Wild Bulgaria: Winter Walk & Snowshoe

8 days
from
1 015 €
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Traveller ratings
5 / 5 from 2 reviews >
Trip code: 
CAB
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Winter Holidays
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–16

Wander through the remote mountains, forests and gorges of Bulgaria

This winter adventure explores a remote and largely untouched part of the Rodopi Mountains that lies seemingly cut off from the outside world. A varied selection of routes will lead us through ancient forests, across panoramic ridges and into deep gorges studded with mysterious caves, discovering more about the amazingly rich wildlife and heritage of the region.

Highlights

  • Explore remote mountain landscape
  • Discover subterranean caves
  • Taste delicious local cuisine and wines

Key information

  • 7 nights hotels, all en suite
  • 5 days guided snowshoeing and winter walking
  • Groups normally 6 to 16, plus guide. Min.age 16 yrs
  • Travel by private minibus

 

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 7 dinners included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visa's and Vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call us on
015 407 558
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Sofia Airport

    Start at Sofia Airport (Terminal 2) where you will be met by your leader and transferred east across the Thracian Plain to the historic city of Plovdiv where we will spend the first night.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Walking tour of old Plovdiv, transfer to Rodopi mountains stopping at Bachkovo Monastery; gentle walk in the valley behind and on to Yagodina

    After breakfast, we will have a short walk around the old part of Plovdiv, seeing some of the main sights such as the Roman theatre, stadium and beautifully preserved merchants’ houses. Then, having bought ourselves some picnic food, we drive south into the Rodopi Mountains and begin our explorations with a visit to one of the most sacred sites in Bulgaria, the Bachkovo Monastery. The largest and most atmospheric monasteries in the country, we enjoy a glimpse into the seemingly timeless monastic world of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and have a chance to admire some of the most outstanding examples of religious art in the country. As well as visiting the monastery itself, we will also enjoy a gentle walk (2 hours) in the tranquil valley behind, a nature reserve that shelters several picturesque chapels. In the afternoon we drive on into the heart of the Rodopi Mountains, briefly stopping off at the village of Shiroka Laka, an architectural reserve that preserves a picturesque church and some fine examples of local vernacular architecture. Completing our transfer, we then arrive at the remote village of Yagodina, seemingly located at the end of the world in a rugged karst region. Here we will be based for the next four nights in a comfortable family-run hotel that is renowned for its hospitality and delicious traditional food.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 3

    Walk or snowshoe up to ridge behind the village to 'Eagle's Eye' viewpoint for fabulous views over the mountains; evening cookery lesson.

    Setting off on foot from the hotel, we will climb steadily up onto the broad open ridge that rises directly north of the village. Here on the cliffs at the westernmost end we will find an amazing viewpoint known as the ‘Eagle’s Eye’, from which there is a breathtaking view down into the depths of the Buynovo Gorge. The cliffs are the haunt of Peregrine Falcon, and occasionally Golden Eagles can also be seen soaring overhead. Resuming our walk (3-4 hours), we then head east along the ridge, being rewarded with a succession of stunning winter panoramas that stretch out over the village and across the seemingly unending folds and forests of the Rodopi Mountains. Having returned to the hotel, we will then receive a cookery lesson, and have an opportunity to prepare ourselves a traditional Rodopi dish that will then be served up as part of our dinner.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Transfer to 'Devil's Throat' cave in Trigrad Gorge for exploration; snowshoe back to Yagodina, stopping at Yagodina Cave.

    The focus of todays’ exploration is the amazing subterranean world of the Trigrad-Yagodina karst region. During the day we will visit two of the most famous caves in Bulgaria, and discover more about their formation as well as the fascinating creatures that live within. Beginning at the dramatic Trigrad Gorge, we first visit the so-called ‘Devil’s Throat’ Cave, an enormous chasm containing a thundering waterfall and underground river. This is the cave from which Orpheus is said to have emerged after his fateful trip to the Underworld. However, today the cave is renowned as one of the most important hibernating sites in Europe for Schreiber’s Bent-winged Bat which is found here in colonies numbering several thousand, accompanied by smaller numbers of Long-fingered Bat. Having emerged from the cave, we then make our way back towards Yagodina on foot (3 hours), skirting around the Durdaga massif through prime Brown Bear habitat. At this time of the year, the bears are normally tucked away sleeping in their dens, but if the weather is unseasonably mild, then they often awake from hibernation, and we may come across their tracks. Our hike finishes at the Yagodina Cave, internationally renowned for its great variety of cave formations. We will spend about an hour walking through the cave learning about the different speleothems, and also keeping our eyes open for hibernating Greater Horseshoe and Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Head out into the surrounding forests to experience this wild region, home to boar, deer and the grey wolf; late afternoon visit to ethnographic museum, evening demonstration of folk dancing.

