Unique Experience Intrepid | Eastern Europe Explorer

Be mesmerised on this explorer tour through the best and most beautiful regions from Eastern Europe to Turkey. Explore the captivating cities of Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia and Istanbul. Sample culinary delights with local folk in Viscri, be inspired by the traditional craft workshops in Plovdiv, hear enthralling myths from Transylvania and visit the quaint town of Bansko, snug at the foot of the Pirin Mountains and bask in the transcontinental glory of Istanbul. This is a journey full of culture and history, of monuments, markets and museums, tantalising towns and charming cities.

Theme

Explorer

  • Highlights

    • A homestay with a family in the Saxon village of Viscri in Romania offers insight into local life and the chance to sample some delicious home-cooked food
    • Journey deep into the forested valley of Rila to find the Monastery of Saint Ivan. Over 1,000 years old, this spectacular building is one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments
    • Rich in history, art, architecture, cuisine and nightlife, Budapest is a hot European destination. The Museum of Fine Arts offers free English tours that reveal the famous artwork of Monet, Manet and Goya, just to name a few
    • This trip takes you to a mix of exciting capital cities and quaint mountain villages through Eastern Europe all the way to the transcontinental Istanbul.
    • Transylvania is drenched in history and myth. Discover the medieval city of Sighisoara, the birthplace of one of Romania's most infamous figures, Vlad the Impaler - better known as the inspiration for Count Dracula
  • What's Included

    Meals

    14 Breakfasts

    Transport

    Train , Public bus , Private vehicle , Metro , Tram , Taxi , Chairlift

    Accommodation

    Hotel (14 nights), Pension (2 night), Homestay with shared facilities (1 night)

    Included Activities

    • Bran Castle - Tour
    • Bucharest - Walking Tour with Local Guide
    • Eger - Wine Sampling
    • Istanbul- Private Transfer from Istanbul Bus Station to Istanbul Hotel
    • Maramures - Barsana Monastery
    • Maramures - Day Tour with Local Guide
    • Maramures - Sapanta Merry Cemetery
    • Pirin Mountains - Hike
    • Plovdiv - Walking Tour with Local Guide
    • Plovdiv- Private Transfer from Plovdiv Hotel to Plovdiv Bus Station
    • Plovdiv-Private Transfer from Plovdiv Train Station to Plovdiv Hotel
    • Rhodope Narrow-Gauge Railway
    • Rila - Monastery Visit
    • Veliko Tarnovo - Tsarevets Fortress
    • Viscri - Fortified Church
    • Viscri - Local Home Cooked Dinner
    • Viscri - Sock Project
  • Pricing

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      • Start Date:3 Aug 24
      • End Date:20 Aug 24
      • Price:$5,024
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      • Book now and receive a discount. Was $5,910. Now only $5,024 for this departure

      • Start Date:10 Aug 24
      • End Date:27 Aug 24
      • Price:$5,266
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      • Book now and receive a discount. Was $6,195. Now only $5,266 for this departure

      • Start Date:28 Aug 24
      • End Date:14 Sep 24
      • Price:$6,745
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      • End Date:24 Sep 24
      • Price:$6,320
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      • Price:$6,255
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      • End Date:13 Sep 25
      • Price:$6,440
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      • End Date:16 Sep 25
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  • Itinerary

    Day - 1

    Location: Budapest - Szia! Welcome to Hungary. Since the collapse of communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. The grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by, while glamorous stores and restaurants make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. You’ll have a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. After, you might like to head out to explore the city by night – the twinkling lights of the evening are an essential part of the Budapest experience. Maybe visit the Jewish Quarter for dinner and explore the many options for a celebratory nightcap.

     

    Day - 2

    Location: Eger - This morning, take a train east to Eger. This beautifully preserved Baroque town is surrounded by hills and is home to some of the most renowned vineyards in Eastern Europe. Visit the wine cellars of the seductively named Valley of the Beautiful Women to sample some of the town's famous 'Bull's Blood' red wine (which supposedly gave the Hungarian army supernatural strength during their battle against the Ottoman Empire). In your free time, maybe explore Eger's 13th-century castle, which was the scene of the historic siege that thwarted the Ottoman Empire's advancement into Western Europe. Here, you can explore the Gothic Palace, a gallery of fine Hungarian art, and tour underground passageways of archaeological finds. You may also like to check out the town's 19th-century cathedral, the northernmost medieval minaret in Europe for views of the city, or the Minorite church in Dobo Square.

     

    Day - 3

    Location: Maramures - This morning, travel to the pleasant town of Debrecen. While here, you'll have time to explore Deri Square with its fountains, colourful buildings, museums and golden Great Church. Continue by train and private vehicle across the central plains into the Maramures region of Romania – this region may be modernising, but among the traditional wooden houses, churches, music and forests, you can still find parts of life unchanged since medieval times. When you arrive, settle into your room at the pension – your accommodation for the night is run by a local family. Sit down for a homecooked dinner with your group and get to know the locals, their stories and their lifestyle.

