Culture, Enthusiast, Vintage

Bulgarian Steam & Spa

12 to 19 April

You are warmly invited to join us for our annual “steam” visit to Bulgaria, featuring three very different steam locomotives types. This year it is a long weekend in order to bring the price into affordability for most people. This is much more than an “enthusiast” tour with excellent hotels, a spa, and visits to some amazing towns – to say nothing of the wonderful scenery.

This tour covers scenic routes through mountains and canyons, across wide and expansive plains and along river valleys; through a country steeped in history and culture.

  • Private steam hauled charter trains
  • Three different steam locomotive types
  • Four-star hotel accommodation
  • Half Board (breakfast and dinner each day)
  • Historic towns and cities
  • Scenic rail journeys

Our tour manager is Marion



Now direct flights from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Birmingham and Manchester



Day 1 Thursday 12 April 2018 (D) Morning flights to Sofia from Manchester and Gatwick (Easyjet) and from Heathrow (BA). Arrival transfer, city tour of Sofia, dinner and overnight.

Day 2 Friday 13 April (B, D) Morning departure with steam locomotive 46.03. This 2-12-4 locomotive was built in 1931 by the Polish company Cegielski – Poznan. In the 30es, Nikola Vaptsarov, a famous Bulgarian poet worked on the locomotive at first as a stoker and later as a mechanic. His poetry has been translated in 98 languages throughout the world, including in the UK. In 1942, Vaptsarov was sentenced to death and shot down on the same evening by the Fascist regime. In 1953, he received posthumously the International Peace Award. This steam locomotive is considered the most powerful from the steam locomotives in Bulgaria. That is why, in the 60s the employees of BDZ called it “Grandma Bear”. It had been in out of use for more than 50 years before restored in 2015.

We depart from Sofia and head eastwards parallel to the Balkan massif through many tunnels and spectacular alpine scenery to Koprivshtitsa. En route we will pass via Bunovo village with the highest railway bridge on the Balkans ( 30 meters).

Koprivshtitsa is one of the most famous museum-towns in Bulgaria, declared national historical and architectural reserve, where one can still feel the spirit of the Bulgarian National revival. Narrow cobbled streets, arch-like bridges, stone fountains, high-stone walls with big gates, leading to picturesque houses create an inimitable romantic atmosphere.

We will arrive in Koprivshtitsa in the early afternoon, have some free time for lunch and proceed with the coach to Kazanluk – the centre of the Valley of Roses, Shipka memorial church and mountain pass, crossing the Balkan mountains at their highest part to Triavna museum town. Walking tour in the old part of Triavna, check in, dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3 Saturday 14 April (B, D) Morning coach transfer from Triavna to Veliko Turnovo, from where we will depart hauled by steam locomotive 03.12. This 4-8-2 locomotive was built in 1942 in Henschell-Kassel Germany and is documented on pictures from 05 Sept 1943, leading the ceremony of the burial of Tzar Boris the 3rd (the last ruling king in Bulgaria) from Sofia to Rila Monastery. We head east, passing via Gorna Oriahovitsa train station, Turgovishte and Han Krum, we will break at Shumen.

In the afternoon we will continue our journey to the Eastern Part of the Balkan mountains – the lowest part of the mountain which reaches the Black Sea coast. This part of the mountain is rich in forests and reserve areas, its mild climate is favourable for viticulture and winemaking.

We will cross the small valleys of Goliama Kamchia and Luda Kamchia rivers and Tsonevo Dam. The rock phenomenon The Wonderful Rocks is right on the shore of Tsonevo dam – it consists of ten beautiful rock needles, 40-50 meters high, shaped like castle towers.

Upon arrival in Karnobat, we will take the coach for a transfer to Burgas – the 2nd largest Bulgarian Black Sea town. Based on the time of arrival – possible walk in the centre of Burgas and visit of the Sea Garden. Check in at the hotel in Burgas, dinner and overnight.

Day 4 Sunday 15 April (B,D) Morning panorama with the coach to see the seaside area, and transfer to Plovdiv. Arrival, tour of the Old Plovdiv and free time for lunch. Plovdiv is the 2nd largest Bulgarian city, once capital city of Philip the 2nd of Macedonia – the father of Alexander the Great. Plovdiv will be European capital of culture in 2019.  In the afternoon we travel back to Sofia with behind 4-6-2 steam locomotive 05.01 – produced in Germany by Fr. Krupp Essen in 1941 and regarded the fastest steam locomotive in the history of the Bulgarian Railways with maximum speed of 75 mph.

Arrival, farewell dinner and overnight in Sofia.

Day 5 Monday 16 April (B) Breakfast and transfer to Sofia airport. Alternatively why not make a week of it and join our visit to the last narrow gauge line in Bulgaria. This spectacular line is so long that we cover it leisurely over two days. This line is always under threat of closure so travel on it while you can.


