Guided Tour of Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
- The Architectural and Museum Reserve Tsarevets: This restored fortress once protected Bulgarian kings. Enjoy the sound and light show that uses hundreds of colored lights, music, and church bells to depict key moments in Bulgarian history.
- Samovodskata charshia: Stroll and shop Veliko Tarnovo's lovely, narrow, pedestrian street that is home to a charming collection of authentic old buildings where Revival-era artisans make beautiful handicrafts and artwork.
- Arbanassi: Get your fill on a one-hour walking tour through this village that is famous for its 17th- and 18th-century architecture and the Church of the Nativity of Christ. Paintings and frescoes that date back to the 17th century cover nearly every inch of the church's vaulted interior.
About this Veliko Tarnovo tour
Veliko Tarnovo has a hilly, rustic beauty thanks to its natural scenery. The beautiful homes on the hill look like something out of a Mediterranean village, and the many trees give the area a different look, depending upon the season. After Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelus was overthrown by the Asen Brothers in the late 12th century, the Bulgarians needed a fortress to protect it from invaders. Their uprising led to the Second Bulgarian Empire, and the Tsarevets Fortress, built on the hill.
This location was made to be a stunningly magnificent form of protection for the new empire. The fortress looked like a castle and protected the royal palace. At its peak, it was nearly 3/4 of a mile long, 33 feet high and 11 feet thick in places. Tsarevets Hill, literally the home of kings, was said to make the town as important as Rome and Constantinople. But it didn't last for long. The Ottomans burned down Tsarevets Fortress in 1393.
However, that wasn't the end of the story for the town of Veliko Tarnovo. In 1879, Bulgaria adopted a constitution drafted in this city. The Tarnovo Constitution, as it was known, was pretty progressive for its time. Ironically, for a location known for its monarchy, the constitution gave equality to all and got rid of aristocratic titles.
And starting in 1930 and ending in 1981, the 1,300th anniversary of Bulgaria, Tsarevets Fortress was rebuilt. Credit the Communists for something good here. They did the heavy lifting to make this happen, although some archaeologists grumbled that it wasn't quite exactly like it used to be. No matter. The rebuilt Tsarevets Royal Hill, which is a highlight of this GoBe tour of Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi, is breathtaking.
A hidden gem
Built between the 15th and 17th centuries, the Church of the Nativity is Arbanassi's oldest, most breathtaking church. The exterior is deceptively simple, leading some to speculate that it was designed to hide its existence. It was built half-underground, according to Ottoman rules that no building could be taller than a man standing on a horse. Step inside, though, and it's like entering an art gallery. Hundreds of paintings and frescoes depict everything from the lives of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary, to Old Testament scenes, to a Wheel of Life that incorporates the Zodiac.
Best buys in Bulgaria - rose oil cosmetics, wine, woodcarving, icons, and embroidery. Bring a backpack to carry it all.
Expect to walk for the majority of the tour, over city sidewalks and up some steps. This tour is not suitable for travelers with limited mobility or those who utilize a wheelchair.
Transportation varies based on the size of the group.
English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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