Sofia, Sandanski, Melnik, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Brasov,
Bucharest, Gura Humorului, Iasi, Piatra Neamt
July 5th – 23rd 2020
Join us on a remarkable journey through Bulgaria and Romania, two countries that stand on the crossroads of Europe and the East.
Blessed with a wonderful summer climate, these Eastern European landscapes offer endless charms to discover on your journey. Explore the fascinating history of Sofia, which spans from its prehistoric origins through occupation by Philip of Macedonia, Alexander the Great, Roman and Ottoman Rulers, and the Communist regime. Excursions to wonderful natural landscapes and attractive villages steeped in a historic and cultural heritage allow you to explore Bulgaria’s rich cultural and artistic traditions. Then make your way to Romania’s capital Bucharest – the ‘Paris of the East’. From the attractions of this city to the lofty Carpathian Mountains, the villages and castles of Transylvania to world-famous painted monasteries, this half of the tour will provide memories and experiences that will stay with you forever.
The 100% kosher tour and careful selection of the very best hotels permits you to travel comfortably and confidently, and your personal tour guide is available at all times to make your trip absolutely enjoyable. Furthermore, our bespoke itinerary includes many sites that explore the history of the Jewish diaspora in Sofia and around Bulgaria.
Bulgaria and Romania welcome you – discover them with Deluxe Kosher Tours.
Day 1, Sunday July 5 Sofia
We depart on our overnight flight to Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. Enjoy kosher meals and in-flight entertainment during your journey, or read some of our suggested books about Bulgaria and Romania (see below).
Day 2, Monday July 6 Sofia
Meet and greet, Orientation,
Upon arrival in Sofia Airport we are welcomed to Bulgaria by our carefully selected personal Deluxe Kosher Tours tour director. They will bring us to our luxury hotel, the Dedeman Princess, and offer an introduction to Bulgaria and Sofia. Standing at the crossroads between East and West, Sofia has a history that spans over seven millennia, making it one of Europe’s oldest cities. Nestled at the foot of Mount Vitosha, a popular ski resort, the city has a charming and relaxed atmosphere during the day brought to life with cobblestone streets and nostalgic trams, and an electrifying vitality at night. You have the rest of the evening free to relax in the hotel or explore the sights and sounds of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Day 3, Tuesday July 7 Sofia
Sephardic Synagogue, Roman ruins, National Art Gallery, Movie Viewing
After breakfast we set off on our tour of Sofia, exploring the city’s architectural heritage whilst learning more about Bulgarian history, art and culture. Our first destination is the Sephardic Synagogue, the third largest synagogue in all of Europe and one of only two active synagogues in Bulgaria. The first synagogue of the city was built in the 10th century, and accommodated Jewish immigrants from Greece, Asia Minor, Italy and Spain. The Sephardic Synagogue was completed in 1909, and we make our way through the Jewish Museum that tracks the history of the fifty thousand Bulgarian Jews that lived through the Second World War. Be sure to admire the largest chandelier in Bulgaria.
We then spend the afternoon exploring downtown Sofia. We visit the Roman ruins of the Amphitheatre of Serdica and admire 4th century frescoes, before continuing to the former Royal Palace on Battenberg Square. On the building’s exterior one can witness a fusion of architectural styles representing the stages of construction during the country’s turbulent history, and inside we can wander through the National Art Gallery’s collection of Bulgaria’s finest art. In the evening we invite you for a viewing of the excellent, though emotional, film Beyond Hitler’s Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews.
Day 4, Wednesday July 8 Sofia – Sandanski
Rila Monastery, Sandanski hot pools
We depart early for our beautiful drive through the mountains to the enchanting resort town of Sandanski on the Pirin Mountains. Our journey brings us through stunning landscapes, and there will be plenty of opportunities for us to stop and admire the view. On the way we make a diversion to the charming Rila Monastery, the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. This is one of Bulgaria’s most treasured cultural sites, emphasised by its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery has a captivating foundation myth, it being established by the hermetic monk St. Ivan of Rila in 927. After wandering through its beautiful halls and courtyards, with resplendent decorative frescoes and stonework, we return to the bus for our onward journey. We enjoy lunch on a mountain spot that boasts astounding views of the surrounding countryside.
Upon arrival at Sandanski we check in to the Interhotel. The curative mountain springs here have been prized for centuries for their therapeutic effects. For the rest of the day, allow yourself to be pampered to a spa treatment and visit the famous hot pools before enjoying dinner together at the hotel.
Day 5, Thursday July 9 Melnik
Melnik Tour, Sandanski hot pools
Today we make a full-day excursion to the gorgeous town of Melnik, an architectural reserve that contains over ninety cultural monuments, of which those of the National Revival style are particularly splendid. We invite you for a relaxing walking tour through the town, passing Kordopulova House and visiting the famous rock formations and red wine vinery – the estate which was a particular favourite of Winston Churchill. After lunch in a local restaurant we return to Sandanskim where you are free to enjoy the rest of the day wandering through the town or continuing the spa treatments of yesterday.
Day 6, Friday July 10 Sandanski – Plovdiv
Samokov, Sarafska house, Borovets, Plovdiv
After breakfast we say goodbye to Sandanski, and transfer to the town of Plovdiv. On the way we make an excursion to Samokov, a historic centre of Bulgarian handicrafts and art, where we visit the famous Sarafska House Museum. This elegant 19th century building was the home of one of Bulgaria’s most influential Jewish families, the Arie banking family. Continuing our journey, we make one more stop at Borovets, a favourite ski resort of locals and tourists alike and equally popular during the summer for hiking – visitors come from around the world for its stunning scenery and refreshing mountain air.
Later we arrive at Plovdiv, where we check in to the Dedeman Trimontsium Hotel. After a brief rest we can reunite to prepare for the Shabbat services with members of the local Jewish community.
Day 7, Shabbat July 11 Plovdiv
Shabbat services, Seudat Shabbat, Old Town Walking Tour
Plovdiv is a town that remains preserved from antiquity, especially its Jewish heritage. After the Shabbat services and lunch with the local community we learn more about Jewish history in Plovdiv. Jews have lived in the town since the Roman period, and was a 19th century European centre of Sephardic culture, Hebrew literature and Zionist activism. The Indo-European Thracians always played a large part in the town’s history and identity, as we see at the 2nd century amphitheatre. We invite you on a relaxed, but educational, walking tour of the Old Town, admiring some of the 18th-19th century architectural wonders along its cobblestone streets.
Day 8, Sunday July 12 Plovdiv – Kazanlak – Veliko Tarnovo
Valley of Roses, Shipka Pass, Kazanlak, Museum of the Rose, Thracian tomb
After breakfast we leave Plovdiv for our scenic drive through the beautiful Valley of Roses, and through the scenic Shipka Pass through the Balkan Mountains. We make an excursion to the town of Kazanlak, famous for being the centre of the rose oil industry in Bulgaria. The sweet scent from the Valley wafts through the town as we bring you on a walking tour with our expert guide, who explains how the oils produced here are used in the worldwide perfume industry. Learn more about how the roses are grown and processed at the Museum of the Rose. After lunch we continue driving to a 4th century Thracian tomb, where we learn more about this fascinating cultural group. Our trip finishes at the town of Veliko Tarnovo, where we check in to the Interhotel. After dinner you are free to spend the evening as you like.
Day 9, Monday July 13 Veliko Tarnovo
Royal Palace, Fortress of Tsarevets Hill, Museum of the National Revival, Arbanassi Village Museum, Samovedene Marketplace
Today we will explore the gorgeous town and hinterland of Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Overlooking the serene Yantra River, winding cobbled streets coil through neighbourhoods of ancient ruins and contemporary architecture, creating a romantic atmosphere that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Veliko Tarnovo was considered the historic, cultural and artistic centre of Bulgaria for many centuries, and today contains Bulgaria’s most prestigious university. Our tour brings you to the Royal Palace, where the first Bulgarian constitution was ratified. Climbing through the steep town we visit the Fortress of Tsarevets Hill and the Museum of the National Revival, where we can learn more about the medieval and modern history of this town.
