A golden domed cathedral with green tiles rises above a city in Israel
SUMMER EXPERIENCES

Ambassadors to Bulgaria + ILSI

Travel to Bulgaria for a legendary summer experience combining cross-cultural bonding, service learning, and travel adventures. Then continue on to ILSI, BBYO’s elite leadership and touring program in Israel.

Be a part of a close-knit group of teens from Bulgaria, Serbia and beyond, on Ambassadors to Bulgaria – instilling hope in a Jewish community with a remarkable past. Learn about Bulgarian society, take part in community service projects, and form new friendships with Jewish teens from Europe. Along the way, explore a beautiful land – from Sofia to the Black Sea – considered one of Europe’s best kept secrets.

With a new sense of perspective, travel from Europe to Israel on ILSI, BBYO’s elite leadership program in Israel designed for BBYO members and welcoming Jewish teens from around the world. This experience combines educational touring, leadership training, interactive seminars and meaningful community service. Gain an appreciation for the complexity of modern Israel and an enduring connection to the Jewish State and the Jewish People worldwide.

Program Highlights

For a more detailed view of the program, check out the Program Itinerary

Discover the rich history and customs of Bulgarian Jewry in Sofia and Plovdiv
Share the experience with fellow Jewish teens from Bulgaria and many other European countries
Explore Bulgaria’s small towns and beautiful countryside
Tour Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, and explore 2,000 years of history
Swim in the Black Sea, the gateway between Southeastern Europe and Western Asia
Enjoy the warmth of Shabbat in a small European Jewish community
Contribute to the upkeep and well being of Sofia’s Jewish residents and their communal institutions
Build lifelong friendships with teens from around the world
Explore the ancient tunnels, rooftops and corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City
Float in the Dead Sea and climb to the heights of Masada at sunrise
Dig in an active excavation project and snorkel in an underwater archeological park
Swim in the tropical Red Sea, raft down the Jordan River and cool off under a desert waterfall
Learn first-hand about contemporary Israeli politics and experience co-existence in action
Soak up the cultural richness of modern Tel Aviv
Spend Shabbat in the heart of Jerusalem and learn about Judaism’s mystical tradition in Tzfat
Navigate the wilderness on a camel trek and enjoy a delicious desert tent feast

How the Connection Works

As a connected experience, this program combines Ambassador to Bulgaria + ILSI. At the end of Ambassadors to Bulgaria those making the connection will continue on to Israel, generally arriving around the same time as the remainder of the ILSI group. Trip connections are always supervised and all-inclusive. The cost of the connecting flight from Bulgaria to Israel is included as part of our optional supervised flight.

BBYO + Israel + You!

Each summer, we convene nearly all our Israel experiences for a massive celebration called BBYO B’Yachad (Hebrew for “togetherness”). True to its name, the event unites an international community of Jewish teens from across North America and countries as diverse as France, Bulgaria, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, Latvia and Singapore. Join us for the party of the summer in Israel!

Travel to Israel presents a unique opportunity for teens to form a personal connection to our history and to experience their Judaism from a new perspective. But why go to Israel in high school? We believe and studies have shown that a multi-week experience in Israel during the high school years can have a profound impact on the development of an enduring and fulfilling Jewish identity. Explore More

Since 1956, BBYO has organized teen programs in Israel with a fundamental commitment to providing a safe and meaningful experience. Our programs adhere to Israel’s comprehensive security policies, and our itineraries are designed with caution in mind. Each group is accompanied by a licensed medic/guard and trained staff who supervise the teens. Explore More

We believe all Jewish teens should experience Israel during their formative high school years. To that end, we provide needs-based scholarships on the local and national level regardless of prior BBYO involvement. Many Jewish Federations provide additional need-based and grant-based scholarship. Funding availability is limited, so you’ll want to apply early. Explore More

We have provided the following sample itinerary to give you a better feel for this experience, including the types of accommodations we use. The actual program may vary slightly. An updated itinerary is distributed 3-4 weeks prior to the start of the program.

Day #1 | Sunday | Take Off

  • Depart from New York City on a supervised flight (optional)
    Take-off and spend the night in the sky en route to Bulgaria

Day #2 | Monday | Arriving in Bulgaria

  • Arrive to Sofia, meet the local program staff
  • Welcome and orientation programming with European teens

Day #3 | Tuesday | Hachnasat Orchim – Welcoming Guests

  • Golden Age Camp: Meet with the Holocaust Survivors and the local Jewish elderly
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

Day #4 | Wednesday | B’tzelem Elohim – In the Image of God

  • Community building group experience
  • Depart for Veliko Tarnovo – “City of the Tsars” along the Yantra River
  • Afternoon tour of Tsarevets – a historic medieval fortress deep in the rolling hills of Bulgaria
  • Program: The New Jewish Diaspora
  • Evening: Watch Veliko Tarnovo come alive with a magnificent nighttime sound-and-light show
  • Overnight: Rachev Hotel Residence Arbanasi – Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Day #5 | Thursday | VeAhavta L’Recha – Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

  • Depart for Etara – Free time to discover the unique open-air museum
  • Travel to Tryavna along the north slopes of the Balkan range
  • Discover Bulgarian culture at a traditional dance performance
  • Evening Program: Ridding the World of Hate
  • Overnight: Rachev Hotel Residence Arbanasi – Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Day #6 | Friday | Arevut – Understanding Our Responsibility

