• Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria
    Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia
  • Bulgarian Folk Performance
  • Rila Monastery, Rila Mountains, Bulgaria
    Rila Monastery
  • Ancient theater, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
    Plovdiv Amphitheater
  • Nesebar, Bulgaria
    Nesebar on the Black Sea
  • Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
    Veliko Tarnovo

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Best of Bulgaria in 12 Days Tour

from $3,195 per person + air

Single Supplement $625

See Dates & Prices

Bulgaria is a land of fascinating contrasts, with a European identity that's rooted in a unique blend of Ottoman, Orthodox, and Soviet soil. On this 12-day tour, you'll marvel at Roman outposts, mystical medieval monasteries, and a dazzling collection of prehistoric gold. All along the way, your guide will connect you with people who make their country's history, art, culture, and hospitality come to life. You'll be warmly welcomed in neighborhood cafés, rustic mountain villages, and humble monasteries. Join us for the Best of Bulgaria in 12 Days!

Dates & Prices

2024

2025

What's Included

You'll get at least 19 group sightseeing events — at no extra cost!

Here's what you'll see and do on our 2024 Bulgaria tour:

  • Sofia walking tour
  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
  • Q&A with a local
  • Roma community school visit
  • Rila Monastery
  • Kostandovo carpet weaving factory
  • Winery and tasting
  • Plovdiv walking tour, including Roman Theater
  • Dzhumaya Mosque
  • Kazanlak Thracian Tomb
  • Nesebar walking tour
  • Varna Archaeological Museum
  • Madara Horseman
  • Arbanasi
  • Veliko Tarnovo walking tour
  • Tsarevets Citadel
  • Folk performance
  • Asenovo village
  • Meet with the mayor of Asenovo

Plus you'll get all this, too.

  • A small, friendly group of 24–28 people — half the size of most tour groups
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art, and culture of Bulgaria come alive for you
  • All group transportation during our tour
  • 11 nights' accommodations in memorable, centrally located hotels
  • All breakfasts and 6 other meals
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • A tour kit including a guidebook (when available) and a moneybelt
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken with us
  • Flexibility should you need to transfer or cancel your tour

Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions for important details regarding everything listed above.

Group sightseeing events subject to change.

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Bulgaria

Join your guide and group at 4 p.m. today in our Sofia hotel for a "Welcome to Bulgaria" get-together. We'll take a neighborhood stroll before enjoying our first taste of Bulgaria's rich cuisine over dinner together.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. No bus. Sleep in Sofia.

Day 2: Exploring Sofia

Today we'll take a walking tour to uncover Sofia's intriguing past and present. In the heart of the city, we’ll explore the Triangle of Tolerance, where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish temples are built on Roman ruins and all within a few steps of the others, followed by a stop at the President’s Building to watch the changing of the guard. Next, we'll tour the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, famous for its gilded domes and masterful mosaics. Then you can "follow the yellow brick road" (Sofia has one) to explore the bustling market hall and more of the city's center on your own. We'll wrap up our day by meeting with a local, who will answer questions and tell us about issues facing Bulgaria today.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. No bus. Sleep in Sofia.

Day 3: Rila Monastery

We'll dive headfirst into Bulgarian culture today with a visit to a local school to learn about the challenges of integrating the Roma community into the local educational system. Afterward, we'll drive through the scenic Rilska Valley en route to our destination high in the mountains: the remote and mystical Rila Monastery. We'll take a tour of this 14th-century architectural treasure and its fabulous frescoes before heading to our countryside hotel near Rila, where we'll enjoy dinner together.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep near Rila.

Day 4: Thracian Valley Wines and Plovdiv

This morning we'll visit a small carpet weaving factory, hiding the largest loom in Europe, where a few local women still weave carpets by hand. After lunch together, we'll depart the countryside for the city of Plovdiv, stopping where merchants from Troy journeyed 4,000 years ago: a Thracian Valley winery. We'll learn the history of some of Europe's oldest vineyards — from ancient times to the Communist "collective era" to the entrepreneurial present — and enjoy a tasting. Then we'll continue to Plovdiv, one of Bulgaria's most delightful cities, where we'll have an orientation walk to the heart of the city, before setting you free for dinner on your own.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in Plovdiv.

Day 5: Renaissance Plovdiv

Once the capital city of ancient Thrace, Plovdiv is actually older than Athens and Rome, with archaeological relics dating back 7,000 years. We'll start our day with a walking tour of Plovdiv's old town, including Trajan's second-century Roman theater and its commanding view of the city. We'll also visit the structures that Plovdiv is proudest of: the old town's unique collection of elegant, pastel-pretty "Bulgarian Renaissance" homes from the 19th century, and the Dzhumaya Mosque, the oldest in Bulgaria. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore more of this cultural and cosmopolitan city.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain. No bus. Sleep in Plovdiv.

Day 6: Kazanlak and Burgas

We'll drive to the Black Sea today, stopping in Kazanlak for lunch together and to visit some of the greatest examples of early Hellenistic art: a fourth-century BC Thracian tomb covered with magnificent murals, and another packed with beautifully preserved gold and bronze artifacts. We'll end our day with dinner together along the seaside in the lovely port town of Burgas. Enjoy a post-dinner stroll through the city's historical center or follow the picturesque promenade on Burgas Bay.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly even terrain. Bus: 7 hours. Sleep in Burgas.

Day 7: Nesebar and the Black Sea

This morning we'll hop aboard our bus and head for the little island town of Nesebar, connected to the rest of Bulgaria by a narrow isthmus. We'll take a time-tripping walk through the old town, learning about its important Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Turkish past — a lot happened in this tiny place! We'll enjoy free time for lunch and exploration then drive along the Black Sea coast on our way to the Naval capital of Bulgaria — Varna. We'll settle into our hotel and get oriented to this bustling city before setting you free to relax on the beach, stroll around town, take a boat ride on the Black Sea, or sample the local catch direct from the fishermen.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 3 hours. Sleep in Varna.

Day 8: Treasures of Varna

We'll start our day with a tour of the Varna Archaeological Museum where we'll marvel at the oldest gold jewelry ever discovered. Then we'll enjoy a short walking tour, admiring the city's beautiful architecture and elegant churches. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore this modern town and stroll the extensive waterfront park and promenade.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. No bus. Sleep in Varna.

Day 9: Over the Balkan Range

Today we'll drive up and over the green Balkan Range to one of Europe's most dramatically situated towns: Bulgaria's medieval capital of Veliko Tarnovo. En route we'll see the Madara Horseman, carved high into a rock cliff 13 centuries ago, and stop to tour the stuck-in-time village of Arbanasi. Tonight we'll enjoy a hearty dinner together and admire the striking night view of Veliko Tarnovo's illuminated citadel across the valley.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Bus: 5 hours. Sleep in Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 10: Veliko Tarnovo

Today we'll walk from one hill to the next, learning about Veliko Tarnovo's role in the medieval birth of the Bulgarian Kingdom, its 14th-century fall to the Ottoman Turks, and the 19th-century uprising that led to the end of Bulgaria's Ottoman occupation. As the story unfolds, we'll wind our way along narrow cobblestone streets, meeting local artisans along the way, then finally conquer the ruins of one of Europe's mightiest citadels. After our trek together, you'll have free time to continue exploring this unique town or to just work your way back through the medieval streets to where we started. We'll meet up later this evening and drive to a nearby community center to enjoy a fabulous folk performance.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain. Bus: 1 hour. Sleep in Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 11: Village to City

This morning we'll visit the small Banat village of Asenovo, where we’ll be greeted by the mayor for a tour of the town, followed by lunch and a cooking demonstration at the mayor’s home. This afternoon we'll return to Sofia and have a festive final dinner together, sharing travel memories and toasting new friends.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Bus: 6 hours. Sleep in Sofia.

Day 12: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Bulgaria's international airport is just outside of Sofia, or you can hop a train to other European cities. Your guide will help get you pointed in the right direction. Radvayte se na pytuvaneto!

Itinerary specifics subject to change.

Physical Demands

Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Bulgaria in 12 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...

  1. Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
  2. Be on your feet, walking and standing, for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
  3. Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  4. After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
  5. Walk up steep streets to the Tsarevets Citadel in Veliko Tarnovo.

Reviews

David

Tour: 06/23/24

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Bulgaria did not disappoint. Driving through the countryside ogling miles of sunflower fields, dense forests and hills galore made driving very enjoyable. Stephan was an outstanding guide and a pretty good song and dance man as well!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Choosing between two experiences would be too difficult because they were so similar and enjoyable. One was the cooking "class" which was interspersed with romantic ballads and folk dancing. The other was our amazing dinner at the Mayor's home, which also included several soulful songs by the chef, who was also the Mayor's wife."

Mary Jo

Tour: 06/23/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The combination of history, friendly people and GREAT food made this trip memorable. Stefan knows so much history and it is so complex the trip would have been different without his guidance and good humor. He seems to know everyone in Bulgaria so we were treated to very personal insights into the daiy life of Bulgarias people.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many, but outstanding was the handicafts and explanation from the craftspeople. It was also pretty hard not to love the Black Seaside."

Janice

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The tour leader Stefan was so knowledgeable about his country - you can tell he loves Bulgaria. The people I met on the tour were wonderful and hopefully I will see them again - they are all RS groupies! This was my first RS tour and felt a couple hotel rooms were not up to par. The Capitol Hotel was pretty bad. I also felt as a single I got a couple bad rooms - maybe some discrimination as it’s a couples world.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Some of the churches were incredible. Eating lunch and gazing at the Black Sea was incredible - and the food was great too! "

Michael

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The overall experience of the Bulgaria tour was wonderful in itself because of the beautiful country and variety of cities we experienced but this would not have been possible without the expertise of our guide Stefan whose depth of understanding about the history, culture and people made the our own enjoyment of a country that we knew little about really come to life. We were fortuante to have a group that jelled and respectived the times and guidles that Stefan set for us.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There was no one wow moment because there were so many daily experiences that in their totality layered up to provide us with a deeper understanding of the country. Among those I would include the variety of cities experienced, the archeological museums, dinners with locals, the Rila monastery, carpet factory, the regional foods, the diversity of relious buildings visited, a music concert in Plovdiv, the balance of free and structured time and Stefan's sense of humor."

Frances

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Deeply knowledgeable tour guide provided rich insights about culture, history, politics, geography, economy and more. The trip was a perfect mix of varied activities and experiences as well as scheduled activities and free time to explore on our own

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting the weaving shop where women create extraordinarily beautiful rugs."

Brian

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Good group, great guide, fascinating country.

Albert John

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Cheryl

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a wonderful tour. Bulgaria is an amazing country and Stefan an outstanding tour guide.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There was a wow moment each day. The vibrant city of Sofia, the rose farm and distillery, the Roman and Thracian ruins, Varna on the Black Sea Coast, and having lunch with a local family in small town Bulgaria. We had a great group and a very knowledgeable and personable guide in Stefan. And not to forget Plovdiv! What a beautiful city and very pedestrian friendly."

Lora

Tour: 05/26/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

If you love history, ( from many years BC to the present) , architecture, art, Roman ruins, politics, food, (lots and lots of food) big cities, small villages, beautiful scenery and so much more, this is the tour for you. It all starts with tour guide, Stefan. His extensive knowledge of thousands of years of Bulgarian history, the country he clearly loves, was absolutely amazing. Even more impressive was his ability to clearly communicate that history. We leaned so much each and every day.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"In addition to Stefan, the country itself is so beautiful with lovely mountains, rolling farm lands as well as the large cities and picturesque small villages. So much diversity to experience in one relatively small country which we covered in one large loop around Bulgaria in our 12 day tour. Every day there was a different Wow moment. Archaeological museums, beautiful churches, Carpet factory, Rose valley, storks, lunch with the mayor, the Black Sea just to name a few. "

Candace

Tour: 05/12/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Nice hotels but could have used ac in Sofia. Stefan was so knowledgeable and kind. Food was very good. Learned a lot.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"You see maps of the Roman empire but It doesn't hit home until you see the remains."

William

Tour: 05/12/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The guide was excellent, extremely knowledgeable, very personable & upbeat, he kept us moving, well informed, and entertained everyday. The group itself was just a delight, everyone got along very well and I was sorry to part company with them. Sofia was a pleasant surprise, it was a very pretty, walkable, and interesting city, full of history, as was Plodiv, Varna, and Veliko Tarnovo with lots of other fascinating stops in between.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Having lunch on the Black Sea Seeing artifacts from the 6th millium BC and older"

Joanne

Tour: 05/12/24

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Bulgaria is such an interesting mix of cultures and historic influences, it was fascinating! We learned so much …from the places we visited and from our superb guide, Stefan. The tour was more cities than small towns, but they were all very safe and walkable. It was encouraging to see revitalization, but Communist blight and “architorture” was never far away. It is rewarding to know that our tourism helps this country’s economy.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing and hearing Stefan sing a duet with the matriarch of the beautiful hotel in Veliko Tarnovo was an oh-so-memorable moment! This traditional love song followed an entertaining cooking class where we learned how to make Bulgarian specialties like Mish Mash and Banitsa. So much fun and culture rolled into one wonderful “wow” moment!"

Anne

Tour: 05/12/24

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

We've been on a number of Rick Steves Europe trips and this one is probably our least favorite. Our guide was very knowledgeable of the history, but I felt like the diversity of cultural experiences on this trip was lacking. Generally there is a better mix of history, natural areas, hands on experiences, etc. This one focused primarily on historical sites and felt more like a college credit field trip. Your guides also usually have more recommendations for a variety of free time experiences.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Veliko Tarnovo was probably my favorite stop on the trip. The hotel was lovely and the cooking demonstration was interesting but not hands on for us and no recipe was provided. "

Ken

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

It was a very good opportunity to learn about a country which is not so well known. It has a very interesting history and this tour covers a lot of ground in that respect. Bulgarian people were friendly and welcoming.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Entering the UNESCO protected tomb of the Thracian king.The frescoes on the walls were interesting as well as the artifacts depicted inside the burial chamber."

Glenda J

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Historic & delightful!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Lunch at the ‘mayors’ house w/his wife and the librarian. We participated in cooking & costuming and it was in their back yard… interactive & personal. The food was homemade & delicious. I love interacting w/the Bulgarian people. Also enjoyed the free afternoon in Varna, where I p/u a chicken gyro, took it to the Seagarden Park, found a bench, ate & journaled while over looking the Black Sea- WOW! In that same park I wandered into a classical guitarist playing freely (no money collecting), = )"

Daniel

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Stefan did an great job passionately presenting the history and archeology of Bulgaria. Most of the visited sights were quite interesting. Stefan was able to answer even some of the more obscure questions. Tour members were great, and added to the fun of the trip.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The view of the surrounding mountains from the Rila Monastery."

Glenda

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour and won't be my last. The hotels were good, the country was very interesting and our guide was engaging and energetic. But almost the best thing was my fellow travelers, who were a wonderful group of people. We all bonded pretty fast.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The beautiful Rila Monastery and the setting of Veliko Tarnovo."

William

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

Mixed feelings about the tour. Lots of highs: The Greek and Roman experience in the area, a much much better understanding of the Eastern Orthodox both artistically and historically. I'd recommend a short lecture reading on Byzantium from 303AD (Christianity) to the Crusades. We missed getting inside the Nevsky Cathedral, and Market Hall. The guide's presentation of the German, (esp) Nazi period in Bulgaria was weak. The Bulgarian nationalism was there. The Balkans are still the Balkans.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Wow moment was the Monastery at Rila. Seeing is to feel a bit of what monastic life must have been like. I found the Varna Museum very interesting and got a much better understanding of the Roman/Greek period, plus the various Balkan "Barbarians" who become Orthodox. The Wow moment too was the traditional Balkan animosities remain. "

Christine

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Bulgaria is a fascinating country. While we travel independently often, the tour experience was the way to 1) be able to explore more of the country and 2) get a better understanding of its complex history. This tour (and this group) made it both educational and fun.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"From a visual perspective, probably seeing the Rila Monastery with its background of beautiful mountains. For content, hearing Stefan's personal stories of his family and their experiences during the recent tumultuous history of Bulgaria. Also, the evident pride the local people have in their heritage, despite the country's struggles -- Stefan, the teachers at the school, the factory workers, the artisans. It isn't an easy life for them, but they are proud to be Bulgarian!"

