This trail ride follows the ancient trails that for hundreds of years have connected north Bulgaria with the south. It starts from a small town on the north side of the Balkan Mountains, and brings you to the highest point in the Balkan Range, Mount Botev (2376 m).

You'll ride through towns with interesting architecture and old monasteries, and spend the night there. It continues through the Valley of Roses to the Sredna Gora mountains where you will stay in a mountain chalet Svezhen 1100m high. The views of the Valley of the Thracian Kings are impressive and after having entered the check-point the ride continues through the Central Balkan National Park before returning back to base.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from RL of Galashiels on 10/09/2019

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday
The Holiday was very relaxing and exactly as described in the brochure.
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Meals
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Unicorn comments:

Day 1
You'll be met in the airport and transfered to the mountains. Please book your flight to arrive no later than 18:00. Accommodation at the base in a double room with shared facilities. Evening meal.

Day 2
In the morning the riders choose their horse and you ride out in the wonderful terrains around the little town. After lunch the trek starts and you ride up into the mountains for roughly 3 hours to the first chalet. All mountain chalets on the ride are 2-3 bedded with shared facilities.

Day 3
The trail continues through the National Park over the Balkan Mountains. From Mt. Botev the Mariza plains open up on the horizons. After 6-7 hours ride the day ends at a small monastery where the riders and horse will find a rest for the night.

Day 4
In the morning you'll have time to explore the monastery and the life in the small town. After lunch the trail passes though the 'Valley of the Roses'  
and after nearly 5 hours you will reach the Sredna Gora Mountains where we will overnight in a mountain chalet.

Day 5
The whole day is spent riding around  “The Valley of Roses”. Play, fun and games with the horses – a ride to the village – relax at the edge of a small lake. In the fantastic meadows you have all possibilities to break into a gallop or to be a pathfinder together with the riding guide in the waste surroundings. Evening accommodation is at a different mountain chalet.

Day 6
After breakfast we head north on a long 7 hours ride where you will reach your overnight accommodation which is another mountain chalet.

Day 7
We continue over the mountains back to the place where it all began. After the 6 hour ride you will see the stables and the arena marking the end of the trail.

Day 8
After breakfast you will have free time until your departure to the airport, where you will have the chance to say good-bye to the horses at the end of your horse riding holiday. Please book your departure flight to depart no earlier than 12 midday.

All itineraries are for guidance only and may be altered due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Bulgarian Trail

It is may not possible to have a single room on this ride due to accommodation limitations and you should be prepared to share. On the occasion that single occupancy rooms are available, supplements will apply.

For the set transfer times arrival at Sofia should be no later than 18:00 on the day of arrival and departure booked no earlier than 12:00 on the day of departure. The time of departure to the mountains from the airport and from the mountains to Sofia airport is arranged according the timetable for latest arriving guest and earliest departing guest.

If riders are aready in Sofia before the holiday starts, they must still make their way back to the airport for the transfer. A meeting time will be given out around 8-10 days prior to the start of the riding holiday.

SOFIA
Sofia is definitely worth a visit. We recommend a few nights to explore the old churches, antique markets with Soviet and WWII relics, art and ethnic museums as well as almost Viennese coffee and cake shops. The best place to stay is the Sveta Sofia hotel which is located in the heart of Sofia on the main pedestrian road. We can book extra nights for you at this hotel, please enquire for up to date prices.

 

Riders who booked this ride also considered:

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Kilimanjaro Safari Trail - Tanzania
Big 5 Safari in Tanzania for experienced riders at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Madagascar Trail - Madagascar
See lemurs in the rain forests, then embark on an 8 day safari to the remote center of this ecologically diverse country accompanied by ox-carts. Finally relax on a coral island for a few days.
 

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

There are a total of 40 horses included breeding stock and 25 horses available for riding. Breeds range from East Bulgarian horses and crosses between East Bulgarians and Arabians. They vary in size from 14hh to16.3hh and all have very affectionate loving natures and are well used to being given treats.


The East Bulgarian breed is well known for being tough and surefooted in the mountains. The horses are in excellent health with gleaming coats and strongly muscled. They are all very reliable and steady, some are more forward going than others!