  • Travel to Plovdiv on the banks of the Maritsa River and one of the world’s oldest cities
  • Service Project – Help restore and clean up the local Jewish cemetery
  • Check-in to accommodations and prepare for Shabbat
  • Kabbalat Shabbat service and dinner with the Jewish community
  • Oneg Shabbat: Meeting with the Ambassadors
  • Overnight: Trimontium Princess Hotel – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Day #7 | Saturday | Tzedakah – Righteousness

  • Shabbat programming and activities
  • Program: Being a Global Ambassador
  • Sightseeing and free time in the historic town of Plovdiv
  • Havdallah service – Start of a new week
  • Evening: Program: Separates
  • Overnight: Trimontium Princess Hotel – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Day #8 | Sunday | K’lal Yisrael – Global Jewish Community

  • Depart for Trigrad – a picturesque village in the western Rhodope mountain
  • Devil’s Throat – explore this majestic cave and massive waterfall that has captivated imaginations and given birth to numerous legends
  • Yagodinska Cave – dazzlingly exquisite rock formations and home to an ancient dwelling dated to the 4th millennium BC
  • Travel to Sandanski – town situated in a valley at the foot of Pirin Mountains
  • Overnight Spa & Wellness Hotel Panorama – Sandanski, Bulgaria

Day #9 | Monday | Shalom Bayit – Peace in the Home

  • Rafting down the Struma River
  • Depart to Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital
  • Evening programming at local synagogue
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

Day #10 | Tuesday | Jewish V’Shinantam L’Vanecha – You Shall Teach Your Children

  • Community Service Projects in Sofia
  • Tour of Jewish cultural and religious sites in Sofia
  • Free time and shopping in downtown Sofia
  • Final reflections and farewell program
  • Closing dinner party at a traditional Bulgarian restaurant
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

DAY #11 | Wednesday | Fairwell Bulgaria, Bruchim HaBa’im – Welcome to Israel!

  • Depart from Bulgaria
  • Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport – Meet your Israeli staff team and begin the ascent to Jerusalem
  • Welcome to Israel! – Shecheyanu ceremony overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem
  • Evening: Orientation and community building experience
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #12 | Thursday | Jerusalem: Foundations of Jerusalem

  • Travel to Neot Kedumim Biblical Park for a leadership workshop, tree planting ceremony and a group-cooked lunch
  • Explore King David’s Jerusalem at the “City of David” complex; walk through Hezekiah’s ancient water tunnel under Jerusalem
  • Follow the Pilgrim’s Route into the Old City and enter the Southern Wall excavations
  • Continue to the Kotel – The Western Wall – for personal reflections at Judaism’s holiest site
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #13 | Friday | Jerusalem Prepares for Shabbat

  • Enter Zion Gate and explore the ancient corridors and rooftops of the Jewish Quarter
  • Lunch and personal exploration time in the Cardo area of the Jewish Quarter
  • Experience the energy of pre-Shabbat shopping at Mahane Yehuda open-air market place
  • Return to our hotel and prepare for an ILSI Shabbat on the Ramat Rachel campus
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #14 | Saturday | A Song for the Sabbath Day

  • Shabbat programming and lunch at Ramat Rachel
  • Swimming, sports and relaxation time
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Group night out at Ben Yehuda Street, the center of Jerusalem nightlife
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #15 | Sunday | Northwards to the Galilee

  • Depart the Jerusalem region and travel north to the Galilee
  • Tel Meggido – Explore this ancient Biblical-era site overlooking the Jezreal Valley
  • Break for lunch in Afula and sample some of Israel’s best falafel
  • Continue north, stopping to view the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, along the way
  • Check-in to our kibbutz accommodation in the north – tour the community with a kibbutz member and learn about the kibbutz ideal
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ein Zivan, Golan Heights

DAY #16 | Monday | Al-Hagvulot – Borders & Security

  • Mt. Ben Tal – View across the Golan and Israel’s neighbors from the summit of this dormant volcano
  • Climb up to the ruins of Nimrod’s Castle in the shadow of Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest peak
  • Cool off rafting down the upper Jordan River followed by a fresh-cooked pizza lunch on the riverbanks
  • Misgav Am – Perspectives from Israelis living on the frontier with Lebanon
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ein Zivan, Golan Heights

DAY #17 | Tuesday | The Pioneering Heritage in the Galilee

  • Hike down the lush canyons of Nahal Zavitan or Nahal Yehudiya on the Golan Heights (packed lunch)
  • “Aqua Kef” – Experience the thrill of this floating waterpark on the Sea of Galilee
  • The Kinneret Courtyard and Cemetery – Honor the leadership of the early pioneers who transformed the Galilee
  • Evening: Camping and leadership experience at Park HaYarden along the Jordan River
  • Overnight: Camping at Park HaYarden, Galilee

