Spring in late May is the rose-picking season in Bulgaria, when the annual Rose Festival full of sights and sounds takes place. Let’s journey into the Rose Valley, experience rose-picking at village farm, gain insights into centuries-old method in making rose water and essential oil. Bulgaria is also rich with cultural heritage from ancient Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Soviet era. Last but not least, the country is blessed with beautiful nature, from the undulating Balkan Ranges dotted with highland lakes, to the sandy beaches of Black Sea coast.
Board a late night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bulgaria via Amsterdam. Arrival in Bulgaria capital city Sofia the following afternoon. (note: those embark from a third country shall meet the group at destination – Sofia on D2)
Upon arrival, transfer to hotel in city center. Later, sightseeing in downtown on foot. Sofia is rich in history, with remains from ancient Roman times, Ottoman period, and Soviet Communist era. Iconic sights include Serdica ruins (4th century Roman city rediscovered during metro construction in 2010), the religious tolerance square surrounded by synagogue, church, and mosque from different period. At night, enjoy a stroll and food hunting along the commercial pedestrian walk of Vitosha street.
Transfer by chartered vehicle to imperial capital of second Bulgarian Empire – Veliko Tarnovo. En-route visit Koprivshtitsa, a museum-village with revolutionary past against the Turks Ottoman Empire, the quaint hill town’s cobbled streets are lined with beautiful historic houses turned museums dated from the 19th century National Revival period. After lunch, continue the journey to Veliko Tarnovo, arrival in late afternoon, pick a cafe with terrace overlooking the river valley to enjoy sunset view.
Tucked in hills clinging to the dramatic bends of Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo is best explored on foot. Morning hike up to the medieval fortress Tsarevets, spend a few hours exploring the massive walls, ruins, royal palace, ancient churches perched on hill top, and admire panoramic view. After lunch, free & easy to stroll through the Old Town and Samovodska Charshia lined with cafes and craft shops of copperware, woodwork, weaving and traditional sweet making, great place for souvenir hunting.
Today visit two Unesco world heritage sites. First, the Rock Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, a complex of churches and monk cells cut into rock cliff, with frescoes from 14th century. Lunch stop in Ruse, a border town by the Danube River fronting Romania. Later, journey to Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari dated back to 300 BC. The 3-chamber burial tomb has unique decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals. Nearby, there’s a 16th century Muslim holy man shrine. Overnight in Razgrad.
Transfer to Black Sea coast, first stop at Khan Krum village to visit Hankrumovski rock-monastery, access via a hiking trail (2 hours round-trip) and the last part reached via steep spiral staircases carved into the rock, leading to dug out niches that offer panoramic view of surrounding valley. Later, after lunch in Shumen, visit the Soviet-era monument dedicated to the founders of Bulgaria, with enormous futurist sculptures of Bulgaria’s medieval rulers. Later, continue the drive south, evening arrival in Nessebar.
Lies on a small rocky peninsula extended into the Black Sea, the ancient city of Nessebar is lined with heritage remains of the Roman and Byzantine period, beautiful medieval churches, and old houses from 18th and 19th centuries; it is an open-air archeological town. Explore the Old Town on foot, stroll through its narrow cobbled streets and discover historic gems at every turn. The Old Town also has many shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Drive to Rose Valley, photo stops along the way when spotted fields of rose and lavender. Mid-May to mid-June is the harvest season of rose, when Kanzalak holds annual Rose Festival with various cultural events. After lunch, visit soviet-era relic Buzludzha monument, built in 1970s on a hilltop as the memorial house of Bulgaria Communist Party but abandoned after independence. Later, free time back in Kazalak city, one may visit Rose Museum or join street activities of the Rose Festival.
Morning visit a village farm in the Rose Valley, participate in rose picking and learn about centuries-old distillery process in making rose water and essential oil. Later, drive to Plovdiv, second largest city of Bulgaria and rich in history, as it had been fought over by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Turks over the centuries. Upon arrival, explore Plovdiv Old Town on foot, lined with cobbled lanes, dotted with Roman ruins, ancient churches, and 19th century National Revival architecture.
Free and easy day to soak up Plovdiv’s ancient-mixed-modern atmosphere. For historical buff, there’re many museums and ruins for visit; for the culturally-inclined, plenty of arts galleries and churches covered with frescoes; for those keen on souvenir hunting, head to the pedestrian walk lined with shops and cafes. Around sunset, climb up to Nebet Tepe (Prayer Hill), a 200m-high hill boasting the rubble of Plovdiv’s earliest settlement – Eumolpias (circa 5000 BC) – and Plovdiv’s prime panorama.
Drive to Rila Mountains for the magnificent landscape of Rila Seven Lakes. Upon arrival at the foot hill at 1585m, take chair-lift up to 2150m where the Lower Lake (first of 7 lakes) is located. Check-in to a chalet nearby the Lower Lake, lunch at the chalet restaurant. Later, hiking along the Seven Rila Lakes Cirque to visit the other blue pearls: The Twins, The Eye, The Kidney, The Fish Lake, The Trefoil, and The Teardrop. The highest point is about 2500m. Back at the chalet by the Lower Lake for dinner and overnight stay.
After breakfast, take chair-lift down to foothill, and then drive to Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century (but rebuilt in 19th century after being destroyed by fire), Rila Monastery is the biggest orthodox church in Bulgaria, it is listed as a Unesco World Heritage. Late afternoon back in Sofia, wind down and relax.
Depart from Sofia on board early morning flight, long transit of some 12 hours in Amsterdam, tour members could opt for entering city center for sightseeing (optional, self-pay). In the evening, board a flight bound for Kuala Lumpur, arrival at destination the following afternoon.
Afternoon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, end of tour.
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Kae is passionate about music, photography, and travel. Composing music aside, Kae also makes a living out of filming weddings and events; whereas travel, is his on-going “career”. He once made a non-stop journey for more than half a year in Asian countries. He is infatuated with high-altitude places, making frequent trips to plateaus and mountains.
In recent years, he has developed a keen interest in cycling, he now dreams of traveling around the world on two wheels. Be it journeying on foot or on wheels, he believes places must be experienced first-hand to gain insights.
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