     

    Day - 4

    Location: Maramures - Today you’ll discover more about the region of Maramures (mah-ra-moo-resh). Rich in tradition and folklore, the music, costumes, festivals and ancient superstitions of one of the last peasant cultures in Europe continue to thrive here. Maramures is particularly famed for its wooden churches, many of which are World Heritage-listed. Set out on a guided group tour to explore the region, visiting the unique Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, where the life stories of the deceased are displayed on colourful wooden crosses. There are poems, limericks and little pictures illustrating how the person died, all single-handedly carved over 40 years by Stan Ioan Patraş, until 1977 when his apprentice took up the work. You’ll also see other traditional villages including the village museum in Sighetu – an assembly of beautiful local wooden architecture.

     

    Day - 5

    Location: Sighisoara - This morning, get ready for a scenic drive to Sighisoara – while the name may conjure up images of haunted castles, gothic churches and vampires, this is only a small part of what makes Transylvania such an enchanting and exciting destination. Medieval Sighisoara is likely to seduce visitors more than any other place in Romania. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town was first settled by the Romans but flourished under the Saxons from the 12th century. Take a walk around the old town, which coils up a narrow hill surrounded on all sides by fortified walls and explore the 64-metre-high clock tower that dominates the citadel. The town is famed as the birthplace of Vlad Dracul III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, whose name inspired Bram Stoker’s iconic Count Dracula. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of which his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000. Tonight, maybe sit down for a traditional Romanian dinner at Casa Dracula.

     

    Day - 6

    Location: Viscri - This morning, take a short drive to the village of Viscri – this small Transylvanian village was originally inhabited by Saxons from the Luxembourg area and the rural landscape is picture-perfect. This idyllic village of red tiled roofs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, virtually unchanged for 900 years. You’ll visit the town's fortified church (thought to be the oldest in Transylvania) and learn about the Sock Project, which supports the local Roma community. Time permitting, you may even like to go for a horse cart ride through the area, over pastures and through wondrous woods of oak and hornbeam. In the evening, indulge in a home-cooked dinner prepared by a local family, sampling fresh produce, homemade wines and schnapps. Tonight, stay in rustic houses that the locals rent out to visitors.

     

    Day - 7

    Location: Brasov - This morning, you’ll continue to Brasov. Also known by its German name of Kronstadt, the town is flanked by mountains and was once a major medieval trading centre. When you arrive, enjoy some free time to wander, take an optional activity or just find a good spot to eat and people-watch. The town's main attraction is the gothic Black Church (Biserica Neagra), which took its name from its blackened appearance after a fire in 1689. Maybe stroll along pedestrianised Strada Republicii, take a cable car up to Mt Tampa, or maybe explore the nearby Rasnov Fortress. The fortification is perched on a rocky hilltop above the town of Rasnov and was constructed by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century as a refuge for the common people from Tartar invaders.

     

    Day - 8

    Location: Brasov - Today after breakfast, you’ll visit the famed Bran Castle. Said to be the inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the castle isn’t too spooky, but it is undeniably impressive. Perched on a high cliff top and surrounded by pine trees, you’ll explore the castle with your leader and group – this is the perfect photo op! After, travel back to Brasov and enjoy free time to explore, checking out the ornate churches, townhouses and squares surrounded by gingerbread-roofed merchants' houses. For those looking for a bit of nightlife tonight, Brasov has plenty of funky bars and restaurants to enjoy once darkness falls.

     

    Day - 9

    Location: Bucharest - Head south to Bucharest on the train today – the city is increasingly known for its cosmopolitan vibe and energy. While not the most beautiful or stylish city, there are some wonderful art nouveau buildings, ancient churches and monasteries, lush parklands, lakes and elegant boulevards. Romania's capital also likes big things – it’s home to one of Europe's biggest squares, and its Palace of Parliament is the second-largest building in the world! You'll embark on a guided walking tour around town to help you get your bearings, and then you have loads of free time to choose your own adventure. Explore some of the sights further or maybe seek out some traditional home-cooked Romanian food with your fellow travellers.

     

    Day - 10

    Location: Bucharest - Salut! Welcome to Romania. Bucharest, Romania's capital city, likes big things. It's home to one of Europe's biggest squares and its Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. It's worth arriving into the city a few days early to explore. Perhaps take a tour of the Palace of Parliament (former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of this 12-storied monster, a building of staggering scale and opulence that includes 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers), or visit his former luxurious residence where he lived with the family. You might even like to partake in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the "Bohemian Bucharest tour".  Our adventure begins with a important welcome meeting at 6 pm, where you'll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. Afterwards, why not seek out some traditional Romanian fare with the group.

