Tour for families with different interests : You simply cannot find another European country where to get face to face with such a diversity and richness of avifauna, and ancient culture. When a tour like this is over, your checklist of birds you have seen will usually exceed the limit of 200 species. And what a checklist is that: listing such rarities as the Dalmatian Pelican, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill, Pygmy Cormorant, Black stork, Ferruginous duck, Egyptian, Black and Griffon vultures, Levant Sparrowhawk, Long-legged buzzard, Golden and Eastern Imperial eagles, Lesser spotted, Booted and Short-toed eagles, Red-footed falcon, Chukar, Eagle and Scops owls, Black headed yellow wagtail, Pied and Isabelline wheatear, Paddyfield , Olieve- tree, Olivaceous and Barred warblers, Semi-collared flycatcher, Sombre tit, Rock nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Lesser Grey and Masked shrikes, Rose-coloured starling, Black-headed and Ortolan buntings, brown bear , wild boar, red and roe deer , . ....and the most ancient culture in Europe- the Thracians.
Our tour begins with a transfer to the Balkan Range, accommodation at the hotel property of the local forestry for three nights. The hotel is located in the outskirts of a small mountain town only a few minutes away from the first line of the forest trees. It is with a spectacular view of the majestic Balkan Range. Herds of horses, cattle, sheep and goats often graze on the meadows in front of the hotel. From the early evening hours until late into the night the Conrcrake's specific song can be heard from the meadows. We'll have an early dinner at about 6 o’clock p.m. because by 7 o'clock p.m. at the latest we'll have to be at specially secured observation hides. We'll get there on 4WD special vehicles (jeeps) driven by our local guides. Our company especially provides for this service to help most of the tourists get along with the difficulties a hike in high mountain areas pose. The first lucky tourists will have the chance to see the brown masters of the forests at twilight. Bears are most active when the skies are clear and the moon is full. That is why we have chosen this time of the year for watching bears. We hope we will have a fair weather during our tour. There are other mammals like Row Deer, Wild Boar and Red Deer that can be seen from the hides. With some luck we may even see wolves that use to come quite near but very rarely dare show up (and hardly ever come out into the open). Our guides will take us back to the hotel by 9 or 10 o’clock p.m. The bravest ones of us may, if they wish so, stay in the hides alone all the night through. In the morning guides will take them back to the hotel. The odds that all tourists will see a bear at some time in this short 3-day stay are less than 1:1. However the last group that visited these exiting observations was very lucky, for anyone who wished to see the bears did so and some of the group saw them more than once. We hope that in the future the 50% chances to see the bears will increase considerably. A lunch at a roadside small restaurant for today.
On the following morning, after the breakfast we start our bird-watching in the surrounding area. The open areas in the foothills of the Balkan range and the closeness of the forest allows for spotting some very interesting birds like Syrian, Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, Green, Grey-headed, Black and, with some more luck, the White-backed Woodpeckers. Packed lunch. Night at the Forestry hotel. At the same time our non-birding party will have the opportunity to take a first-hand look at the local history, traditions and custom. We will visit a typical Bulgarian house, where we'll have the chance to taste some local traditional specialties for lunch. Night at the Forestry hotel.
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The program is the same as on the 2nd day. Packed lunch. Night at the Forestry hotel. For non-birders there is a visit to the local Monastery and it’s surroundings. Lunch at a local restaurant. Night at the Forestry hotel.
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Transfer to the next main stop of our program. On the way there we shall stop many times to watch birds and on this day we will look for to see Golden Oriole, Roller, Bee-eater, Rock Bunting, Water pipit, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, etc. The hotel is at 1500 m above sea level and is surrounded by beautiful primeval coniferous forests. There is a breathtaking view of the pine clad mountains from the hotel. This is a sight we hope you'll never forget from your stay. It is likely to see the birds of the high mountains like Nutcracker, Crossbill, Pallid Swift. Packed lunch. Our non-birding party will visit a historical town. Lunch in local restaurant. . Night at the same hotel.
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After an early breakfast we'll pack up and head for a magnificent Gorge. The first thing that impresses the visitor are the huge cliffs towering above and the deep rocky valley, where the meandering the local river can hardly be seen. Strange trees of a local subspecies of Black Pine (Pinus nigra) grow right out of the rocks where there is no soil for their roots. All the time while we are there we cannot help but stand in awe before the nature’s grandeur. Unfortunately, this is only a poor and sketchy description of this extraordinary place with its caverns and the rumble of its waterfalls. One can hardly imagine the gorge beauty if one does not see it with one's own eyes. This exceptionally beautiful area is 1200 m above sea level.. WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE WALLCREEPER. This is simply the best and the most accessible place in Europe or maybe in the world to see this marvelous bird which reminds an enormous butterfly in flight. It is here where after a short and easy walk along the road for about 2 km that we hope to see this wonderful bird. After lunch we will travel to the next stop of our program – a small town, along a not very long but “slow” road . You will notice with amazement how kilometer after kilometer the mountain changes, the coniferous forests are replaced by mixed ones and afterwards by pure deciduous stands, and the trees become smaller and stunted. Then come the shrubs followed by bare rocky hills and finally the huge basalt cliffs. The world of the great birds of prey lies before us. Night at local hotel . Our non-birding group will have an unforgettable day, beginning with a visit to the neighboring village . After that the group will head for a cave, in a Gorge, which is very close to the Birding Gorge. The Cave is an very long underground formation. About 1500 m of it have been made suitable for visitors. It is exceptionally beautiful with its inner halls, narrow corridors, and thousands-of-years old stalactites, stalagmites and stalactons, which descend and ascend from everywhere around us. The temperature down there is about 50 C so be prepared with some extra clothing. The walk is very easy and pleasant, we will be accompanied by a local guide. After a lunch at a local restaurant we will also visit the Birding Gorge. We’ll have an unforgettable walk along the road, about 2 km long, crossing the gorge. Packed lunch. Night at the same hotel.
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A visit to a local village .The area is of ancient volcanic origin with basalt stones scattered everywhere on the ground, huge rocks and basalt cliffs, small shrubs and an almost complete lack of mature trees. This part of the Mountains is well known as one of Europe’s most important regions for birds of prey. We will spend all day birdwatching around and hopefully we will spot Golden, Imperial, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Black ,Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, and many other smaller birds like Pallid Swift, Rock Nuthatch, Rock and Blue Rock Thrushes, Roller, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Lesser Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Somber Tit, Cirl, Black-headed and Ortolan Buntings, Barred, Subalpine, Sardinian and Orphean Warblers. Packed lunch. Night at local hotel. For the no- birders there is the opportunity to have a first-hand look at the history and traditions of the local people, which are of mixed ethnic origin and religion, Christian and Muslim. We will also have the opportunity to taste some local specialties for lunch. Night at the same hotel.
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Again a long but necessary transfer, to the lowlands along the Black Sea coast. We will spend 2 nights at hotel, which is just outside the local town close to very interesting nature reserve. This is the most important region for the large and small migrating birds from the huge region of Central and Eastern Europe for the spring and autumn migration. During the transfer we shall have plenty of time for stopping on the way for spotting such specialties as Masked Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier. Packed lunch. This day the non-birders group will also have a transfer to the same sea town. But e we'll see the newest archaeological finds in Bulgaria, related with the most ancient culture in Europe - The Thracian one. We'll visit a sacred Thracian place , dated at least 7000-10000 years ago. The same day, up to the time , we'll visit other interesting spots in the region, including the archaeological museum. Dinner and night at the same hotel.
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We will spend all the day long in the area around the local freshwater lakes, with the extensive reed-beds along their lakesides. There are flooded meadows, marshes, low hills, and oak forests in the surrounding countryside. These diverse habitats make this area one of the best such areas in Europe for wetland and other species of birds. Here we could see Pygmy Cormorant, Night, Squacco, Purple, and Grey Herons, Little and Great White Egrets, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, White Pelican, Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Little Gulls, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Somber Tit, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle. Packed lunch. Night at the same hotel. For our non-birding group a visit to an Old town-museum has been arranged. Lunch at a local beach restaurant in the town . Beach options. Night at the same hotel.
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We head along the Black Sea coast. The next three nights we will spend at the local hotel. The hotel is just outside the local small town , on a hill above the sea. Two nice wooded valleys can also be seen from the hotel. Very good opportunities for spotting Golden Oriole, Bee-eater, Roller, Syrian Woodpecker, Hobby, Levant Sparrowhawk. On the way we will stop at nice forest, where we could concentrate on the Great, Middle and Lesser Spotted, Grey-headed, Green and Black Woodpeckers, and, if we have indeed some luck, the rather rare White-backed Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper. Lunch at the local forest restaurant. For our group of non-birders there will be a visit to another old museum Town The town was built more than 2500 years ago. A great number of archaeological finds have been preserved and exhibited, among them the most interesting in Bulgaria churches from the Roman and medieval times like the Pantokrator, St. Stephen and others. . Lunch at the same forest restaurant. Beach options. Night at the same hotel.
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After an early breakfast follows a visit to a freshwater lake . It’s a very important wetland area for breeding and migrating birds with its extensive reed-beds and open water areas. Our main interest will be to spot the Paddyfield Warbler, Collared Pratincole, Spotted and Little Crakes, Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Ferruginous Duck, Little and Great Bitterns, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns, Bearded Tit, Red-footed Falcon, Levant Sparrowhawk, Long-legged Buzzard. Packed lunch. Night at the same hotel. For the non-birding group a visit to local Cape with the fortress and the town Museum of the sea. Lunch at the local cave restaurant. Beach options. Night at the same hotel. After the packed lunch we visit a Cape Steppe Nature Reserve. This is a coastal headland with its white and reddish-brown limestone cliffs falling precipitously away into the depths of the surrounding sea from a height of over 200 m. Inland, the sky above the rolling steppe is dotted with the slow-flapping Calandra and Short-toed Larks. The habitat also suits the Isabeline and Pied Wheatears and Stone Curlew. Everywhere around us, perched on small shrubs the Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Black-headed and Corn Buntings can be seen. Also here one can sometimes see the Rose-coloured Starlings during their periodic invasions from Asia. Lunch at the local cave restaurant. Night at the same hotel.
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Driving inland today, we’ll cross the steppes to reach a famous Lake Biosphere Reserve. Its extensive reed-beds give ideal shelter for the breeding of the globally threatened with extinction Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous duck and Pygmy cormorant as well as for a number of rare and endangered on a local or regional level birds like Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Purple, Squacco and Night Herons, Marsh harrier, Penduline tit. In the broad-leaved forests around the lake also breed the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawks, Goshawks. The Ruddy Shellduck breeds, too in the banks of the little dry valleys in the area. In the afternoon we will visit the Danube river proper. Birds likely to be seen there: Dalmatian Pelicans, Herons, Woodpeckers. Night at local hotel . For our non birding group a transfer has also been arranged. Accommodation at the same hotel. A sightseeing tour will follow, with a visit to the ancient town. Massive fortified walls with gateways and turrets, some of them standing on the picturesque riverside. In the District Museum of History works of art and objects of the ancient material culture from the excavations are exhibited along with Thracian burial mounds from the region and exceptionally rich collection of golden decorations. The fortress was probably erected some 2500 years ago and was in use until as late as the 18th century AD. Three stone walls with gateways were erected to protect the ancient town. Antique vaulted tombs, Roman thermal bath, medieval church, two Thracian dome-shaped tombs and other items were preserved by the Museum workers. Lunch at the hotel restaurant. Night at the same hotel.
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Today we visit a local marshland . Initially it was a typical riverside marsh, turned into a fish farm during the communist regime, and turned again into a marshland nowadays. Good opportunities for spotting Whiskered Tern, Red-necked, Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Pygmy Cormorant. In the afternoon we head south and reach an open-air museum . We will spend a night at the local hotel. (built in the traditional Bulgarian architectural style). The restaurant at the hotel offers Bulgarian national dishes and drinks. At the open-air museum those interested can have a look at our old Bulgarian crafts and buy some typical Bulgarian souvenirs. Here we'll have one of the last opportunities in this trip to watch Dipper, Somber Tit, and more Woodpeckers. Packed lunch. Today our non-birder group heads inland and will visit an unique Thracian tomb. This is the biggest and most impressive Thracian tomb-temple in North Bulgaria, the only one having internal plastic decoration. In the central chamber there are 10 sculptural figures of caryatids who, with their raised hands support the vault. The area has been an important center fir the rulers of the Thracian tribe Gheti some 2500 years ago. Lunch at a roadside restaurant. Accommodation at the same hotel in the late afternoon.
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Driving further west we reach Sofia where our tour will be over. For those who have a late afternoon or evening flight or will fly home the next day a visit to a Nature Park (close to Sofia) may be arranged. There we can finish our tour with watching Nutcracker, Crossbill, Coal Tit and, if we have indeed a good luck, also the Alpine Accentor. For the non-birding party there may be a visit to Sofia National Museum of History - the biggest treasure-house of historical records and artifacts (some dated more than 50 thousand years ago) which have been found in Bulgarian lands. There are hundreds of objects of scientific and artistic value from prehistoric, ancient and medieval times as well as from the time of the Bulgarian revival. There are exhibitions of works of the everyday life and material culture of one of the most ancient civilizations including the oldest hand-made golden articles dated at over 6000 years. In the show-cases one can look at the unique Thracian treasures from Rogosen - 165 pieces of silver vessels and other utensils, the similar one from Borovos, and the famous golden treasure from Panagiurishte
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