The Budapest to Sofia tour crosses three of the most beautiful Eastern European countries, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and takes you from Budapest, the romantic capital of Hungary, to the surprising city of Sofia, Bulgaria. During this 13 day trip you will discover unique cities, be pampered in the famous thermal baths from Budapest, taste the delicious local cuisine, admire the mighty Danube river (known as the King of the European rivers) and the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains, experience the rural life in charming and picturesque villages from Transylvania, get in touch with the local people, visit impressive UNESCO Monuments, listen to long forgotten legends kept inside medieval castles and cities, and hear about how life used to be behind the Iron Curtain.
Type: private, cultural
Distance: 1900km / 1181mi
Country: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria
Accommodation: 4/3-star hotels and superior guest houses
Group of 2-3 persons – € 2859 / person sharing a double room
Group of 4-8 persons – € 2199/ person sharing a double room
Single Supplement: € 299
Arrival in Budapest, capital city of Hungary where the Eastern European Tour starts. Pick-up from the airport and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free. In the evening, meet the tour leader and the rest of the group.
Overnight in Budapest.
Today you will discover the city of Budapest, capital of Hungary, considered the most beautiful city in Eastern Europe. Built along Danube River, Budapest occupies both banks: the West Hill, Buda, and the East plain, Pest. According to a local joke, people of Budapest can be easily divided into those who live in Buda and those who want to live in Buda. This being said, you will start the visit of the city with Buda, crossing over the Danube river on the famous Chain Bridge, one of the most known landmarks of Budapest, built in 1849. Guarded by two lions at each end, the bridge became a symbol of freedom in 1989 when people demonstrated against the communist regime.
Built for the first time in the 13th century and defended by thick walls, Buda Castle was many times modified. It became a real castle in the 14th-15th centuries, during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg. After the Turkish invasions from the 15th century, the castle was rebuilt in the 18th century by King Charles and his daughter, Empress Maria Theresa. Affected by the Second World War, it was renovated and brought to its former glory.
Further on, you’ll admire the beautiful buildings of the Castle District and you’ll reach Matthias Church, the first parish church of Budapest. The church was built for the first time in the 13th century but it was many times modified.
Right next to the Matthias Church one can see the Fisherman’s Bastion, built in 1905. The edifice, a combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles, attracts the visitor’s attention with its seven towers, which symbolize the seven tribes that came to Hungary in 896. Get back to Central Pest and see from the car the Deák Square, Elizabeth Square, Basilica, Opera, Andrassy Boulevard, Liszt Ferenc Square, the Heroes’ Square and the City Park.
At noon, enjoy lunch in a typical Hungarian restaurant and head to the Palace of the Parliament, the largest building in Hungary and still the highest building in Budapest. Inspired by the design of London’s House of Parliament, the Hungarian building is constructed in the Gothic Revival style, having a central dome and a symmetrical façade which displays statues of Hungarian rulers, Transylvanian leaders and famous military figures. The Palace was inaugurated in 1896 but the construction was completed later on, in 1904. Saddly, Imre Steindl, the architect of the building, went blind before its completion.
The visit inside the Palace of the Parliament lasts about 45 minutes during which you will admire great ornamental stairs, frescoes on the ceiling, stained glass, busts, official conference halls like the Assembly Hall of the House of Representatives, and the original Holy Crown of Hungary, which has been displayed in the central hall since 2000.
In the afternoon, you will be transferred back to your hotel.
The rest of the day is free. As a tip, we suggest that you enjoy a romantic walk in the evening along Danube river and admire the city so beautifully enlightened. You won’t regret it!
Overnight in Budapest.
The city of Budapest is also well known for the abundance of hot springs. It is really a blessing and that is why you cannot say you have visited Budapest if you haven’t seen and most importantly experienced the hot baths and spa establishments, a habit here since the time of the Romans. So, if you’ll do it, you should do it right!*
In the evening, enjoy a great cruise dinner over Danube river, a special experience you should not miss while in Budapest.
*Please note that this activity is optional and it can be provided on request.
Overnight in Budapest.
