Combine the pleasure of riding through one of the most picturesque of the Balkan mountains – Sredna Gora with the healing power of the mineral water that springs out of its depths. Ride back in time to the mystical world of the Thracians and the great Roman Empire, the heroism in Bulgarian history and the Renaissance spirit.
Excellent and fairly fast riding on superbly trained and conditioned horses with warm hospitality and a choice of three different levels of accommodation based on budget: luxury with spa, more basic hotels with shared bathrooms on some nights or camping with facilities.
Ride past the aromatic fields of oil-bearing rose and lavender before enjoying spa procedures and relaxing treatments using these natural products. Ideal for good riders.
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 HA of Warwick on 26/09/2019
Day 1: Plovdiv
Arrive in Plovdiv - the cultural capital of Bulgaria and European capital of culture in 2019. The town was built around seven hills – the hills of Plovdiv – which are an inseparable part of the city’s history. Your hotel is in the heart of the city so you can immerse yourselves in the authentic atmosphere. You'll be taken on a sightseeing tour in the historic Old Town of Plovdiv before dinner with your fellow riders and hosts in a cosy restaurant in the old Plovdiv..
Day 2: Plovdiv – Kalekovets – Hisarya
After breakfast you'll head to the village of Kalekovets near Plovdiv by car, where your guides and the horses are waiting for you at the Tangra stables. Once matched with your horse, the adventure starts with a ride to the thermal centre of Hisarya. After a short break and picnic on the banks of the River Stryama, you'll continue on the trail reaching a warm mineral spring ywhere you'll also be able to admire the historical monuments from the Roman Empire in the town. Accommodation is in a spa hotel, with mineral water in the rooms and a great spa centre. Dinner in a cosy restaurant in the town. 5 hours riding.
Day 3: Hisar – Starosel
Full of museums and archaeological finds from the time of the Thracians and the Roman Empire, you'll explore the town on foot which will take you back in time amidst Roman baths, aqueducts, strongholds and fortification walls. Today's ride will bring you to the wine cellar in the village of Starosel where you can sip our ancestor's sacred drink – wine. After a short lunch break outdoors you'll go back to the hotel for a thorough rest and spa treatment. Todays itinerary also includes a visit to one of the biggest Royal Thracian complexes complete with mausoleum known as "Chetinyova mogila" the complex is close to Starosel village. 3 hours riding.
Day 4: Starosel – Koprivshtitsa
Today's ride will take you to the historical Renaissance town of Koprivshtitsa located in the picturesque valley along the Topolnitsa River, in the heart of Sredna Gora. You will be plunged into the authentic atmosphere, going back in time, walking the paved streets and visiting the Renaissance museum houses. Accommodation in a traditional spa hotel near Koprivshtitsa. 6 hours riding.
Day 5: Koprivshtitsa – Krasnovo
After breakfast you'll ride onto the mountain crest with fantastic views of the oil-bearing rose valley. At the foot of the mountains is the Aqua Thermi resort which awaits you. Accommodation in a spa complex where you can enjoy spa treatments and massages. Dinner in the hotel. 5 hours riding.
Day 6: Krasnovo – Zhitnitsa
Today's ride will take you back in time visiting Thracian ritual temples near the town, dating back from VI-IV century BC. Along the shores of the Pyasachnik Dam you'll stop for a short break and lunch. In the afternoon the trail continues to the village of Zhitnitsa, famous for its Equestrian venue and spa complex. They'll be plenty of time for rest and relaxation after 6 hours in the saddle. 6 hours riding.
Day 7: Zhitnitsa – Hisar
On the last day of your adventure you will return on the banks of Stryama River, enjoying the smooth terrain which allows for a faster pace. At noon you will arrive back at the equestrian centre in time for a veranda lunch before saying goodbye to the horses. In the afternoon, you can visit the remains of a fortress wall in the ancient Roman town of 'Dioclecianopolis', the third largest town in the ancient province of Thrace, after Philipopolis (Plovdiv) and Beroe (Stara Zagora). The wall is one of the best preserved of its kind not only in Bulgaria, but also on the entire Balkan Peninsula. Farewell dinner with the guides in a good restaurant in the town. (3 hours of riding)
Day 8: Hisar – Sofia
After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport. Flights should be booked for after 12 noon.
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.
The horses are a mix of sturdy local Bulgarian breeds, Thoroughbreds and Arab-Shagya type and in superb condition. They are friendly, manageable, obedient and exclusively trained for the terrain types on this trip. The heights of the horses vary from 15 to 16.2hh. English saddles are used and if worried about comfort we recommend bringing a seat saver as this trail includes long riding hours and lots of long, fast canters with some steep climbs. Saddle bags are always provided for you to store water bottles and cameras while on the trail.
The pace of the ride will be determined both by the terrain and the riders experience but will often include lengthy trots and canters. You can expect to be spending around a third of the riding time in canter.
Riders should be confident advanced 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 three and four star hotels offering spa treatments. All accommodation is in twin or double rooms with private bathrooms. Every hotel except the accommodation on Day 1 has a swimming pool, and all hotel have complimentary Wifi.
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. Lunches are served as picnic during the ride and they consist of hot and cold food (vegetables, soups, barbecues). Canned and alcoholic drinks are not included.
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 all 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 etc.
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. Departures need 4 riders to be confirmed but can depart with 3 riders for a small group supplement.
Bulgaria is one of the oldest wine-making countries in the world and in the 1980s was the second-largest wine producer. The country has five official wine regions and for those who are interested wine tasting can be organsied as an additional activity.
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