Rhodope Mountain Trails riding holiday in Bulgaria - Far and Ride
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Rhodope Mountain Trails, Bulgaria





Reviews



The holiday was fantastic! The area was beautiful and all of the accommodation was very comfortable. The horses were lovely and the guide looked after us all brilliantly. The area was peaceful and offered exciting riding opportunities. Bogdan was the perfect guide - he looked after us all (riders and horses) immaculately. His English was perfect and the had brilliant knowledge about the area and the horses, including the history of the area and the breeds. I was very happy with my horse (I rode Pegasus). We were a fantastic match and he made the ride very pleasurable but still interesting.

Maria L.
Joyful! Gave me opportunity to see the beautiful country, its traditions and admirable people who work very hard for it. Gave me joy and reason to reflect.

Regina B.
The whole experience was amazing. Very warm welcome from Bogdan and Lyubomira from the moment I arrived until the end. The hospitality, the way they planned the whole trip - all superb. An experienced guide made me feel safe and I've learned so much about the local history, improved my seat and had my very first gallop up in the Rhodope mountains. How cool is that?

Lea K.
 

Horses



Type of horses:

A range including Trakehner, Shagya Arabian and Eastern Bulgarian breeds.

Nature of horses:

The horses here are forward-going, responsive and brave.

Height of horses:

14.2 - 16hh.

Weight limit:

95kg / 210lbs / 15st.

Tack type:

English style tack, primarily Wintec saddles and horses in snaffle bridles.

 

Weather



 

Ride Description

This family-run riding centre was founded in 2008 and is one of the most popular riding stables in Bulgaria, accredited to both the Bulgarian Federation of Equestrian Sports and the Bulgarian Equestrian Tourism Association. Now run by the founder's son, Bogdan Syarov (a qualified vet), the stables offers adventurous mountain trails on fit, forward-going horses. The equestrian centre was started so that the Syarovs, a keen show-jumping family, could share their love of horses and their passion for this beautiful region.

Bogdan and his family pride themselves on their horses, all of whom are good-natured, brave and very much loved. Riding here is with English saddles, primarily Wintec, and the quality of tack is excellent. Although this is not a large stables they ensure that spare horses are always available. The horses are responsive and willing with great fitness, allowing for plenty of trots and canters along the way as well as safe passage over rough mountain terrain. The Rhodope Mountains ('Rodopis') offer incredible views and miles of peaceful riding routes and have been known since ancient times, mentioned by the legendary poets Homer, Virgil and Ovid. With their clean and unspoiled nature and magical villages, the Rhodopes have kept the value of the Bulgarian spirit throughout the centuries.

The stables is situated in an ideal location with scenic riding country and an abundance of cultural, natural and historical attractions within riding distance. Highlights include 'Chudnite Mostove' ('The Wonderful Bridges'), the protected area of Shiroki Livadi, the Lilkovsko Plateau, Tamrazh Reserve and the charming villages of Gela and Shiroka Laka. Rides start with a tour of the ancient city of Plovdiv, actually one of the world's oldest continually-inhabited cities. The Rhodope Mountains are one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe and are home to a range of fascinating flora and fauna - bears, wolves, wild cats, birds of prey and an incredible number of bat species inhabit the region and there are many interesting plants and flowers to be seen.

Holly from Far and Ride visited this destination in the autumn of 2016 and would be really happy to tell you more about it - please just get in touch!

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

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 but please note that it's common in Bulgaria for the washing facilities to be 'wet room' in style, meaning that the room includes a toilet, sink and shower but the shower does not have a separate cubicle or curtain (there is a drain in the middle of the floor).

A few of the accommodations have a WiFi connection.

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, but red wine is sometimes served chilled. Coffee, tea and juice are served with your breakfasts.

 

Activities

The programme is not really designed for non-riders but they could be accommodated and taken in the support vehicle to each accommodation. There are some good sight-seeing opportunities during the rides so please contact us if you have non-riders in your party.

 

Further Details

Languages: English and Bulgarian.

Health requirements: General good health recommended.

Age limit: 12+

Tuition: No.

Included: Airport transfers (Sofia or Plovdiv), accommodation, meals, drinks with meals and riding.

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, tips or extras not mentioned.

 

Travel Information

Guests can fly into Sofia or Plovdiv. The tour starts in Plovdiv but most guests fly to Sofia as there are a lot of flights into and out of the capital city.

Transfers are included from the two airports at set times. 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.

Airport: Plovdiv

Alternative Airport: Sofia

 

Programme


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 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. One of Bulgaria's most famous movies, 'Time of Violence', was filmed here. 

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. 

Particular highlights of the trail:

- Riding through the villages of Gela, Shiroka Laka and Trigrad - top Rhodope Mountain destinations. 

- Passing through a number of protected areas.

- Riding to the natural phenomenon Chairskite Ezera, the 'Chairi Lakes'.

- Visit the rock formations of Chudnite Mostove, the 'Wonderful Bridges'. 

- Visiting the Tower of Snezhanka.

- Sightseeing in the Old Town and Ethnographic Museum of Plovdiv. 

Trail Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival and transfer from Sofia airport (approximately 2 hours) to the village of Belashtitsa. 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 3* family 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 riding time: 4 hours. 

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 riding time: 6 hours. 

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 riding time: 6 hours. 

Day 5: 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 a guesthouse in Gela. 

Approximate riding time: 7 hours. 

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 same family-run guesthouse in Gela. 

Approximate riding time: 7 hours. 

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 3* family hotel. 

Approximate riding time: 4 hours. 

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. 

NB. For most nights of the trail the horses are tethered on fields nearby to your hotel - they are accustomed to this and it allows them to graze and to have some freedom of movement. 



Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 8
Ability description: Riders should be confident intermediate and above, happy to ride at walk, trot and canter in open country and for long distances. Some of the terrain is rough (and they sometimes trot over difficult ground) with trots and canters sometimes being fairly long. With this in mind, we only recommend the trail for riders who are quite fit.
Type of ride: Trail ride.
Total riding time: 6 days if riding with hours varying from 4 to 7 hours each riding day.
Departure dates: 2017: 22 - 29 April, 29 April - 6 May, 13 - 20 May, 27 May - 3 June, 10 - 17 June, 24 June - 1 July, 8 - 15 July, 22 - 29 July, 5 - 12 August, 12 - 19 August, 26 August - 2 September, 9 - 16 September, 23 - 30 September.

Additional dates available for groups of 3 or more riders.
 
Pricing: 2017:

The price is £955 per person.
Single supplement: £45 per person.

The price includes set-time transfers from/to Sofia or Plovdiv airport, 7 nights of shared twin/double room accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival to breakfast on departure day, drinks with meals, 6 days of riding and sightseeing as described.