ESSENTIAL BULGARIA, 24 SEPT-5 OCT, 2021

ESSENTIAL BULGARIA
24 SEPT-5 OCT, 2021

with Jeremy Woodhouse & Dancho Hristov
(12 days/12 nights), maximum group size 6

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Image © Dancho Hristov

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: Sept 24—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: Sept 25—Monasteries and Caves
Today we head to the northeastern part of the country. 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 going about their daily lives. We will also have a chance to visit the open-air Prohodna cave, nicknamed “God’s Eyes”. 

​O/N Diplomat Plaza Hotel

Day 3: Sept 26—Cave and Veliko Tarnovo
After breakfast we drive to the former capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo. We arrive at Veliko Tarnovo for an early dinner. 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 4: Sept 27—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 5: Sept 28—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 6: Sept 29—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 7: Sept 30—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 8: Oct 1—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 9: Oct 2—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 10: Oct 3—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 11: Oct 4—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 12: Oct 5—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. 

Day 13: Oct 6—Departure
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: $5,850
DEPOSIT: $1,000 
SINGLE: $350

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 12 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 late September/early October, weather can be rather cool 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