DAY #18 | Wednesday | Israel’s Multi-Ethnic Society

  • Leket – Volunteering project harvesting for the hungry of Israel at Moshav Nahalal
  • Travel to the Carmel Mountain village of Ussafiya for an encounter with members of the Druze community and a traditional meal
  • Discover Haifa – a model for co-existence in Israel, visiting the Bahai Temple Gardens, the Ahmadiyya Mosque and the Stella Maris Monastery
  • Evening: Meet up with teens from Israel’s sister youth movement in Israel, Maccabi Tzeir
  • Overnight: IYHA Haifa Guest House

DAY #19 | Thursday | Ingathering of the Exiles

  • Zichron Yaakov – Walking tour of an original village founded by Jewish immigrants in the 1880’s
  • Atlit detainee camp – The story of Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust during the British Mandate Era
  • Beach time and picnic lunch along Israel’s rugged Mediterranean Coast
  • Yemin Orde Youth Village – Discover Israel’s unique approach to serving children from immigrant and disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Evening: Celebrate our summer in Israel with hundreds of fellow teens at the BBYO B’Yachad event!
  • Overnight: IYHA Haifa Guest House

DAY #20 | Friday | The Jewish traditions of Tzfat

  • Late wake up and breakfast at the hotel
  • Walking tour of mystical Tzfat – Birthplace of the Kabbalah movement
  • Browse the Tzfat artist colony and meet Kabbalistic artist, Avraham Lowenthal
  • Check-in to our accommodations in the heart of Tzfat and prepare for Shabbat
  • Kabbalat Shabbat service, dinner and Oneg Shabbat
  • Overnight: Tzfat Accommodations

DAY #21 | Saturday | Shabbat in the Galilee

  • Shabbat programming and lunch in Tzfat
  • Afternoon free time and walking tour
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Cruise on the Sea of Galilee with music and dancing
  • Overnight: Tzfat Accommodations

DAY #22 | Sunday | Tikkun Olam – Fixing the World with Hearts & Hands

  • Travel towards Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and commercial capital
  • Volunteer project with Eitan Special, a JDC-funded initiative, and take part in Krav Maga activities with their members
  • Walking tour of Jaffa Seaport and personal exploration time in the Jaffa Flea Market
  • Check-in and dinner at our hotel along the Tel Aviv coast
  • Evening: Attend ashowing of “Not By Bread Alone” at Nalagaat- Israel’s ground breaking theater troupe comprised of deaf and blind actors
  • Overnight: Metropolitan Hotel, Tel Aviv

DAY #23 | Monday | Leadership & Innovation in Tel Aviv

  • Take part in a variety of Leadership Labs across Tel Aviv
  • Break for lunch along Tel Aviv’s trendy Rothschild Boulevard
  • Afternoon: Free time to enjoy the lively beach culture of Tel Aviv
  • Evening: Harness the power of innovative thinking on a PresenTense workshop
  • Overnight: Metropolitan Hotel, Tel Aviv

DAY #24 | Tuesday | Heading South

  • Dig-for-a-Day Archeological Seminar at Beit Guvrin National Park
  • Discover the richness of Jewish Ethiopian culture and take part in a culinary workshop and lunch at the Atachlit – Beta Israel Village
  • Visit Sderot and Netiv HaAsara on the frontier with Gaza, and learn how these communities have adapted to their surroundings
  • Head south to the Negev Desert and check-in to our accommodations at the edge of Nahal Tzin Canyon
  • Overnight: Sde Boker Fields School

DAY #25 | Wednesday | The Desert Blooms

  • Hike to the hidden desert pools at Ein Avdat
  • Sde Boker – Learn about David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, and his vision for the desert
  • Explore the world’s largest erosion crater at the Ramon Crater Visitor Center
  • Camel riding and desert tent feast at Kfar Hanokdim encampment
  • Evening: Stargazing walk in the Judean Desert
  • Overnight: Kfar Hanokdim Guest House

DAY #26 | Thursday | Masada and Dead Sea

  • Pre-sunrise climb to Masada via the Roman Ramp trail
  • Tour of the Masada desert fortress complex – Descend via the Snake Path
  • Experience effortless floating at the Dead Sea’s Ein Bokek Beach
  • Travel back to Jerusalem, and check-in to our accommodations
  • Evening: View “Hero in Heaven” in preparation for our visit to Har Herzl
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #27 | Friday | Loss, Resilience and Renewal

  • Yad VaShemWorld Holocaust Remembrance Center
  • Picnic-style lunch and group processing time
  • Mt. Herzl National Cemetery- Honoring Israel’s national leaders and fallen soldiers
  • Return to our hotel and prepare for our final Shabbat in Israel
  • Re-enter the Old City to experience Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall
  • Walk back to our hotel for dinner, and experience the quiet of a Jerusalem Shabbat
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #28 | Saturday | A Jerusalem Shabbat

  • Morning: Option to attend services at a local synagogue followed by lunch at the hotel
  • The Israel Museum – Discover the Dead Sea Scrolls, Temple model and much more
  • Afternoon: Hang out time at Jerusalem’s Saker Park or explore the graffiti art of Mahane Yehuda while the market is closed
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Return to the Old City to experience layers of Jewish history in the Kotel Tunnels, followed by a group night out in Mamilla
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #29 | Sunday | Bringing the Spirit of Israel Home

  • Geo-political tour of Jerusalem – the seam, the wall, and the future
  • Israel political seminar at StandWithUs
  • Afternoon: Volunteering project in Jerusalem
  • Time for final shopping along Ben Yehuda Street
  • Evening: Wrap-up session and celebrate our time together in Israel at a closing banquet dinner
  • Return to airport for late night flights

DAY #30 | Monday | Shalom U’lhitraot

  • Arrive back to New York City in the morning

You have questions? We’ve got answers! Our most frequently asked questions for this program are answered below. Additional program-wide FAQs are also available. Contact us to learn more.

