Kukeri in Bulgaria photo tour. Plus Greece
Kukeri in Bulgaria photo tour. Plus Greece

Shoot the Kukeri festival in Bulgaria and Meteora in Greece

11 Days

Join us for this captivating Bulgaria Kukeri photo tour combined with a visit to the Meteora monasteries in Greece.
Winter time brings to life in Bulgaria the fascinating Kukeri tradition: men dressed in surreal costumes with the purpose to scare away the evil spirits. There are many local events and a major festival in Pernik named Surva which we will capture.
Crossing the border to Northern Greece we will focus our lenses on the fascinating Meteora monasteries built on huge rock boulders.
Along the way we hope to catch a wedding in the Rhodope Mountains and the late olive harvest in Greece.

2025 dates: January 23-February 2

2026 dates: January 22-February 1

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 – Thursday
This photo tour of Bulgaria and Greece starts and ends in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Upon arrival you will be transferred to the hotel in the city center. Dinner in a typical Bulgarian restaurant in Sofia. Meeting and introduction with the guides, itinerary details overview and other tour info.
 

  • Accommodation – Sofia

Day 2 – Friday

We are starting our tour with the largest and most important monastery in Bulgaria and UNESCO World Heritage Site – Rila Monastery. It was founded in the 10th century by a hermit named Ivan Rilski and has been under UNESCO’s protection since 1983. The beautiful architecture of the monastery corresponds perfectly with the surrounding high peaks of the Rila Mountains.

We will then continue towards one of the most picturesque and fascinating regions of Bulgaria: the Rhodope Mountains region. Here there is an interesting mix of Christian and Muslim population and some well-preserved traditional villages which we will explore in the coming days.

  • Accommodation – Leshten
  • Transfer time – 4 hours

Rhodope Bulgaria Photo Tour

Day 3 – Saturday

This day we will walk along the narrow cobblestone streets of two typical Bulgarian villages. Kovachevitsa village was founded in the 17th century, during the attempts of conversion to Mohammedanism of the Bulgarian population in the Rhodope Mountain. It is known for the typical picturesque stone houses from the period of Revival (18th -19th century) and is declared a historical and architectural reservation. The authentic village of Leshten is also a peaceful small place with panoramic views of Pirin mountain.

Next stop will be the isolated village of in the Rhodope Mountains famous for its ancient wedding traditions. Unlike most of the deserted places of Bulgaria, the steep streets are constantly full of women with colorful headscarves, busy men and playing kids. If we are lucky to witness a local wedding we will enjoy an amazing explosion of colors, sounds and unique customs (winter time is the wedding season in this area).
 

  • Accommodation – Leshten
  • Transfer time – 2½ hours

Rhodope Bulgaria Photo Tour

Day 4 – Sunday

This day we will continue our way through the magnificent Rhodope mountains. We will enjoy the winter fairytale in the heart of the mountains.

Then we are proceeding to the smallest city in Bulgaria and an architectural reserve – Melnik. The town is associated with the impressive natural sand pyramids in various forms, spread in the area around. The region is also famous for its wine cellars, so in the evening we will have wine tasting and dinner.
 

  • Accommodation – Melnik
  • Transfer time – 2h hours

Day 5 – Monday

Melnik is very close to the Greek border so our photo tour will transit from Bulgaria to Greece. We will head towards the charming town of Ioannina on the shores of Pamvotis Lake and surrounded by mountains. The city flourished during the Byzantine era and still has an impressive fortress from those times. Then it was under Turkish rule for over 400 years and we can still see a mosque right by the lake. We will spend the late afternoon and the next morning exploring it, learning its stories and photographing it at different times of the day, including the blue hour.
 

  • Accommodation – Ioannina
  • Transfer time – 5h

Day 6 – Tuesday

We will continue our photo tour exploration of Greece with the region of Zagori. It is a less traveled part of Greece which in 2023 was enlisted as a UNESCO world heritage site acknowledging its well-preserved traditional architecture with houses and many bridges built of stone.

