The following tour covers the best of Bulgaria, but at a cracking pace. If you want to relax along the way, extend it by 3 days, with 2 nights each in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo. If you're really pushed for time, 4 days, with a night each in Sofia, Kovachevitsa, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo, works.

Day 1: Arrive in Sofia

Spend the afternoon decompressing. Have an espresso in one of the open-air bars near the City Garden and book a table for dinner at Beyond the Alley. If you have the energy, tackle the walking tour or at least visit the Russian churches. Get to bed early so you're ready to rise at dawn.

Day 2: Melnik

Have your driver meet you at your hotel at 5:30am (an hour later in winter) to catch the morning service at Rila Monastery -- the best way to experience this UNESCO-listed site, with no tourists to detract from its spirituality. Snack on doughnuts and yogurt from the monk-run bakery outside the gates or take an early lunch at Drushliavitsa (above the monastery). Then head south to the tiny winegrowing village of Melnik. Visit Kordopulov's house, sample wine with "Six Fingers," and dine at Mencheva Kushta.

Day 3: Leshten/Kovachevitsa

Visit Rozhen Monastery, then -- conditions allowing -- head to Leshten via the mountain road that leads to Gotse Delchev, or travel via Bansko. Stop for lunch in Leshten. Stay in one of the Leshten cottages, or head deeper into the mountains to overnight at Kovachevitsa (note that it's worth exploring this heritage village, about a 20-min. drive from Leshten, even if you're not spending the night there).

Day 4: Plovdiv

Travel to Plovdiv, stopping to explore the village of Dolen and Bachkovo Monastery along the way. Take a late lunch at Vodopada or push on to Plovdiv. That evening, stroll the cobbled streets of Old Plovdiv. Dine and stay at Hebros.

Day 5: Veliko Tarnovo

Set off early for the Kazanluk tomb (make prior arrangements to view the original), then head over the Shipka pass to visit the Icon and Woodcarving museums in Tryavna. If you have time, visit Etura, the open-air ethnographic museum nearby. Spend the night at Gurko in Veliko Tarnovo.

Day 6: Varna

Travel to Varna (about 4 hr. away), via the Madara Horseman. Varna is a party city, so once you've checked out the Thracian treasures in the Archaeological Museum, blow off some steam at one of the many clubs and bars that line the beachfront.

Day 7: Koprivishtitsa/Sofia

If you're up for a drive, take the coastal road south (just under 3 hr.) to lunch at a sea-facing restaurant in the fishing port of Sozopol, then head west to overnight at Koprivishtitsa (about 4 hr. from here), one of the country's prettiest heritage villages. Enjoy your last Bulgarian meal at Bashtina Kushta. Ask your driver to drop you off at the airport the following day, allowing around 90 minutes' traveling time, plus check-in time. Alternatively, spend your final night in Sofia and do some last-minute shopping before your flight the next morning.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.