Sherry

Tour: 09/24/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Did not know about Bulgaria, then to discover the historical and archeological perspectives was eye opening.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Not just one. Interacting with people. Roman school; meeting mayor and wife for lunch in court yard. "

Dudley

Tour: 09/10/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I feel this tour was a very well rounded overview of Bulgaria. We were able to see many different aspects of the country, from big cities to small villages, forests and farms.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My two most memorable experiences we’re, getting Stefan as a guide and feeling the warmth of the Bulgarian people. Steffan’s knowledge and presentation of the history and transitions people had to endure to reach today make me appreciate human resilience."

Mary

Tour: 09/10/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I enjoyed the trip a lot. Stephan, our guide was great, his enthusiasm for Bulgaria was contagious and I really enjoyed seeing and learning about its history and culture. I was surprised to learn more about the amazing depth of Bulgaria’s past and see it’s beautiful old architecture that became even more pronounced in contrast to the starkness of the Soviet era buildings that loom over many of the cities. The Bulgarian we interacted with, for the most part, were helpful and kind.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I really enjoyed our experience at the Hotel Gurko. The cooking classes and singing of the traditional Bulgarian songs that the staff and Stephan did were a stand out for me. "

Don

Tour: 05/21/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The places and the people made it a great experience

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Roman mosaics"

Brian

Tour: 05/21/23

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

I found Bulgaria interesting, but really not enough to see for two weeks. Tour guides ( Yuri and Toni) were absolutely great.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were no wow moments. The food always stood out as fresh. The poverty and antiquated industries, ie. Carpet making, glass making, was surprising and a little disturbing. "

Ruth

Tour: 05/21/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I had a great time on the tour. While Bulgaria doesn’t have as many must see sights as Italy or France, I really connected with my guides Yuri and especially his assistant Toni. They made the trip special in many ways. Toni will be a great guide. She stepped up when Yuri had a family emergency and ran several city walks. She also gave great tips on how to spend free time. I also made two new friends on the tour. We already have plans to travel again together.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Wandering around Plovdiv in our free time, we first visited an art museum and then bumped into Toni, our guide in training. She took us to her favorite mid 19th century home the Hindliyan Home. She talked the curator into giving us a personal tour which was fabulous. As we left we “ crashed” a graduation party that was being held in the courtyard of the home. Congratulations Vanessa!"

Bruce

Tour: 05/21/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

We took this back to back with the tour of Turkey. The contrast of the countries was pronounced. Bulgaria has never really recovered from the negative impact of communism, and although the country is lush and beautiful, we shared our guide's sadness over some of the deterioration in his beloved native country.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The city of Plovdiv in general, and the Bishop's Basilica of Philoppolis in particular."

Renee

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Very efficient. I liked the balance of scheduled activities versus free time. Flexibility was good.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I like nature and picturesque areas. The whole town of Veliko Tarnovo was beautiful and I enjoyed exploring it. Also the Madera Horseman carving was definitely a wow moment."

Susan

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Everything excellent! The guide, tour participants, bus driver, itinerary, hotels and meals.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The church in Arbanassi. Unassuming from the outside. Stunningly gorgeous inside. "

Esther

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our group was led by Kamen who was outstanding in his knowledge about -- and his enthusiasm for -- Bulgaria, its history, & its people. We began knowing very little about this area of the world; after 12 days, we are ready to return and learn even more about this rich and diverse crossroads. Hotels, food, transportation were all great--especially appreciated each hotel's central location. Good balance of orientation walks, planned events & lots of independent time to explore on our own. Thanks!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Bulgaria didn't have huge "wow" moments like I'd experienced in some other places, but instead, there were many smaller "wonderful" moments -- a school visit, folk-dancing on a pedestrian street, Rila Monastery in the mist, Roman and Greek ruins amidst Revival & Communist era architecture, cooking lesson in a Banat woman's home, delicious multi-course meals, master craftspersons in Veliko Turnovo, room-sized rug weaving, the Madara horseman, Thracian tombs, amazing archeological museums...& more"

Christian

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Tour was very well run. Tour guide was exceptionally well qualified.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"A couple: the artifacts in the Varna archeology museum, and the scenery around Veliko Tarnovo."

Rosser

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide Kamen was outstanding. Incredibly knowledgeable as well as very organized and helpful.

Karen

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This was our 6th RSE tour, so we obviously like the style, pace and value. This tour lived up to expectations on all counts - interesting, diverse, enlightening, engaging. My favorite thing on a trip is to feel things clicking into place - the dots of history connecting, the things I learned in school, or books I read, or movies I've seen, all coming to life or making sense because of new things I learned or saw. This trip definitely gave me that. I feel I "know" another part of the world!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There wasn't a single, stand-out "wow", like walking into Hagia Sofia in Istanbul or the feeling of strolling through the grounds of the ancient Olympic games in Greece. It was more an accumulation of smaller wows. But if I had to pick one, I'd say it was seeing the oldest gold objects in the world, in the archeology museum in Varna. We saw more jaw-dropping gold objects in Sofia. But seeing and learning about the ones in Varna was like peeling back whole unknown layers of history. "

Neal

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This was our 6th RSE trip. RSE tours have always been a great travel value and the tours pack allot in. While we enjoyed the tour, and our guide was great (as was the bus driver), Bulgaria just did not have the WOW moments of other tours.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The group lunch at "Maria's" home with the town Mayor. A true back door experience."

Carlo

Tour: 05/07/23

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I have travelled a lot using Rick's books, but this was my first tour of any kind. The travel experience is easier if less spontaneous. There is the group tour benefit of meeting other people and our guide, Kamen, was an extraordinary resource because of his history knowledge. A significant benefit of this tour is that public transportation in Bulgaria is not like Western Europe, so having a bus is a lot more efficient.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My tour highlight is Rila Monastary. Ironically, foggy and crummy weather made visiting this place a more evocative experience like you are going somewhere far, far off the beaten tourist trail. I agree with the RS guidebook comment that Plovdiv is the best place to visit in Bulgaria. The walking tour and old town were very interesting."

John

Tour: 09/18/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a wonderful experience. It was what I had hoped it to be. To see what I can in the short time I was there, see the country and learn. I was excited that I was able experience more than the typical tourist sites and see things like neighborhoods schools, places of work and a local community center where people danced traditional dances just for the fun of it.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The many literal layers of civilizations that make up Bulgaria. The people of Bulgaria have built on top of civilizations after civilizations more than any I experienced in Europe, from the Thracians to modern times. This became apparent very early on in the tour when we toured the basement of St. Sofia church during our free time where there were centuries of tombs and crypts. This theme of living along side of structures from the past was constant during the whole trip. "

Donald

Tour: 09/18/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Overall a very good tour. Lots of surprises in Bulgaria for us, especially the extensive accomplishments in unearthing and displaying of ancient Roman (and other) historical remains. Great museums througout.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Not a particular moment, but the city of Plovdiv throughout was an eyeopener. "

Richard J

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

What set this tour apart from others we have taken was the spirit of adventure and serendipity of our guide, Yuri. Some tours stress the de rigueur highlights. With Yuri there were several deviations from the written itinerary and they were unfailingly special and illuminating. Twice we were able to hop on a train -- where we spoke with locals and enjoyed the romance of the rail.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"After Tuscan Plovdiv, we crossed the Thracian Valley to the mysterious 2500 year old Thracian tombs, the spectacular 19c Russian church at Shipka, then an ascent of the Balkan range to the weirdly compelling monument to Communism at Bulzundja of 1980s, thousands of feet up. Remarkable time travel. At Shumen: a serene mosque and a mountaintop monument to the Founders of the Bulgarian State, hearing our bus driver's bagpipes drone amid its open air, spooky, paranoid, and monumental sculpture. "

Richard

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Many highlights, many of them unanticipated and fascinating. The sites and the history are truly phenomenal.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The icons in the churches and the schoolchildren's impromptu performance."

