Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains

Now you have the chance to explore the unspoiled Rhodope Mountains, one of Europe’s last wildernesses. Deciduous forests still climb the steep mountainsides, which gives rise to the local name ‘the green mountains’. The forests contain wolves and bears and more than 300 different bird species have been sighted.

Your host, Bogdan, is a vet and passionately interested in his horses (of course) and the unspoiled nature and culture of the area. His riding center is perfectly situated in beautiful natural surroundings with a wide range of cultural and historical attractions within riding distance.

You can choose between two trail rides, Mursalitsa National Park and Rodophe Mountain Trail. On both trails you stay in small hotels or guest houses along the way.
The highpoints include ‘Chudnite Mostova’ (beautiful cliff formations), the Shiroki Livadi nature reserve, the Lilkovsko Plateau, the Tamrazh Reserve and the charming villages of Gela and Shiroka Laka. The Rhodope Mountains provide fantastic views and mile after mile of beautiful bridle paths that have been used since the beginning of time. With its unspoiled nature and magical villages, the Rhodope Mountains have managed to keep the Bulgarian spirit alive for centuries.

The focus is on nature experinces but when the terrain allows you are trotting and cantering.This trip would suit those of you that like the wilderness, riding forward-going, responsive and brave horses and are interested in food and culture.

Price from:
EUR 1,000
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Mursalitsa National Park Trail

An adventurous trail into the Rhodope Mountains, complete with incredible views, fascinating history and plenty of hours in untouched nature. The ride gives you a true taste of Bulgarian culture whilst still allowing you to escape daily life by riding on peaceful mountain tracks, enjoying untouched scenery and exploring hidden places. An interesting, active trail on safe but fit horses. The pace is in walk and trot with some canters.

The highlights of this trail are undoubtedly the visits to two of the Rhodope Mountain's preserved villages, Shiroka Laka and Gela, which are both masterpieces of Renaissance artistry and considered the most iconic destinations in the Rhodopes. Shiroka Laka is both an architectural and folklore reserve, featuring unique houses which were often home to a master of the bagpipes - the Rhodope bagpipes are key to the folk music of the region. The village illustrates ancient rural life with its beautiful architecture, cuisine and the spirit of the locals. 

The village of Gela is also called "the valley of the bells and songs" and is centrally located in the mountain range at an altitude of 1500m. It lies at the foot of the most majestic peaks - Golyam Persenk Peak (2191m) and Orpheus Peak (2188m). The village has more than 3300 years of history and is considered to be a cradle of European civilisation. The village is home to the National Bagpipe Festival each summer in the first weekend of August, during which is welcomes up to 15,000 visitors. 

Preliminary day-by-day program 

Day 1: Arrival and transfer from Sofia airport (approximately 2 hours) to the village of Markovo. The village is only around 6km from Plovdiv which is considered to be the cultural capital of Bulgaria and is more than 8000 years old. It features the remains of a civilisation older than Rome itself and is a contemporary of ancient Troy. You will take a tour of the old town of Plovdiv, including a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and the antique theatre, one of the best-preserved in the world. 

Accommodation tonight is at a 4* spa hotel with swimming pool. 

Day 2: After your first Rhodope breakfast you will be transferred to the stables, the starting point of the trail, in the 'Sredne Livadi' protected area. The drive is approximately 40 minutes. You will be paired with a suitable horse and can help to tack them up or leave this to Bogdan. Today's ride will take you to the village of Lilkovo, experiencing stunning views of this protected region and following an old Roman road. Your picnic lunch today will be eaten outside a tiny 18th century chapel, called 'Saint Atanas', hidden in the woods. 

Overnight in a 3* family hotel. 

Approximate 3½ hours riding, 18 km.

Day 3: After another hearty breakfast you will saddle up and make for the village of Zabyrdo, a small mountain village standing at 1400m above sea level which is famous for its production of traditional Rhodope cheese. After riding and arrival at your next accommodation, the horses will be settled and then you will head by car to see the nearby rock formations known as the 'Wonderful Bridges'. These are one of the top 100 tourist destinations in Bulgaria and are a magnificent site - be sure to ask Bogdan for the tale of their origins! 
Overnight tonight in a family-run guesthouse. 
Approximate 5½ hours riding, 28 km.

Day 4: Today you will ride towards one of the so-called "Rhodope Pearls", an architectural and folklore reserve! The village of Shiroka Laka is truly symbolic of Bulgarian culture with cobblestone streets and intriguing bazaars, making for an unforgettable tourist experience. Reaching the village on horseback is like an adventure from the 19th century. Some of the most interesting places in the village are the ethnographic museum which is laid out like the house of a wealthy Rhodope family from the end of the 19th century. The Church of the Assumption was built in 1834 and took just 38 days to construct, thanks to the help of all the village's inhabitants. 
Overnight tonight in a family guesthouse. 
Approximate 4½ hours riding, 22 km.

Day 5: You visit the DEVIL THORAT CAVE in the morning. The journey continues on into the heart of "Mursalitsa" national park, an experience not to be forgotten. You will ride towards the village of Trigrad, famous for the biggest bagpipe festival in Bulgaria which takes place upon its "llinden" meadows (which you will ride upon). Today you will pass between some of the most beautiful natural lakes in the Rhodopes - the Chairi Lakes were formed by the sliding of glaciers during the Ice Age. You will also pass by the "Drunken Forest" where the trees grow as strange angles and in all directions. Lunch today is in a small bikers' bar within an old village, a great experience. 
Overnight tonight in an authentic revival-age guesthouse. 
Approximate 6 hours riding, 28 km.

Day 6: After today's breakfast you will ride back towards the village of Gela, covering the same stunning route as yesterday but in reverse. There is some time to explore the Chairi Lakes on foot, perhaps daring to step out across the old walkways for a peek into the clear waters. You will stop for lunch at the same bar as yesterday. 
Overnight in a family-run guesthouse. 
Approximate 6 hours riding, 28 km.

Day 7: This is the last riding day but the adventure is not over! You will explore some more unforgettable scenery of the ancient Rhodopes. You will ride upon the famous "panoramic road" to Mount Snezhanka, around 21km distance (roughly 3 and a half hours). This path will take you to almost 2000m above sea level, to the foot of the Snezhanka Tower which overlooks winter ski slopes. You will take lunch in the tower restaurant and can enjoy the views from the tower top - 360 degrees revealing the beauty of all the Rhodopes and even parts of the Aegean Sea. After lunch you can either go straight in the car to your accommodation or you can help Bogdan to take the horses to a nearby stables, a short ride down the slopes. 
Accommodation tonight in a 4* spa hotel. 
Approximate 4 hours riding, 22 km.

Day 8: After breakfast it is time to say farewell and to head to Sofia airport for your departure (approximately 3 hours in the car). On the way back there may be some time to visit the Bachkovo Monastery, actually the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria. 

Rodophe Mountain Trail

Preliminary day-by-day program

Day 1: Arrival and transfer from Sofia airport (approximately 2 hours) to the village of Markovo. The village is only around 6km from Plovdiv which is considered to be the cultural capital of Bulgaria and is more than 8000 years old. It features the remains of a civilisation older than Rome itself and is a contemporary of ancient Troy. You will take a tour of the old town of Plovdiv, including a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and the antique theatre, one of the best-preserved in the world. 
Accommodation tonight is at a 4* spa hotel with swimming pool. 

Day 2. You will be transfered to the starting point of the trail, namely “Sredni Livadi” Protected Area (aprox. 40 min).
Today’s destination is an Emblematic Village, where two of the most famous Revival age movies were shot, namely  “The Goat Horn” and parts of  “ Notes of the Bulgarian Uprisings” The Rhodopean Village Kosowo is an Architectural reserve with more than  60  monuments, 5 of which of national importance. These are the church “Uspenie Bogorodichno” (“Assumption of Virgin Mary”) from 1851, ( “Hadzhiyskata” ) - House architectural monument from 1853. Very interesting are also the old school (1889) , the chapels “St. Nedelya” and “St. Peter” , the mill, the forge, as well as most of the old houses in the village.
You will sleep in the Famous Hadzhiyska House , an Architectural reserve. You  will cross “Sredni livadi “ protected area, picnic lunch.
Approximate 5½ hours riding.

Day 3. After another traditional Rhodopean  breakfast, the ride continues in the footsteps of Captain Petko Voyvoda (a famous revival figure) towards Hvoyna Village (750 altitude). The riding today will take you through a number of chapels and panoramic sceneries while crossing one of the most beautiful valleys of the Central Rhodopes, namely “Hvoynenska”. Lunch in the saddle bags, near one of the chapels. You will also be taken to the second biggest and oldest Ortodoxal Monastery in Bulgaria called “Bachkovo Monastery”
Approximate 6 hours riding. Overnight in family operated hotel.

Day 4. Today’s trail will take you to the Village of Orehovo, which is around 500 hundred years old. From here starts the longest eco-trail in Bulgaria, ending near Aegean sea(Greece), which makes Orehovo to one of the best starting destination for tours in the Rhodopes.
You'll come across with the stunning views of protected area "Sredni Livadi".The ride will also take us through old Roman road and ancient chapel from 18th century, called Saint Atanas, where you will have your lunch. You will also visit : “Skakaloto” waterfall, “Kosten kamyk “ cave.
Approximate 4 hours riding. Overnight in family operated hotel.

Day 5. After yet another traditional Rhodope breakfast you head for the Village of Zabyrdo. This is a small mountain village standing 1400 m. above sea level. It is famous with the making of the traditional Rhodope cheese, it is also of the oldest in region, around 800 yo. You will also ride to the Rock Phenomenon “Wonderful Bridges”, which is one of the 5 most visited destination in the Rhodopes. 
Lunch in restaurant. Approximate 6 hours riding. The overnight is in a family-operated guest house.

Day 6. You head back to Orehovo village from another rout. You will climb the second highest peak in the Rhodopes (mount Big Persek -2100 m), this area  will reveal a unique panoramic scenerie, stretching across half of the Rhodope mountain. Lunch in saddle bags.
Approximate 6 hours riding. Overnight in hotel.

Day 7. The last riding day will takes you back to the starting point , making it around 150km on a horse back. You will be passing through one of  the oldest Thracian fortress  called “Shtut grad”, which dates 5 centuries b.c. The two hills of the fortress, the Sun Hill and the Moon hill, helded great power for the Thracian tribe called “Besi”, they were know through the Roman empire as the most fearless Thracians.
Approximate 5 hours riding. Lunch in a restaurant beside the fortress.
Accommodation tonight is at a 4* spa hotel with swimming pool.

Day 8. After breakfast it is time to say farewell and to head to Sofia airport for your departure (approximately 3 hours in the car).

Accommodation and Food

Accommodation during the trail is simple but clean and comfortable, primarily in small hotels or guesthouses. Single rooms are available. Most nights the rooms are en-suite, one night of the trail, you will stay in a fascinating revival-age guesthouse and must share toilet/bathroom facilities on this one night (as the house is old and they are not permitted or desirous to change the layout). A few of the accommodations have a WiFi connection. On some of the hotels there are pool or sauna.



All meals are included during the trail programmes and you can expect hearty local fare and the chance to try several traditional dishes. 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. Dinners are three courses and always start with the traditional salad of cucumber, tomatoes, onions, cheese and sometimes olives. Lunches are generally a picnic eaten from your saddlebag, including a sandwich, fruit, biscuit/cereal bar and water. A few times during the week you will eat at a bar in a small village. 
Beer and wine are commonly available and delicious. A beer cost around 2 EUR and a glass of wine around 3-5 EUR. Coffee, tea and juice are served with your breakfasts.

Horses

The horses here are forward-going, responsive and brave. A range including Trakehner, Shagya Arabian and Eastern Bulgarian breeds, between 155-165 cm at the withers. English style tack, primarily Wintec saddles and horses in snaffle bridles.
Your luggage goes with the support vehicle.

 

Travel Information

Ability description: Trail Ride level 2-3 >>

Included in the price: 7 nights, 6 days riding, full board incl. water, juice, coffee/tea,  set-time transfers from/to Sofia or Plovdiv airport

Not included: Flights, alcoholic drinks. 

Travel: Book flight/rental car >> We help you book your flight if you wish.
Fly into Sofia or Plovdiv.

Transfer: Book in advance with HorseXplore.
From Sofia och Plovdiv airport to equestrian center.
Price: Included at set times.
Time: You should ideally arrive into Sofia no later than 14:00, in order to allow time for sightseeing in Plovdiv. On departure day your flight should not leave Sofia before 12:00. If you are coming into Plovdiv instead then please contact us for timings.

Single room: It is possible to book a single room (price for single supplement available under Dates & Prices). If there is no one to share a room with, a single supplement will be added.

Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN).
Credit card: The riding centre do not accept credit cards. In some places it is possible to pay by credit card but it is best to change to BGN at the airport.
Tipping: Not required but appreciated. 

Wifi: Yes in some accomodations. 

Group size: Minimum 2 riders, maximum 8. 
Age limit: Going on trails kids must be minimum 11 year old, accompanied by an adult.

Climate

Dates and prices

DateNightsName of tripPrice from
04/05/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
01/06/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
15/06/20197Bulgaria - Mursalitsa National park TrailEUR 1,065Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
29/06/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
13/07/20197Bulgaria - Mursalitsa National park TrailEUR 1,065Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
27/07/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
10/08/20197Bulgaria - Mursalitsa National park TrailEUR 1,065Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
24/08/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
07/09/20197Bulgaria - Mursalitsa National park TrailEUR 1,065Book on request
DateNightsName of tripPrice from
21/09/20197Bulgaria - Rodophe Mountains Trail RideEUR 1,000Book on request
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