feudal Tower and the memorial dedicated to Mother Teresa. Check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, May 29
Skopje – Rila (Bulgaria) - Sofia
Depart for Bulgaria and meet the guide upon arrival at the border. Continue to the magnificent Rila Monastery, the most important monument of the Orthodox faith in the Balkans (UNESCO). Rila holy cloister was founded in the first half of the 10th century. Its history is directly related to St Ivan of Rila, a Bulgarian hermit who settled in the region and devoted his life to fasting and prayers. The monastery was initially situated near the cave where the saint dwelled. After he passed away in 946, St Ivan was buried in the cave in which he found solitude. Throughout the centuries Rila Monastery has always been the spiritual, educational and cultural center of Bulgaria. Continue to Sofia to check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Thursday, May 30
Depart on a tour of the city that will take you to the Church of St Sofia, the Church of St George and the Aleksandar Nevski Memorial Cathedral. The latter was officially opened in 1912, to honor the 200,000 Russian warriors that died in the liberation war. Visit the National Museum of History and the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The small church is a unique example of the medieval architecture in the Balkans. Of special interest are the frescos on its interior walls, the oldest ones dating back to the 13th century. Return to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, May 31
Sofia – Koprivshtiza – Starosel - Plovdiv
Depart for Koprivshtiza, one of the hotbeds of the April uprising in 1876 against the Ottoman occupation. Visit the historic city center that features some of the most beautiful old houses in Bulgaria. See the Church of the Virgin (Uspenie Bogirodichino) before heading to Starosel. Upon arrival tour the Thracian Temple Complex in the Chetinyovata Mogila that was discovered in 2000. Dating back to the end of the 5th or beginning of the 4th century BC it is the oldest royal Thracian complex with a mausoleum ever found. Stop at the Kremikovtzi Monastery, founded in the 14th century during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander. It was destroyed in 1332 and rebuilt in 1493. Continue to your hotel in Plovdiv for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Saturday, June 01
Plovdiv – Bachkovo - Plovdiv
Depart for Bachkovo Monastery founded in 1083 by the Byzantine military commander, Grigorij Bakuriani. It is one of the largest and oldest Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Europe and it is known for the unique combination of Byzantine, Georgian and Bulgarian styles. Return to Plovdiv, a town that was built around seven hills, which is a feature that is a distinct part of the city’s history. The beginning of its history dates back to 4,000 years BC making it one of the oldest cities in Europe. In the 4th century BC it was conquered by Phillip of Macedonia. Visit the old town situated on Nebet Tepe hill to see the Ethnographic Museum, the Roman Theater and the Church of SS Kostantino and Elena. See the Roman Stadium and the Mosque situated in the city center. Return to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sunday, June 02
Plovdiv – Kazanlak (Rose Festival) – Shipka - Tryavna
Depart for the "Valley of Roses" to attend the festival. At the rose fields you will see the ritual of petal picking and enjoy a program with singers and dancers in traditional costumes. You will have the opportunity to sample typical products made from the extract of rose. Head to Kazanlak, the capital of the Rouses valley. The surrounding region has been inhabited for thousands of years, with traces of civilization going as far back as 2000 BC. Visit the important Thracian Tomb (copy) from the 4th century BC situated near the ancient Thracian capital of Seuthopolis. Consisting of a vaulted brickwork "beehive" tomb, it contains, among other things, painted murals. Visit the Church of The Nativity located near Shipka village. Continue to Tryavna to see the Clock Tower – positioned in the main square it is a prominent symbol of the town. It was built in 1814 and is 21 m high. The old street of Tryavna lies on the other side of the 19th century bridge, many wood-carving workshops and souvenir shops can be found there. The shoemaker’s shop (where leather shoes are made) and the workshop where national costumes are sewn are located in this part of Tryavna. Art lovers should not miss visiting the art galleries in the town. Check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Monday, June 03
Tryavna – Veliko tarnovo – Arbanassi - Rousse
Depart for Tzarevets Hill in Veliko Tarnovo, a medieval stronghold that served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393. Continue to the village of Arbanassi to tour the well-preserved 17th century Kostantsaliev House that has been converted into a museum. Visit the Birth of Christ Church that is divided into a men’s section (narthex) a woman’s section (vestibule), and a gallery that encloses both. The narthex was once the original church, and the murals on its walls were added in 1597. End your day at a hotel in Russe for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, June 04
Russe – Curtea De Ages (Romania) - Sibiu
Depart for Romania where you meet the guide at the border. Continue to visit Curtea de Arges Monastery: an interesting edifice in Romania whose beauty is surpassed only by the legends told from generation to generation about its construction and the human sacrifices made in the name of eternity. The legends tell of the pregnant woman trapped inside the walls and the death of master Manole who tried to fly with wooden wings. Continue to Sibiu and head to the historical center to see the 15th century Evangelical church and the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque houses. Check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, June 05
Sibiu – Brazov – Bran - Sinaia
Arrive to Brasov and visit one of the most charming medieval towns of Romania. It was founded by the Teutonic knights in 1211 on an ancient Dacian site and settled by the Saxons as one of the seven walled citadels. The location of the city at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and western Europe, together with certain tax exemptions, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth and exert a strong political influence in the region. Visit the Schei quarter with the church of Sfantul Nicolae, the first Romanian school from the 15th century and the Gothic church of Biserica Neagrã. Explore Dracula’s Castle, built in the 13th century by the Teutonic knight Dietrich. Narrow winding stairways lead through some 60 timbered rooms, many connected by underground passages. The castle overlooks the picturesque village of Bran, which offers an open-air ethnographic museum consisting of old local-style village houses complete with furniture, household objects and costumes. Check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Thursday, June 06
Sinaia - Bucharest
Depart for Peles Castle, the summer residence of King Carol I. Nestled in the picturesque town of Sinaia, it is a masterpiece of German Renaissance architecture and considered by many to be one of the most stunning castles in Europe. Commissioned by the king in 1873 and completed in 1883, it served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947. Drive to Bucharest and check into the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Friday, June 07
Begin your day with a tour of the capital, called the "Paris of the East" for its wide boulevards and its buildings in the "Belle Epoque" style. Visit the Triumphal Arch, the Romanian University, and the Square of the Revolution, the University Square and the Curtea Domneasca. Explore the Patriarchy (spiritual center of the Romanian Orthodox Church) and the Palace of Parliament, considered to be the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon in Washington DC. Head to visit the National Cotroceni Museum, the oldest royal residence in Bucharest. Today it is the residence of the president and a museum. (B, L, D)
Saturday, June 08
Depart for the airport after breakfast to fly home. (B)
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed