Balkan 5 countries Wine and Gastro tour – Romania-Bulgaria-Serbia-Macedonia-Greece

Balkan 5 countries Wine and Gastro tour – Romania-Bulgaria-Serbia-Macedonia-Greece

Day 1:  Bucharest – (arrival in Bulgaria via Danube Bridge)- Ivanovo – Veliko Tarnovo

09:00h Morning start from Bucharest, drive direction Bulgaria, 11:00h Entering Bulgaria via Danube Bridge, Short stop in the town of Ruse – Rousse for refreshing and lunch on clients own.

Ruse – an old Bulgarian town with traditions in culture, art and education and with developed industry and trade. It used to be the most important town on the Danube River, known also as “Little Vienna” because of its architecture. In the 1 century AD on a part of the territory of the modern town an ancient settlement of Sexaginta Prista came to existence. The name means “Port of the sixty ships”.

12:30 – 12:45h Drive for Ivanovo. 12:45 – 14:15h Archeological reserve “Ivanovo Rock Monasteries” (UNESCO). Their story begins in the Late Medieval Period (12th – 14th century) when many monks came to live in the hermitage hollows of the rocks. The number of medieval monks’ cells and churches in the region of Rousse is over 250. The Ivanovo Monastery owes its cultural and historic value predominantly to the mural paintings dating from the 13th and 14th century, preserved in 6 of the rock chapels.

14:30 – 16:00 Drive to Veliko Tarnovo

16:30 – 19:00 Tour of Veliko Tarnovo – the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, picturesquely situated along the banks of Yantra River. During our walk we will see the street of the craftsmen, Samovodskata charshia (market place), and the Tsarevets hill where the residence (palace) of the Bulgarian tsars (kings) was to be found. In a cozy atmosphere you will be invited to discover the best local wineries of Central Northern Bulgaria. The region is known for its emblematic varieties, including Gamza, Red Misket, Dimyat. Dinner and overnight in the town of Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 2Veliko Tarnovo – Etar (Gabrovo) – Rose Valley – Kazanlak

09:00 – 10:00 Drive to Etara, 10:00 – 12:00h Etara ethnographic complex. Etara is a museum that recreates the architecture, lifestyle and handicrafts the way they existed during the National Revival Period. It has been laid out as a typical Revival Period mountainous settlement of craftsmen with markets and shops, bakeries and workshops, water mills, little bridges and drinking fountains, a clock tower and cozy houses. Traditional Bulgarian crafts will be observed here, such as wood-carving, pottery, coppersmith, furriery, cutlery, tailoring etc. The complex is rich in nice small shops, where you can buy interesting souvenirs, taste delicious traditional “white” jam or enjoy a cup of nosy Turkish coffee. At about noon we continue our drive while experiencing the atmosphere of the gorgeous Balkan Mountain. The famous European mountain range will be crossed through Shipka pass. During the drive we enjoy the marvelous pictures painted by the skillful hand of Mother Nature. At the end of the pass the forestry scenery will be brightened by the shiny gilt domes of Shipka Memorial complex.

14:00 – 14:30h We can make a short stop to admire the colorful architecture of the church. Continue our drive towards the Valley of Roses and Village of Skobelevo

15:30 – 17:00h Damascena Rose Complex. Here the guests will be introduced to the typical for the whole region distillation of rose and lavender oil. They will learn about the unique technologies of processing of the rose oil used in XIX c. as well as the modern ones. After that we will have the opportunity to walk around the beautiful garden with more than 100 kinds of roses and to buy some souvenirs as rose oil, rose water, lavender oil, rose honey, rose jam, rose liquor and, of course, rose perfumes. Our pleasant visit will end with a tasting of rose honey. Short drive to Kazanlak (30min). Dinner and overnight in the town.

Day 3:  Kazanlak – Starosel – Plovdiv

Breakfast. 09:00 – 09:45h Kazanlak Thracian Tomb – dated back to the 4th century BC. The monument owes its global fame to the remarkable wall-paintings in the corridor and the dome premise – one of the best preserved examples of the antique painting. The drawings all over the hemispherical tomb chamber are recreating the life and rituals of the noble Thracians. The Kazanlak Tomb is one of the most significant monuments of the Thracian culture in the Bulgarian lands and is included in the list of UNESCO.

10:00 – 11:30h  Drive towards the Valley of the Thracian Kings

11:30 – 12:30h Visit to a local winery, including short tour of the technological halls and a magical wine-tasting in a hall, recreating Thracian ritual temple. The archaeologists have discovered unquestionable proves that in VI-V centuries BC the Thracians had already been producing and drinking wine.  Time for lunch.

13:30 – 14:30h Drive to Plovdiv. City tour of the Old Town of Plovdiv. Being one of the oldest cities in Europe Plovdiv is impressive with its rich history and culture. During the walk you can see some of the most significant historical monuments – the ancient theater and stadium from Roman times, the Ethnographic museum, as well as the architectural reserve “Old Plovdiv”. The preserved history and cultural sites have turned Plovdiv into a popular cultural center/EU capital of culture 2019. Dinner and overnight in Plovdiv

Day 4:  Plovdiv – Bachkovo monastery – Sofia

Breakfast. In the morning we will head towards the Rhodopi Mountain (35km, 1h)

10:00 – 11:30h Visit the idyllically situated Bachkovo Monastery (11 c.) which is famous for the original Byzantine mural paintings on the charnel-house and for its nice frescoes (17-19 c.) in the refectory and in the three monastery churches. On all sides, the monastery is surrounded by the hills of the Rhodopi Mountain, which together with its size and ancient spirit make it one of the most visited monasteries in Bulgaria. The complex and its neighborhood have grown into a developed tourist site where dozens of small shops, street-stands and restaurants stand on both sides of the walkway to the gates. One can find here everything that grows or is being manufactured in the Rhodopi Mountain – rare herbs, home-made jams of wild fruit, yogurt and white cheese made of sheep or buffalo’s milk, woolen carpets, etc.

11:30 – 12:30h  Wine-tasting in a local boutique the cellar with delicious meat delicacies. Time for lunch.

13:30 – 16:00h  Drive towards the capital city of Bulgaria – Sofia.

Sightseeing tour of the Bulgarian capital city, including the largest Orthodox Church in the Balkan Peninsula – the Alexander Nevski cathedral and other places of interest in the historic centre of Sofia as the “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre, The National Assembly, and The Central Baths, the “Kliment Ohridski” University of Sofia, the “St. Nikolai” Russian Church, the “St. Nedelya” Church and others. Dinner and overnight in the city.

Day 5: Departure for Serbia – Pirot – Nis

Breakfast. Departure for Serbia. Break for visit to the Museum of Ponisavlje and/or the visit to the workshop of hand-woven rugs or the workshop of the famous ‘Pressed’ sausage /tasting/. Drive along the scenic Sicevo Gorge of the Nisava River along the former Tsarigrad Road/. Visit to the notorious Scull Tower – the Cele Kula site. Accommodation in central 4 stars Nis hotel. Big traditional dinner with wine tasting, overnight.

Day 6: Nis – Skopje – Stobi archaeological site – Popova kula Winery Demir Kapija

Breakfast, and departure to North Macedonia. Break for 1,5 hrs sightseeing tour of the historical core of Skopje with the famous Millennium Square and the imposing monument to Alexander the Great on the horse. Continue along highway to Stobi archaeological site and sightseeing. Break for brunch and wine tasting in the nearby famous Winery. Continue to the Popova Kula Winery+Hotel for comfortable accommodation, big traditional dinner and wine tasting. Overnight.

Day 7: Popova kula Winery – Thessaloniki

After breakfast drive direction Greece. Sightseeing tour of the historical core of Thessaloniki including the Saint Demetrius Church known for its wonderful artistic interior decoration, the Rotunda and numerous Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman sites. Accommodation in 4/5 stars central hotel in Thessaloniki, dinner and overnight.

Day 8: Thessaloniki – Thermopylae site – Delphi site – the surroundings of Athens 

After breakfast departure direction Athens. Break for touring the battlefield of the Thermopylae Battle waged in 480 BC between the Persians and the Spartans and their allies who fought heroically to the death. The imposing Statue of King Leonidas who was killed along with his heroic warriors testifies on the harsh battle after which Persians eventually took the pass and continued their campaign across Greece. Despite being greatly inferior in numbers, the Greeks held the narrow pass for three days with a small force of Spartans and other Greek allies. Break for refreshment-lunch. Tour of the famous Delphi site – the UNESCO Heritage site and one of the most popular and interesting archaeological sites in Greece with the Temple of Apollo which housed the Delphic oracle and the Pythian games in the ancient times. Accommodation in lovely 4 stars hotel, traditional dinner with wine tasting, overnight.

Day 9: Delphi – Athens

After breakfast drive to Athens – some 160 km. Upon arrival sightseeing tour of Athens /with local guide/: the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the Ancient Agora, Syntagma Square, Monastiráki Square, Evzones guard, Plaka district… Accommodation in luxury 4-5 stars hotel. Farewell dinner with wine tasting, overnight.

Day 10: Athens departure

After breakfast free time until transfer to the Athens Airport for departure flight, end of program and services.

Notice – the route can be extended with few days more in Athens or its wonderful surroundings – the Sounion National Park and the legendary Temple of Poseidon, the Athens Riviera which stretches along the west coast of Attica, wonderful beaches, exciting landscapes and elegant marinas…

Package price per person /double-twin room sharing/, including expenses of yr guide-driver:

Single supplement:

Package includes: transportation with comfortable AC C Class car /Skoda Superb or similar/ or van or bus; 4 overnights with breakfast in excellent 3-/4-star hotels; 4 dinners in the hotels or in local restaurants; Wine-tasting of local wines in Veliko Tarnovo; Rose distillery visit with tasting of rose honey; Winery visit with wine tasting in Starosel; Wine-tasting in a boutique wine cellar in Bachkovo; Entrance fees/guided lectures and city tours as described in the program: Ivanovo Rock-hewn churches with guided lecture in English; City tour of Veliko Tarnovo in English, including entrance to Tsarevets Fortress; Etara open-air museum with guided lecture in English; Kazanlak Thracian Tomb with guided lecture in English; City tour of Plovdiv in English /entrance fees included/; Half-day tour to Bachkovo monastery with visit to the monastery refectories; City tour of Sofia in English /entrance fees included/; Serbian guide-driver in SGL room on HB as per itinerary; 1 BB in 4 stars Nis hotel; Dinner with wine tasting in Nis on Day 5; Entrance fees in Pirot and Nis, Skopje, Stobi, Skopje, Thessaloniki, Thermopylae and Delphi, local guidance in Skopje and Thessaloniki and Athens; 1 HB in Popova kula Winery = Hotel in Demir Kapija; 1 BB in 4-5 stars Thessaloniki hotel, dinner in Thessaloniki; 1 BB in Delphi 4 stars hotel, 1 BB in 4-5 stars Athens hotel, rich dinner in Athens; 24 hours support and professional guidance of Panacomp Wonderland Travel and affiliates

List of exemplary hotels: Hotel Gurko 3*, Veliko Tarnovo or similar; Hotel Palas 4*, Kazanlak or similar; Hill House Boutique Hotel, Plovdiv or similar; Hotel Coop 4*, Sofia or similar; New City and Restaurant Hotel Nis; Popova Kula Winery+Hotel in Demir Kapija; the Mediterranean Palace Thessaloniki or similar available ; Fedriades Hotel Delphi, COLORS Hotel Athens or Elia Ermou Hotel Athens of similar available hotel;