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Tour Director
Practical Information

  • Delve into unspoilt landscapes and groundbreaking archaeology, unaffected by mass tourism

  • Step inside the country’s monasteries – treasuries of Bulgarian culture and once the focal point for artistic patronage

  • Discover the ancient city of Sofia, home to an abundance of cultural and archaeological assets

“Really enjoyed the tour… a fabulous itinerary”

“Alex Koller’s erudition is remarkable – I learned a phenomenal amount”

- ACE customers on a previous Bulgarian Monasteries tour

Carpeted in thick forest and studded with snow-capped peaks, Bulgaria’s natural landscape is only surpassed by the wealth of its cultural inheritance.


On this tour, we will gain an in-depth understanding of the country and its heritage. Our circuit will include a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, from the Madara Horseman, an 8th century rock relief carved into a towering cliff, to the 3rd century Thracian tomb of Sveshtari, which boasts a fascinating collection of half-human, half-plant caryatids.


This tour takes as its central focus Bulgaria’s flamboyantly decorated monasteries, the symbolic strongholds of the nation’s values and traditions. Bachkovo, surrounded by the Rhodope Mountains, is distinguished by a two-storeyed ossuary adorned with intricate murals, unique in the entire eastern Orthodox world. Ivanovo is an extensive complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells first dug out by hermits in the 12th century.


The 10th century Rila Monastery was home to a mystical hermit named Ivan Rilski who, opting for a life of solitude and prayer, settled in a remote cave. Following a succession of miracles Rilski became the patron saint of Bulgaria and his humble refuge grew into a vast monastic community, a bastion of Christian and Slavic culture under Ottoman rule. The monastery, flanked by alpine forests and sweeping rivers, is decorated with vivid murals by Zahari Zograf, Bulgaria’s most famous icon painter, and is one of the largest and most spectacular in Bulgaria.


We will also spend time in Sofia, taking in ancient churches, the Banya Bashi mosque and the beautifully restored synagogue with its Moorish turrets, as well as the Alexander Nevksy Cathedral and National Archaeological Museum.


Further highlights over the course of the tour will include the fine National Revival architecture of the village of Koprivshtitsa; Kazanlak’s historical museum and impressive collection of original and replica tombs; and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s medieval capital, which has been extensively excavated.


At the beginning and end of the tour we will stay at the five-star Grand Hotel in Sofia’s city centre. Elsewhere we will stay in hotels of three and four-star quality.


This tour will be led by Alex Koller, PhD, a lecturer in art history and architecture. Born in Vienna, Alex has lived and studied in Vienna, Salzburg and Cambridge, gaining his first degree in History of Art and Slavonic languages before continuing to Cambridge for a PhD in History of Art from Magdalene College where he also lectured and supervised. Alex has been leading tours since 1998 and is an accomplished linguist. His experience ranges from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Himalayas to Japan and Southeast Asia. Alex has travelled extensively in Bulgaria, developing his specialism in Slavonic studies, and looks forward to returning with an ACE group in 2023.

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, fourteen breakfasts, five lunches, eleven dinners with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, single room supplement £360.

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