How will my teen travel to the program?
An optional supervised flight is offered – often from New York City. In some cases, a supervised flight may also depart from Newark. You are responsible for your transportation to the supervised flight departure city. Flight arrangements will be released in the spring. Families are also able to book their own tickets using miles or points that correspond to our supervised flight itinerary or book separate flight itineraries entirely and make arrangements to meet our staff in Sofia. Learn more about our supervised flights.

Where will my teen be sleeping?
In Bulgaria, the group stays in a variety of 3-star hotels. In Israel, many of the accommodations we stay at are kibbutz-based guest houses that are located in Israel’s countryside and provide space for exploration within a secure environment. We use conventional hotels in Jerusalem and occasionally in other cities. All accommodations utilized in Israel have a dedicated guard. When booking our accommodations, we request for each teen to have their own sleeping accommodations in a shared living space.

How is the program staffed?
Each group is accompanied by a team of madrichim (counselors). They are joined by a local tour leader, a bus driver, and a guard. Staff names are sent out approximately 3-4 weeks prior to your departure as part of the pre-trip preparation email series. Staff are asked to make welcome calls to families before departure. Learn more about our staff team.

What’s the summer weather like?
The weather in Bulgaria is hot, sunny, and mostly dry – especially in the southern part of Bulgaria. Daytime temperatures can reach the 80s and 90s; evenings will be in the 60s. Rain is possible in the northern regions, plan accordingly.

Temperatures in Israel range from hot to hotter in the summer. Clothing should be lightweight and comfortable in the heat. Whenever outside for an extended period, teens will be required to have a hat, a shirt with sleeves, sunscreen, and water. Overexposure to the hot Middle Eastern sun can cause heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburns. The good news is the heat is mostly dry – there is very little humidity, and the chance of rain in Israel during the summer is practically zero- no umbrellas needed!

Evenings in Israel tend to get chilly quickly – frequently into the 50s or 60s. Because we will not always return to our accommodations to change before an evening activity, always bring a day-pack with a windbreaker, long-sleeved shirt, or light sweater.

How do you approach security?
The safety of the teens under our care is our guiding consideration. As a program, we take a number of precautions to reduce security risks: We travel on a private coach bus, we plan our itineraries to avoid areas of concern, we always travel with a guard in Bulgaria and Israel, and we are registered for monitoring through Israel’s Situation Room. Learn more about our organization’s approach to safety & security.

What’s the typical group size?
Although it varies from year to year, our average group size in Bulgaria is 75 teens (including local European teens) and our average group size on ILSI is 120 (including European teens).

What’s the food like?
As a travel-based program, our meals take a variety of forms and may include hotel buffets, restaurants, specially catered meals and allowance funds for participants to purchase a meal on their own. All food provided by BBYO Passport experiences in Israel are kosher. Some meals that we provide outside of Israel may be certified kosher, but most meals are not. When a meal is served in a public buffet format (e.g. hotel breakfast), we will always ensure that there are vegetarian or pescatarian options available, but we will also not restrict teens from eating the food of their choice. Some meals may be provided via an allowance system whereby teens will be given cash to purchase the food of their choice. Such meals are typically arranged in an area where there are multiple restaurant options, and teens can choose the food of their liking. In situations where time is of the essence, staff may choose to facilitate meal orders on behalf of teens using their allowance funds, including non-kosher orders. When the group eats at non-kosher restaurants with a pre-ordered menu, the options will only consist of vegetarian or pescatarian dishes. Participants with special dietary situations (i.e. lactose intolerance, gluten-free, kosher, etc.) should contact us in advance to be sure we can accommodate your needs during the program. Bulgarian food is in many ways similar to the food served in Greece and Turkey – tomato, cucumber and cheese salad, filo pastries (byurek) and stuffed vine leaves are among the shared dishes. The food on all Israel trips is kosher throughout. Expect to eat Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods such as falafel, hummus, schnitzel, shakshouka, bourekas, and much more.

Will I need a visa?
If you travel with an American, Canadian, or EU passport – good news! – you don’t need a visa to enter Bulgaria or Israel. If you travel with a passport from another country, you may need a visa. Contact your nearest Bulgarian/Israeli embassy or consulate for additional details.

For more information, check out our general FAQs.

How the Connection Works

As a connected experience, this program combines Ambassador to Bulgaria + ILSI. At the end of Ambassadors to Bulgaria those making the connection will continue on to Israel, generally arriving around the same time as the remainder of the ILSI group. Trip connections are always supervised and all-inclusive. The cost of the connecting flight from Bulgaria to Israel is included as part of our optional supervised flight.

 

PROGRAM REVIEWS

We know you'll love a BBYO Passport experience. But don't just take our word. Check out these real reviews from our past teen travelers.

Be a part of a close-knit group of teens from Bulgaria, Serbia and beyond, on Ambassadors to Bulgaria – instilling hope in a Jewish community with a remarkable past. Learn about Bulgarian society, take part in community service projects, and form new friendships with Jewish teens from Europe. Along the way, explore a beautiful land – from Sofia to the Black Sea – considered one of Europe’s best kept secrets.

With a new sense of perspective, travel from Europe to Israel on ILSI, BBYO’s elite leadership program in Israel designed for BBYO members and welcoming Jewish teens from around the world. This experience combines educational touring, leadership training, interactive seminars and meaningful community service. Gain an appreciation for the complexity of modern Israel and an enduring connection to the Jewish State and the Jewish People worldwide.

Program Highlights

For a more detailed view of the program, check out the Program Itinerary

Discover the rich history and customs of Bulgarian Jewry in Sofia and Plovdiv
Share the experience with fellow Jewish teens from Bulgaria and many other European countries
Explore Bulgaria’s small towns and beautiful countryside
Tour Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, and explore 2,000 years of history
Swim in the Black Sea, the gateway between Southeastern Europe and Western Asia
Enjoy the warmth of Shabbat in a small European Jewish community
Contribute to the upkeep and well being of Sofia’s Jewish residents and their communal institutions
Build lifelong friendships with teens from around the world
Explore the ancient tunnels, rooftops and corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City
Float in the Dead Sea and climb to the heights of Masada at sunrise
Dig in an active excavation project and snorkel in an underwater archeological park
Swim in the tropical Red Sea, raft down the Jordan River and cool off under a desert waterfall
Learn first-hand about contemporary Israeli politics and experience co-existence in action
Soak up the cultural richness of modern Tel Aviv
Spend Shabbat in the heart of Jerusalem and learn about Judaism’s mystical tradition in Tzfat
Navigate the wilderness on a camel trek and enjoy a delicious desert tent feast

How the Connection Works

As a connected experience, this program combines Ambassador to Bulgaria + ILSI. At the end of Ambassadors to Bulgaria those making the connection will continue on to Israel, generally arriving around the same time as the remainder of the ILSI group. Trip connections are always supervised and all-inclusive. The cost of the connecting flight from Bulgaria to Israel is included as part of our optional supervised flight.

BBYO + Israel + You!

Each summer, we convene nearly all our Israel experiences for a massive celebration called BBYO B’Yachad (Hebrew for “togetherness”). True to its name, the event unites an international community of Jewish teens from across North America and countries as diverse as France, Bulgaria, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, Latvia and Singapore. Join us for the party of the summer in Israel!

Travel to Israel presents a unique opportunity for teens to form a personal connection to our history and to experience their Judaism from a new perspective. But why go to Israel in high school? We believe and studies have shown that a multi-week experience in Israel during the high school years can have a profound impact on the development of an enduring and fulfilling Jewish identity. Explore More

Since 1956, BBYO has organized teen programs in Israel with a fundamental commitment to providing a safe and meaningful experience. Our programs adhere to Israel’s comprehensive security policies, and our itineraries are designed with caution in mind. Each group is accompanied by a licensed medic/guard and trained staff who supervise the teens. Explore More

We believe all Jewish teens should experience Israel during their formative high school years. To that end, we provide needs-based scholarships on the local and national level regardless of prior BBYO involvement. Many Jewish Federations provide additional need-based and grant-based scholarship. Funding availability is limited, so you’ll want to apply early. Explore More

We have provided the following sample itinerary to give you a better feel for this experience, including the types of accommodations we use. The actual program may vary slightly. An updated itinerary is distributed 3-4 weeks prior to the start of the program.

Day #1 | Sunday | Take Off

  • Depart from New York City on a supervised flight (optional)
    Take-off and spend the night in the sky en route to Bulgaria

Day #2 | Monday | Arriving in Bulgaria

  • Arrive to Sofia, meet the local program staff
  • Welcome and orientation programming with European teens

Day #3 | Tuesday | Hachnasat Orchim – Welcoming Guests

  • Golden Age Camp: Meet with the Holocaust Survivors and the local Jewish elderly
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

Day #4 | Wednesday | B’tzelem Elohim – In the Image of God

  • Community building group experience
  • Depart for Veliko Tarnovo – “City of the Tsars” along the Yantra River
  • Afternoon tour of Tsarevets – a historic medieval fortress deep in the rolling hills of Bulgaria
  • Program: The New Jewish Diaspora
  • Evening: Watch Veliko Tarnovo come alive with a magnificent nighttime sound-and-light show
  • Overnight: Rachev Hotel Residence Arbanasi – Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Day #5 | Thursday | VeAhavta L’Recha – Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

  • Depart for Etara – Free time to discover the unique open-air museum
  • Travel to Tryavna along the north slopes of the Balkan range
  • Discover Bulgarian culture at a traditional dance performance
  • Evening Program: Ridding the World of Hate
  • Overnight: Rachev Hotel Residence Arbanasi – Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Day #6 | Friday | Arevut – Understanding Our Responsibility

  • Travel to Plovdiv on the banks of the Maritsa River and one of the world’s oldest cities
  • Service Project – Help restore and clean up the local Jewish cemetery
  • Check-in to accommodations and prepare for Shabbat
  • Kabbalat Shabbat service and dinner with the Jewish community
  • Oneg Shabbat: Meeting with the Ambassadors
  • Overnight: Trimontium Princess Hotel – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Day #7 | Saturday | Tzedakah – Righteousness

  • Shabbat programming and activities
  • Program: Being a Global Ambassador
  • Sightseeing and free time in the historic town of Plovdiv
  • Havdallah service – Start of a new week
  • Evening: Program: Separates
  • Overnight: Trimontium Princess Hotel – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Day #8 | Sunday | K’lal Yisrael – Global Jewish Community

  • Depart for Trigrad – a picturesque village in the western Rhodope mountain
  • Devil’s Throat – explore this majestic cave and massive waterfall that has captivated imaginations and given birth to numerous legends
  • Yagodinska Cave – dazzlingly exquisite rock formations and home to an ancient dwelling dated to the 4th millennium BC
  • Travel to Sandanski – town situated in a valley at the foot of Pirin Mountains
  • Overnight Spa & Wellness Hotel Panorama – Sandanski, Bulgaria

Day #9 | Monday | Shalom Bayit – Peace in the Home

  • Rafting down the Struma River
  • Depart to Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital
  • Evening programming at local synagogue
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

Day #10 | Tuesday | Jewish V’Shinantam L’Vanecha – You Shall Teach Your Children

  • Community Service Projects in Sofia
  • Tour of Jewish cultural and religious sites in Sofia
  • Free time and shopping in downtown Sofia
  • Final reflections and farewell program
  • Closing dinner party at a traditional Bulgarian restaurant
  • Overnight: Rila Hotel – Sofia, Bulgaria

DAY #11 | Wednesday | Fairwell Bulgaria, Bruchim HaBa’im – Welcome to Israel!

  • Depart from Bulgaria
  • Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport – Meet your Israeli staff team and begin the ascent to Jerusalem
  • Welcome to Israel! – Shecheyanu ceremony overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem
  • Evening: Orientation and community building experience
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #12 | Thursday | Jerusalem: Foundations of Jerusalem

  • Travel to Neot Kedumim Biblical Park for a leadership workshop, tree planting ceremony and a group-cooked lunch
  • Explore King David’s Jerusalem at the “City of David” complex; walk through Hezekiah’s ancient water tunnel under Jerusalem
  • Follow the Pilgrim’s Route into the Old City and enter the Southern Wall excavations
  • Continue to the Kotel – The Western Wall – for personal reflections at Judaism’s holiest site
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #13 | Friday | Jerusalem Prepares for Shabbat

  • Enter Zion Gate and explore the ancient corridors and rooftops of the Jewish Quarter
  • Lunch and personal exploration time in the Cardo area of the Jewish Quarter
  • Experience the energy of pre-Shabbat shopping at Mahane Yehuda open-air market place
  • Return to our hotel and prepare for an ILSI Shabbat on the Ramat Rachel campus
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #14 | Saturday | A Song for the Sabbath Day

  • Shabbat programming and lunch at Ramat Rachel
  • Swimming, sports and relaxation time
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Group night out at Ben Yehuda Street, the center of Jerusalem nightlife
  • Overnight: Ramat Rachel Guest House, Jerusalem Hills

DAY #15 | Sunday | Northwards to the Galilee

  • Depart the Jerusalem region and travel north to the Galilee
  • Tel Meggido – Explore this ancient Biblical-era site overlooking the Jezreal Valley
  • Break for lunch in Afula and sample some of Israel’s best falafel
  • Continue north, stopping to view the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, along the way
  • Check-in to our kibbutz accommodation in the north – tour the community with a kibbutz member and learn about the kibbutz ideal
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ein Zivan, Golan Heights

DAY #16 | Monday | Al-Hagvulot – Borders & Security

  • Mt. Ben Tal – View across the Golan and Israel’s neighbors from the summit of this dormant volcano
  • Climb up to the ruins of Nimrod’s Castle in the shadow of Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest peak
  • Cool off rafting down the upper Jordan River followed by a fresh-cooked pizza lunch on the riverbanks
  • Misgav Am – Perspectives from Israelis living on the frontier with Lebanon
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ein Zivan, Golan Heights

DAY #17 | Tuesday | The Pioneering Heritage in the Galilee

  • Hike down the lush canyons of Nahal Zavitan or Nahal Yehudiya on the Golan Heights (packed lunch)
  • “Aqua Kef” – Experience the thrill of this floating waterpark on the Sea of Galilee
  • The Kinneret Courtyard and Cemetery – Honor the leadership of the early pioneers who transformed the Galilee
  • Evening: Camping and leadership experience at Park HaYarden along the Jordan River
  • Overnight: Camping at Park HaYarden, Galilee

DAY #18 | Wednesday | Israel’s Multi-Ethnic Society

  • Leket – Volunteering project harvesting for the hungry of Israel at Moshav Nahalal
  • Travel to the Carmel Mountain village of Ussafiya for an encounter with members of the Druze community and a traditional meal
  • Discover Haifa – a model for co-existence in Israel, visiting the Bahai Temple Gardens, the Ahmadiyya Mosque and the Stella Maris Monastery
  • Evening: Meet up with teens from Israel’s sister youth movement in Israel, Maccabi Tzeir
  • Overnight: IYHA Haifa Guest House

DAY #19 | Thursday | Ingathering of the Exiles

  • Zichron Yaakov – Walking tour of an original village founded by Jewish immigrants in the 1880’s
  • Atlit detainee camp – The story of Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust during the British Mandate Era
  • Beach time and picnic lunch along Israel’s rugged Mediterranean Coast
  • Yemin Orde Youth Village – Discover Israel’s unique approach to serving children from immigrant and disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Evening: Celebrate our summer in Israel with hundreds of fellow teens at the BBYO B’Yachad event!
  • Overnight: IYHA Haifa Guest House

DAY #20 | Friday | The Jewish traditions of Tzfat

  • Late wake up and breakfast at the hotel
  • Walking tour of mystical Tzfat – Birthplace of the Kabbalah movement
  • Browse the Tzfat artist colony and meet Kabbalistic artist, Avraham Lowenthal
  • Check-in to our accommodations in the heart of Tzfat and prepare for Shabbat
  • Kabbalat Shabbat service, dinner and Oneg Shabbat
  • Overnight: Tzfat Accommodations

DAY #21 | Saturday | Shabbat in the Galilee

  • Shabbat programming and lunch in Tzfat
  • Afternoon free time and walking tour
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Cruise on the Sea of Galilee with music and dancing
  • Overnight: Tzfat Accommodations

DAY #22 | Sunday | Tikkun Olam – Fixing the World with Hearts & Hands

  • Travel towards Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and commercial capital
  • Volunteer project with Eitan Special, a JDC-funded initiative, and take part in Krav Maga activities with their members
  • Walking tour of Jaffa Seaport and personal exploration time in the Jaffa Flea Market
  • Check-in and dinner at our hotel along the Tel Aviv coast
  • Evening: Attend ashowing of “Not By Bread Alone” at Nalagaat- Israel’s ground breaking theater troupe comprised of deaf and blind actors
  • Overnight: Metropolitan Hotel, Tel Aviv

DAY #23 | Monday | Leadership & Innovation in Tel Aviv

  • Take part in a variety of Leadership Labs across Tel Aviv
  • Break for lunch along Tel Aviv’s trendy Rothschild Boulevard
  • Afternoon: Free time to enjoy the lively beach culture of Tel Aviv
  • Evening: Harness the power of innovative thinking on a PresenTense workshop
  • Overnight: Metropolitan Hotel, Tel Aviv

DAY #24 | Tuesday | Heading South

  • Dig-for-a-Day Archeological Seminar at Beit Guvrin National Park
  • Discover the richness of Jewish Ethiopian culture and take part in a culinary workshop and lunch at the Atachlit – Beta Israel Village
  • Visit Sderot and Netiv HaAsara on the frontier with Gaza, and learn how these communities have adapted to their surroundings
  • Head south to the Negev Desert and check-in to our accommodations at the edge of Nahal Tzin Canyon
  • Overnight: Sde Boker Fields School

DAY #25 | Wednesday | The Desert Blooms

  • Hike to the hidden desert pools at Ein Avdat
  • Sde Boker – Learn about David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, and his vision for the desert
  • Explore the world’s largest erosion crater at the Ramon Crater Visitor Center
  • Camel riding and desert tent feast at Kfar Hanokdim encampment
  • Evening: Stargazing walk in the Judean Desert
  • Overnight: Kfar Hanokdim Guest House

DAY #26 | Thursday | Masada and Dead Sea

  • Pre-sunrise climb to Masada via the Roman Ramp trail
  • Tour of the Masada desert fortress complex – Descend via the Snake Path
  • Experience effortless floating at the Dead Sea’s Ein Bokek Beach
  • Travel back to Jerusalem, and check-in to our accommodations
  • Evening: View “Hero in Heaven” in preparation for our visit to Har Herzl
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #27 | Friday | Loss, Resilience and Renewal

  • Yad VaShemWorld Holocaust Remembrance Center
  • Picnic-style lunch and group processing time
  • Mt. Herzl National Cemetery- Honoring Israel’s national leaders and fallen soldiers
  • Return to our hotel and prepare for our final Shabbat in Israel
  • Re-enter the Old City to experience Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall
  • Walk back to our hotel for dinner, and experience the quiet of a Jerusalem Shabbat
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #28 | Saturday | A Jerusalem Shabbat

  • Morning: Option to attend services at a local synagogue followed by lunch at the hotel
  • The Israel Museum – Discover the Dead Sea Scrolls, Temple model and much more
  • Afternoon: Hang out time at Jerusalem’s Saker Park or explore the graffiti art of Mahane Yehuda while the market is closed
  • Dinner at the hotel followed by a Havdallah service – celebrate the start of a new week
  • Evening: Return to the Old City to experience layers of Jewish history in the Kotel Tunnels, followed by a group night out in Mamilla
  • Overnight: Caesar Hotel, Jerusalem

DAY #29 | Sunday | Bringing the Spirit of Israel Home

  • Geo-political tour of Jerusalem – the seam, the wall, and the future
  • Israel political seminar at StandWithUs
  • Afternoon: Volunteering project in Jerusalem
  • Time for final shopping along Ben Yehuda Street
  • Evening: Wrap-up session and celebrate our time together in Israel at a closing banquet dinner
  • Return to airport for late night flights

DAY #30 | Monday | Shalom U’lhitraot

  • Arrive back to New York City in the morning

You have questions? We’ve got answers! Our most frequently asked questions for this program are answered below. Additional program-wide FAQs are also available. Contact us to learn more.

