The Thracian valley is an ideal location for riding offering picturesque terrain of rose and lavender fields which allow 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 you 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, Hissar and Koprivshtitsa, 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 are 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, a contemporary of ancient Troy. Today its name is Plovdiv, but for the Thraians it was Evmolpia, than 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.
Koprivshtitsa - the most interesting, beautiful and notable Bulgarian town from the Revival period. Its distinctive architecture, colourful houses, cobblestone streets and old churches are a must-see in modern Bulgaria. Since the 19th century Koprivshtitsa has been a symbol of a reviving nation. The April Uprising against the Ottoman Empire started here in 1876 and prominent revolutionaries Todor Kableshkov and Georgi Benkovski, the writers Naiden Gerov and Lyuben Karavelov, poet Dimcho Debelyanov – all were born here. Their native houses are open to visitors.
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.
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Arrive at Sofia airport and transfer (about 1h30/125 km) by minibus to Belashtitsa, a village located a few kilometers from Plovdiv, considered the cultural capital of Bulgaria. Here you will find traces of civilizations much older than the Romans. You can spend the afternoon visiting this historic city, including a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and the ancient theatre; one of the best preserved in the country. Dinner and overnight in a very comfortable hotel with pool and spa.
TSARATSOVO – HISAR
After breakfast, transfer to Tsaratsovo village (a 30 min drive) where you'll meet the horses and begin the trail. The starting point is one of the biggest and most famous horse sport facilities in Bulgaria. Today’s destination is the town of Hisarya, the most famous spa centre in Bulgaria, unique with 22 healing mineral springs. As well as a health resort, Hisarya is full of archaeological finds from the Thracian times and the Roman Empire, you'll find yourself walking in the middle of Roman baths, aqueducts, bastions and fortified walls. Five and a half hours of riding ,along smooth fields allow a fast pace, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch beside a river with wine and a BBQ. Tonight you'll relax at a spa hotel with swimming pool,sauna, massage centre and jacuzzi.
HISAR – STAROSEL
Today’s terrain is flat and hilly; the trail passes by fields and vineyards, meadows and oak forests. You'll be heading towards a wine cellar, where besides great wine tasting and superb cuisine you can indulge yourself with some spa treatments.
On the way you'll visit the largest preserved Thracian king complex with a temple-mausoleum in Southeast Europe. Learn about the mysterious Thracians and their amazing cultural heritage and historical significance. Four hours of riding, another lunch from the saddlebags which will be eaten beside a beautiful meadow in Starosel. Overnight at a cosy hotel in Starosel.
STAROSEL – KOPRIVSHTITSA
Today, the five-hour long ride takes you to the historic town of Koprivshtitsa, dating back to the Renaissance. It is located in a picturesque valley along the Topolnitsa River, in the heart of Sashtinska Sredna Gora. The authentic atmosphere of its cobblestone streets takes you back in time and you'll discover the history of this unique town on a guided tour. Overnight at a local hotel.
KOPRIVSHTITSA – STRELCHA
After breakfast, you'll guide your horse along the ridge of the mountain to enjoy magnificent views of the Valley of the Rose. The seaside resort of Strelcha awaits you at the foot of the mountain. Your spa hotel for the night offers massages and mineral water treatments. Dinner at the hotel. 5hrs 30 min riding.
STRELCHA – BELOVITSA VILLAGE
After breakfast you can visit the Thracian ritual temples around the town which date from the 4th to the 6th century BC. You'll have lunch on the shores of Lake Belovitsa, before leaving for an afternoon in the saddle. Your hotel has a large spa and swimming pool for a well deserved rest. 5 hrs riding.
Another day of riding alongside vineyards and rose fields towards a famous riding centre. On the way you'll cross а beautiful river and a rosary oil factory, where the scent of the famous Bulgarian Rose hangs heavy in the air. 4hr 30min riding. Your last hotel of the trip is a 4* star hotel with a large spa and swimming pool.
After breakfast you'll be transferred back to Sofia (around 90 min/120km) in a 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 here is with English saddles, primarily Wintec, and the quality of tack is excellent. Although this is not a large stables 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: In comfortable and welcoming three and four star hotels. All accommodation is in twin or double rooms with private bathrooms. Every hotel except the accommodation on Day 1 has a swimming pool, and some have complimentary Wifi. Many of the hotels offer spa services so you can relax in the sauna after a long day in the saddle.
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. Bulgarian food almost always exceeds peoples expectations - hearty, filling and tasty without being too spicy. 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. 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.
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.
2021: 25 Sep; 9, 23 Oct; 6 Nov
2022: 26 Mar; 9, 23 Apr; 7, 21 May; 10, 24 Sept; 8, 22 Oct; 5 Nov
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,205|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||135|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,215|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||125|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,419|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,419|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||149|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,779|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||199|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,679|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||14,855|
|2020/21 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,675|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||double pp||15,170|
|2022 - 7 nights||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,570|
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