Bulgaria is, in archaeological terms, one of the richest countries in Europe, possessing a wealth of sites of international importance and some spectacular finds – priceless both in the literal sense, and in helping to shed light on Bulgaria’s long history.
Until the last decade of the 20th century, Bulgaria lay behind the Iron Curtain and had few contacts with the West. All this changed in 2007 when it joined the EU and the future now looks bright for a country with such a rich heritage.
The Black Sea offered easy communication with the rest of the world, and the country prospered through trade and agriculture. The glorious rural landscape has changed little and many sites remain remarkably intact.
Day on foot exploring the sites of Plovdiv, founded by Philip of Macedon. Intense Roman activity on this site means that little is left of the early city, but a great deal of the Roman one, including the forum, stadium, fortress and amphitheatre.
Drive north to the sleepy village of ancient Diocletianopolis (the Roman name for Hisarya), famed for its hot water mineral spring. Continue to the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’, and first to Kazanlak (World Heritage Site), with its eponymous tomb (we hope once again for permission to enter the original Kazanaluk tomb, if not possible there is an excellent replica), decorated with beautiful 4th century BC frescoes. Also visit further remarkable tombs of Ostrusha, Arsenal and Golyama Kosmatka.
A visit to Stara Zagora – Ancient roman Ulpia Augusta Traiana, the extraordinary Neolithic houses, complete with shelves and pots and hearth. It is more widely known as a prosperous city founded by Emperor Trajan. We shall be taken beneath the city’s streets to a Roman house decorated with excellent mosaics. Go to the ancient Mesembria (the Roman name for Nesebar).
A day in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the medieval Bulgarian kings (tsars), dramatically situated on a gorge over the river. We explore the large medieval castle which dominates the city, as well as some glorious early monasteries and churches for which the town is justly famous. Leave Veliko Tarnovo and drive to Nicopolis ad Istrum, the ancient city site excavated by Professor Andrew Poulter. Continue to the traditional villages of Arbanassi and Etar, and to Sofia.
- 2 nights in a modern hotel in Plovdiv with gym and swimming pool, situatet near the Maritza River, in the old central part of the town.
- 1 night in a comfortable hotel in the center of Kazanlak: Facilities include a gym, lounge, terrace and restaurant.
- 1 night in Nesebar, Black sea coast. Hotel in a central part of the town with magnificent views.
- 1 night in a comfortable, rustic hotel in Veliko Turnovo: close to many of the sites of the old town, wonderful views of the Yantra River from its restaurant and panoramic bar. Equipped with a ‘Wellness centre’, indoor pool, saunas and Turkish bath.
- 1 night in a 4* hotel in center of Sofia, within walking distance of the downtown area and the National Museum of Archaeology.