Hiking Adventures in Eastern Europe with Denitza Petrova

Overview

Discover two once-forbidden countries—Bulgaria and Romania—whose history stretches from ancient riverside settlements to dazzling capitals of European culture. Our beloved Trip Leader, Bulgarian native Denitza Petrova, introduces us to the spirit and rich cultural tapestry of these fascinating countries, bringing both insider knowledge and international perspective as we sample Thracian wines, taste unique cheeses, and meet with artisans, hiking by day and savoring traditional dishes each evening.

Our hikes are designed to showcase the lush woodlands, high ridges, and rolling countryside, the magnificent Rhodope Mountains, and the magic of the Transylvanian wilderness. You’ll be immersed in spectacular landscapes, and discover ornate churches, traditional villages, and frescoed monasteries. We'll explore one of the few medieval European citadels that is still inhabited, a mysterious ancient hole-studded plateau, the tomb of a Thracian king, the Valley of Roses, and an extensive monastery hewn into a rock wall. We also offer a pre-trip visit to Rila Monastery, a jewel of Bulgarian culture, and a post-trip extension to the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Danube Delta.

Itinerary at a Glance

Pre-Trip Extension to Rila Monastery

Consider arriving a day early to join us on a day trip to the magnificent Rila Monastery, tucked peacefully into a landscape of high mountains and deep forests. This stunning gem is the religious and cultural emblem of Bulgaria and has been a center of worship for more than 1,000 years. View beautiful Christian Orthodox icons dating from the 14th century, explore the ethnographic museum’s collection of traditional costumes, sample delicious mekitsi (fried dough pastries) from the bakery, and relax in the monastery’s serene setting.

Day 1, Jun 16, 2019
Experience Sofia’s World-Class Culture

Our adventure begins with a guided walk in Bulgaria’s visually stunning yet off-the-beaten-path capital, Sofia. The culture-rich atmosphere combines the curves and flourishes of Ottoman mosques with ancient Roman influences, medieval Byzantine Christian churches, and Soviet-era Brutalist architecture. A highlight is our visit to one of the world’s most impressive Eastern Orthodox cathedrals.

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Day 2, Jun 17, 2019
Hike Vitosha / Make your own Wine / Experience Bulgaria’s Most Beautiful City

We hike the dramatic “stone rivers” that are beloved by Bulgarians; visit Boyana church, one of the most perfectly preserved monuments of eastern European medieval art; raise a glass to the Thracian god Dionysus at a visionary winery; and immerse ourselves in Ottoman history in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s most beautiful city.

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Days 3-5, Jun 18-20, 2019
Lush Forests / Roses / Gold / Artistic Masterpieces

Traversing conifer forests in the legendary Rhodope Mountains, we visit the famous and mystical Belintash, most likely an ancient cult site for followers of a Thracian god. Then we’ll hike through beech forests; revel in the scents of the Rose Valley; and visit a glittering, gold-filled Thracian tomb from the 4th century BCE. Enjoy a wonderful off-piste walk with a local ecologist through Bulgarka Nature Park, with its majestic peaks. Then visit the historically rich city of Tryavna, a center of arts and crafts, and head to Veliko Tarnovo, the “Bulgarian City of Tsars” now known for its dynamic artistic vibe.

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Days 6-7, Jun 21-22, 2019
Get Medieval at a Monastery, Fortress, and Village

We’ll explore the meandering cobbled streets of one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns; taste rakia, a local fruit brandy that is Bulgaria’s national drink; and visit the astonishing Church of the Nativity of Jesus, a structure whose modest exterior belies its fantastically elaborate interior frescoes. In Romania we explore Ivanovo, a remarkable 12th-century complex of churches, chapels, and monasteries carved into limestone cliffs overlooking the Roussenski Lom River. We’ll relax in the gardens of one of Europe’s most stunning citadels, the neo-Renaissance Peles Castle.

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Day 8, Jun 23, 2019
Mountain Views / Brasov, Romania’s Beautiful Crown City

We hike above steep cliffs in the rugged Bucegi Mountains, and explore the beautiful city of Brasov, which linked the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, and still exudes a distinct medieval ambiance. There’s time to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Pied Piper, visit the stunning 14th-century Black Church, and dine on hearty portions of traditional Romanian, Hungarian, and Saxon cuisine, as well as a good choice of Romanian wines.

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Day 9, Jun 24, 2019
Beauty / Bats / Historic Fortified Church

Our hike takes us through the Varghis Gorges, one of Transylvania’s most beautiful natural areas with limestone cliffs, steep slopes, and fast-moving mountain streams, all in the midst of lush greenery. Check out the bat colonies (can Dracula be far away?) and geothermal areas known for their “miracle cures.” Then explore an impressive UNESCO Site—the fairytale church of Viscri, which has just celebrated its 700th anniversary, and talk with residents.

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Day 10, Jun 25, 2019
Saxon Craftsmanship / Mushrooms / Medieval Sighisoara

Today we explore the idyllic village of Corund in horse-drawn carts, talking with skilled artisans who share their knowledge of old Saxon crafts. One of the most fascinating involves amadou, or mushroom felt, which villagers have used for centuries to make warm and waterproof hats. Hike to the stunning fortress town of Sighisoara, a UNESCO site at one of the very few European medieval fortifications that’s still inhabited. We can check out the house where Vlad the Impaler—the inspiration for Bram Stoker's famous Dracula—once lived.

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Days 11-13, Jun 26-28, 2019
Rural Life / Tasty Cheese / Mysterious Fortress

We visit the village of Vulcan and learn more of the area’s mesmerizing history from the local priest, an engaged community leader. Take in astonishing views as we hike below Romania’s longest and tallest limestone ridge, one of the most beautiful sights in the Carpathians. Sample Romanian cheeses, which are rapidly gaining international recognition, and visit Rasnov Fortress—an acclaimed UNESCO site. We walk to the highest village of Romania, stop at a traditional home in the mountains, visit a farm, and really get a feel for what it’s like to live in Romania’s forested mountains.

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Day 14, Jun 29, 2019
Transfer to the Airport or Continue to the Danube Delta

Transfer to the airport for our flights home, or continue on the Danube Delta extension, where you’ll glide along tranquil waterways in a unique UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s the third-most biodiverse area in the world—with more than 5,500 species—and is famous for abundant bird life and as one of the last refuges for several European mammals.

Highlights

Highlights

Hike through stunning mountainside forests, a famous river of boulders, and bucolic villages
Treat your senses to hearty traditional cuisine, wines and brandy, and the fragrant Rose Valley
Explore charming Plovdiv, one of the world’s oldest cities and a European culture capital
Visit ancient citadels, a rock-hewn monastery, and fairytale castles
Discover the magic of Transylvania’s medieval ambience...complete with a bat colony
View mysterious petroglyphs, stunning icons, and early Christian frescoes
Participate in wonderful hands-on experiences of traditional crafts—and make your own wine!

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $5295  
Arrive: Sofia, Bulgaria
Depart: Bucharest, Romania
Lodging: 13 nights hotels and inns
Meals: All meals included except 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level:

This trip is a mix of moderate walks and hikes, 2-3 hours on most days.

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