ESSENTIAL BULGARIA, 1 - 15 NOV, 2021

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Image © Dancho Hristov

ESSENTIAL BULGARIA
1-15 NOV, 2021

with Jeremy Woodhouse

Mountains & Forests
Bulgaria’s untamed landscapes quicken the pulse of hikers, mountain bikers and skiers. Seven mountain ranges ripple across the country; glacial lakes sparkle between these snow-dusted peaks, and tangles of forest conceal wolves, bears and lynx, a glimpse of Europe’s primeval past. Networks of trails and hizhas (hiking huts) allow access to such raw beauty as mist-cloaked panoramas in the Stara Planina range and sunrise from Bulgaria’s second-highest peak, Mt Vihren (2915m). Between trekking among Rodopi villages, thundering across ski fields in Bansko or birdwatching in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria has much to delight (and exhaust) lovers of the great outdoors.

Churches & Religious Art
No visitor to Bulgaria can fail to be impressed by its religious art, from vast gold-domed churches to miniature icon paintings. Sofia’s Aleksander Nevski Church and 10th-century Rila Monastery draw visitors and pilgrims galore, while Tryavna’s wood carvings and Bachkovo’s apocalyptic murals are gathering fame. But Orthodox churches in even the tiniest villages have much to admire: emotive paintings of saints, often set in carved wooden screens (iconostases), appear magical when bathed in flickering candlelight. Almost as spectacular are the settings of many sacred buildings: granite cliffs, thrashing streams and lonely mountain passes.

​Ancient History
Whispers of history emanate from Bulgaria’s fortresses and ruins. Caves secreted in Bulgaria’s river-sculpted wilds hold traces of Neolithic settlements. The mysterious Thracians left behind dazzling hauls of gold and silver, and tombs that can be explored to this day. The Romans built cities of breathtaking scale, the bathhouses, walls and amphitheatres of which sit nonchalantly in the midst of modern cities such as Varna and Plovdiv. Successions of tsars strutted along the ramparts of Tsarevets Fortress at former capital Veliko Târnovo. And these histories are no less relevant today, with Thracian art and Bulgaria’s victory over the Ottomans continuing to inspire​


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Image © Dancho Hristov


Itinerary 

Day 1 – Nov 1: Sofia
Arrival and overnight in a centrally located hotel in Sofia. Evening walk around the capital city for blue hour shots and a welcome dinner. 

​O/N Hotel Les Fleurs
Situated in the heart of Sofia’s main shopping, business and historical attractions, Hotel Les Fleurs is only 20 minutes away from Sofia's airport by car. The hotel features exquisite decor, intuitive service and an extraordinary blend of luxury and convenience in style with its floral surroundings.​

Day 2 – Nov 2: Iskar River Gorge and Cherepish Monastery
Early morning walk for a blue hour and sunrise photography. After breakfast we start our journey to the North towards the amazing Belogradchik town. 

We take the scenic route along Iskar river which meandres in its gorge with 100m high sheer limestone cliffs. At the bottom of the gorge right by the river is Cherepish monastery used by rebels to hide during the 500 years long Ottoman yoke.

We aim to arrive at Belogradchik early enough for an evening session at the cliffs.

Belogradchik is known for the out-of-this-world landscapes with rock formation rising out of the forests up to 100m. Some of them are easily climbed and offer elevated views on the area which offers great landscape photography opportunities. With a little bit of luck, we hit the best autumn colors. 

​O/N Hotel Skalite

Day 3 – Nov 3: Belogradchik Rocks
We have the whole day to explore the area. After a morning session at the cliffs we can visit one of the nearby caves or a waterfall. In the afternoon we visit the Belogradchik Fortress, built into the rocks – an unforgettable view.

O/N Hotel Skalite

Day 4 – Nov 4: Monasteries and Caves
Today we head south. Our first stop is the beautiful Glozhene monastery, situated on top of the hill. The monastery is very picturesque and with a little bit of luck we can photograph local priests at their daily life. The main attraction today is the open-air Prohodna cave, nicknamed “God’s Eyes”. Late in the evening we can experiment with light painting techniques to capture stunning night shot of the cave. The area is also great for starry sky photography as there is almost no light pollution.

​O/N Diplomat Plaza Hotel

Day 5 – Nov 5: Cave and Veliko Tarnovo
After breakfast and another session at the cave, we drive to the former capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo. We arrive at Veliko Tarnovo for an early dinner and a light show illuminating the historical fortress. Our hotel overlooks the fortress and allows sunrise shots from the balcony of the hotel.

O/N Studio Hotel
Located in the heart of the historical city of Veliko Tarnovo, the hotel captures the spirit and the unforgettable atmosphere of the old town.​

Day 6 – Nov 6: Veliko Tarnovo and surrounds
Early morning blue hour and sunrise shoot in the city. After breakfast we visit a monastery or two, explore scenic views and photograph local market. Optional visit to the outdoor archeological museum or a local street with crafts shops where everybody can try his skills in pottery, silvery or woodcarving. Evening photography at the old fortress.

O/N Studio Hotel

Day 7 – Nov 7: Plovdiv
Today we travel to Plovdiv: the economic capital of the country and a city applying for a European Capital of Culture for 2019. On the way we photograph a colorful Russian church and an old UFO-looking communist building situated on the top of the Central Balkan. We might get our first snow here.
Evening arrival at Plovdiv and check in at our hotel for 2 nights. Evening photography in the old town with coble streets and traditional high wall houses. 