Day 5 Monday 16 April (D) Morning service train from Sofia – Septemvri. Change trains on to the narrow gauge line Septemvri to Velingrad South. A loco hauled service train. Arrival in the late afternoon. Walk to your hotel, located some 250 m from the train station. Check in. Enjoy the spa facilities, dinner and overnight. Beautiful nature and deposits of mineral waters make Velingrad one of the leading balneology resorts in the Balkans. Velingrad is also famous for the largest karst spring in Bulgaria, called Kleptuza ( just 5 minutes walk from the hotel ). Its output is from 600 to 1200 l/sec.

Velingrad is in No 1 in Bulgaria in terms of abundance and diversity of mineral waters, with temperatures of which 28°С to 91°С. The mineral waters in Velingrad have favourable influence upon the locomotory system, neurological disorders, hyperthonia, gynecological problems, renal and urological, respiratory and stomach, and intestinal illnesses.

Day 6: Tuesday 17 April (B, D) We depart by service train along the narrow gauge from Velingrad to Dobrinishte (the terminus), enjoying one of the most scenic rails in Bulgaria. Transfer by coach the short distance from Dobrinishte to Bansko. Free time for lunch (around 13:30 o`clock) and afternoon tour of Bansko museum town.

Bansko is the newest and fastest developing Bulgarian mountain resort, located at the foothills of Pirin Mountain and National Park ( the 2nd highest mountain in Bulgaria, the largest National park in Bulgaria ). The town rose up to its present location around 9th-10th centuries. We will visit Holy Trinity Church and one of the houses – museums – Velyanova, which is a typical example of Bulgarian National revival fortifies house from the late 18th c ( stone walls, huge iron studded gates of pine wood ). Alternatively free time to enjoy the spa centre and the swimming pool of the hotel. Dinner at a traditional Bansko mehana and overnight.

Day 7 Wednesday 18 April (B,D) Transfer by coach from Bansko to Rila Monastery UNESCO site. Tour of the monastery, incl. a visit to its church and museum. Admire wooden balconies, azure fretwork, collonades, facades and colourful frescoes, silhouetted against a fantastic panorama of mountain peaks. Altitude 1147 meters above sea level. Founded in the 10th century. National Historical Reserve since 1976. UNESCO site since 1983.

Transfer to Blagoevgrad train station and onward by train back to Sofia. Overnight in Sofia.

Day 8 Thursday 19 April (B) Breakfast and departure transfer.

This is a moderately active tour. To fully enjoy this program, participants should be able to climb a flight of stairs and walk at least a half-mile on uneven ground during several of the sightseeing trips.


Steam Train Tour
2 nights at Ramada Sofia 4* – business rooms
1 night at Marieta Palace 4* – Nesebur
1 night at Meridian Bolyarski 4* – Veliko Turnovo

Narrow-gauge and Spa Add-on
1 night at Velingrad – Hotel Aquatonik 4*
1 night at Bansko – Park Hotel Gardenia 4*
1 night at Ramada Sofia 4* – business rooms


EZY8973 06.00 Gatwick to Sofia (arr 11.10)
EZY8974 11.50 Sofia to Gatwick (arrives 13.10)

EZY1933 06.25 Manchester to Sofia (arr 11.45)
EZY1934 12.30 Sofia to Manchester (arrives 14.00)

FR9961 06.30 Stansted to Sofia (arr 11.40) or FR9967 16.25 Stansted to Sofia (arr 21.35)
FR9962 12.05 Sofia to Stansted (arr 13.30)

W6-4302 08.00 Luton to Sofia (arr 13.10) or W6-4306 13.50 Luton to Sofia (arr. 19.00)
W6-4305 11.55 Sofia to Luton (arr. 13.20)

BA0890 08.15 Heathrow to Sofia (arr 13.25)
BA891 14.30 Sofia to Heathrow (arrives 16.00)

FR6336 18.35 Birmingham to Sofia (arr 23.50)
FR6335 16.45 Sofia to Birmingham (arr 18.10)

Steam Locomotives Due to be Used on This Tour

Locomotive 03.12


Built in 1942 by Henschel-Kassel of Germany
Standard Gauge
Wheel arrangement: 4-8-2

Locomotive 05.01

Built in 1941 by Krupp-Essen in Germany
Standard Gauge
Wheel arrangement: 4-6-2

Locomotive 46.03


Built in 1931 by Cegielski-Poznan in Poland
Standard gauge
Wheel arrangement: 2-12-4

Place(s) available
Holiday Prices (per person)
  • Full 5 day holiday including flight from UK: £1,100
  • 5 day with own travel to/from Sofia: £930
  • Full 8 day holiday including flight from UK: £1,350
  • 8 day with own travel to/from Sofia: £1,150
  • With overland travel from the UK: POA


  • Single room Supplement: £50 (4 nights), £95 (7 nights)
  • From Heathrow: Add £60 (confirmed at time of booking)


  • £100 (balance of deposit due 01/01/2018)
Price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Half board (breakfast and dinner each day)
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from Gatwick
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Direct flights from Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick