Experience first hand the hospitality and life of Bulgarian villages. With their warm welcome and the surrounding beauty of the towering Rhodope Mountains, with its untouched nature, rare birds, wildlife and rich flora. In addition visit Bulgaria's second largest monastery, the Bachkovo Monastery. Eastern Europe and Bulgaria have a tradition of excellent horsemanship and the riding is at all paces where the terrain permits on responsive, fit horses bred in the area. Accommodation on this riding holiday is in simple guest houses with great character and a traditional welcome from local families.

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 VC of Amsterdam on 31/08/2017

Ride Summary
The nature is beautiful and the Bulgarians look sometimes stern but are very friendly, helpful and relaxed. The horses are very nice and gentle and they gave me a great mere. Swimming with my mere was great fun. The food surprised me. I hadn't expected anything from the food (I was afraid to only get potatoes and meat) and it is not a 1 star cuisine but it was simple, honest and good food from the land. I especially loved the Bulgarian tomatoes and because of that they made sure I got a lot of tomatoes when it was possible. I had an awesome holiday with lots of laughter.
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments Rosen is a professional, nice and relaxed guide and his pride for the horses is obvious. He looks very tough but is also very caring. And he is direct what I like. We had loads of fun with him.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments I had a lovely Arab-Shagya mere Molly and she was superb. Swimming with her was great fun and she surprised me when she won the little race we had the last day. She is a small mere with a big heart.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response The nature was beautiful, I enjoyed the swimming (weather was good enough to swim) and the people of the organization obviously love their horses. Margerita was excellent with arranging everything from lodging, food wishes to the transfer. I would have liked to know that I it was possible to ask to be picked up later or be brought earlier to the airport when more participants had that wish. Now it looks so fixed on the "Travel Summary" about arrival and departure from the airport that I had some issues with getting tickets around those times. It was great that Margarita gave me the option to pick me up in Sofia instead of the airport since I was for some days in Sofia before the start of the trail. That saved me from a lot of hassle.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response We had a bit more to walk than I expected. Not annoying but good to know. It is in the mountains so it makes sense that there are parts that walking next to the horses is better for them. Often during those walks there were raspberries to pick and eat.
What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced? 5
Please explain why you scored it as you did The horses are very gentle and well behaved and it is not a difficult ride but it is important that you can control your horse. It is in the mountains so being able to control your horse is important for your safety, of the horse and the rest of the group. You need to be able to ride for hours and also to trot/ galop for a while on oneven terrain. So when you are not comfortable with the above and/ or only have riding experience in a sandbox and flat field rides, than this ride could be too difficult for you.


Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments
Unicorn comments Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
Arrive in Sofia in the morning (latest arrival time 12 noon if possible) and transfer to the village of Trigrad. On the way to Trigrad the participants will pass through the thrilling Trigrad Gorge, 7 kilometres long and with rocks up to 250 metres high. After the arrival in Trigrad the riders will meet the guides and the horses and if there is time will visit The Devil's gorge cave, which is 300,000 years old. According to the legend this is the place where Orpheus went down into the kingdom of shadows, in search of his beloved Euridica. Overnight in Trigrad at the Arkan Han Hotel (2*).

Day 2
After breakfast - ride from the village of Trigrad through a beautiful pine forest to the Videnitsa peak (1652m). This is a shorter riding day so we can get used to the horses, we ride towards the village of Bujnovo. There is a picnic lunch on the way. On arrival in the village we settle into the hotel and then visit the Yagodinska Cave, before returning to the hotel for dinner. Riding time - about 4 hours, accommodation at the Hotel Spas and Moni (2*). 

Day 3
After breakfast in the hotel we ride through beautiful forests towards the town of Dospat. We have a picnic lunch at a wooden hut close to the Roman bridge, before swimming with the horses in the crystal waters of the Dospat lake. There is a sunset boat trip followed by a dinner of freshly caught fish and a nights' rest in a hotel at the edge of the dam. Riding time - about 6 hours, accommodation at the Hotel Tihiyat Kat (2*)

Day 4
After breakfast we leave Dospat and ride once again into the forest. In the afternoon we will ride through the Dikchan Nature Reserve, where it is likely we will see some wild animals. You will experience the unique local singing as you pass through the villages of Dolen and Satovcha. Accommodation for the night is in a unique hunting hut in Dikchan and with a dinner of local dishes and wine by the fireplace, you could hardly dream of a better end to the day. Riding time - about 4-5 hours.

Day 5
After breakfast we ride from Dikchen to the town of Sarnitsa. Lunch in a cosy atmosphere, tasting traditional dishes. You will have the possibility to taste a great variety of Bulgarian gourmet specialities and high-quality drinks. In the afternoon we will once again swim with the horses. In the evening there is live music for our entertainment. Accommodation is in a 2* hotel in the village of Surnitsa, situated at the shore of the Dospat Lake. Riding time about 3-4 hours.

Day 6
After breakfast we ride along a high winding mountain road to the dam with the highest altitude - the Shiroka Polyana Dam. We have a picnic at the edge of the lake before continuing to our accommodation in a private villa. We'll enjoy a delightful dinner after a long days' riding, seated out on the verandah overlooking the small lake with the horses grazing freely around us. Riding time - about 6-7 hours.

Day 7
After breakfast there is the opportunity to do lots of fast riding as we ride through the vast Yagodina meadows above the Trigrad gorge near the village of Trigrad. Lunch is in a restaurant offering beautiful views of the gorge. We spend the night in a hotel in the village of Trigrad. Dinner by the fireplace, sharing memories of the ride and the places visited. Riding - about 5-6 hours, accommodation at the hotel Arkhan Han (2*). 

Day 8
After breakfast - say good-bye to the guides and the horses and depart from the village of Trigrad. If there is time, on the way to the city of Sofia you will visit the Bachkovo Monastery "The Assumption" - the second largest monastery in Bulgaria and one of the most remarkable Bulgarian cultural monuments. Please book your departure flight for after 17:00 to allow for this.

Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Rhodopes Mountain Trail

Small group supplements
This ride can be confirmed for groups of three for a supplement - please see 'detailed prices'. Small group supplement to be refunded once 4 or more riders have booked on.

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 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. We can book additional nights in this hotel.

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 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 terrains that this trip is offering. Height of horses: 15-17hh. Military saddles are utilised, complete with saddlebags, and the riding style is English. The pace of the ride will be determined both by the terrain and the riders experience but will often include lengthy trots and canters. The horse operation is guided by one of Bulgaria's most well respected equestrian experts and competitor.

Rider requirements

A secure seat at a walk, trot and canter and some riding fitness is required for this ride. Riders need to be fit and capable of being comfortable with trots and canters and open to trying a gallop. There is a minimum age of 14 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.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 16 st/220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation: In authentic rural Rhodopean houses with a unique atmosphere or in two star family hotels. There are en-suite facilities. Meals: the hotels and houses 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 people expectations - hearty, filling and tasty without being too spiced. The midday meals are in the open-air during the ride and they consist of warm food and warm-up drinks, mineral water or a picnic, all included in the price. Canned and alcoholic drinks are not included.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

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

Film and Camera Equipment

There will be electricity available on all nights to recharge cameras and batteries. If you need film or specialist batteries we suggest you take them with you. There is mobile phone reception on most days.

Packing List

Come prepared for heat as well as cold. Mountain climates can be very changeable, layers are essential. All riding gear including hat, gloves (also warm), riding trousers, jacket, boots that are also suitable to walk in.
Water bottle
warm and rain/windproof gear,
binoculars,
mosquito repellant (this is not a problem, but to help provide protection against flies),
indoor shoes,
warm fleece,
sport sunglasses,
sunscreen.
towel

In the summer months bring a swimming trunks/costume

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates. It may be possible to arrange other dates for groups of 6 or more.

Departure Dates

2018: 7, 21 July; 4, 25 August.

Pricing
No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20178d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,069
20178d/7n6double pp 4-5 pax1,245
20178d/7n6double pp 3 pax1,465
20178d/7n6single supplement115
20188d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,209
20188d/7n6supplement group 4-5 pax209
20188d/7n6supplement group 3 pax365
20188d/7n6single supplement125
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20178d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,175
20178d/7n6double pp 4-5 pax1,365
20178d/7n6double pp 3 pax1,609
20178d/7n6single supplement125
20188d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,329
20188d/7n6supplement group 4-5 pax229
20188d/7n6supplement group 3 pax399
20188d/7n6single supplement135
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20178d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,505
20178d/7n6double pp 4-5 pax1,745
20178d/7n6double pp 3 pax2,055
20178d/7n6single supplement159
20188d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax1,595
20188d/7n6supplement group 4-5 pax275
20188d/7n6supplement group 3 pax479
20188d/7n6single supplement159
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20188d/7n6double pp 6-8 pax12,935
20188d/7n6supplement group 4-5 pax2,219
20188d/7n6supplement group 3 pax3,889
20188d/7n6single supplement1,299
Wildlife

The Rhodopes are rich with wildlife. More than 2,000 flora species have been known to grow here, more of 90 of them endemic Balkan plants. The green masses of coniferous species - spruce, pine spruce, black spruce and others, growing mostly in the Western Rhodopes.

Other Activities

fishing, hiking, mountaineering, visits to the Yagodinska and the Devil's Gorge caves, cart drive, rare birds and wild animals observation, photography.

Other Country Information

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

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Sofia Airport (SOF) by 12 noon on Day 1.
It is also possible to fly to Plovdiv Airport (PDV). Please enquire for transfer information
Transfer:
Included to and from meeting point. Please arrange departure after 5pm. Approximate transfer time is 4.5 hours
Flight Guide:
London - Sofia with Wizz Air or Hemus Air from £110 return
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