4 DAYS FROM $999
4 DAYS FROM $1,049
With a history reaching back over seven millennia, Sofia is one of Europe’s youngest capitals but oldest cities. Modern Sofia is full of cobblestone boulevards, domed churches, and vast parks, but behind this eclectic city is a history as rich as any capital. The city’s full heritage was only recently brought to light — when bulldozers broke ground to dig a path for the city’s new metro only a decade ago, they unearthed an ancient world with intact Roman streets, houses, churches, and baths dating back 2,000 years. On visits to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Boyana Church and Rila Monastery), you'll find that Sofia is the perfect balance of history and culture, and is also home to some of Bulgaria’s finest museums and restaurants, too.
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Start your discoveries four days earlier with an overnight fight to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Settle into Sofia
You'll arrive in Sofia today and settle into your deluxe hotel. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
Sofia’s sights, including the UNESCO-listed Boyana Church
Embark on a sightseeing and walking tour of Sofia, passing highlights such as the iconic golden-domed Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. Along the way, we’ll pay a visit to the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 13th century, the church’s interior is composed of 90 perfectly preserved murals, all stunning examples of Bulgarian medieval artwork. Enjoy lunch on your own and the rest of the day at leisure. Tonight, savor an included dinner during a fire dance and folklore show!
Visit the Rila Monastery and a free afternoon to explore as you wish
This morning we explore UNESCO World Heritage Site Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century, this building played an important role in both the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. Destroyed by a fire in the 19th century, the structure was rebuilt in colorful Renaissance style as a proud monument of cultural identity. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own.
Fly to Athens and join the base trip
Following breakfast, transfer to the Sofia airport for your flight to Athens, Greece. Upon arrival, you’ll join up with the base trip on Day 2.
At the end of the Communist era, Albania’s compact capital of Tirana blossomed into a cheerful city of parks, fountains, and cafés. The first thing that might strike you is the city's famous painted buildings, which are colorfully, vibrantly bedecked in all hues and even geometric designs — an artistic mandate from Tirana's former mayor. During this extension, you’ll explore Tirana's architecture on panoramic and walking tours. You'll also head into the countryside on the way to Shkodra, one of Europe’s oldest cities, and visit the town of Lezhe for a slow food experience that will introduce your palate to farm-fresh Albanian cuisine. This extension is a superb opportunity to become acquainted with yet another destination in the endlessly fascinating Balkan region.
Arrive in Tirana, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, and learn about Albanian history
Today you’ll fly from the Athens airport to Tirana. Upon arrival in the Albanian capital, enjoy a coffee break and short orientation walk, with lunch at a local restaurant. After, you’ll arrive at your hotel and enjoy a lecture by a local on “Albania: Past & Present.” Dinner is on your own tonight.
Full-day excursion to Shkodra and slow food lunch experience
After breakfast, embark on a full-day tour to Shkodra, one of Europe’s oldest cities known as the “City of Bicycles and Rain.” Uncover the stellar views from Rozafa Castle; learn about Albanian icon painting at the Onufri Museum; and visit local artisans at a Venetian mask factory. After, transfer to a renowned slow food farm for lunch featuring farm-fresh local delicacies and incredible views of the estate and the Albanian countryside. You’ll arrive back at the hotel later this afternoon. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Explore Tirana by foot and panoramic tour, plus Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight home.