     

    Day - 11

    Location: Veliko Tarnovo - Travel by train across the friendship bridge into Bulgaria and on to the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo's history is incredible. Founded in 4500 BC by the Neolithic people, the Romans later built the first fortress walls and in the 6th century a Byzantine capital was established on Tsarevets Hill by Emperor Justinian. After the foundation of the second Bulgarian empire in 1185, it became the second most important and beautiful city in the region (after Constantinople) and trade and culture flourished for the next 200 years. In 1393 the town fell to the Turks who held the city until the Russians liberated it in 1877. Because of its importance during the second Bulgarian empire, the city was chosen as the place where the Bulgarian constitution was written in 1879 and where the official proclamation of Bulgaria as an independent state was made in 1908.

     

    Day - 12

    Location: Veliko Tarnovo - This morning join your leader for a visit to Veliko Tarnovo's imposing Tsarevets Fortress which overlooks the city. This once-magnificent fortress was first built in the 7th century and the ruined citadel is a delight to wander through. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the City of Tsars. Wander through the Old Quarter with its preserved Renaissance houses and handicraft workshops before relaxing in one of the town's cafes or 'vinarnas' (wine bars).

     

    Day - 13

    Location: Sofia - In a morning, take a public bus (3 hrs approximately) to Sofia. Bulgaria's capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. You've got the rest of the day to wander, so maybe begin with a browse around the cured meats and cheese of the Central Market Hall, then take a walk through the city and see the gold-domed Alexander Nevski Church. You might want to sate your cultural curiosity at the National History Museum, discover artefacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeological Museum, or get cultural at the National Art Gallery.

     

    Day - 14

    Location: Bansko - Today journey into the Rila Mountains, where you'll visit the impressive Rila Monastery. Tucked away in a valley, this World Heritage-listed site is the largest and holiest of Bulgaria's orthodox monasteries. It was founded in 927 to keep Bulgarian spiritual and social life alive during Turkish rule. The entire monastery complex is a work of art in itself – check out stunning murals, the 14th-century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original 19th-century monastery kitchen. Then onto Bansko. Set at the base of the majestic Pirin Mountains, Bansko is home to more than 150 cultural monuments. Down its cobbled streets, many of its stone houses have been transformed into charming ‘mehanes’ (taverns). Wander through pl. Vazrazhdane and check out the frescoes of the Church of Sveta Troitsa, or the paintings in the Rilski Convent. In the evening, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in some local cuisine. Try filet elena (spicy cured meat) or kapama (simmered meat, rice and sauerkraut), washing it down with some delicious melnik (dark red wine).

     

    Day - 15

    Location: Plovdiv - In the morning, drive to Vihren Chalet (45 mins approximately) from where you start the moderate hike in the Pirin Mountains to a small but picturesque lake Okoto (2000m above the sea level). Enjoy the clear views over the stunning valley with Mt Vihren, the range's highest peak, visible to the west. Total walking distance is 2 km with 102 m elevation gain and it takes about one hour depending on fitness and trail conditions. Those who want to challenge it a bit more can continue to Banderitsko lake, your leader willl help with suggesting the route. If you don't wish to hike can stay in Bansko and visit it's thermal baths. In the afternoon board scenic and only operational narrow gauge line in Bulgaria - Rhodope railway from Bansko to Septemvri from where continue by another to Plovdiv. Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. In the evening, make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.

     

    Day - 16

    Location: Plovdiv - This morning, join a local guide for a tour of the main sights and some insight into the town's history. The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use. From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city. Head back down to visit the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today. Enjoy a free afternoon in this charming city.

     

    Day - 17

    Location: Istanbul - Get ready for a long day of travel that takes you from Europe to Asia today. Grab a window seat if you can and watch the scenery pass you by, or get stuck into a good book. You'll be travelling how the locals do, on a bus along the Tsarigrad Road. Also named the Road to Istanbul, this was one of the most important roads in the Middle Ages, widely used by travelling merchants. Arrive in Istanbul, the continent-straddling metropolis that the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have called home. You'll have some free time to settle in, then in the evening, maybe join your new friends for an optional dinner and bask in the beauty of a real Turkish kebab.

     

    Day - 18

    Location: Istanbul - All good things come to an end, and this morning your adventure officially comes to a close. If you would like to extend your stay in Istanbul we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

     

    Eastern Europe Explorer
*Terms and Conditions
Offer subject to availability at time of booking. Prices are per person share twin based on best available tour price, inclusive of all discounts unless otherwise stated. Prices are subject to currency fluctuations and are based on cash or cheque. Tour deposit, amendment and cancellation conditions may apply. Travel agent service fees may apply. Special conditions apply - please ask for full details at time of enquiry.
HLO Ref# 5822
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