BUDAPEST – EGER – SAPANTA (ROMANIA) – SIGHET
Today is going to be a long day, as you will leave Hungary and head to the 2nd country, Romania. On the way, stop for a short walk in Eger, a town full of history, beautiful buildings and good restaurants.
In the afternoon, cross the border and enter Romania. After the plain scenery from Hungary, now we are changing completely the register as the Carpathian Mountains are welcoming you to the first historical region of Romania, Maramures. Located in North side of the country, Maramures is a land of old traditions and the reason for the saying “Romania starts where the asphalt ends.” You will be driven along picturesque mountain villages and stop at Sapanta to visit an out of the ordinary cemetery, the Merry Cemetery. Stan Ioan Patras, a local carver had the idea of carving wooden crosses which were painted in bright colors. Each cross depicts an image of the buried one and more or less funny epitaphs.
In the evening head to Vadu Izei, a charming mountain village where you will enjoy a great traditional home-made dinner prepared by a local family.
Overnight in the village – homestay, room with private bathroom.
VADU IZEI – SURDESTI – CLUJ NAPOCA
In the morning, enjoy a traditional breakfast, then prepare to visit the household and learn how the people here are living. After this, you will be taken to a local market where you can see the farmers selling their products.
Leave the village and head to Surdesti to visit the wooden church, a UNESCO Heritage Monument. The construction boasts the purity of the locals’ faith, the outstanding talent of the locals in building wooden constructions and a great level of modesty through its traditional simplicity.
Continue the journey and prepare to enter the legendary land of Transylvania, the one about which Prince Charles of Wales used to say: “Transylvania is the last corner of Europe where you see true sustainability and complete resilience. There’s so much we can learn from it before it’s too late. ”
The first stop in Transylvania will be in Bontida village where you will see and find out the story of the Banffy castle and the family who owned it: the Banffy family, one of the oldest Hungarian noble families of Transylvania. The history of the castle, initially built as a small fort, starts in the 14th century. Later, it was transformed into a castle. Ransacked by the German army during the Second World War, it was then completely neglected by the Communists. The last owner before the Communist regime was Miklos Banffy, the author of the famous “Transylvanian Trilogy.”
The last stop of the day will be in Cluj Napoca, one of the oldest cities in Romania, dating from the Romans’ time. After checking in at the hotel, you will start a short walking tour of the small historic centre of Cluj and admire the Matthias statue, the Catholic Cathedral, the main squares and the beautiful architecture of the buildings located along the streets.
Overnight in Cluj Napoca.
CLUJ NAPOCA – TURDA – ALBA IULIA – SIBIU
In the morning, leave Cluj Napoca and start to explore the legendary land of Transylvania. The first stop is at Turda Salt Mine, considered to be the most beautiful and modern salt mine in Romania, very well appreciated abroad, as well. The first excavations here date back to the 13th century (one of the oldest salt mines in the world) and after 1932 this huge underground space was used as a bomb shelter during WWII and even as a cheese storage centre. Nowadays, one heads down more than 90 metres to discover the history of the salt mine and salt excavations in Romania, but probably the most important is the theme park which, once you reach it, gives you the feeling of being in wonderland. You will find here an underground lake with rowing boats for the visitors, an amphitheater, a bowling alley, ping pong courts and even a Ferris wheel. In 2012, Turda Salt Mine was very close to becoming the Batcave for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Maybe the next time!
Prepare to leave this science fiction land and get back on the ground to continue your adventure in Transylvania.
You will head to Alba Iulia, an iconic place that people call “Romania’s spiritual capital city” or “the Capital of the Union”. This ancient city boasts the largest medieval citadel in Romania, Alba Carolina citadel, designed in Vauban style. Before walking in the citadel, visit the beautiful Coronation Cathedral, an Orthodox worship place built to host the Coronation ceremony of the second Royal Couple of Romania, Queen Marie and King Ferdinand, in 1922, after the end of WWI. Head then to Saint Michael’s Catholic Cathedral located right next to the Orthodox one. The Catholic Cathedral is contemporary with Notre Dame of Paris, being built between 1247 and 1291.