    Leaving the hotel on foot, we set off on an exciting walk (4-5 hours) into the lonely wilds of the surrounding forests. Often this part of the mountains experiences significant snowfall in winter, so it is likely we will need to use snowshoes in places to help us break a trail. Our route leads us into a remote region that in winter becomes the realm of the Grey Wolf, and we will keep our eyes open for any signs of their presence, as well as look out for the tracks of other animals such as Wild Boar, Roe Deer, Brown Hare and Red Squirrel. The silent forests also shelter a variety of interesting birds, and if we are lucky we may encounter species such as Black Woodpecker, Hazel Grouse and Crested Tit. Finally, having made our way across the mountains to the village of Trigrad, we will be picked up by our bus and driven back to Yagodina. Before dinner, we will be able to visit the village ethnographic museum, and see some of the traditional handicrafts that are still used and manufactured by the locals. Later in the evening, some of the village ladies will come to the hotel and, as well us entertaining us with traditional songs, will also teach us some of the local folkdances, thus bringing a lively close to our stay in Yagodina!

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Transfer to Devin, meet local guides and set off tracking local species such as the Balkan Chamois and Mouflon.

    Leaving the village of Yagodina, we have a short drive to the nearby town of Devin. Here, in the mountains surrounding the town, we will meet up with guides from the local game reserve and spend several hours trying to track, observe and photograph a variety of elusive animals such as Wild Boar, Balkan Chamois, Mouflon, Roe Deer and Red Deer. Our exciting forest safari will be partly on foot and partly in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Later in the afternoon, you can then thaw out and soothe away any tired and aching muscles in the warm mineral waters of our hotel swimming pool; or if you are feeling especially self-indulgent, perhaps treat yourself to a massage or other treatment in the hotel spa.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Follow the Devinska Reka Valley along the eco trail along the water's edge; afternoon transfer across Thracian Plain to Sofia.

    After breakfast, we will spend the morning walking (2 hours) along the valley of the Devinska Reka, following a specially constructed eco-trail that sticks close to the water’s edge. The sparkling stream is home to Otter and a habitat for typical riverine birds such as White-throated Dipper, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. Finally, having checked out of the hotel and bought yourself something for lunch in the town of Devin, we then start the transfer back to Sofia, a long but interesting journey that first takes us through the dramatic Krichim Gorge, then out into the Thracian Plain. The final night of the holiday is at a hotel in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    End Sofia.

    Depending on flight schedules, there should be time for a short sightseeing tour of Sofia’s main sites, before driving on to the airport for departure.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Bulgaria

Visas are not required for Bulgaria for British and other EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

Vaccinations

Bulgaria

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

7 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 7 dinners are included in this trip.

Breakfast: Will usually include tea or coffee, bread, jam, honey and cheese, supplemented in Yagodina by fresh home-made yoghurt and traditional local specialities such as thick pancakes known as 'katmi' and a rice-based dish called 'rodopski klin'.

Lunch: Picnic lunches will be eaten in the mountains and typically comprise of bread, cheese, salami, salad, biscuits and fruit. Our hotel in Yagodina provides us with picnic food, but on other days you will need to buy your own provisions in local shops.

Dinner: Will be taken in our hotel restaurant, and will normally include four courses comprising a salad, soup and main course, followed by a dessert of fruit, ice cream, or cake/pudding. The cuisine reflects a mixture of Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish and Slavonic influences. We sample many traditional local specialities including 'smilyanski fasul', a delicious bean soup and 'patatnik', a local delicacy made with grated potatoes, onions, and cheese, then seasoned with mint and other herbs. Jugs of tap water will be provided on the table with the evening meal. Bottled mineral water, soft drinks and alcohol are not included but may be purchased. There are several local wines that you may wish to try, including an excellent red 'Mavrud' from vineyards on the northern slopes of the Rodopi. Vegetarians and Vegans: Bulgaria is famed for its fresh vegetables and fruit, so vegetarians are usually well catered for. However, as dairy produce and eggs form the staple part of the diet in this region and occur in the vast majority of meals, it is more difficult for vegans who will find the variety of their menu more restricted.

Weather

Whilst Bulgaria’s plains and valleys can often be grey and foggy in winter, the weather in the Rodopi Mountains is typically much brighter. However, occasionally temperatures can plummet, and in exposed windy places it can feel very cold. Central parts of the Rodopi often experience heavy winter snowfalls, which can blanket the mountains in deep drifts necessitating the use of snowshoes for walking. In some years, unseasonably warm Mediterranean winds can suddenly blow in across the mountains from the south bringing with them a rapid thaw and awakening the local brown bears from hibernation. It must also be remembered that mountain weather can at times be very fickle, and as a result we may occasionally be forced to amend the itinerary to suit prevailing conditions.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is for those who seek a winter wildlife and cultural experience in a remote and unspoiled mountain environment far away from the bustle of crowded ski resorts, and who appreciate the excitement of tracking, observing and photographing elusive animals. It also offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the traditional culture of rural Bulgaria. Walking for between 3-5 hours each day, we will explore a range of habitats including caves, cliffs, forests and rivers, following traditional shepherds' paths, forest tracks, and ancient Roman roads. Although for the most part moderately gentle, the trails on this holiday can sometimes be rough and undulating, and do include the occasional steeper ascent and descent as we climb over ridges or drop down into gorges. In places, it is likely we will encounter deeper snow, so on some of our walks we will use snowshoes and ski-poles to ease our progress.

