Our tour starts with two days in Coastal Dobroudzha – the north-eastern corner of Bulgaria. This is the northernmost part of our Black Sea coast, locked between the Romanian – Bulgarian border and Cape Kaliakra. The green plain gradually rolls on towards the coastal sand dunes and beaches. Two old riverbeds cut the lowland. Their former estuaries are occupied by the lakes of Durankulak and Shabla. There we will explore the sand dunes, separating the lakes from the sea for some interesting plants, such as Alyssum borzaeanum, Silene thymifolia, Glaucium glavum, Euphorbia lucida, etc. We also expect a big variety of water birds, including the Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Western Marsh Harrier, Paddyfield Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Bearded Reedling, Common Reed Bunting (ssp. reiseri) and various species of herons, gulls, terns, shore-birds, plus European Rollers, European Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Red-backed Shrikes in the surrounding areas.
Then we will visit the steppes and cliffs around Cape Kaliakra, where the plain descends steeply towards the expanse of the sea and the sea cliff towers up to 70 m. Here are the last remnants of the Great Steppe, formerly occupying the bigger part of the region. The kaleidoscopic hues of the wild peonies, irises and adonises in spring, the silver-green tints of the absinthe and thistles in summer and the light movements of the feather-grass in autumn, gracefully sweeping among the remnants of the ancient fortress of Kaliakra, create the special appeal of this area.
At Kaliakra we can expect to see the European Shag (ssp. desmarestii), Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Olivaceous Warbler, Pied Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting. Some of the main species of plants to be seen here include Adonis flammea, Artemisia pedemontana, Iris pumila, Scutellaria orientalis, Salvia nutans, Nonnea atra, Ruta glaveolens, Euphorbia myrsinites, Stipa lessingiana, Silene caliacrae, Salvia austriaca, etc., as well as a lot of species of Potentilla, Onosma, Vicia, Lathyrus, Pisum, Artemisia.
Our tour continues south along the coast, through the Eastern Balkan Mountains and the Kamchia Nature Reserve. The area around the Kamchia river mouth is remarkable for its variety – unique flooded forests of a riverine type, wide beaches with high sand dunes, freshwater marshes and marshy remnants of old riverbeds, cutting deep into the forest. The unusual coexistence of ash, oak, elm, alder and maple trees with lianas climbing between their branches, creates the impression of a tropical forest. The Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and several Buttercup species (Scilla sp.), make the scenery even more enchanting. The bird species likely to be seen in both sites include the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Black Stork, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Barred Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Sombre Tit.
The accommodation for the next two days will be in the picturesque town of Sozopol (about 30 km south of Bourgas). On the way, when we are passing the city of Bourgas we will visit the Bourgas wetlands to enjoy various water birds, such as the Great White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Penduline Tit.
Past the beautiful town of Sozopol and the sand dunes of Primorsko, we come to the most south-eastern corner of Bulgaria, covered by the forests of the Strandzha Mountain – an endless chain of mild crests and folding wood-covered tops. Small villages lie dispersed on the mountain slopes between the meanders of several picturesque rivers. The Strandzha occupies one of the first places in Europe in terms of biological diversity. Its forests are representative of the typical temperate broad-leaved deciduous forest composed by Fagus orientalis, Quercus polycarpa and Quercus hartwissiana with laurel undergrowth, featuring the beautiful Rododendron ponticum. Other botanical specialties of Strandzha would be Daphne pontica, Epimedium pubigerum, Laurocerasus officinalis, Ilex colchica, Mespulus germanica, Pyracantha coccinea, Stachys thracica, Verbascum bugulifolium, Salvia forskahlei, Trachystemon orientale, Cistis incanus, Geranium asphodeloides, etc. The Strandzha provides shelter to the the White-backed Woodpecker (ssp. lilfordi), Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper.
On the way back to Sozopol we may stop at the sand dunes and grasslands at the Ropotamo river complex. Here we will try to find some rare plants like Tulipa thracica, Ruscus aculeatus, Leymus racemosus ssp. sabulosus, Silene euxina, Linum tauricum ssp. bulgaricum, Stachys maritima, Limodorum abortivum, Verbascum phoeniceum, Verbascum bugulifolium, Iris sintenisii, Jurinea mollis, Calystegia soldanella, Crambe maritime. The amphibian and reptile fauna of Ropotamo area is also remarkable.
Leaving the Black Sea coast, we continue southwest to the Eastern Rhodopes, with a long stop in the Sakar Hills, where we will be looking for the Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Masked Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, Olive-tree Warbler and Easern Orphean Warbler. We will also see a lot of European Rollers, European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoes and Black-headed Buntings, plus colonies of European Souslik.