Susan

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great! Well organized ! An amazing tour guide, Yuri.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting a school -the kids were ‘ rehearsing ‘ for the 1st day of school. Flag parade, singing and a recorder performance. We also had a great tour of the school and were able to visit the classrooms and talk to the teachers. "

Chris

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This is the first organized tour we've been on. Prior to this, we've traveled on our own throughout Europe using RS guidebooks but we thought it would be easier to travel in Bulgaria with a RS tour. The tour conducted by Yuri was excellent. He made every effort to give us the best experiences, including the unscheduled train rides and the impromptu visit to the Trabant collectors car lot complete with rides in a Trabant! It was a fast paced 12 days and somewhat exhausting.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were many but we especially enjoyed the visit to Borovets & the countryside royal residence (we would like to have stayed there 2 days and done some walks in the beautiful forests), Rela Monastery, the Church of the Nativity in Arbanasi, and the folk dancing at the Gorna Oryahovitsa Culture House. "

Stephanie Loel

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Very happy with the the tour

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Lunch at the mayor’s home cooked by his wife. Ate in the courtyard. "

Beth

Tour: 09/11/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

There was so much packed into a relatively short time. It was our first Rick Steves' tour, first organized tour of any kind so I was apprehensive. We tend to be independent travelers. Yet, our guide (Yuri) and the other tour members made the experience memorable. The activities and sites selected for this tour were quite varied. We saw religious sites, Roman sites, Medieval sites, and Communist-era sites as well as experiencing the Black Sea coast and the beautiful Bulgarian countryside.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"As a former history teacher, my "wow" moments centered on the Roman ruins we visited with the mosaics at the Bishop's Basilica in Plovdiv as the highlight. The other "wow" moments were visiting old Communist-era sites: The photo opportunity at Buzludzha (the abandoned monument to the Bulgarian Communist Party), the in-depth tour of the Soviet-made submarine near Varna, and experiencing a gaida solo by our bus driver at the Founders of the Bulgarian State Communist-era memorial near Shumen."

Denise

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

loved Bulgaria and Stefan he is awesome

Favorite "WOW" moment

"too many to pick one really"

Susan

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

There was so much to learn. Bulgaria is a fascinating place with an important history.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many. The Bishop’s Basilica in Plovdiv was one WOW moment. The mosaic tile floors were amazing. And the history of the basilica was fascinating. "

Steven

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Will

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Good trip. I really appreciated the knowledge and enthusiasm of our guide. Itinerary had nice variety.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Tie - stepping into Rila Monastery and Church of the Nativity in Arbanasi"

Margaret

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Good group of people, interesting, easily accessible and not over-crowded sights. Beautiful country with lovely and numerous green areas.

Favorite "WOW" moment

" Beautiful gardens "

Rollin

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was an excellent tour to Bulgaria. A country I knew little about previously. Our guide, Stefan, did a great job showing us his country and explaining the culture.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Cathedral at Veliko Tarnovo."

John

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Amazing I’m always fascinated by the history of European countries and their cultural heritage is

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Probably when the hotel owner and our guide sang a duet during a cooking demonstration "

Jacqueline

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Outstanding!! From the organization to execution, everything was so carefully planned. Our tour guide, Stefan, did an amazing job monitoring the needs of the group. Everyday we knew what we were doing for the day and what to expect the next day. Our guide was so knowledgeable about every site we visited. Often we had time on the bus to talk about Bulgaria and ask many questions about the country’s culture and current challenges. Our accommodations were wonderful and the food was incredible

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Church of the Nativity in Arbanasi. We had already seen many churches and frescos on the tour. This church was truly special. This was my first Rick Steves tour. I’ve created several of my own vacations with Rick’s books. I’m not sure if I would have driven to this little town to see this church if I was on my own. I’m so glad the tour took us there. The beautiful frescos are so colorful and impressive. It is an experience I will treasure."

When To Go & Weather

May, June, and September are the best months for visiting Bulgaria, with pleasant weather, lighter crowds, and the full range of tourist fun.

Bulgaria/Sofia

Hotels & Flights

Tour Hotels

In case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations, the contact information for the tour's first and last hotels is included in your tour confirmation email as well as in the Itinerary section of your tour account. One month prior to the tour departure, you'll find the directions to your first tour hotel and a complete list of hotels where we'll be staying while on tour in the Documents section of your tour account.

Flights

Our tours don't include airfare, so your flight arrangements and transfers are completely up to you.

Most tour members arrange to fly into and out of Sofia (SOF).

We suggest arriving a day or two before your tour begins to allow ample time to get over jet lag and be well-rested for the first few days of your tour.