How will my teen travel to the program?
An optional supervised flight is offered – often from New York City. In some cases, a supervised flight may also depart from Newark. You are responsible for your transportation to the supervised flight departure city. Flight arrangements will be released in the spring. Families are also able to book their own tickets using miles or points that correspond to our supervised flight itinerary or book separate flight itineraries entirely and make arrangements to meet our staff in Sofia. Learn more about our supervised flights.

Where will my teen be sleeping?
In Bulgaria, the group stays in a variety of 3-star hotels. In Israel, many of the accommodations we stay at are kibbutz-based guest houses that are located in Israel’s countryside and provide space for exploration within a secure environment. We use conventional hotels in Jerusalem and occasionally in other cities. All accommodations utilized in Israel have a dedicated guard. When booking our accommodations, we request for each teen to have their own sleeping accommodations in a shared living space.

How is the program staffed?
Each group is accompanied by a team of madrichim (counselors). They are joined by a local tour leader, a bus driver, and a guard. Staff names are sent out approximately 3-4 weeks prior to your departure as part of the pre-trip preparation email series. Staff are asked to make welcome calls to families before departure. Learn more about our staff team.

What’s the summer weather like?
The weather in Bulgaria is hot, sunny, and mostly dry – especially in the southern part of Bulgaria. Daytime temperatures can reach the 80s and 90s; evenings will be in the 60s. Rain is possible in the northern regions, plan accordingly.

Temperatures in Israel range from hot to hotter in the summer. Clothing should be lightweight and comfortable in the heat. Whenever outside for an extended period, teens will be required to have a hat, a shirt with sleeves, sunscreen, and water. Overexposure to the hot Middle Eastern sun can cause heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburns. The good news is the heat is mostly dry – there is very little humidity, and the chance of rain in Israel during the summer is practically zero- no umbrellas needed!

Evenings in Israel tend to get chilly quickly – frequently into the 50s or 60s. Because we will not always return to our accommodations to change before an evening activity, always bring a day-pack with a windbreaker, long-sleeved shirt, or light sweater.

How do you approach security?
The safety of the teens under our care is our guiding consideration. As a program, we take a number of precautions to reduce security risks: We travel on a private coach bus, we plan our itineraries to avoid areas of concern, we always travel with a guard in Bulgaria and Israel, and we are registered for monitoring through Israel’s Situation Room. Learn more about our organization’s approach to safety & security.

What’s the typical group size?
Although it varies from year to year, our average group size in Bulgaria is 75 teens (including local European teens) and our average group size on ILSI is 120 (including European teens).

What’s the food like?
As a travel-based program, our meals take a variety of forms and may include hotel buffets, restaurants, specially catered meals and allowance funds for participants to purchase a meal on their own. All food provided by BBYO Passport experiences in Israel are kosher. Some meals that we provide outside of Israel may be certified kosher, but most meals are not. When a meal is served in a public buffet format (e.g. hotel breakfast), we will always ensure that there are vegetarian or pescatarian options available, but we will also not restrict teens from eating the food of their choice. Some meals may be provided via an allowance system whereby teens will be given cash to purchase the food of their choice. Such meals are typically arranged in an area where there are multiple restaurant options, and teens can choose the food of their liking. In situations where time is of the essence, staff may choose to facilitate meal orders on behalf of teens using their allowance funds, including non-kosher orders. When the group eats at non-kosher restaurants with a pre-ordered menu, the options will only consist of vegetarian or pescatarian dishes. Participants with special dietary situations (i.e. lactose intolerance, gluten-free, kosher, etc.) should contact us in advance to be sure we can accommodate your needs during the program. Bulgarian food is in many ways similar to the food served in Greece and Turkey – tomato, cucumber and cheese salad, filo pastries (byurek) and stuffed vine leaves are among the shared dishes. The food on all Israel trips is kosher throughout. Expect to eat Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods such as falafel, hummus, schnitzel, shakshouka, bourekas, and much more.

Will I need a visa?
If you travel with an American, Canadian, or EU passport – good news! – you don’t need a visa to enter Bulgaria or Israel. If you travel with a passport from another country, you may need a visa. Contact your nearest Bulgarian/Israeli embassy or consulate for additional details.

For more information, check out our general FAQs.

How the Connection Works

As a connected experience, this program combines Ambassador to Bulgaria + ILSI. At the end of Ambassadors to Bulgaria those making the connection will continue on to Israel, generally arriving around the same time as the remainder of the ILSI group. Trip connections are always supervised and all-inclusive. The cost of the connecting flight from Bulgaria to Israel is included as part of our optional supervised flight.

 

PROGRAM REVIEWS

Ambassadors to Bulgaria + ILSI

Travel to Bulgaria for a legendary summer experience combining cross-cultural bonding, service learning, and travel adventures. Then continue on to ILSI, BBYO’s elite leadership and touring program in Israel.

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