The Eastern Rhodopes is a mountain of rolling hillsides alternating with rugged landscape of jagged peaks, towering cliffs and sparsely vegetated, boulder-strewn slopes. Exceptional biodiversity – a result of the impact of the Mediterranean and continental climate – is concentrated in a small area. The diversity of birds of prey is amazing – 36 species of the 39 recorded in Europe can be seen there. However, the most spectacular feature of the region is the colony of Eurasian Griffon Vultures, inhabiting the crater of an ancient volcano.
The main birds to be seen here include: Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Golden Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Black Stork, Chukar, Eurasian Scops Owl, Sombre Tit, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Western Rock Nuthatch, Ortolan Bunting, Black-headed Bunting. The amphibian and reptile diversity in the Eastern Rhodopes is very attractive too, including Yellow-bellied Toad, Common Tree Frog, Spur-thighed Tortoise, Eastern Hermann’s Tortoise, Balkan Green Lizard, Erhard’s Wall Lizard, Balkan Wall Lizard, European Glass Lizard, Dice Snake, Large Whip Snake, Eastern Montpellier Snake, Nose-horned Viper, Eurasian Sand Boa, Dahl’s Whip Snake, etc.
On the morning before we leave the area we could visit one of the vulture feeding places in the Eastern Rhodopes, where we could observe some of the raptors and other species of birds, which we have missed or not seen well in the previous day. Then we transfer to the Western Rhodopes with several stops in the higher parts of the mountain to search for interesting plants and birds in the conifer forests and meadows.
Quite different is the view in this part of the mountain – rounded, pine-clad hills, occasionally cut by streams and rivers winding through deep gorges. One of them is the magnificent Trigrad Gorge – the realm of the Wallcreeper. The gorges resounds with the noise of numerous Eurasian Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts and echoes with the shrill calls of the Peregrine Falcons. The range of interesting and colorful plants in the Rhodopes is a feast for the eye – Haberlea rhodopensis, Sideritis scardica, Scabiosa rhodopensis, Campanula cervicaria, Arenaria rhodopaea, Hypericum montbretii, Secale rhodopaeum, etc.
Other birds to be seen here include the White-throated Dipper, Black Redstart and Rock Bunting, while the conifer forests and meadows in the area could provide Spotted Nutcracker, Rock Bunting, Crested Tit, Common Firecrest, Goldcrest, Corncrake, as well as some rare flowers, butterflies and reptiles.
In the end of the tour we will visit the magnificent Pirin and Rila Mountains in southwestern Bulgaria. These mountains’ astonishing nature is included in the borders of two national parks. The relief here is of strongly expressed alpine character. Emerald glacier lakes reflect the surrounding peaks and sharp crests. Venerable conifer trees, thick pine-scrub formations and vast mountain meadows spread below. The birds we expect to see include the Black Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Common Crossbill, Ring Ouzel (ssp. alpestris), Common Firecrest, Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Rock Bunting, Eurasian Siskin. There is a chance to catch a glimpse of a Rock Partridge too. The diverse plant life of the two national parks includes: Primula deorum, Lilium jankae, Geum coccineum, Jovibarba heuffelii, Dianthus superbus, Silene roemerii, Dactylorhiza saccifera, Dactylorhiza cordigera, Gentiana lutea, Dianthus superbus, Pinguicula balcanica, Viola dacica, Bruckentalia spiculifolia. The variable flora is matched by a wonderful selection of butterflies, among which a lot of species with a limited distribution on the Balkans. The area provides very good chances to enjoy the Balkan Chamois too.
If you wish to join one of our scheduled Best of Bulgaria Tours, please check the availability.
2-3 persons: 1790 EUR
4-6 persons: 1590 EUR
Single room supplement – 200 EUR
Prices for groups bigger than 6 persons – to be agreed;
The prices include ground transport, accommodation in en-suite double / twin rooms in middle standard hotels or lodges, all meals and guiding.
Arrival at Varna Airport and transfer north to Coastal Dobroudzha
Morning – the coastal lakes of Durankulak and Shabla; afternoon – Cape Kaliakra
Transfer to the southern Bulgarian coast through the Eastern Balkan Mnts, Kamchia riverine forests and Bourgas wetlands
The Strandzha Mnts, the Ropotamo river complex and the Bourgas wetlands
Transfer southwest to the Eastern Rhodopes through the Sakar Hills
A whole day in the Eastern Rhodopes
Morning – the Eastern Rhodopes, afternoon – transfer to the Western Rhodopes
A whole day in the Western Rhodope Mnts
Transfer to the northern part of the Pirin Mnts; afternoon – Pirin National Park
Transfer to Rila Mnts and spending the rest of the day in the Rila National Park
Transfer to Sofia for departure