After lunch, we make our way to the Arbanassi ethnic museum, where we can learn about traditional ways of life in rural Bulgaria and admire old-fashioned Bulgarian architecture. We conclude our tour at the ancient Samovodska Charshiya Complex, a thriving marketplace filled with little artisanal shops selling locally produced arts and crafts.
Day 10, Tuesday July 14 Veliko Tarnovo – Sofia
After breakfast, we make our return journey to Sofia. We will make an excursion on the way to the town of Tryavna. This charming community, filled with National Revival–period homes, stone bridges and cobblestone streets, is famous of its longstanding tradition of wood-working, and particularly for their religious woodcarving. After spending time here we return to the bus and continue to Sofia, where we check back into the hotel before dinner.
Day 11 Wednesday, July 15 Sofia – Brasov
Carpathian Mountain Drive, Brasov Synagogue, Old Town Tour
Pack your bags and prepare yourself for a breathtaking drive through the lofty Carpathian Mountains. We set off after breakfast, climbing steadily between steep, craggy peaks and pine forests to the town of Brasov. One of the most popular destinations in Romania, Brasov is a historic town filled with charming remains of its ancient heritage. We bring you on a walk through the enchanting streetscapes of the city, visiting the Brasov Synagogue which is home to a vibrant and world-famous Jewish community. We meet some of the local community, and receive a comprehensive tour of the Old Town, learning about the myths and legends that surround this place. Brasov has a buzzing nightlife, and if you are not too tired after dinner we recommend an evening walk through the streets.
Day 12, Thursday, July 16 Brasov – Sinaia
Bran Castle, Old Town, Brasov Synagogue, Sinaia, Peles Castle
After breakfast, we immediately set off for Bran Castle, an imposing citadel that has a commanding view over Brasov, which is believed to have been Count Dracula’s Castle. The castle is a terrific museum, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie of Romania. Built in the 14th century the castle has experienced a violent and fascinating history, and is filled with secret passages and hidden rooms. After touring through the citadel’s chambers we return to Brasov Old Town for lunch, before transferring to Sinaia, a mountain resort popular for skiing and hiking. Here we visit the fantastic Neo-Renaissance Peles Castle, which looks like something out of a fairy tale tucked between the crags of the Carpathian Mountains. This 19th-century castle was commissioned by King Carol of Romania, and today boasts perfectly elegant gardens and a wondrous collection of medieval arms and armor. We stay overnight at the Sinaia Hotel.
Day 13, Friday, July 17 Sinaia – Bucharest
Choral Temple, Great Synagogue, Jewish Museum, State Jewish Theatre, Palace of Parliament
We set off early for our transfer to Bucharest. On the way we drive through some of the most beautiful landscapes of Eastern Europe, and there will be plenty of opportunities to disembark for photographs and to stretch our legs. Upon arrival at Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, we check in to the Venezia Hotel. After lunch, we invite you on a comprehensive tour of Jewish Bucharest with our expert guide. We will meet members of the local Jewish community, and visit the Great Synagogue, the Choral Temple and the Jewish Museum housed within the former Akhdut Kodesh (Holy Union) Synagogue. Afterwards, we visit the State Jewish Theatre, a theatre specializing in Jewish-related plays. The Jewish Theatre in Romania has a tradition dating back to the 19th century, and today it hosts a number of Jewish actors and plays on Jewish topics, often performed in Yiddish.
We continue to the Palace of Parliament, a spectacular building that is the world’s largest civilian building (and the world’s second-largest building overall, after the Pentagon). Today the Palace houses the Romanian Parliament, though it was originally built as a palace for the Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu, who was overthrown and executed before it was completed. Our tour concludes with a walk through the historic centre of Bucharest, a multicultural and atmospheric neighbourhood filled with interesting people and sites. In the evening we reunite to prepare for Shabbat.
Day 14, Shabbat July 18 Bucharest
Shabbat services, Seudat Shabbat
After Shabbat services we enjoy lunch with the local Jewish community. The rest of the day is free for you to spend as you like. We recommend taking a relaxed walk through Herastrau Park, which contains hundreds of statues featuring famous Romanians, or the picturesque Botanical Gardens.
Day 15, Sunday July 19 Gura Humorului
Monasteries of Gura Humorului
In the morning we go to the town of Gura Humorului to visit the famous Voronet and Humor Monasteries. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are celebrated for their decorative features and architectural beauty, as well as their historical significance. Voronet Monastery is known as the “Sistine Chapel of the East”, due to its stunning frescoes of Christian motifs and creatures inspired by Western European mediaeval literature. Our next stop is Humor Monastery, which also boasts incredible painted frescoes that depict the Siege of Constantinople and the Last Judgment. In the evening we return to Bucharest, where you are free to spend the rest of the day as you wish. Please feel free to ask your expert tour guide for any recommendations
Day 16, Monday July 20 Bucharest – Iasi
Iasi Walking tour
After an early breakfast we embark by bus to the old capital of Moldavia, the city of Iasi (pronounced ‘yash’). The city has been rightfully considered as a candidate for the 2021 European Capital of Culture, designated for its thriving social, cultural, academic and artistic scenes. The city also boasts a fascinating Jewish history. In the 19th century the city was the origin of the world’s first Yiddish newspaper and first ever professional Yiddish theatre performance. In the 1920s almost 45,000 Jews were present in the city, operating more than 110 synagogues. Our tour of the city examines this Jewish heritage, visiting the Great Synagogue and the atmospheric Jewish Cemetery. Other sites visited include the Palace of Culture and St. Nicholas Church, the Cuza Palace (now Union Museum), and the Trei Ierarhi Monastery.
Day 17, Tuesday July 21 Iasi – Piatra Neamt
Ba’al Shem Tov Synagogue, Leipziger Synagogue
Today we transfer to the fascinating historic community of Piatra Neamt, a small town nestled deep in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Considered one of the most picturesque cities in Romania, the town boasts a number of architectural wonders, including a number of Jewish monuments. Our comprehensive walking tour of the town offers plenty of amazing sights, and includes a visit to the 18th century wooden Ba’al Shem Tov Synagogue and the adjacent Leipziger Synagogue. In the evening we stay at the Central Hotel.
Day 18 Wednesday July 22 Piatra Neamt – Bucharest
After breakfast we make the return journey to Bucharest. After checking into the Athenee Palace Hilton you are free to spend the rest of the day as you wish – sightseeing, shopping or simply relaxing in one of the city’s many parks. Please feel free to ask your expert tour guide for any recommendations. In the evening we reunite for our final farewell dinner.
Day 19 Thursday July 23 Bucharest
After breakfast, we transfer you to Henri Coandă International Airport for your return flights home.
Suggested Films and Books
- The Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilization and Barbarism – Neal Acherson
- East of the West: A Country in Stories – Miroslav Penkov
- Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times – Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally
- Never Mind the Balkans, Here’s Romania – Mike Ormsby
- Aszparuh (1981 Film)
COST PER PERSON
$7,395 based on double occupancy (two to a room)*
$6,695 without airfares
Single Supplement — $ 2,795
This fantastic tour has been carefully crafted to minimise the cost of attendance. This price includes:
- Round-trip airfare from New York, London or Tel Aviv – call for airfare from other cities
- All travel within Bulgaria and Romania
- An English-speaking, experienced tour guide/chauffeur
- Full board accommodation in deluxe hotels for entire trip
- 3 Kosher meals daily
- All admissions as per itinerary
- Visa fees as required
- Health and Travel Insurance
- International airport fees
- Budget for extra snacks, gifts, or other expenses of a personal nature
- Any other services not specified
|Bucharest||Venezia and Athenee Palace Hilton|
|Piatra Neamt||Central Hotel|
|Gura Humorului||Best Western|
ITINERARY AND HOTELS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE
RATES MAY BE ADJUSTED IF THERE’S A FLUCTUATION IN CURRENCY OF MORE THAN 4% FROM AUGUST 20th 2016
RATES MAY BE ADJUSTED IN THE EVENT OF AN INCREASE IN AIRLINE FUEL CHARGES