Late in the afternoon we will arrive to Meteora, a fascinating place where Greek Orthodox monasteries were built on giant rock formations. We will stay in the nearby town of Kastraki having direct views towards the rocks and some of the monasteries.
 

  • Accommodation – Kastraki
  • Transfer time – 3 hours

Meteora Monestary Greece Photo Tour

Day 7 – Wednesday

We will spend the entire day uncovering the history of this fascinating site and photographing it from many different angles and at different times of the day. We will start with an early morning shoot, then visit some of the monasteries and end the day with a sunset shoot. Weather at this time of the year can be moody, it can be foggy, it can rain, it can be cloudy or even snow so we will adapt to the conditions and take advantage of them.

This site is the second most important for Greek Orthodoxy after Mount Athos and the monasteries there. And it is definitely the most impressive site you will see in Greece (and there are many of them). It is just amazing what was done here and that there are still monks who live and worship in these monasteries.

One of the rocks is 600m high (2000 feet) and many others are over 300m (1000 feet). Six of the original 24 monasteries can be visited and we will visit at least 2 of them. The Meteora monasteries are one of the most interesting sights to visit and photograph in Europe and it will be one of the highlights of our trip.
 

  • Accommodation – Kastraki
  • Transfer time – 2 hours

Day 8 – Thursday

In the morning we will go out for another photo shoot in Meteora, especially if the weather conditions are significantly different or better than on the previous day.

We will then make our way back to Melnik in Bulgaria. On the way we can stop by Vergina, the site where the father and son (Philip II and Alexander IV) of Alexander the Great are buried and a very interesting museum.

In January some of the farmers haven’t finished the olive harvest so we will keep our eyes open for spotting them in the groves or as we pass by the olive oil mills. We can definitely stop by an olive grove so we can round up our Greek experience with something so important to them: the olives!

In the evening we will be back on Bulgarian soil to continue this photo tour of Bulgaria and Greece with the Kukeri tradition and Surva festival

  • Accommodation – Melnik
  • Transfer time – 5 hours

Days 9 & 10 – Friday & Saturday

These 2 days will be devoted to The International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva” in Pernik town, internationally also known as Kukeri.

Around mid-day on Friday we will arrive in Pernik and will dive into the festival celebrations and different Kukeri groups’ performances. The festival is a meeting of survakars, kukers, babugers, jamalars and many other masked groups from all ethnographic regions of Bulgaria and guests from abroad.

For 3 days in the center and on the streets of the city, groups will compete to demonstrate the colors of their games and unique masks and costumes. A dazzling spectacle, lights and illuminations will immerse us in the mystery of the festival race. We will be able to interact with the participants along the parade and on the improvised stages in the city. We will also have a private photo shoot with one of the groups.

In 2014, Pernik and the Surva festival were included in the National Geographic magazine’s ranking of the World’s top winter destinations.

On Saturday evening we will have our farewell dinner in a traditional restaurant in Sofia.
 

  • Accommodation – both days in Sofia
  • Transfer time – 2 hours

Day 11 – Sunday

This is your departure day. Transfer from the hotel to Sofia Airport.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this intense photo tour of Bulgaria and Greece and that you will bring back a lot of wonderful memories.
 

  • Airport Transfer time – 1/2 hour

Why travel with us

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Suggested Itinerary Viewed On Map

