Bulgaria side trip from Greece

Old Jun 5th, 2021, 10:34 AM
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Bulgaria side trip from Greece

After a week in Crete in July, we arrive in Thessaloniki and are looking to do a side trip up to Bulgaria before going to Meteora. We are less interested in the Black Sea Coast because we will already have plenty of beach time in Crete, so want to focus about 4 days on culture/food/sights of Bulgaria. Thinking it might be easier to base ourselves i Sofia and explore surrounding areas? Is it better to rest a car in Thessaloniki and drive ourselves or get a private transfer that will allow us stops along the routes? Thinking of the following itinerary:

Monday: Leave Thessaloniki in AM and drive up to Rila Monastery and then on to Sofia, arriving by 2pm and explore Sofia
Tuesday: Full day to explore Sofia - free day - is there enough to do?
Wednesday: Day trip to Plovdiv, return to Sofia by evening
Thursday: Drive down to Melnik, visit a winery and Rozhen Monastery, and on to Thessaloniki, arriving by evening

Any thoughts on itinerary or places to visit? I hear mixed things about Sofia. We can potentially skip Sofia and just base in Plovdiv but its farther from Thessaloniki?
thanks!
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 12:07 PM
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There's enough to do in Sofia for a day, see: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...tour-in-sofia/
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 01:53 PM
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There's enough to do in Sofia for one day, and too much to do for a day trip to Plovdiv.

https://flic.kr/s/aHskxVhY8m

I wrote a trip report that might interest you; click on my name to find it under trip reports.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 05:55 AM
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thanks. Do you recommend us driving ourselves so we have more flexibility or going with private driver/bus combos to get around?
Do you guys think we should base ourselves in Plovdiv instead of Sofia? and/or even skip Sofia and just stick to Plovdiv?
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by AbsoluteSergey View Post
thanks. Do you recommend us driving ourselves so we have more flexibility or going with private driver/bus combos to get around?
Do you guys think we should base ourselves in Plovdiv instead of Sofia? and/or even skip Sofia and just stick to Plovdiv?
I am not sue that the flexibility of independent road travel is an issue here. We hired a guide for two days from Sofia to visit Rila Monastery


and Koprivshtitsa, which gave us a taste of Bulgarian small towns/village but preserved like a plus beau village.


If Rila Monastery can be reached as easily from Plovdiv as from Sofia, I would choose Plovdiv as the base. It is more compact and therefore more accessible in a hort time.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 04:13 AM
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I suppose you will travel with the European Covid vaccination certificate, otherwise border crossing might get a bit cumbersome, although not impossible.
The border post of Kulata is actually open (together with two others close to Komotini and close to Adrianoupolis).
If you have a car, you could do a round trip Thessaloniki - Kulata - Melnik/Roshen - Rhodope mountains - Plovdiv - Sofia - Rilski Manastir - Kulata - Thessaloniki.
You may also book a cheap Ryanair flight from Chania (Crete) to Sofia (twice weekly, fares (start at 40 EUR), visit Plovdiv as well as Rilski Manastir in day trips from Sofia and Melnik in a day trip from Kulata (on the way by train/bus to Thessaloniki).
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 04:52 AM
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neckervd Thanks. We have our US vaccination certificates which are now accepted in Bulgaria and Greece. We had initially planned to stay only in Greece only as that was the only country open to Americans, so we already had flights from Chania to Thessaloniki..but now that Bulgaria is open, we want to take a few days to visit the country and yes planning to travel via Kulata. The reason that we think driving is better is because we can make stops along the way between Thessaloniki and Sofia..the only issue is that the car rental will charge me an extra 200e for taking the Greek car to Bulgaria but I thikn its worth having the extra flexibility given the short amount of time. Also an acquaintance from Bulgaria highly advised that we spend 1 night in Plovdiv, so we altered the itinerary a bit to. What do you think?

Sunday
Leave Thessaloniki at 10am, arrive in Rila Monastery at 1pm
Lunch+Explore monastery
Leave around 3pm, arriving in Sofia at 5pm, visit Nevsky Cathedral and other sights+dinner
Sense Hotel in Sofia looks good

Monday
Breakfast in Sofia then drive to Plovdiv 2hrs, arriving around 11am
All day to explore Plovdiv+lunch/dinner
Hotel Evmolphia looks very cute

Tuesday
Explore more of Plovdiv until 4pm
Drive 2hrs back to Sofia, arriving around 6pm, dinner with friend
Sense Hotel overnight

Wednesday July 14
Leave Sofia at 10am, arrive in Melnik at noon
Explore Melnik, visit Rozhen Monastery, Villa Melnik winery+lunch
Leave Melnik around 3-4pm, Arriving in Thessaloniki around 6pm

We are obviously spending less time in Sofia this way and more in Plovdiv. Day 3 can be flexible and we can leave Plovdiv back to Sofia earlier but seems Plovdiv is the place to spend more time?

Sergey

Last edited by AbsoluteSergey; Jun 7th, 2021 at 04:55 AM.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 08:05 AM
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Thanks.
We too have our Swiss vaccination certificates which are now accepted in Bulgaria and Greece. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that I can enter Greece without the following additional documents: https://travel.gov.gr/#/
May be things will change until July. Kulata is open for entries into Greece, but I couldn't find a corresponding Bulgarian statement for entries into Bulgaria.

Your plan sounds good. But I would count more time for border controls at Kulata and for the visit of Rila. A traditional lunch could last more than 1 hr and 2 hrs for the monastery may not be too much.
I don't think that you will need more than Tuesday morning for the second part of Plovdiv (although one can always visit somthing more, but Sofia needs some time too).
You will probably spend more time at Melnik than planned, but that doesn't matter as dinner time in Greece lasts from 9pm until midnight.
May be you will make a side trip from the motorway exit Veria to Vergina and back in order to visit the famous museum and excavations of Vergina https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum...Aigai_(Vergina) on your way from Thessaloniki to Meteora.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 10:30 AM
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thank you. yes, Greece requires you to fill out a form 2 days ahead..but i dont see such notice for Bulgaria. thanks for the suggestions!
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