Join this week-long horseback riding holiday in the famous Rhodopes mountains. This equestrian trail follows a 150km route through a variety of landscapes. A great mixture of nature and culture, from crossing the protected area of 'Sredni livadi' to visiting the oldest Orthodoxal monastery of Bachkovo on horseback. The ride starts with a tour of the ancient city of Plovdiv, one of the world's oldest continually-inhabited cities. Accommodation is in comfortable family-run hotels and guesthouses. Horseback riders spend the first and last night at a biggest show-jumping stable in southern Bulgaria.

Highlights of this equestrian trail include riding in the Rozhen meadows and visiting the rocky phenomenon that is 'Chudnite Mostove' (The Woderful Bridges). Legend has it, the mythical singer, Orpheus, was born in the Rhodope mountain. 

Bulgaria is a fantastic and underrated horseback riding destination, this trail showcases the best of the country with fit and sure-footed horses, knowledgeable guides and a completely unique one-way itinerary taking riders  close to the Greek border. The Rhodope Mountains are one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe and home to a range of fascinating flora (best time to see this is June) and fauna - bears, wolves, wild cats, birds of prey and an incredible number of bat species inhabit the region so this is the ideal trip for nature and wildlife lovers. Riders should be at an intermediate level. Though much of the ride is completed at a walk, the terrain is steep in places and there are opportunities to trot and canter.

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 JW of London on 24/08/2023

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Day 1: Saturday - Arrival
Arrival and transfer from Sofia airport (16:00 local time latest arrival time) to Plovdiv. Sofia was named Europe's cultural capital of 2019 and has a diverse history that pre-dates the Romans. Visit the old town of Plovdiv in the afternoon including the Ethnographic Museum, and the ancient theatre which is one of the best preserved in the world.
Dinner and accommodation is at the biggest show jumping stable of southern Bulgaria.

Day 2: Sunday - Sredni Livadi Protected  Area – Lilkovo village
After breakfast the group; will be transferred to the stables (50 min by car), the starting point of the trail,1700m above sea level in the picturesque area of 'White Church' famous for the highest monastery in the Balkan peninsula, St Peter and Pavel, dating back to 1200AD. Today's destination is Lilkov, the highest village in Bulgaria (1500m). The ride encompasses some magnificent panoramas as it crosses the protected area of Sredni Livadi. Enjoy a saddle-packed lunch in this magnificent area before continuing the ride, encountering ancient ruins. Dinner and overnight in a Family Hotel. Riding time: Approx 4 hr

Day 3: Monday - Lilkovo - Hvoyna
Today's journey heads to the famous panoramic valley of Ropkata, considered one of the most beautiful areas in the Middle Rhoodopes. The valley exceeds 60km in length, connecting Greece with the Thracian Planes, making it the highest in Bulgaria. Stop for lunch along the way at 'The Ladybug', a panoramic spot standing 1400m above sea level and offering wonderful views. Riding time: 5 hrs approx

Day 4: Tuesday - Hvoyna - Orehovo
After breakfast, riders are transferred by car for a tour of the Bachkovo monastery, the oldest and second biggest orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. After the visit the group head south toward the village of Orehovo, the start of the longest eco-trail in Bulgaria. Before starting on the trail, the group visits the village of Pavelsko, a must-see in the area, The day's riding takes place in the valley. Lunch in local a restaurant and overnight family guest house Riding time: 4.5hr approx

Day 5: Wednesday - Orehovo - Zabyrdo
After breakfast the group heads for the village of Zabyrdo. This is a small mountain settlement standing 1400m above sea level and is famous for its local cheese. It is also one of the oldest villages in the area at around 800 years old. If lucky, riders may spot the wild horses that run free in the area. visit the 'Wonderful Bridges' rock formations, one of the most popular sites of the Rhodopes. Lunch is at a local restaurant with an excellent view of the bridges. Accommodation is in a family run guesthouse.  Approximate riding time: 5 hrs

Day 6: Thursday - Zabyrdo - Orehovo
Today the trial leads back to the 500 year old Village of Orehovo, covering the same route as the previous day but in reverse. Overnight in a local family run hotel. Approximate riding time: 5 hrs

Day 7: Friday - Orehov- Byala Cherkva
This is the last riding day and will bring the group back to the starting point of this trail. Pass one of the oldest Thracian fortress, "Shtut grad", dating back to 5th century BC. The two hills in the forests, the Sun Hill and the Moon Hill held great power for the Thracian tribe called "Best". They were known throughout the Roman empire as the most fearless Thracians. Lunch today is in a restaurant beside the fortress. Overnight back at the show jumping stable from Day 1. Say a fond goodbye to the horses before freshening up and enjoying the final dinner of the journey. Approximate riding time: 5hrs
 
Day 8: Saturday - Plovdiv – Sofia airport            
After breakfast it is time to say farewell and be transferred back to Sofia airport. Approximately 90 min in the car.

 

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 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.

Horses & Riding

The hosts for this trail pride themselves on their horses, all of whom are good-natured, brave and well cared for. 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 with heights varying between 15hh-16.2hh. 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 additional equipment is made by Wintec. 



This trip offers diverse landscapes and opportunities for trots and canters through the vast rose and lavender meadows however much of the riding is relaxed and completed at a walk due to the steep, hilly terrain.  All the horses are calm, well mannered and forward-going when required.


Rider requirements

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 days can be long, 4-6 hours, so some stamina is needed. Though much of the ride is completed at a walk due to the terrain, riders should be comfortable with trotting and cantering where the opportunity presents itself.

The riding usually starts at 9:30. There is a minimum age of 12 for children on this trail. Horses are usually groomed and saddled for riders by the hosts, there might be an option to participate should you wish to. We recommend bringing your own hat as there are only a limited selection available to borrow. Hats are compulsory for under 18s.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 187 lb/85 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in welcoming family-run hotels and guesthouses. 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.



Meals: The hotels provide breakfasts and dinners which will include 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 saddle bag picnic (expect sandwiches, fruit and water).



Canned and alcoholic drinks are not included. Beer and wine are commonly available and 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 within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

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

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 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.

Climate Chart

Health

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.

Electricity

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).

Mobile, WiFi and charging

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 If you want to bring a GoPro please be advised that you will have to have permission from all other guests and guides that they are willing to be filmed.

Packing List

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)
Water bottle
Warm rain/windproof gear
Binoculars
Mosquito repellant (this is not a problem, but will help to provde protection against flies)
Indoor shoes
Warm fleece
Sunglasses
Sunscreen

In the summer months bring a swimming trunks/costume as most of the hotels have swimming pools.

Programmes

There are set departure dates for this ride for 8 days / 7 nights with 6 riding days.

Departure Dates

2024: 13 July, 27 July.
Additional dates can be arranged on request.

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20248d/7n6double pp1,249
20248d/7n6single supplement87
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20248d/7n6double pp1,449
20248d/7n6single supplement99
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
20248d/7n6double pp1,669
20248d/7n6single supplement115
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20248d/7n6double pp16,995
20248d/7n6single supplement1,175
Other Information

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.

Other Country Information

Bulgaria has changed swiftly over the last decade, though in the villages you can still find folk who ride a donkey to work, eat homegrown potatoes and make their own cheese. The difference now is that they finish the day 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. 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) by 16:00 on Day 1.
Transfer:
Included to and from Sofia Airport (SOF). Please arrive in Sofia no later than 16:00. Please arrange departure flights after 12:00 (noon). Approximate transfer time is 1h30m.
Flight Guide:
London - Sofia from £70 return
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