Included Services
  • Accommodation for 10 nights in standard double rooms, breakfast included
    • 3 nights in Sofia at Rosslyn Central Park Hotel, 4*. In Sofia we will spend the first and last 2 nights
    • 2 nights in Leshten (Rhodope Mountains) at Leshten Hotel, 3*
    • 2 nights in Melnik at Manoleva House, traditional guesthouse, 3*
    • 1 night in Ioannina (Greece) at Its Kale Boutique Hotel
    • 2 nights in Kastraki (Greece) at Doupiani House, 3*
  • Guiding services
    • Local Bulgarian guide, English speaking for 5 days (first night dinner, days 2, 3, 4, 9 and 10) in Bulgaria
    • Local guide in Greece: in Ioannina for 2h and in Meteora for a full day
    • Tour organizer and photographer from Romania (Daniel Rosca) throughout the tour with experience since 2011 of organizing photo tours.
    • Meals, accommodation and relocation for the guides and tour organizer are included
  • Meals: 2 dinners, on the first and last nights in Sofia
  • Entrance tickets to Rila monastery, 2 Meteora monasteries
    • Transportation
      • Private transfers from Sofia airport to hotel on the first day (or a few days earlier if arriving early) and hotel to airport on the last day of the tour. The transfers are organized by the hotel in Sofia
      • In Bulgaria: by 4WD cars (Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander or similar) since there are chances of snow especially in the Rhodope Moutains
        • For 2-3 participants + 2 (tour guide and organizer) we will use 1 car
        • For 4-5 participants + 2 (tour guide and organizer) we will use 2 cars
        • For 6-8 participants + 2 (tour guide and organizer) we will use 3 cars
      • In Greece for 4 days by
        • Minivan with 7-8 seats (Mercedes Viano, Vito, VW Caravelle or similar with English speaking Greek driver) for a group of 2-5 participants + 1 tour organizer
        • Minibus with 12-16 seats (Mercedes Sprinter or similar with English speaking Greek driver) for a group of 6-8 participants + 1 tour organizer
    Excluded Services
    • Meals except 2 dinners (you will spend on average 12-20 EUR/meal, in some places it will be more and in others less.)\
    • Flights to Bulgaria and return
    • Travel or medical Insurance
    • Other services not mentioned in the above section
    • Extra nights in Sofia

    Please contact us for prices and further details by sending an enquiry through the website or email us. We plan to run the trip even with 2-3 people and the price depends on the final group size.

    About The Tour Organiser

    Daniel is a Romanian tour organiser since 2011 and the very first tour he organized was for photographers. Since then he ran tours for several international photo tour leaders including a Pulitzer Prize winner so he became very aware of the specific needs of photographers.

    He really loves the rural areas and people practicing traditional occupations and helps photographers interact with them. Previously he worked for Microsoft, Soros Foundation, Ecosistemi, Deloitte and AIESEC, lived in 4 different countries and traveled to another 30 on 4 continents.

    Important information  

    This photo tour of Bulgaria and Greece is organized by Daniel Rosca in partnership with Presiyan Petkov (Bulgaria guide and photographer)

    During this tour we will try to bring you at the right place at the right time to capture the Kukeri festival, the landscape or other subjects we have on the itinerary. The tour organizer and guides can provide photography guidance and feedback on composition and approaching subjects but they will not get into very technical photography aspects. So you are expected to be an independent shooter and master your camera well.

    The Surva festival in Pernik (where Kukeri perform) is usually held in the last weekend in January (Friday to Sunday). Organizers don’t announce the exact date until about 2 months before the date of the festival. The photo tour dates cover the 2 last weekends from January (including Jan 31-Feb 2 2025). It is possible that the festival will be on Jan 24-26 2025 in which case we will do the photo tour in reverse order. So the accommodation will be booked only after we have a confirmation of the dates of the festival. If at that time there is no availability at the suggested hotels, we will include something of similar quality and price, depending on availability.

    ​Seeing a wedding or engagement party in Rhodope Mountains is a great event to experience but we will only know if such a wedding takes place (and if we can participate) only with 3-4 weeks in advance.

    According to Romanian legislation we will sign a contract for selling this photo tour, you can read the general terms and conditions of our travel agency on our website https://romania-photo-tours.com/terms-and-conditions/

    The authors of the pictures on this page are Presiyan Petkov, Clyde Rogers and Daniel Rosca.
     
    Please click on the image to view it at the best quality.


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