Call us on
015 407 558
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

Our first night is spent at a centrally located hotel in Plovdiv. We then have four nights in the village of Yagodina, in one of the most remote parts of the Rodopi Mountains. This family-run hotel offers comfortable twin rooms with en suite facilities. We then have one night at a spa hotel in Devin, a mountain town famed for its mineral water, before moving on for a final night at a hotel in Sofia. Single supplement GBP100.

Call us on
015 407 558
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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  • Reviewed February 2016
    Michael Ramsey

    Wild Bulgaria: Winter Walk and Snowshoe

    This was a very varied trip, which included sightseeing in the old town of Plovdiv (impressive Roman remains, immense town walls and elegant merchants houses) and at the Bachovo monastery on our way to the Rodopi mountains, some lovely ridge walks with stunning panoramic views across the mountain range and down the impressive limestone gorges, visits to two very different show caves, several hours in a game reserve (followed by a night in a spa hotel) and some very enjoyable short walks on transfer days. We finished with an overnight stay in Sofia, and had the opportunity to have a brief look round the major sites before our transfer to the airport.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had so many new experiences that it is difficult to single out any particular one. The programme was very well put together and included a local cookery demonstration and a singing and dancing demonstration by some local women, who picked up the English dances we inexpertly attempted to teach them rather better than we did the Bulgarian ones. The walking was easy, but the days out would have been much more tiring if there had been any depth of snow; some of us used snowshoes on a single day, but others managed without. The Trigrad gorge and the view from the Eagle's Eye were spectacular. The hotel accommodation and food was all excellent, but we enjoyed the stay at the family hotel in Yagodina the most. Seeing wild boar, mouflon and Balkan Chamois was fantastic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Nelly was delightful; she was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and managed to keep a group with very different walking abilities together. We learned a lot about Bulgarian history and wildlife from her. She adapted the programme and the pace to satisfy everyone, worked very hard and was full of fun.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although we didn't have much snow, some of the tracks were very icy, especially in the mornings. We had instep crampons which were very useful, and several of the group used other ice grips on their boots. We were a fairly slow group, which didn't matter because it was so mild, but would have got very cold if the temperatures had been as expected. The cost of living in Bulgaria is low, so extra food and drinks were cheap. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, tipping is generally expected and we did spend more than the suggested spending money. The hotels all had wetrooms (some rather wetter than others), so the advice to take a pair of flip-flops or similar was useful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We saw very few birds, but binoculars were very useful for animal spotting.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Erica Stott

    Wild Bulgaria - a revelation

    Never having been to Bulgaria before, we didn't really know what to expect. However we were attracted to this holiday because of the variety it offered. Although we had freezing temperatures, the holiday well surpassed our expectations. We were kept active with beautiful mountain walks; yet we also managed to see interesting architecture in Plovdiv, go on an animal safari, before having a swim in the luxury spa hotel in Devin, visit some astonishing caves in the Rodopi, have half a day in Sofia and see an ancient monastery. On top of all that there was a cookery lesson and local singing and dancing in Yagodina.. There was just so much to this break. Although the snow wasn't deep enough for snowshoeing, the scenery looked like a wonderful winter wonderland and we had the whole area to ourselves. We had an excellent guide who shared her extensive knowledge of the area and people with us, and we were also accompanied on most of our walks by a good- natured village hunting dog. Everywhere we stayed we had great food and accommodation and the hotel staff in Yagodina were particulary welcoming and friendly.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's very difficult to pick just one moment. The views we had at the high points of our mountain climbs were often breathtaking and the air although cold was so fresh. I enjoyed all the contrasts - seeing Roman ruins and grand merchant houses in Plovdiv, then driving through a modern skiing resort before turning the corner and encountering villages with old rustic mountain homes in the Rodopi. Another highlight was our morning in Sofia. It was Sunday so all the beautiful historic churches were conducting services. I had never seen a Greek Orthodox service or a Russian Orthodox service before.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I couldn't fault Neli at all. She was always there for us. Keen and enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. Moreover she was a thoroughly nice person.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We encountered some challenging walking conditions in the mountains because there had previously been a thaw, and then colder weather had arrived which meant there was a lot of treacherous ice underfoot. You couldn't avoid having to traverse some pretty nasty stretches. We just learnt to take things very cautiously. However I think you can purchase ice grips to put on the soles of walking boots which would have been very useful in the conditions we experienced.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We have never traveled with Exodus before. However we were amazed at the brilliant organisation of the whole trip. We were also impressed by our driver who had to to drive on some poor roads in some nasty conditions with a lot of ice and snow, but he was such a steady and accurate driver that we always had full confidence in him.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on 015 407 558