Archaeological Tours


Discovering Ancient Empires Tour
3 days/4 nights tours
Please enquire for dates between April and October (min 2 people)

‘If you love culture and archaeology then you will love a stay at Wild Thyme. We decided upon Wild Thyme as Chris is an archaeologist and offered tours to some of the many archaeological sites in north east Bulgaria. Whether you are interested in the Thracians, the Romans, or the Bulgarian, Byzantium or Ottoman empires there are sites which will enthral you. Chris is extremely knowledgeable and gave us an experience far superior to any we had had with the usual tour guides.’ Barbara and Mark, England, 2013


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Archaeological tours include:

  • Guided daily excursions to Bulgarian archaeological sites, led by archaeologist, Dr Chris Fenton-Thomas
  • All entry fees to archaeological reserve, sites and museums
  • Accommodation in our eco-guesthouse
  • Accommodation based on single room or double for couples
  • Breakfast, packed lunch* and dinner
  • Begins with evening meal on day 1 and finishes with breakfast on the final day
  • Small groups of max 4 people

*Please note that some tours include lunch at a restaurant.  The price of this is not included.  Expect to pay about 10 lev for lunch.


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ivanovo monastry

Please note that the itinerary is flexible, depending on guest preferences.

Day 1: Medieval rock monasteries & the medieval fortress at Cherven

  • Ivanovo rock monastery
  • Krepcha rock monastery
  • Cherven medieval fortress
  • Lunch in Cherven (price not included)

The Rusenski Lom Nature Reserve is a protected area known for its scenic and quiet countryside with distinctive limestone cliffs and riverside walks.  Here there are three very fine medieval rock monasteries where churches, monk cells and chapels were cut into the living rock.  At the World Heritage Site of Ivanovo, the medieval wall paintings are exceptionally well preserved.

The little known rock monastery at Krepcha has interesting wall etchings.  These include probably the earliest surviving Cyrillic insciption as well as runic and Hebrew characters.

At Cherven, you will see extensive remains of a fortified medieval settlement high up on the limestone plateau commanding great views across the Rusenski Lom nature park.

pliska ruins

Day 2: Madara Horseman, Pliska & Veliki Preslav

  • Madara UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Pliska – first capital of medieval Bulgaria
  • Lunch at Madara (price not included)
  • Veliki Preslav – early medieval capital

At Madara, you can literally see thousands of years of history which have earned it the name, ‘The Bulgarian Troy’.  The early medieval carving of a horse and rider dates from the 8th century AD and is another UNESCO World Heritage site.

However, there is much more here including a Thracian cave sanctuary, a Roman villa complex, an Old Bulgarian cult centre, a medieval rock monastery and a hill top fortress.

The Pliska reserve is 20km away and is one of the best sites of medieval Bulgaria. Here are the remains of the first capital of the early medieval Bulgaria empire in the seventh and eighth century AD.  This extensive and rich town contained palaces, basilica churches, workshops and fortifications.  All of this is laid out for visitors in the archaeological reserve.  In Bulgarian history, it dates from a time when the Bulgarian Tsars and Khans were expanding their territory and even rivalled the power of nearby Byzantium.

In the ninth century AD, the capital was Veliki Preslav.  The remains of this rich and powerful early medieval town are laid out for visitors in a reserve.  Veliki Preslav was not only the home of the Bulgarian Tsars but it also became a centre of cultural arts.  These included literature, sculpture, painted ceramics and glass, including the icon of Saint Theodore Stratelates produced at the nearby monastery of Saint Pantaleimon.

A highlight is the tenth century Golden Church which had lavish architectural decoration including marble columns and pulpit.  The on-site museum houses all kinds of objects recovered from excavations including the lead seals of Bulgarian and Byzantine officials.

Svestari Tomb Archaeological Excursion

Day 3: Sboryanovo Archaeological Reserve & ancient Roman town of Abritus

  • Sveshtari Thracian tomb
  • Thracian sanctuaries and strongholds
  • Tomb of Demir Baba
  • Ancient Roman town of Abritus

The archaeological reserve at Sboryanovo is one of the highlights of Thracian Bulgaria.  It contains the Sveshtari Thracian tomb which is a UNESCO world heritage site.  The tomb is one of the finest Thracian burial mounds in Bulgaria and visitors are allowed entry inside the mausoleum to see the wall paintings and sculptures.  The expansive reserve also contains hundreds of other burial mounds, as well as the remains of long-lived Thracian ritual places and sanctuaries.

There are also the remains of a fortified fourth century BC town which is probably the political and military centre of the local tribe, the Getae.  This place was called Hellis and was mentioned by ancient Greek historians.

From a much later time, there is a 17th century tomb of Demir Baba, a mysterious figure revered by an Islamic community known as the Alevi who were settled here in the 16th century.  The tomb continues to be visited and respected by Moslems and local Christians.  It was built into the site of a much earlier Thracian shrine.

This day tour will also include a taste of Roman Bulgaria.  We will take in the remains of the ancient Roman town of Abritus.



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  • loose fitting, comfortable clothing
  • walking shoes
  • sun hat, sun cream & sunglasses
  • rain gear
  • camera

Non participating partners are welcome.

We advise you take out travel insurance.

Not included:

  • Beverages
  • Flights
  • Transport from airport.  We can arrange this.

Getting here:  Click here for information.


[wptabtitle] Tutor[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]

Chris Fenton-Thomas

Chris has a PhD in archaeology and has been an archaeologist for 25 years.  His extensive teaching and lecturing experience and his friendly manner make him a wonderful, personable guide.

He specialised in prehistoric landscape archaeology and his PhD was a multiperiod study of the Yorkshire Wolds.  Chris was a lecturer at Trinity College Carmarthen for a number of years and then worked for over ten years as a professional archaeologist based in York.  Author of four books and many published papers, he has spoken extensively at conferences and to local archaeological groups on topics ranging from neolithic burials to medieval farming.  For the past 8 years, he has been an associate lecturer on degree level Archaeology courses with the Open University.

Not just an academic, he has worked on excavations in St Kilda, Orkney, South of France and Syria and has led many excavations in the north of England.

His interest in Bulgarian history and archaeology have led him to create the archaeology tours at Wild Thyme which he has been running for 3 years.