Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear

Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear

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8 Days
From

$2548

$2232

Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear

8 Days Starting and ending in Sofia

Visiting: Sofia, Yagodina, Buynovo River Gorge, Devinska Reka

Tour operator:

Exodus

Tour code:

WBB

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

5 - 12

Physical rating:

Moderate

Age range:

16 to 99

Special diets catered:

Please inform Exodus of specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:
English
Trip Styles:

Adventure Tours

Activities:

Sightseeing, Walking

From:
$2548
$2232 (USD) Operator discount: -$253 The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$63 -12%
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Tour Overview

Spend a week in the Rodopi Mountains discovering the realm of the Brown bear. Joined by European Brown bear expert Julian Perry, this holiday gives a unique insight into the behaviour and ecology of these most iconic yet secretive carnivores. During the course of the week we take daily hikes through the heart of prime Brown bear habitat, recording tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity as part of an on-going Brown bear conservation project. On two evenings there will be the chance to visit a specially constructed bear watching hide from where there are good opportunities to see some of the bears whose activity we have been monitoring during our days in the mountains. In addition, we will also be collecting and collating images from several camera traps that will be set up in the surrounding forests. By the end of this holiday we hope you will not only have seen Brown bears in the wild but also have an understanding and appreciation of the fascinating way of life of these mysterious and often misunderstood animals.

Highlights

  • Become directly involved in a Brown bear conservation project

  • Informative daily bear tracking walks

  • Two visits to a hide for wild Brown bear observation

  • Elusive mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and rare orchids

  • Delicious traditional local cuisine

  • Remote landscapes in the Rodopi Mountains

Itinerary

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Day 1 : Start Sofia Airport. Transfer To The Village Of Yagodina In The Remote Rodopi Mountains.
Location: Sofia, Yagodina
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Dinner

Setting off from Sofia airport we begin a long but interesting 4-hour
transfer to the Rodopi Mountains. Our destination is the remote mountain
village of Yagodina, where we will be based for the next 6 nights. During
dinner, our leader will give an opening briefing about the week ahead and the
work of the local NGO ‘Wild Rodopi’ whose Brown bear research and
conservation project you will be assisting.

Day 2 : Introductory Bear Tracking Walk In The Forests Above Yagodina; Evening Visit To Bear Hide
Location: Yagodina
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, we set off on our first bear tracking walk, which will lead us into the surrounding forests searching for, recording and interpreting evidence of Brown bear activity such as scats, prints and various feeding signs. During the walk, there will be an introduction to safe bear/human interaction and behaviour.

In the evening, half the group will have their first visit to the bear hide. Visiting the hide usually necessitates having an early dinner so that we can be in position before darkness falls. Bears are attracted to the hide by the presence of corn but are not dependent on this for their diet. Depending on the amount of activity in the clearing we may stay until around 11 pm, or with permission of the group earlier or later.

Day 3 : Bear Tracking In The Border Zone; Evening Visit Bear Hide
Location: Yagodina
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, we drive to a neighbouring village, where we set off on foot through the border zone. Access to this region was once tightly restricted, and the border itself closed off with a barb-wire fence that was impenetrable to wildlife. With the fencing now removed, this border area is now freely roamed by wolves and bears, allowing Greek and Bulgarian populations of these species to intermix, thereby enhancing gene flow and their long-term health and viability.
After returning to the hotel, and dinner, the second half of the group will have its first visit to the bear hide.

Day 4 : Exploring Where Carnivores Roam; Evening Visit Bear Hide
Location: Yagodina
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, No Meals

Today we make an exciting exploration of a core region for brown bear and grey wolf. Red fox, European badger, pine marten, stone marten and European wildcat are also common here, and recently, during his research, the tour leader Julian has also discovered the presence of golden jackal. Following on the trail of these animals through hauntingly beautiful and remote landscapes, we cross streams, butterfly-filled meadows and peaceful forests, before finally plunging down into the depths of a gorge. This evening, after dinner, the first half of the group will have their second visit to the bear hide.

Day 5 : Panoramic Walk In Rugged And Rocky Karst Terrain, Home To Balkan Chamois
Location: Buynovo River Gorge
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Setting off on foot from our hotel, we make a steep, steady climb up the stony flank of the mountain ridge above the village. Here in spring and early summer, there are several interesting species of orchid to be found, as well as numerous butterflies. On reaching the ridgeback, we follow an eroded track to a wonderful cliff-top viewpoint. The rocks here are home to several typical cliff-dwelling species of bird including the beautiful wallcreeper, peregrine falcon, rock thrush, crag martin and alpine swift. At certain times of year, it is also possible to spot other raptors gliding over, such as golden eagle, short-toed eagle, booted eagle, long-legged buzzard, Eurasian hobby and common kestrel. The wonderful views remain with us throughout the day as we continue our walk, zig-zagging steeply down into the depths of the Buynovsko Gorge on a rough and stony path that leads through a favoured feeding region for both brown bear and Balkan chamois.

This evening, the second half of the group will have their second visit to the bear hide.

Day 6 : Circular Bear Tracking Walk Through Remote Carnivore Habitat. 
Location: Yagodina
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast we set off from the hotel on foot, beginning a strenuous but
highly rewarding bear tracking walk. Having left the village pastures behind,
we begin a long steep climb that sees us enter a densely forested region that
is roamed not only by several Brown bears, but as our camera traps have
shown, a variety of other carnivores including Wildcat, Grey wolf, Red fox,
European badger, Pine marten and Stone marten. Especially exciting is the
fact that Balkan lynx, a species considered extinct in Bulgaria for almost a
century, has very recently been recorded here again! The forests here also
harbour many secretive birds such as Hazel grouse, Black woodpecker and
Crested tit. The midpoint of our trail brings us out onto some wonderful rock
outcrops from where there are stunning views towards Greece, across waves of
forested ridges that make a perfect trans-border corridor by which the large
carnivore populations of Bulgaria and Greece can intermix. Our descent then
leads us down through more silent forest, and what is the heart of core Brown
bear habitat. Here we should see plenty of signs of bear activity, including
several trees that they have bitten, scratched and rubbed, giving us a chance
to learn more about other fascinating aspects of Brown bear behaviour.

Day 7 : Forest And Riverside Walk In Search Of Orchids, Butterflies, Reptiles And Amphibians; Transfer To Sofia.
Location: Devinska Reka, Sofia
Accommodation: Hotel
Accommodation Name: Hotel Hill or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Leaving Yagodina on foot, we start the day with a short walk along a
beautiful forest path, which in spring and early summer is renowned for its
exceptional variety of orchids. Formerly an ancient Thracian packhorse route,
this path is often used by bears when feeding in the surrounding forests on
beech mast and ants. After meeting our bus, a 45-minute drive brings us to
the beautiful valley of the Devinska Reka, where we will spend a couple of
hours walking a delightful riverside trail. As well as being home to Eurasian
otter and a variety of typical riverine birds such as Dipper and Grey
wagtail, the valley also forms the heart of a specially designated Prime
Butterfly Area and provides the perfect habitat for many rare and beautiful
butterfly species. Having enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the river, we then
complete the transfer (3 hours 30 minutes) back to Sofia.

Day 8 : End Sofia.
Location: Sofia
Meals Included: Breakfast

End Sofia.

What's Included

  • Transfers for group flights

  • All accommodation

  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners included

  • Fully Guided

What's Not Included

  • Single Supplement

  • Travel insurance

  • Visa's and Vaccinations

Food

Hotel ‘Yagodina’ is renowned for its delicious traditional local cuisine, offering generous sized servings of hearty, healthy food, much of it made from home-produced or locally sourced products. Typical meals whilst in the mountains will comprise of: Breakfast: tea, coffee and milk, with bread, jam, honey and cheese, supplemented in Yagodina by fresh home-made yoghurt and traditional local specialities such as thick pancakes known as 'katmi' and a rice-based dish called 'rodopski klin'. Lunch: picnic lunches will be eaten in the mountains and typically comprise bread, cheese, salami, salad, a chocolate bar and fruit. Many guests also like to take with them an extra portion of the local speciality that was served up for them at breakfast. Dinner: will be taken in our hotel restaurant, and will normally include three courses comprising either a salad or vegetarian soup, followed by a main course, and a dessert of fruit, ice cream, or cake/pudding. The cuisine reflects a mixture of Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish and Slavonic influences. We sample many traditional local specialities including 'smilyanski fasul', a delicious bean soup, and 'patatnik', a local delicacy made with grated potatoes, onions, and cheese, then seasoned with mint and other herbs. Jugs of tap water will be provided on the table with the evening meal. Bottled mineral water, soft drinks and alcohol are not included but can be purchased. There are several Bulgarian wines that you may wish to try, including an excellent red 'Mavrud' from vineyards on the northern slopes of the Rodopi Mountains. Vegetarians and Vegans: Bulgaria is famed for its fresh vegetables and fruit, so vegetarians are usually well catered for, although in the mountains the variety may sometimes by limited to what is seasonally available. 'Vegans need to be aware that eggs and dairy produce, especially cheese, form the staple part of the diet in the Rodopi region, and occur in the vast majority of traditional meals, so they may find their daily menu somewhat more restricted and less varied. Likewise special gluten-free products are not available, so those clients with wheat/gluten intolerance should, if needed, bring with them something to replace the local bread and pastries that make up the breakfasts and picnic lunches.

Accommodation

Our base for six nights is Yagodina, a traditional rural village known for its self-sufficiency and the hospitality of the inhabitants. It’s isolated and tucked away in the Trigrad Karst region, one of the most remote parts of the Rodopi Mountains. Here we stay in the Yagodina Family Hotel, a small hotel offering comfortable twin and single rooms with wifi. It’s owned and run by a local family and most of the food (including milk, cheese, butter, jam and honey) is either home-produced or locally sourced.

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Check out our Q&As

  • Who is Exodus Travels?

    At Exodus Travels, we've been exploring the world for nearly 50 years. From Walking and Trekking, Cultural and Cycling, Responsible Wildlife, to Polar and our new Premium Adventures, we are proud to offer award-winning small group and self-guided tours to 100+ countries worldwide.

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    International flights are not included with this tour.

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    yes.

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    We are happy to assist with pre and post tour accommodation. Please enquire for detailed information.

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    Minimum 16 year age people can go this tour.

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    Yes, Transfers for group flights.

  • Are vaccinations required for this tour?

    There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    Visas are not required for Bulgaria for British and other EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

  • Is there a supplement for solo travellers?

    If you would like to be paired with a tour member of the same gender, there is no additional charge. A single supplement can be requested if you would like your own room.

  • What is the maximum group size?

    12

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    If you wish to make any changes to your booking, particularly if you need to alter any flights booked through us, please let us know as soon as possible. There is a booking or flight amendment fee of £40 per change and flight amendments often incur extra airline costs depending on the changes to be made and if the ticket has been issued or not.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Exodus has been trading since 1974

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Your final joining instructions and flight details, if booked with us, will then be sent out 2 to 3 weeks before departure. If you would like a hard copy posted, or if you require these any earlier, please contact the customer operations team. We advise that if you are booking connecting travel before receiving these, please ensure you leave plenty of time.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Travellers are welcome to opt to share a room with a tour member of the same gender for no additional charge. If you'd like your own room, we can request a single supplement so that you will have your own room throughout.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    You are welcome to meet the group after the tour has departed however there is no reduction in rate for joining a tour after the departure date.

Reviews from Travellers on this Tour

Brilliant!

We enjoyed our week with Julian down in the Rodolpi Mountains, trekking the hills and meadows, on the lookout for the wildlife of the region. We loved it all. The landscape (sort of alpine-esque) is gentle in places and vigorous in others. Every day the walks took us to new areas and vistas. People have impressions of what Bulgaria is going to look and feel like and this week resets those expectations completely. We summoned up the energy to head to the hide a couple of times and loved it there - a real "in the moment" way to spend three hours. The hotel was welcoming and comfortable with ample delicious local specialties to fuel our efforts. Travelling in September we were surprised by how many flowers were still out, the butterflies and insects, the huge range of funghi, not to mention the very varied bird and mammal life of all sizes. There was the familiar, and the new, at every corner.

Unforgettable Trip!

This was the best trip I've been on in years. It's so rare to have a trip which includes both walking and wildlife, but Julian created the perfect combination of the two with this trip. The scenery was spectacular, and it was just the right level of challenging for a townie who doesn't normally do that much walking! The locals in Yagodina are absolutely lovely, and the hotel staff couldn't do enough for us. The food was nearly all homemade and was so delicious. We certainly didn't go hungry! We were also so lucky to see as many bears and other wildlife as we did, and to have such a lovely group and guide who got on as well as we all did. We didn't stop laughing all week! I highly recommend this trip to anyone who likes walking, wildlife, stunning mountain and meadow views, delicious food and lovely people (what's not to like??)

Wow what a holiday!

Wildlife, conservation, expert patient guide, mountain hiking, remote rural village community, and an intimate family run hotel were all the components that blended perfectly together to form this holiday into my ultimate relaxing get away with a dusting of excitement, anticipation, and adventure on top!

Beartastic!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable holiday if you enjoy the outdoors, walking, sampling local cuisine and of course tracking and even seeing bears! Our week could hardly have been better, from the very comfortable and friendly hotel, which served local dishes for every meal, to our expert guide and to the stunning scenery and wildlife which surrounds the lovely village of Yagodina. It was great to be able to walk from our hotel and experience such diversity of habitats, including lush open meadows filled with wild flowers, a mind boggling diversity of butterflies and even Corncrakes, beech woodland, rocky escarpments offering fantastic views of the countryside as well as raptors such as Hobbys and Peregrine Falcons and of course pine forests where the evidence of bear activity is all around you. Seeing bears during the day is extremely difficult but we had great success up at the hide where we saw big, solitary males and mothers with their young cubs. We even saw a sounder of Wild Boar complete with a young family of beautifully marked piglets. However the highlight was undoubtedly when we were fortunate enough to spot a mother bear with 2 of this year's cubs in an open area below us. They were entirely oblivious to our presence and we could watch them behaving entirely naturally. Something I will never forget.

Bulgaria, The Realm of the Brown Bear

We had an excellent trip, learning about the evolution, distribution, habitat, food and habits of bears. We studied and measured " bear " trees and scats and were able to deduce the age and sex from these! The walks were well varied through stunning scenery.

A great introduction to the wildlife and way of life in the Rodopi mountains

A brilliant and unusual combination of great walking and wildlife interest. On holidays these are usually separated but this worked so well, as you really came to appreciate the environment in which these animals,plants,reptiles etc flourished. Julian did a fantastic job in explaining everything and I think we learnt a lot in a week - he went over and above what was necessary in a leader. The hotel was lovely and everyone very friendly and helpful. The bears and wild boar were the highlight, also the short cut in the truck on the way home from the hide!!!

Excellent

Very enjoyable trip, excellent guide and guiding, great exploration of local flora, fauna and foods.

What an amazing place!

This was my first ever trip with exodus and it was absolutely incredible. The scenery was beautiful, the walks were great, plenty of opportunity to look for bear activity, and one of the best experiences in my life. We saw a bear and cubs, and that was such an amazing sight! Julian and the staff at Yagodina were lovely, the group were very friendly, and it was just simply a lovely trip!

An extra special wildlife based holiday

From sitting in a hide observing a glittering night time scene , to searching for Chamois from a hillside viewpoint , this trip encapsulates the world of the Brown Bear explained by the expert Julian Perry . He leads the group across an outstandingly scenic mountain terrain and presents the techniques to track and record the presence of Brown Bears in a non-intrusive way . We were very adequately accommodated in a centre-based family run hotel from where we walked or were driven to local forestry trails and areas used by Bears. With a tremendous knowledge of the ecology of the region , the leader identified and enabled us to observe and photograph flora and fauna including many wildflowers , birds , reptiles , mammals , amphibians and insects.

Walking walking walking

This was my first walking holiday and must admit it was a title too much for me. But to put that into context I had a pacemaker fitted 5 weeks prior to the trip and didn't want to cancel. The holiday was mostly walking up and down mountains looking for signs of bears - including trees, paw prints, log movements, and the obvious thing all bears do in the woods! So if you like walking and hiking then you will enjoy this part of the holiday. The hotel was fabulous, food was lovely, staff were excellent, rooms great, and overall much better than expected. The expert guide Matthew was great, helpful, funny, knowledgable and looked a little like a cuddly bear (don't tell him that) The hide you get to go on an evening to have the chance to see the Bears feeding is perfect. We were very lucky seeing bears on both evenings I went. The other half of the group saw bears also and this can't be guaranteed but was great. One thing to note is the journey to the hide was fun but very bumpy and so not great for anyone who is injured or getting over surgery. Organisation of the trip was perfect, everything ran to plan and very well put together and organised. So overall really good holiday, but be warned you will need to enjoy walking lots!

Read all 27 reviews

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Operator discount: -$253 (USD)

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  • Transfer as credit to Future Tours

    Exodus allows you to transfer existing payments to a future tour to avoid cancellation fees if you can't travel and inform exodus, 43 days before departure.

  • Low Deposit

    Exodus requires a minimum deposit of 25% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 90 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of exodus charges.

    Up to 42 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 20 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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