​O/N Ramada

Day 8 - Nov 8: Autumn Colors and Waterfalls
After breakfast we visit one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Bulgaria. Cascades and a stone bridge are an amazing backdrop to autumn colors to the Sitovo waterfall. In the afternoon we visit a small hilltop fortress for sunset shoot before returning to Plovdiv for dinner. 

​O/N Ramada

Day 9 – Nov 9: Plovdiv to Devil's Bridge
Blue hour photography in the old town of Plovdiv, breakfast and drive to Devil's Bridge. Constructed between 1515 and 1518 in the early 16th century by a builder Dimitar from the nearby village of Nedelino, Dyavolski most, the Devil’s Bridge or also known in Turkish as “Sheytan Kyupriya”, is the most stunning of the humpbacked bridges that cross the Arda River in Bulgaria. Sunset shoot at Devil's Bridge.

O/N TBA
Day 10 – Nov 10: Western Rhodope mountains
Today we cross the Western Rhodope mountains with stops in traditional villages with local people. Houses built of stones and woodworks dominate the mountainous landscape. Small but rich in colours chapels and mountains lakes by the road are in our focus for the day. We aim to arrive in the village of Kovachevitsa known for its ancient school for traditional house builders.

O/N Hotel TBA

Day 11 – Nov 11: Pomak People and Traditional Life
Today we explore the villages and rural mountain views of the area. This region features an interesting mix of Muslim and Orthodox Christian cultures. People known as “Pomak” are originally Bulgarian but of Muslim religion are usually dressed in colourful clothes. They are usually happy to pose for a photo. The sunset session will be at the rock formation “The Wedding”.

O/N Hotel TBA

Day 12 – Nov 12: Mountains and people
Today we head west towards Melnik where we spend next two days. On the way we stop at Pirin village: a very remote village with less than 100 people making their living with forestry activity. After that we head to Melnik, the smallest town in the country. Its position amongst majestic sand pyramids and the Mediterranean vegetation around the town create a very special and relaxing atmosphere. Sunset at Melnik pyramids.

​O/N Hotel Elli Greco

Day 13 – Nov 13: Sand Pyramids and Melnik Town
Sunrise shoot at the vineyards followed by a visit of a local village to photograph people and the rural lifestyle. Walk around Melnik town and free time for leisure and shopping of the local crafts. Sunset shoot from a viewpoint above Melnik town with great views on surrounding pyramids.

​O/N Hotel Elli Greco

Day 14 – Nov 14: Return to Sofia 
We head back to Sofia but not before we stop at one of the UNESCO sites in Bulgaria, Rila monastery. With its colorful paintings and its situation at the bottom of a valley in Rila mountains it presents superb opportunities for photography. 

​O/N Hotel Les Fleurs

Day 15 – Nov 15: End of Tour 
Transfer to the airport to catch your flight home.

END OF TOUR

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Image © Dancho Hristov


Arrival, Departure & Visa

​Arrival & Meeting Place 
Most international visitors enter and leave Bulgaria via Sofia Airport, and there are frequent flights to the capital from other European cities.

​Departure 

Visa
Visas are not required for EU citizens. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA can visit visa-free for up to 90 days.


Weather 
Spring and autumn have warm weather and a calendar of cultural celebrations. Spring melt can be hazardous; otherwise, weather is ideal for outdoor exploration. Sights and attractions open again after winter, with fewer tourists than high summer.

Language
Bulgarian, an Indo-European language is the official language of Bulgaria and is spoken by a majority of the country’s population. 

​Currency
The Bulgarian lev is the official currency of Bulgaria, and its code in the international money markets is BGN. The currency derives its name from the Bulgarian term “lev,” which loosely translates to “lion.”

6 SPOTS OPEN

TOUR COST: $6,500
DEPOSIT: $1,000 
SINGLE: $450

Group size 6

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Tour Price Includes

  • Transfers at the beginning and the end of the tour (unless you are arriving early or leaving after the official tour is concluded)
  • Ground Transportation with local photographer/guide for 14 days
  • All meals
  • Tour accommodation, as listed
  • National Parks entry fees

Tour Price Excludes

  • Arrival/departure flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcohol
  • Pre- and post-tour accommodation

Paying by check

If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:

Nicole Woodhouse
Pixelchrome, Inc, 
605 Rouen Drive, 
McKinney TX 75072

Paying by Wire Transfer

If you would like to pay by Wire Transfer please contact nicole@pixelchrome.com for bank account details.


Dress for the Weather

Important note on weather and clothing: In November, weather can be rather cold in the mountains, so hats and gloves are recommended to ensure your comfort. We may/hope to get some snow, especially in the mountains so warm clothes are recommended.


Equipment Checklist

  • Bring you own laptop computer and storage media
  • Camera body(s)
  • Lenses, 16-35mm, 24-70mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom or similar lenses are very good
  • Light bag for easy hiking with camera bodies and accessories
  • Cleaning kit for cameras and lenses
  • Rain/dust covers for cameras and lenses
  • Charger for batteries
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare Memory cards
  • Memory card reader
  • USB key to exchange images

Also good to have

  • Tripod
  • Good quality polarizing filter