Take a journey from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to neighbouring Romania for the chance to explore historic castles before continuing south into Bulgaria for Roman ruins to finally finish in cosmopolitan Istanbul.
Upon arrival at Budapest airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.
Budapest - Eger. Departing Budapest we head to the beautiful historical town of Eger. Famed for its beautiful baroque architecture, delectable red wine and impressive castle and cathedral, there is plenty to keep you busy in this fascinating city. Learn about the history of Eger and the bloody battles that eventually led to its occupation by the Turkish, marvel at the stunning baroque and neo-classicist buildings and venture into its wine cellars and sample their offerings. In the evenings there are plenty of restaurants to choose and bars to top off your night.
Overnight: Eger | Breakfast
Eger - Baia Mare. Leaving Hungary we travel into North-western Romania. The day is spent exploring the fascinating Maramures region of the region, home to many villages where century-old traditions are still part of daily life. We will visit the village of Barsana, where there is a thriving local tradition of woodcarving, with picturesque wooden houses fronted by giant, ornately-carved gates. There is also a monastery that offers great views over the Izei valley, where people still farm using traditional techniques. We also tour some of the beautiful wooden churches of the region that are well-known for their characteristic high roofs and tall, pointed steeples. One of these has been recognised by UNESCO due its unique folk paintings that show rural representations of heaven and hell, including tortures for such egregious sins as short-changing customers or falling asleep in church. We also make a quick stop at the very peculiar ‘Merry Cemetery’ of Săpânța, so called because the gravestones are painted in bright colours, hand-carved out of oak and adorned with an image of the deceased and a humorous epitaph in the local vernacular.
We then head to Baia Mare, one of the most important mining centres of Romania with over 2000 years of gold and silver mining. The town is well preserved and the oldest house here dates back to 1440.
Overnight: Baia Mare | Breakfast
Baia Mare - Sighisora. As we make our way to Sighișoara, we stop en-route for a few hours to explore the city of Cluj Napoca, Romania's second largest city after Bucharest. The city is one of the most important academic and cultural centres in Romania, and is home to the country's largest university and its famous botanical gardens. In 2015, Cluj-Napoca is the European Youth Capital, and will showcase its youth-related city life and development to the rest of the world.
In the afternoon we head to Sighișoara. Located in the historic region of Transylvania, Sighișoara was once a Saxon settlement established in the 12th century. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the citadel has a very well preserved old town with a clock tower rising 64 meters above the city. Also worth visiting is the Orthodox Cathedral, Cornesti Church and Vila Franka, an amazing restaurant with panoramic views over the valley.
Overnight: Sighisora | Breakfast x 2
Sighisora - Brasov. Venturing further into Romania we head for Brasov. Surrounded on three sides by the Carpathian Mountains, Brasov was a perfect place for a medieval settlement and much of the Old City, founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, has been restored. You can visit Râșnov Castle, the Brașov Citadel or wander up Rope Street, the narrowest street in Europe. Braşov also provides a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside of the Transylvania region, where the air is fresh and the people friendly. We visit the nearby Bran Castle which is marketed as ‘Dracula’s Castle’ and is (supposedly) said to have been the home of Vlad the Impaler. We also explore the beautiful Peleș Castle, the striking Rupea Fortress and the fortified churches of Prejmer and Viscri, the latter of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overnight: Brasov | Breakfast x 2
Brasov - Bucharest. We continue our journey to Bucharest where you will have free time to explore the area and discover the contrasts of Romania's cultural capital. The architecture here is an eclectic mix of historical, communist period and modern styles and it even has its own Arc de Triomphe. Bucharest also boasts the world’s second largest building, the Palace of Parliament, built under the communist regime.
If you’d like to learn more about the traditional way of life of Romanian peasant farmers you can visit the Village Museum, an open air museum with around 300 traditional buildings filled with furniture, pottery and clothing collected from different regions of the country.
Overnight: Bucharest | Breakfast
Bucharest - Veliko Tarnavo. We head across the border into the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo, famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Built on three hills, the city offers some great views of the surrounding churches and old imperial residences rising amidst the meanders of the Yantra River. On Tsarevets Hill are the palaces of the Bulgarian emperors and the Patriarchate, the Patriarchal Cathedral, and also a number of interesting cultural institutions such as the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of the Bulgarian Revival and the Constituent Assembly.
Overnight: Veliko Tarnavo | Breakfast
Veliko Tarnavo - Sofia. On day 10 we transfer to Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital city. An intoxicating mix of east-meets-west, this vibrant city boasts grand onion-domed churches and imposing Ottoman mosques standing alongside modern shopping malls and a thriving scene of museums, galleries and restaurants. Compact enough to explore on foot, Sofia is an attractive city with enough culture and history to keep you entertained.
Overnight: Sofia | Breakfast x 2
Sofia - Plovdiv . Today we travel onwards to spend the next two nights in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, dating back over 8000 years, this small historical town is very easy to explore on foot. Entrance to the Roman Amphitheatre is included on the tour. You may also want to visit St Marina church and the Ottoman era Dzhumaya Mosque which was completed in the 15th century. Alternatively you may wish to simply wander the beautiful streets, taking in the culture and architecture that has been influenced by the many different periods and peoples of Plovidiv's history.
Overnight: Plovdiv | Breakfast x 1
Plovdiv - Istanbul. Continuing across the border today we head for Turkey's biggest city Istanbul. Istanbul is an enchanting fusion of East and West. Narrow alleys are flanked by wooden Ottoman houses while a nearby funky restaurant and bar strip in the down-town area pumps out Turkish pop. There are many great places to explore including, but not limited to, the Blue Mosque, St Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. The Blue Mosque, also known as the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet, is nearly 400 years old and still an active mosque that non-Muslims can visit for free outside of the five daily prayers. St Sophia (Hagia Sophia) was built 1,500 years ago and was the largest enclosed space in the world. The Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) is the oldest and largest closed bazaar in the world, housing around 3000 shops within 61 alleyways. It used to be the city's main trading centre of ceramics, jewellery and leather goods.
In your free time you could take a relaxing Turkish bath and then possibly board a local ferry on the Bosphorus to observe the beautifully lit sprawl of Istanbul by night and then finish your evening with the timeless wind-down of smoking a nargileh (Ottoman water pipe).
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling. 'Twin/Double' prices per person apply when there are 2 people travelling, sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' applies to travellers who would like the comfort of their own room (on all or many of the tour nights) and needs to be added to the 'Twin/Double' price. If you are happy to be paired up with another single traveller of the same sex on your tour, this can be arranged, thus avoiding the single person supplement.
Local payment - €190 - €200 payable in Euro
Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.