This riding centre is nestled on the northern side of the Balkan Range in the outskirts of the mountain village Apriltsi in the heart of Bulgaria and with the most fantastic panorama of Mount Botev, right next door is the Central Balkan National Park. Here day rides out from the base are available for novice riders onwards. The large stable of 40 horses is surrounded by picturesque fields and has a welcome bar where you can relax with a drink in hand as you gaze out at the horses grazing and the mountains beyond. With the green meadows blooming with wildflowers surrounded by ancient trees, it really is an idyllic setting. Accommodation is in the village, walking distance in twin or double rooms with shared facilities, or an upgrade to small hotels with swimming pool can be arranged.
The Central Balkan National Park is one of the most valuable and among the biggest protected areas in Europe. It is over 716 km2 and was established in 1991 in order to protect the unique nature, flora and fauna. The brown bear is the symbol of the park and sightings are quite frequent but don’t worry – they are more afraid of us. Nearby Apriltsi used to be four independent small villages, but has grown into a real town with almost 5000 inhabitants. It is situated up in the mountains and is the end point of the road, so traffic in these parts is very limited. At the end of Apriltsi the asphalt road is taken over by a gravel road, after that by two wheel tracks and here you find the real mountains - here you find the challenges and experiences. Many painters, musicians and writers have found the freedom to be creative in these surroundings and their houses are real active workshops. The local guides will help you find all the best routes to ride out and explore this natural beauty. You will see many of the natural sights such as the Paradise Hut, The Vidima Waterfall, a remote monastery or fantastic rocks. Every day has its own rides and no 2 days are the same.
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You will be met at the airport at approximately 18:00 and transferred to the riding centre. Dinner will be served and you have some time to chat to your guides and fellow guests in the evening.
After breakfast you walk down to the stables and meet the horses for the first time. The riding guides will introduce horse and rider to each other and explain how they ride here in the mountains, about the horses and about rules in the mountains. You start riding on site in the morning to get used to your horse and the riding style. After lunch you leave the centre for a 3 hour sight-seeing ride around Apriltsi.
After breakfast you mount up and leave the village on horseback for a ride to The Green Meadows. Here you can ride in all paces and for the very experienced riders there is a chance to have a good gallop. From the meadows you ride to the river and have lunch. After the break you ride for 2 more hours back to the centre.
Today you ride up into the mountains, over 1000 m above sea level. You will have lunch in the mountains before descending back to the base. In the evening you might ride out to see the wildlife around Apriltsi.
Today you set off over the hilltops of Ostrets and Peperi – under the Black Peak (1500m) to a small monastery. Enjoy lunch in the monastery garden before riding back to the base through fields and meadows and along the river.
Today we ride into the National park. The ride will take us to Vidima, a small village, to the Vidima Waterfall, one of the biggest in Bulgaria (1350 m above sea level). A small ecopath is taking you up by feet and the horses will rest in the meantime. After lunch we ride in the park and will enjoy all the hidden treasures of the great untouched nature.
Now you know something about the area and we can choose between all the possibilities in the area: If you and the group prefer mountain riding we’ll ride in the mountains. If you’ll like to ride to one of the small villages, a monastery or other sights we do that. Whatever is chosen you will enjoy the picturesque landscape and in the evening we have the good bye dinner.
Breakfast and free time until the departure for the airport.
For the experienced rider there are many possibilities for challenging riding in the mountainous terrains, riding through mountain rivers, up and down steep mountains and all other kinds of areas. For the less experienced there is the option to ride near the base to start with until you are comfortable with the horses and equipment, and then you can ride out in the mountains. It is important for that groups are as evenly matched as possible so please provide a full and honest review of your riding abilities when booking this ride. If you are a family or group of mixed riding ability, please contact us to discuss the options.
Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, it may be possible to arrange a 2-day extended trail into the mountains, staying in a lodge overnight. There is an extra fee for this which is payable on site when the trail can be confirmed.
It may not possible to have a single room on this ride due to accommodation limitations and you should be prepared to share. If a sharer cannot be found a supplement will apply.
For the set transfer times arrival at Sofia should be no later than 17:00 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. 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.
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 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 which we can book any additional nights you may require. The rates include bed, breakfast, free wireless internet access, free fitness facilities, VAT, insurance and city tax.
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.
There are a total of 25 horses available for riding. Breeds range from East Bulgarian horses and crosses between East Bulgarians and Arabians. They vary in size from 14hh to 16.3hh 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 well trained and 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 a combination of lowland and high mountains.
There are a lot of natural riding paths in the beautiful valleys and in the mountains. Many of them are excellent for galloping. For the experienced rider there are many possibilities for challenging riding in the mountainous terrains, riding through mountain rivers, up and down steep mountains and all other kinds of areas. And the terrain is for all types of riders. The guides know what to show you if you’re experienced but also if you don’t have the experience yet. For the less experienced you can ride for a while near the base and when you get comfortable with horses and the equipment you then ride out in the mountains – and also in all paces if you are up for that. It is important that the group is as evenly matched as possible, so please provide an honest and accurate assessment of your riding abilities when you book this ride. Some parts are at walk on steep and stony places but long trots and canters are a part of the daily rides. The trails are fully guided by knowledgeable and safety conscious guides. Saddle bags and bottled water are provided on the ride. The saddles are equipped with ponchos which will be used in case of rain together with your own rain gear.
Riders should be able to ride at a walk, trot and canter. Good horses are available for nervous or more inexperienced riders. Riding fitness is required for the longer trails and overnight trails, which may also require some walking depending on the conditions. 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 weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
You’ll stay in the same house every day and you will have the possibility to follow the typical daily life in a small town, where the goats are still walking through the streets and the chickens live in the back yard. Usually you will stay in a house together with the other riders in double rooms and a shared shower/toilet on the floor. Private accommodation in Bulgaria is to be compared with ”Bed & breakfast” in England and of course you have some privacy during the stay! The stay is with full board and all meals are enjoyed in the house or outside in the garden. During the daily rides a picnic is organized for lunch or you bring a lunch package in your saddle bags. Another option is to stay in one of the small hotels (additional fee), some of them with swimming pool. We can arrange the accommodation exactly the way you want it.
The food is one of the highlights of this holiday - 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.
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.
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
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 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 winter life throughout Bulgaria is sometimes disrupted by heavy snowfalls. The weather in the mountains is very changeable and even on the hottest day you should still come prepared with your rain gear! The difference in day and night temperatures is quite vast and you should bring a fleece even in the summer months.
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: 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.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, you'll definitely need it! There will be electricity to recharge mobile phones and camera batteries except if going on a 2 day trail into the mountains.
Come prepared for heat as well as cold. Mountain climates can be very changeable, layers and warm clothing are essential even in summer. All riding gear including hat, gloves (also warm), riding trousers, jacket, boots that are also suitable to walk in.
Water bottle (optional, you will be given 500ml mineral water bottles each day),
warm and rain/windproof gear,
mosquito repellant (this is not a problem, but more to have protection against flies),
In the summer months bring a swimming trunks/costume for the mountains lake or at swimming pools or just sunbathing in the siesta at noon.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with riding on 6 days, available every Saturday throughout the year.
2020: Available all year, Saturday arrivals.
It may not possible to have a single room on this ride due to accommodation limitations and you should be prepared to share. If a sharer cannot be found a supplement will apply.
In Apriltsi you can go to the swimming pools and you can rent a bike or hike in the mountains. The nearest big town is Troyan – about 25 km from Apriltsi. Troyan is a nice town with shopping streets and cafés. Near Troyan you find the third biggest monastery in Bulgaria: The Troyan Monastery. It is possible to visit on a daytrip by car. About 50 km from Apriltsi is the city of Gabrovo and here you find the famous ethnographical museum Etara with houses and buildings from medieval Bulgaria. And a little bit further in the northern direction is Veliko Tarnovo – once the Bulgarian capital and now well known for its architecture and the fortress Tsarevets.
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 singing Rocks Reserve is sanctury to a wide variety of fruit, flora and fauna as well as the animals. You'll see common fir, sycamore (common and alpine), mountain ash, manna-ash and hornbeam. The high mountain meadows are dotted with cranberries and bilberries, juniper, gentian, campanula, and a variety of aromatic, flowering grasses. Bear, weasel, chamois, golden eagle, black and white-backed woodpecker, red deer, roe, wild cat, wild boar, and a range of predatory birds can also be found on the Reserve. Due to the noise created by a group of riders, the shyer animals are hard to spot. You may have more luck on a quiet walk in the morning or evening.
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