Bulgaria and Romania on Foot


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    The mountain ranges of Romania and Bulgaria are not only scenically beautiful and a pleasure to walk through; they are rich in a culture which has remained relatively untouched through the centuries. At times you feel you have time travelled, as you cross meadows dotted with pretty wooden houses, straight out of a fairytale book, while shepherds amble by with their flocks and horse and carts wind their way along quiet roads. Be transported into this charming world on a guided walking tour taking in some of the best hikes in the Balkans and Transylvanian alps. Stop at shepherds houses to taste local cheese and learn about traditional crafts, cooking and wine making. Between walks, stay in the medieval fortified town of Brasov, discover centuries old buildings including the Ivanovo rock hewn church and soak up the atmosphere in the world heritage listed village of Viscri, which regained its beauty after a massive renovation supported by the Prince Charles foundation. With a comfortable bed at the end of the day and superb local food, this is a genuine active holiday experience offering a unique insight into Romanian and Bulgarian landscapes and traditions.

    Highlights

    • Discovering historic sites such as Boyana church (1259, UNESCO WHS), the Ivanovo rock-hewn church (UNESCO WHS), the medieval capital Veliko, city of Bulgarian Tsars and the charm of Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in the world, all in Bulgaria
    • Hiking in the Central Balkan mountain range with its century old beech forest and Piatra Craiului NP (Carpathians)
    • Visiting Viscri and the Saxons Medieval fortified villages (UNESCO WHS) and the medieval fortified town of Brasov
    • Soaking up the rich Bulgarian and Romanian culture with their traditional crafts, cooking and wine making
    • Staying in atmospheric hotels and guesthouses with friendly hosts and hearty meals

    Itinerary

    Day 1 Arrive Sofia, late afternoon walking tour
    On arrival in Sofia, make your way to the joining hotel. There will be a trip briefing this afternoon with your guide and group before we head out for a walking tour of Sofia.

    Day 2 Transfer to Vitosha Nature Park for walk then wine tasting enroute to Plovdiv (3-4hrs)
    After breakfast we head to Vitosha nature Park for a pleasant walk by the famous stone rivers of Vitosha (giant boulders). Lunch will be at a restaurant near Boyana church (1259, UNESCO world heritage site). The church is considered to be one of the best examples of the European pre-Rennaissance, 50 years before Giotto’s Scravena church at Padova. En route to Plovdiv we stop at Villa Yustina wine cellar named after the great Roman/ Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1 the Great. There is an old Roman bridge still remaining in the centre of the village. We experience both wine tasting and making our own coupage wine (blend) assisted by a professional winemaker from the cellar. After lunch we head to Plovdiv, considered to be the most beautiful and culturally rich Bulgarian city. The city is famous for its Roman amphitheatre and Roman Stadium, built 2nd c. AD. Much of Plovdiv’s charm comes from its Old Revival-style town with cobble stoned streets and beautifully restored Ottoman Baroque houses. The city has been voted as the European capital of culture in 2019 with Matera (Italy). This evening we stay in a small hotel within walking distance of the centre and the Old city. (B, L)

    Day 3 Visit Plovdiv, transfer to the central Balkan Mountain Range, walk to mountain hut (4.3-5hrs)
    In the morning we take some time to visit the highlights of Plovdiv before heading to the main ridge of the Central Balkan chain. The national park has an impressive beech forest and has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2017, with one of the largest and most valuable protected areas in Europe due to its wonderful ecosystem. From Plovdiv we transfer to the Beklemeto Pass (at 1520m) on the central Balkan Mountain Range. Our walk takes us on a panoramic mountain path through the park heading east via the big memorial Arch celebrating a Russian military campaign (1877/78 Russian-Turkish War) to Dobrila hut (1804m). The mountain hut has comfortable twin rooms with bedding supplied and showers available. (B, L, D)

    Day 4 Walk through forests and pastures, transfer to Apriltsi area via monastery (6hrs)
    From Dobrila hut, ideally located near the ridge, we have the option to climb Vasiil Levski peak (2166m). Our route continues north through pastures to Ambaritsa hut and descends through the forest towards Tcherny Ossum river where we meet our vehicle. We continue by bus to visit the Great Troyan monastery (17th century) the third largest in Bulgaria. The most significant architectural and cultural monument is the main church “The Assumption of Virgin Mary”. The church has a cross dome, built by stones and the wall-paintings in the church are a rich gallery of the art of Zahari Zograf (1810 – 1853). In the late afternoon we arrive at our final destination – Ostrets hamlet (Apriltsi area). Our hotel offers a nice view of the mountain and has a small outdoor swimming pool. We stay here for the next two nights. (B, L, D)

    Day 5 Discover the Vidima waterfall in the Central Balkan NP (3-4hrs)
    Today we have two options for our walk. Either Ostrets peak (1000m) or the eco-path to Vidima waterfall into the Northern Djendem reserve. Later in the afternoon there is an option if interested to visit the incredible Orechaka Traditional craft and art Exhibition – the best place in Bulgaria to buy at fair price ceramics, wood carving, textile and Bulgarian traditional plumb brandy (Rakia) The rest of afternoon will be at leisure. (B, L, D)

    Day 6Transfer to Tarnovo, the city of Bulgarian Tsars, walking tour (3-4hrs)
    Today we leave the Bulgarian mountains and head to Veliko Tarnovo – the Bulgarian City of Tsars. The city was a medieval kingdom and a rival to Constantinople with a fascinating citadel and old town. As one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns, we’ll explore the magnificent restored fortress, meandering cobbled streets and the little hidden 18th Century Eastern Orthodox Transfiguration Monastery nestled in a gorge on the Yantra River.  The monastery is located a mere 3km from Veliko Tarnovo so we’ll first walk to the town before we set off on a walking tour of the highlights. Ulitsa Gurko is the town’s oldest street and a wonderful place to wander because of the ancient houses that are full of colour. After our walking tour the rest of the afternoon will be at leisure for you to stroll and enjoy the town. Once the former seat of medieval tsars, you’ll visit the scenic Tsarevets Museum hill Reserve overlooking the town. Overnight at a small central hotel. (B, L, D)

    Day 7 Cross the Danube to Romania and continue to Bucharest and Sinaia
    An early start this morning as we make our way towards Romania. Before crossing the greatest European River – the Danube River, we visit the medieval Ivanovo Rock-hewn church (UNESCO heritage site, 14th century) on foot. Later we cross the border at Ruse and head for Bucharest for a well-deserved lunch. Our final destination of the day is the small city of Sinaia, at the foot of Bucegi Mountains National Park. In the late afternoon we’ll take a 30 min walk around the gardens of the Peles Castle, to relax after a big day of travel. A longer walk is possible through the forests above the castle, depending on our arrival time. (B, D)

    Day 8 Walk in the Bucegi Mountains, transfer to Brasov (3hrs)
    After breakfast we head up to the Bucegi Mountain by cable car, subject to weather conditions. We’ll have a 3h walk on the plateau and we’ll see some of Romania’s most interesting natural features: The Sphinx and the Old Ladies (Babele) – 2 rocks carved by the weather over the years. If the weather will not allow us to take the cable car, we will have an alternative walk. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the beautiful town of Brasov – the Crown city, as known from its German name. Besides its charming medieval buildings (the Black Church is the most important), we’ll go up to the old tower for mesmerising views of the city. Here you’ll also find the first Romanian school, cobbled streets, a large square and many more sights of interest. We’ll end the day in a cozy small hotel in the centre.  (B, L)

    Day 9 Explore the caves in Varghis canyon, continue to Viscri village (2-3hrs)
    The day begins with a short transfer from Brasov to Covasna county. Once there we’ll have a 2-3h walk through the Vargis Keys: hundreds of caves formed ever since the Glacial Age, with surrounding limestone cliff. After a hearty lunch, we head to the village of Viscri with its UNESCO fortified church. The village regained its beauty after a massive renovation done by the Prince Charles foundation. The construction of the fortified church in the village centre began in 1100 A.D., a fact confirmed by the tombstone inscription in the cemetery that surrounds the church. In 1185, Saxons colonized the area settling in the south-east of Transylvania. The Viscri settlement was officially named in 1400 – it was given the Latin title of Alba Ecclesia, or “White Church”‘. We’ll also visit a local brick-maker and forger and experience the old Saxon way of living, surrounded by green hills and history. Dinner and accommodation will be at one of the local guesthouses. (B, L, D)

    Day 10 Transfer to Vulcan village, walk in the National Park of Piatra Craiului (2-3hrs)
    A transfer this morning to Vulcan village, in the courtyard of a fortified church. Here we learn about the medieval heritage of Saxons villages in Romania and enjoy a tasty home-made lunch in the church yard. After we head to Zarnesti, to start our first trek in the National Park of Piatra Craiului. The park features the longest and highest limestone ridge in the country (over 15 miles long and 6560 ft. high). Bordered by glacial lakes, the ridge is regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in the Carpathians. We’ll be impressed by the Zarnesti gorges and canyons with rock walls reaching 200m height. In the evening our accommodation is in the village of Magura, where Mrs. Lucia will serve a delicious dinner. (B, L, D)

    Day 11 Walk in classic rural countryside, sample local cheese enroute to Moieciu de Sus (5hrs)
    A real treat today as we walk through meadows and forests past villages where we will meet shepherds with their beautiful flocks. We reach the foot of the main ridge and enter a traditional sheepfold to see the shepherds’ way of life during the summer. We’ll enjoy a picnic at the sheepfold and also have the opportunity to taste some fresh Romanian cheese. The walking route takes us on to the village of Moieciu de Sus, where we’ll enjoy a dinner consisting of award-winning “sarmale” (stuffed cabbage rolls) and spend the next 2 nights in a comfortable guesthouse. (B, L, D)

    Day 12 Ascend the Bucegi mountains for panoramic views (4-6hrs)
    The Bucegi is believed to be the Dacian holy mountain Kogainon, on which the God Zalmoxis resided in a cave. This National Park was established in 1936, to protect its dramatic landscapes and great diversity of plant and animal species. A longer walk is possible along the meadow of Gutanu and the vertical walls of the Bucegi’s ridge, which offers panoramic views over Piatra Craiului ridge. Later we return to the guesthouse. (B, L, D)

    Day 13 Continue walk through a fairytale rural landscape, transfer to Bucharest (3hrs)
    Our final day of walking takes us through a fairy tale landscape with houses scattered amongst meadows where we will see shepherds and haystacks. The area has a deep history and tradition in making cheese, which is still well preserved today. A tasting break is a must for those who are fond of good food, as we pass through Fundatica, a small mountain village with very old houses and which is famous for its smoked cheese. We visit one of the oldest houses in this village and we will be impressed by the people who lives in it, their collection of old objects, and their warm smiles. Transfer back to Bucharest in the evening. (B, L)

    Day 14 Trip concludes
    The trip concludes after breakfast. (B)

    Inclusions

    • 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 9 dinners
    • 4 nights rural pensions in with shared facilities, 5 nights 3 star hotels, 1 night 2 star hotel, 1 night mountain hut (twinshare) – all nights are in twin or double occupancy rooms with private facilities except possibly at the guesthouse or mountain hut where facilities may be shared.
    • English speaking guide – you will have a guide in Bulgaria and a guide in Romania
    • luggage transfers
    • private transfers as described in the itinerary

    UTX-BRF

    Images courtesy of Utracks