Danube Delta and the Black Sea: Bulgaria & Romania
11 Day Inn Tour
We like to create tours that no one else is doing, so we are thrilled to bring you this one in the off-the-radar cycling destinations of Bulgaria and Romania. One of the mightiest rivers of Europe – the Danube – flows into the Black Sea, creating a massive delta here. The Danube Delta is a UNESCO protected biosphere reserve and home to nearly 200 different species of birds. It’s a beautiful wetlands paradise. We’ll cycle along the Black Sea, reaching the Danube so we can cycle to mile 0 of the river. You’ll return home wondering how so much wildlife could exist while civilization has been developing around it for so long.
Rolling hills and flat terrain. Moderate cycling level.
10 nights lodging, 10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 8 dinners, snacks, van support, trained bilingual guides, rental bicycle, guided city walking tours, delta boat trip, private boat shuttle, and transfer to and from Bucharest.
Hybrid bike is included, as the roads are paved, but rough.
Fly in and out of Bucharest, Romania.
This is a ride through history! Ottoman era, communist domination, Russian Orthodox influence, birthplace of the Cyrillic Alphabet - as a "tag along" on the scouting trip, I really got to enjoy and experience the old and new wonders! Ethnic foods to die for, beautiful routes through small villages, and fantastic, friendly people. This is a trip to take now before tourism takes over and the true culture disappears.
Day 1: We’ll meet in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. Even though the city is centuries old, it feels youthful. As the economic and cultural center of the country, it’s experienced an influx of young people who have come in search of jobs. It’s busy and vibrant and feels cosmopolitan. Romania and Bulgaria both became members of the European Union in 2007 but neither is yet on the Euro. We’ll meet at a downtown hotel at 6:30pm for an orientation and dinner.
Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll take a leisurely guided bike ride through the city and learn about the birth of Romanian civilization. We’ll cycle through several different neighborhoods, such as the Gypsy neighborhood where Romani people live, and the communist area, where we’ll learn how people lived under Ceausescu’s regime.
We’ll have lunch together after the bike ride and then the afternoon is yours to explore the city on your own. If you want to know more about Romanian art, visit the Art Collections Museum. For a bit of humor, go to the Romanian Kitsch Museum. Or you can meander through Old Town admiring the narrow cobbled alleys lined with beautifully restored historic buildings.
Day 3: We’ll get up early today to shuttle across the border to Bulgaria, arriving in the small town of Kyulevcha for lunch. After an orientation with our Bulgarian guides, we’ll walk to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Madara Rider.
Featured on the Bulgarian coins of today, the carving on the rock wall is from 700 AD and depicts a horseman. Beneath it are the ruins of a pagan shrine dating from the 9th Century. We’ll begin to understand how old civilization is in this part of the world.
Then we’ll be fitted to our rental bikes for the tour and have a short warm-up ride to the small town of Pliska, once the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. You should have time to relax in our hotel’s outdoor pool before dinner tonight. 8 miles.
Day 4: After breakfast, we’ll start cycling by heading toward the town of Provadia. We’ll have lunch there and visit the ruins of the ancient Ovech Fortress. Built by the Byzantines in the 4th century, it’s perched high on a rocky hill and offers amazing views of the town below. Then we’ll shuttle the rest of the way to our hotel in the seaside city of Varna, overlooking the Black Sea. 28 miles.
Day 5: We’ll spend the morning on a cycling tour of Varna. We’ll see the city’s oldest church, built halfway underground centuries ago because no building could be taller than the mosque. We’ll cycle through the Sea Garden, the park along the water’s edge full of bike paths, sculptures and beachside restaurants.
Then we’ll head to the Balchik Palace, built in the 1920s on the sea as a home for Queen Marie of Romania. You can roam the complex, with a monastery, chapel, wine cellar and an impressive botanical garden after lunch. 10 miles.
Day 6: We have a beautiful ride planned for the day. We’ll cycle through farmland on a plateau high above the sea out to Cape Kaliakra. There, we’ll explore the ruins of the fort that sits on the edge of the point. If you look east, you’ll see the white cliffs toward Varna, and in the west are the red cliffs of Romania. As the Black Sea has half the salinity of the ocean, good for mussel farming, so you may see the nets. If you watch closely, you could also see dolphins.
Then we’ll cycle on through Balgarevo, the melon capital of the country and then to a snail farm. Even if you don’t like to eat them, the place is fascinating! We’ll end our cycling in the town of Tyulenovo, but not before a visit to the Yailata Archaeological Reserve on the edge of the sea. The plateau was first settled in the 5th century BC, and today there are ruins of cave dwellings, stone tombs, and wineries. We’ll fall asleep to the sound of the waves tonight at our hotel right on the coast. 40 miles.
Day 7: We leave Tyulenovo on our bicycles, passing a lighthouse at the easternmost point of Bulgaria. We’ll continue through rural farmland to the village of Vaklino where we’ll have a home-cooked lunch at a country house. We’ll talk to the proprietress and learn what it’s like for young people today to live and work in rural Bulgaria.
Then it’s back on our bikes as we cycle to Romania. We’ll pedal across the border and follow a bike path to the artsy town of Vama Veche on the beach. We’ll say good-bye to the Black Sea as we enter marshlands and overnight in a floating hotel in a lagoon this evening. 31 miles.
Day 8: We start our day with a beautiful ride out and back to Cape Dolosman. You should see many birds, Greek ruins dating from the 7th century BC, and your first glimpse of the Danube Delta.
Then we’ll leave town on a poplar-lined lane, past thatched roof houses, stork nests and occasional horse-drawn carriages. We’ll pass through small villages and learn to identify ethnic Romanian homes by their distinctive arched entryways. Typical Ukrainian homes have intricate wooden carving sbelow their second floors. We’ll stop for a look at a medieval fortress with a magnificent view, and at a golden-domed church in Sarichioi. Then we’ll overnight at a simple but luxurious small resort on Lake Razim. 27 miles.
Day 9: Today we cycle to the Danube Delta. Along the way, we’ll be struck by the contrast between the modern windmills and the shepherds in the fields with their goats. We’ll arrive at our hotel in time for lunch.
The Danube has been tamed for traffic with the creation of three main channels to the sea. Our hotel sits across the road from the southernmost branch – the St. George Branch. After lunch we’ll explore the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve by boat. It’s known for having the third largest biodiversity in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos.
You’ll see thousands of birds, including pelicans, egrets, cormorants, and ibis as we slowly motor through the labyrinth of narrow water alleyways. The trees create tunnels over us while lily pads carpet the water beneath us. It’s amazing to consider that the river passes through nine different countries before arriving here. 28 miles.
Day 10: We’ll spend our last day biking alongside the Danube. Lined with fishermen, the dirt road will take us to mile 0 of the river, marked with a cement post. From there, we’ll take a private ferry to Tulcea where we’ll have lunch and check into our hotel across from the dock. In the afternoon, we can visit the aquarium together and shop for any last minute souvenirs. We’ll celebrate our wonderful tour at our last dinner together tonight. 11 miles.
Day 11: Our tour ends today after breakfast and a shuttle back to Bucharest, arriving by 1:00pm. We’ll say our good-byes at the airport. 0 miles.