Western tack is utilised for greater comfort on long days, snaffle bridles and English style aids are used. The horses are shod with special shoes to give them grip on steep slopes. Riding is at a walk on steep and stony places but long trots and canters in the middle portion of the ride liven things up.


The hours are longer than average - from 6 to 8 hours a day over hilly and mountainous terrains. The trail is fully guided by knowledgeable and safety conscious guides. Full rain gear (ponchos), saddle bags and bottled water is provided on the ride.

Rider requirements

Riders should be able to ride at a walk, trot and canter. Good horses are available for nervous or more inexperienced riders, but riding fitness is essential due to long hours in the saddle.

There is a short distance to walk beside your horse on one day. You should be able to mount and dismount unaided. The horses are saddled and groomed for you. You are welcome to help if you wish but this is not necessary. The minimum age for this ride is 15 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in various places along the route including mountain chalets, and a private house at the base, all basic with shared facilities. The rooms are neat and clean with twin/double or sometimes 3 beds in a room. Bathroom and shower facilities may be shared between several rooms but there is plenty of hot water for showers each night.


The accommodation is limited in this part of the country so you should be prepared to share. When there are 8 riders it may not be possible to have a room to yourself.


The food is one of the highlights of this trail - freshly cooked local produce with many vegetables. Tasty and varied but not very spicy. Local dishes such as vegetable moussaka, tarator soup, schnitzels and banitsa pastry will quickly become firm favourites. A local cookbook is an excellent souvenir! Meals are often 4 courses although on some days lunches are picnics from the saddle bags which are more limited. Excellent local wines and beers are available for a very reasonable price.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visas are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information:

Since Janury 2007 Bulgaria is a member of the EU, so no visas are required for EU citizens. Children need to have their own passports.

The British Embassy in Sofia can be found at: British Embassy, 9 Moskovska Street, Sofia, Telephone: (+359) (2) 933 9222 Web site: http://www.british-embassy.bg

The Bulgarian Embassy in the UK can be found at: 186–188 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5HL, Telephone: 020 7584 9400/9433 or 020 7589 3763 Consular SectionWeb site: http://www.bulgarianembassy.org.uk

Climate Summary

Bulgaria's climate is a distinct case of Mediterranean-meets-eastern-Europe. Summers have a few more wet days than the start of the year and are pleasantly hot and sunny, mostly sitting in the low 30°Cs (high 80°Fs) and slightly fresher at higher altitudes. Winters are your typical European affair, little sunshine and days averaging between -4°C and 6°C (25-42°F). The Black Sea moderates temperatures in the east of the country. Rainfall is highest in the mountains, and in winter life throughout Bulgaria is sometimes disrupted by heavy snowfalls.

Climate Chart


Health

Facilities in most Bulgarian hospitals are basic and old-fashioned compared to those in the UK. Standards of medical care are acceptable, although specialised equipment/treatment may not be available, and hospital staff may not speak English.

You are required to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover the full period you will be in the country at the time of booking, we recommend including medivac to the UK if necessary. You should be aware, however, that most insurance companies will not authorise medivac to the UK as a matter of routine, or because local hospitals are not up to UK standards. You should check any exclusions and that your policy covers you for horseriding.

The Form E111 is no longer valid. You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to any medical treatment that becomes necessary on the same terms as Bulgarian nationals. You will not be covered for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. For more information about how to obtain the EHIC please see Europe and the EHIC.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk

You are advised to seek medical advice before you travel about inoculations for tick borne encephalitis

Electricity

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz as in the UK so electrical appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors. These are widely available for purchase, including at departure airports throughout the UK.

Film and Camera Equipment

Don’t forget to bring your camera, you'll definitely need it! It is recommended that you bring everything you
need for your camera including memory cards and batteries etc as you wont be able to pick these up in the countryside. On most nights there will be electricity to recharge mobile phones and camera
batteries. On 2 nights a generator provides power for a limited time only. There will be no
mobile phone coverage at few points along the trail and only limited coverage in the monastery due the high mountains.

Packing List

Come prepared for heat as well as cold. Mountain climates can be very changeable, layers are essential. All riding gear including hat, gloves (also warm), riding trousers, jacket, boots that are also suitable to walk.

Water bottle (optional, you will be given 500ml mineral water bottles each day)
Warm and rain/windproof gear
Binoculars
Mosquito repellant (this is not a problem, but more to have protection against flies)
Indoor shoes
Warm fleece
Sport sunglasses
Sunscreen
Towel - the accommodation along the way do not provide bathroom towels

In the summer months bring a swimming trunks/costume for the mountain lake or just sunbathing in the siesta at noon.

Programmes

Set departure dates are available, 8 days / 7 nights. For groups of 4 or more other dates can be arranged between May and October. Group discount available for 4+ riders booking together.

Departure Dates

2019: 13, 20 Apr; 4, 11, 25 May; 1, 8, 29 Jun; 6, 13 Jul; 17, 24 Aug; 7, 28 Sept; 5, 12 Oct.

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

On the occasion that single occupancy rooms are available, supplements will apply.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20198d/7n6double pp965
20198d/7n6single supplement per night when available14
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20198d/7n6double pp1,095
20198d/7n6single supplement per night when available15
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20198d/7n6double pp1,295
20198d/7n6single supplement per night when available18
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20198d/7n6double pp12,045
20198d/7n6single supplement per night when available165
Other Activities

The Valley of Roses, during the blooming period is stunning. You may like to visit the site where rose oil for the perfume industry is produced (extra cost). During the trail you'll ride near to the rose fields.

For people in good physical condition, you might like to experience an enthralling mountain bike ride. There is a great route, but you'll need your own bike.

Wildlife

The Central Balkan National Park is at your disposal here. The varied climatic conditions and complex mountain terrain of the Central Balkan National Park combine to provide a variety of wildlife habitats. The Park is one of the few remaining locations in Europe that provides sanctuary to rare and endangered animals, such as the wolf, marten, otter, wild cat, Geoffrey’s bat, barbastelle, Schreiber’s bat, common dormouse, Balkan chamois, imperial eagle, corncrake, and ring ouzel. The Park is the world’s most significant habitat of the semi-collared flycatcher, white-backed woodpecker, Bechstein’s bat, souslik, and mountain molerat. Out of the 30 species of European Bats, 18 can be found in the park. You'll also find brown bear, roe deer, red deer and wild boar here.
The Central Balkan National Park is a land of untouched wildlife and wilderness. It is situated in the highest and most beautiful part of the Middle Balkan Mountains. On the top of the mountains you might see wild horses and eagles. Due to the noise level of a group of riders, the shyer animals are hard to spot on the ride. Walking quietly in the mornings and evenings you will see more.

Other Information

There are plenty of highlights on this trip, some are below:
- The Central Balkan National Park is a land of untouched wildlife and wilderness. It is situated in the highest and most beautiful part of the Middle Balkan Mountains. On the top of the mountains you may be will see the wild horses and the eagles in the sky.
- The Valley of Roses – during the blooming period also a visit to the production of the famous rose oil for the perfume industry. During all trails we pass near to the rose fields.
- Monastery overnight – to spend and evening inside a monastery and a night in the monastery at the foot of mt. Botev and wake up when the bells are ringing is really an exiting experience.
- Village visit in Svezhen – you don’t need to visit an ethnographical museum – this remote village is a living one.

Other Country Information

Bulgaria has changed swiftly over the last decade, though in the villages you can still find folk who ride the donkey to work, eat homegrown potatoes and make their own cheese. The difference now is that they wash it all down in front of a satellite TV.
When Bulgaria ran away with the topsy-turvy capitalist circus, no-one told its people they were swinging without a safety net. But what the visitor encounters now is a country struggling valiantly to adapt and people who remain remarkably hospitable in the face of social and economic chaos. Urban Bulgaria, especially Sofia, is much changed, so visit now.

Time Zone is GMT/UTC +2. Daylight saving is in place and starts last Sunday in March, ending on the last Sunday in October. Weights and measures are metric so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and stone. One mile is about 1.6km and one stone about 6.8kg

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Sofia Airport (SOF)
Clients can also fly into Plovidv (PDV) please contact us for transfer details
Transfer:
2019: Included from meeting point according to time of last arriving/earliest departing guest. Flights should be booked to arrive before 18:00 and departure after 12:00 on return. Other times can be arranged for a fee of €150 per car (1-3 pax) each way, payable on site. Approximate transfer time is 3 hours.
Flight Guide:
London - Sofia with Wizz Air or Hemus Air from £110 return