In the afternoon, travel to Sibiu, the last stop of the day. You will be impressed for sure with this beautiful medieval city, founded by the Saxon colonists is the 1190 and declared in 2007 the European Capital of Culture. Hermannstadt, under its German name, is considered to be the most beautiful city in Romania no matter the season. You will explore the city on foot and admire the Small Square with the famous Liars Bridge, and the Large Square surrounded by beautiful buildings which will make you feel like you turned back time. You will also see Huet Square with the most impressive building of Sibiu, the Evangelical Church, featuring the tallest tower in Transylvania and the largest organ in South-Eastern Europe.
Overnight in Sibiu.
SIBIU – SIGHISOARA – TRANSYLVANIAN VILLAGE
Today, you will get even deeper into the typical Transylvanian scenery.
Head to Sighisoara and visit the charming medieval citadel (UNESCO Heritage),one of the oldest medieval citadels in Europe which are still inhabited. Also founded by the Saxon colonists from Transylvania, the citadel of Sighisoara is a place you should not miss while in Transylvania. Once you get inside, you will feel you have entered a medieval movie set and expect at any moment to see a princess walking next to a knight along the narrow cobblestone streets. Take a walk in the citadel and discover its story. Visit the Clock Tower and enjoy from the top the beautiful panoramic view of the whole citadel, admire the walls of fortification and the towers of defense, climb the Scholar’s stairs and reach the beautiful Evangelical Church on the Hill, and, of course, discover the house where it is believed that Vlad the Impaler, known as Vlad Dracula, was born.
Head then to a Transylvanian village, a picturesque, small settlement frozen in time. You will enjoy a short tour of the village during which you will admire the beautiful architecture of the Saxon Houses, and you will observe the daily life of the villagers, the horse-drawn carts passing by. In the evening, enjoy a tasteful home made dinner and overnight stay in a typical, comfortable Saxon house which re-enacts the old life of the locals.
Overnight in Transylvanian village – room with private bathroom.
TRANSYLVANIAN VILLAGE – VISCRI – BRAN – BRASOV
After a delicious traditional breakfast, leave the village and head to another picturesque settlement, Viscri. Cross the rolling hills of Transylvania and reach one of the Saxon villages where Prince Charles of Wales spends his holiday every spring while in Romania. Viscri is another village frozen in time, famous for the well-preserved 12th century fortified church. The worship place is a UNESCO Heritage site and it impresses the visitors through the beautiful medieval architecture, the local museum which presents the daily life of the Saxons, and, of course, the view over the whole village from the top of the church’s tower.
Leave this magic land and head to another place surrounded by mystery, Bran village. Here you will find out the story of the legendary Count Dracula and visit Bran castle which became so famous thanks to the Legend of Dracula.
Go to Brasov, another typical Saxon city, also known as Kronstadt, the “City of the Crown”.
Overnight in Brasov.
BRASOV – SINAIA – BUCHAREST
After breakfast you will enjoy a short walking tour of this medieval city, founded in the 13th century. You will see the Council Square guarded by the symbol of the city, the Council Tower, visit then the Evangelical Black Church, the largest Gothic worship place in Eastern Europe, discover one of the narrowest streets in Europe, the Rope street, and finally admire the beautiful mountains which surround the city.
After Brasov, prepare to leave the land of Transylvania and head to Wallachia, another historical province of Romania located in the South part of the country.
The drive will be pleasant as you will admire the mountain scenery and find out more about the Carpathian Mountain chain and its importance to Romania.
Stop in Sinaia, a beautiful mountain resort, known also as the “Pearl of the Carpathians”. Visit here Peles Royal Castle, considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. Peles represents the former summer residence of the first royal couple of Romania, Queen Elisabeth and King Carol I.
As you visit the castle, you will admire the unique interior design (an interesting mixture of cultures, the specific touch of the royal couple) and you will be surprised by the modern facilities of the castle for the last half of the 19th century (electricity, vacuum cleaner, electrical elevator and central heating). Peles Castle is also the place where you will find out the story of the Royal couples of Romania and their importance in the history of our country. After the visit spend some time in the small garden of the castle admiring the mountains surrounding the estate.
Before leaving the mountain resort, visit Sinaia Monastery, a beautiful Orthodox Monastery which represents the first establishment to be built in this area in the 17th century.
In the evening, head to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania.
Overnight in Bucharest.
FULL DAY TOUR OF BUCHAREST
The day starts with a tour of Bucharest. Capital of modern Romania since 1859, Bucharest is by far the largest city, boasting a rich history, amazing buildings, a vivid life, large green parks in the central area, and a large number or restaurants, but also many contrasts. Bucharest is a city of everything.
The tour will include the famous Revolution Square where thousands of people put an end to a 45-year-long vicious regime. Get to understand the communist horrors and sufferings an entire nation had to endure. Around the Revolution Square there are many impressive buildings such as The National Art Museum, The Kretzulescu Church, The Central Library University and several others. You’ll be given an explanation about each and every one. You won’t leave this area before visiting The Romanian Athenaeum, the symbol of Bucharest.
In the old town you’ll get to roam on its quaint little streets packed with restaurants, bars, buildings with outstanding architecture and old inns.
The tour of Bucharest continues with the famous Parliament, also known as the House of People. Built at the request of Ceausescu, the former communist leader, the building became the largest administrative construction of Europe.
After lunch you’ll be taken in the northern part of Bucharest. On the way you’ll enjoy a driving tour. You’ll admire the large and green boulevards, the impressive private houses and several monuments such as the Aviators’ Statue and the local Arch of Triumph.
The Village Museum is the last stop of the day. Inaugurated in 1936, this outdoor museum boasts old traditional houses representative for the whole country. In a short period of time you’ll be able to admire different architectural styles and many other stories.
The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.
Overnight in Bucharest.
BUCHAREST – VELIKO TARNOVO (BULGARIA) – PLOVDIV
In the morning the Eastern Europe tour continues with the last country of the trip, Bulgaria. Cross the border,see the Danube river for the last time, and head to the most beautiful city of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo, known also as the City of the Tsars. Located on the banks of the Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
It is given as one of the most strongest fortifications in the area. Even today the most impressive tourist attraction of the old town is the fortress. You’ll roam on the alleys of the former Tsarevets palace and you’ll visit the former patriarchal church, rebuilt in modern times. You’ll be taken on the old streets and alleys of the town where you’ll admire the local architecture and the beautiful panorama.
After visiting the ruins, head to Arbanassi, located right next to Veliko Tarnovo, a little and quaint village with a strong medieval atmosphere. You’ll enjoy a stroll and you’ll admire the beautiful houses.
In the evening, go to Plovdiv.
Overnight in Plovdiv.
PLOVDIV – SOFIA
Today you will visit Plovdiv, the second largest city after Sofia. Here you’ll find out more about the old town of Plovdiv with its 3,000-year-long history. The best place to do this is the ancient Roman Amphitheater, which boasts a collection of impressive marble statues, decorative columns, and arcades.
After lunch head to Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, where you’ll get to enjoy a sightseeing tour. You are going to visit Saint Alexander Nevski Cathedral – one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in Europe, as well as one of Sofia’s symbols and a primary tourist attraction – Saint George Roman Rotunda dating from the 4th century, Saint Sophia Basilica built by the Roman emperor Justinian in the 6th century, the Ruins of Serdica, the National Theatre Ivan Vazov, the former Royal Palace, the Synagogue, etc.
Overnight in Sofia.
In the morning free time in Sofia and transfer to the airport.
End of the tour.
- Private airport transfers in Budapest and Sofia
- Transport by modern car.minibus, fuel included
- Accommodation for 12 nights in 4-star hotels and superior B&Bs
- Licensed English-speaking tour guide/driver
- Entrance fees to sites included in the program
- Danube River Dinner Cruise
- Home made dinner on Day 4 and Day 7
- Flight ticket
- Spa visit in Budapest (Optional – about 20 Euros per person)
- Hotel extras (telephone, mini bar, etc)
- Drinks (other than water)
- Other meals except breakfast
- Photographing or filming fees at the visited sites
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses