The Thracian valley is an ideal location for riding that offers picturesque terrain of rose and lavender fields which allows for a faster pace. The trail combines plenty of canters and amazing scenery with ancient Thracian and Roman ruins, delicious wines and spa opportunities thanks to the healing mineral springs. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels, often with swimming pool, sauna and spa to help relieve any aches and pains!
Throughout this ride the group will explore many of the region's wonders such as visiting the Starosel Temple, the biggest underground temple in the Balkan peninsula, dating back to the 4th century BC. The itinerary includes visits to the fascinating towns of Plovdiv and Hissar, riding in the Sredna Gora mountains and plenty of opportunities to recuperate from the hours in the saddle in spa hotels with saunas and pools. A wine-tasting is also included.
The Thracian Lowlands is one of the most highly recommended wine regions at present, with Wine Enthusiast magazine describing the region as a place where "archaeological wonders combine with modern wines in a travel fantasyland." Mavrud, a famous local wine is grown here, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscatel.
Locations on the trail:
Plovdiv - In the heart of the Balkan peninsular, this ancient city is more than 8000 years old and a contemporary of ancient Troy. Today its name is Plovdiv, but for the Thraians it was Evmolpia, then the Macedonia king Philip, named it after himself, Philipopolis. It was the centre of all the great civilizations that have inhabited Bulgaria and is Europe's oldest continuously inhabited city.
Sredna Gora - Magnificient sights are revealed from the Sredna Gora Mountains due to its central location – you'll be able to glimpse the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Rhodopi and Rila Mountains to the south, as well as the vast Thracian Valley.
Hissar - An ancient town notable for the impressive remains of the ancient Roman city of Diocletianopolis, the enormous walls of which still stand close to their original height The place is also well known for its 22 healing mineral springs.
Starosel Temple - Only discovered in 2000 this enormous temple comprises of a vault tomb, another tomb with colonnade and several cenotaphs dating from the 5th-4th century BC.
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 DP of Newbury on 04/11/2022
Day 1: Plovdiv: Arrive at Sofia airport (no later than 4pm) and transfer to the cultural capital of Bulgaria, Plovdiv. Explore this fascinating city with historical traces that date from before the Roman era. Plovdiv's center is older than 8000 years. This is the location of the Ethnographic Museum and one of the best preserved ancient theatres in existence. Here riders can see the Roman Forum and a very well-preserved theater from the early 2nd century. Dinner and overnight at the largest stable complex for show jumpers in southern Bulgaria.
Day 2: Hisarya: After breakfast the is a transfer to the starting point of the trail where the horses will be waiting. Once everyone has been assigned the correct horse the first ride begins towards the historical city of Hisarya. Hisarya is famous for its mineral waters and has 16 natural mineral springs and 6 drilled mineral water wells. The town is one of the oldest and most popular balneotherapy and spa centres in Bulgaria. En route the group will get the chance to enjoy some nice canters on easy terrain. Lunch is a saddle bag picnic on the banks of a beautiful river. After the ride you will be able to relax in the mineral SPA center at a 4* hotel. Riding time 5 hrs.
Day 3: Wine & Spa Complex Starosel: After seeing HIsarya's historical sights, the ride starts over hilly terrain towards Bulgaria's most famous Wine Complex. Passing vineyards, meadows, numerous lakes and oak forests, the landscape changes entirely from the previous day as the trail ascends the Sredna gora mountain. Lunch is a saddle bag picnic next to a beautiful lake. Relax at the mineral Spa at the complex to soak any post-ride aches. A pre-dinner wine tasting sampling a specially selected choice of STAROSEL, served with light snacks and mineral waters in the 'Wine Temple' and gift certificate (cost approx EU15). Riding time 3.5hrs.
Day 4: Eagles Rock and SPA Complex: Before today's ride starts the group visits the largest Thracian temple complex in the Balkans, where excavations are still underway. Built in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the tombs have provided researchers with great insight into the history and culture of these mysterious people. Today's journey heads for the highest point of the ride at around 1800m in the heart of Sredna Gora mountain renowned for its scenery and panoramic views. Lunch at a restaurant in an old lodge. Accommodation is a hotel with a SPA center with a pool, sauna and jacuzzi. Riding time 5 hrs.
Day 5: Valley of the Roses: Today's destinations is the famous Valley of Roses and the mineral SPA center of Aqua Termi. The trail allows for a ride through a protected Beech forest with amazing trees before climbing to the famous "peak of the Wolves", that offers a breathtaking view over the 'Valley of the Roses'. The ride to the hotel allows for long, rose scented, canters. Accommodation is at a hotel with a mineral SPA center. Riding time 4 hrs.
Day 6: Lake Pyasachnik and Boutique Complex Trakiets
Today is Bogdan's (your guide) favourite, riding along the biggest lake in the Thracian plains. Weather permitting, you could take a swim with the horses. This is cantering country and you will have plenty of opportunity to have fun with your horse as the trail passing through beautiful meadows. Accommodation is at the Boutique Complex Trakiets (or similar), which combines both an amazing SPA center and Bulgaria's most renowned jumping stable. Riding time 4 hrs.
Day 7: Tsaratsovo
Today's route follows vineyards and fields, back to the stables where the journey began on the first day. Along the way riders will get the chance for a few more canters before heading home in the early afternoon. This brings the ride to an end and after saying a fond farewell to your trusty horse, it is back to the complex to freshen up in time for lunch and a free afternoon. Re-live the highlights and special memories of the trip with your travel companions over a farewell dinner.
Day 8 : Departure
After breakfast riders will be transferred back to Sofia (around 90 min/120km) by minibus.
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 Viennese-style coffee and cake shops.
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.
Your hosts for this trail pride themselves on their horses, all of whom are good-natured, brave and very much loved. Riding is with English saddles, primarily Wintec, and the quality of tack is excellent. Although this is not a large stable they ensure that spare horses are always available. There is a selection of breeds including Trakehner, Shagya Arabian and Eastern Bulgarian horses. Their heights vary between 1.50 and 1.65 metres. Your guides are qualified veterinarians so you can be completely confident that the welfare of the horses is a priority. English tack is used, all saddles and aditional equipent is made by Wintec.
The Thracian valley offers diverse landscapes and excellent, smooth riding terrain, there are plenty of oppotunities for long canters through the vast rose and lavender meadows, the riding is fun and reasonably fast. All the horses are calm, well mannered and forward-going when required.
Riders should be confident intermediate level, happy to ride at all paces in open country and for long distances. Good riding fitness is required for this ride as some of the terrain is steep and the pace is reasonably fast. Riders need to be fit and capable of being comfortable with long trots and canters and open to trying a gallop. Days can be long, 4-6 hours, so some stamina is needed. There is a minimum age of 12 for children on this trail. You will be asked to groom and saddle your own horses and will be given a demonstration and help if you are not confident to do this. We recommend bringing your own hat as there are only a limited selection available to borrow. Hats are compulsory for under 18s.
The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in comfortable and welcoming three and four star hotels. All accommodation is in twin or double rooms with private bathrooms. The accommodation on Day 1 and Day 7 is at the biggest show jumping stable in southern Bulgaria. Many hotels used on the trail have a swimming pool and complimentary Wifi. Many of the hotels offer spa services so you can relax in the sauna after a long day in the saddle.
List of hotels used on the trail below (or similar, depending on availability):
Day 1 and 7 Frigopan (or similar)
Day 2 Hisarya (or similar)
Day 3 Wine & Spa Complex Starosel (or similar)
Day 4 Kpprivshisa (or similar)
Day 5 Aqua thermi (or similar)
Day 6 Thrace botique complex (or similar)
Meals: The food in Bulgaria is delicious and many feel it is a highlight of the holiday in itself. The hotels provide the breakfasts and dinners and they offer traditional local dishes. The food is mostly organic with a mix of international and traditional Rhodopean cuisine.The midday meals are sometimes in local restaurants in small villages and other days are a picnic carried in your saddle bag (expect sandwiches, fruit and water). Canned and alcoholic drinks are not included. Beer and wine are commonly available and delicious, but red wine is sometimes served chilled. Meat and cheese are prevalent and bread is served with every meal, but vegetarians and other dietary requirements can be catered for with prior notice.
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.
NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.
Passport and Visa requirements differ dependent on which country you’re travelling from. Please check with your consulate for the latest regulations and requirements.
Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/bulgaria
In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Bulgaria.html
In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/bulgaria
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.
COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.
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.
Please check the latest country-specific health advice prior to travel and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.
Please take along sun cream
In Bulgaria the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance or its power supply are not dual voltage rated, the single voltage appliance will have to be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly (unless the appliance operates at 230V).
There will be electricity available on all nights to recharge cameras and batteries and there is also wifi available in most of the hotels. If you need film or specialist batteries we suggest you take them with you. There is mobile phone reception on most days.
Come prepared for heat as well as cold. Mountain climates can be very changeable, layers are essential. Pack all riding gear including hat, gloves (also warm), riding trousers, jacket, boots that are suitable to walk in as well.
Riding hat (a limited number are available to borow however to ensure a good fit we recommend bringing your own)
Warm rain/windproof gear
Mosquito repellant (this is not a problem, but will help to provde protection against flies)
In the summer months bring a swimming trunks/costume as most of the hotels have swimming pools.
There are set departure dates for this ride for 8 days / 7 nights with 6 riding days.
2023: 25 Mar; 8, 15, 22 (FULL) Apr; 6, 20 May; 3 Jun; 1 July; 26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 7 (FULL), 21 Oct; 4 Nov.
Additional dates can be arranged on request.
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Your hosts for this trail are owners of a family-run riding center, founded in 2008, and one of the most popular riding stables in Bulgaria, accredited to both the Bulgarian Federation of Equestrian Sports and the Bulgarian Equestrian Tourism Association. Now run by the founder's son, Bogdan Syarov (a qualified vet), the stables offers adventurous mountain trails on fit, forward-going horses. The equestrian centre was started so that the Syarovs, a keen show-jumping family, could share their love of horses and their passion for this beautiful region.
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