Balkan Mountains riding holiday in Bulgaria - Far and Ride
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Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria




Programmes


• Balkan Mountain Trail

 

Reviews



It was a fantastic experience. We were riding through the beautiful places in the Balkan Mountains on very hard working and brave horses. It was challenging and sometimes difficult but thanks to our guides always safe. Fantastic guide always polite and helpful. I was impressed with his knowledge of horses and the history of Bulgaria. He translated everything into French and English.

Dorota S.
The holiday was very good, beautiful scenery, mountains, forests & lakes. The accommodation was very basic but the food was excellent throughout the holiday both in quantity and quality. Alex was a terrific guide polite, knowledgeable and good fun.

Alastair M.
700 photos in six days describes the Wow! factor and hospitality that turns into personal friendships, the welcome. I will try not to be too over effusive in my praise.

Geoff B.
Excellent family programme - it was unusual in that it was completely different from anything we have done before. It was brilliant - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves riding through the forest and meadows, having lunch in a local person's house, camping and fishing. Excellent charming and knowledgeable guides and host. Definitely will return. 10/10

Andrews
Very well organised from airport to mountain hut. Knowledgeable guide and sure-footed horses. Riding through the snow on a mountain top was the most exhilarating thing we have ever done. My favourite memory was galloping through the snow in between the mountains.

Andrea
The trail was perfect from the beginning to the end. Beautiful mountains, amazing views, fantastic horses, well schooled, forward going and sure-footed in difficult terrain. Very good, knowledgeable guides, simple, but nice accommodation, excellent food all week. I had a wonderful holiday and I hope I'll be able to come back next year.

Helena J.
The trip to Balkan was fantastic. The guide for the trail was wonderful, very knowedgeable and spoke perfect english. The accommodation and food was excellent. The horses were the best part of the hoilday though. Myself and my partner have both said we will definitely go again next year.

Emma B.
I had a great week. Miro was my guide and he was lovely - knows the area like the back of his hand and really knows about the wildlife and nature. My horse for the week was also lovely, didn't bat an eyelid at anything! Food was great and plentiful, I had to keep telling them they were bringing me too much!

Karen H.
Throughly enjoyable week - beautiful scenery, great riding, good company. The trail took us to mountain huts and guest houses in the hills and the monastery was a delightful stopover. My favourite memory was riding through meadows of wildflowers and gazing down the mountains on a rural landscape seemingly unchanged in centuries.

Malcolm W.
Perfect! Just as described. Fantastic ride in amazing scenery with wonderful hosts and a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. Great food and hospitality wherever we went! Stayed in some of the most beautiful places imaginable! Horse was great - very willing and reliable and coped well with the difficult terrain.

Emily B.
It took me to 'another place', both in my head, visually and with the riding.

Augusta G.
Wonderful riding on a well cared for horse, in beautiful mountain ranges and comfortable Western saddles. The terrain was varied with mountains and open fields, and the guide was excellent, as was the comfortable guest house and food.

Pat B.
Lots of time in beautiful. stunning and unspoilt countryside with excellent hospitality and characterful accommodation. The tack was in good condition and very comfortable. (Favourite Memory?) Walking through fog and seeing semi wild horses appear!

Helen S.
Fabulous! Exceeded all my expectations. A beautiful country, happy and healthy horses, a challenging and varied trail with great guides and company. I feel I got a real taste of Bulgaria - its landscape, culture and way of life. (Favourite memory?) Too many to choose from! The company - we had a great group and lovely guides. The mountain huts, long canters on the last 2 days, the food, my horse, the weather (kept things interesting!), the scenery, the wildflowers, our hosts. There are no bad memories, only great ones!

Ellie M.
Fabulous. The guides were great; the accommodation super, the space we rode through stunning and the horses were very happy with a good gallop. First Class! Paulo & Veronica were great. My inability to speak Bulgarian didn't hamper the communication with Paulo at all - we either "got it" or Veronica (whose English is first class) translated.

Donna F. (Balkan Base)
Fabulous Trip. Wonderful people, horses and nature. (Were you happy with the horses and equipment?) Very much. Good that they had rain ponchos for guests to use too.

Michael F. (Panorama Trail)
Had the most amazing week riding in the beautiful mountains of Bulgaria. My guide, Alex, was fantastic. His knowledge of the area was second to none and we had exciting rides every day. He looked after me extremely well. The horses were beautiful and well trained and well looked after. Tanya at the guest house was a lovely lady and cooked very tasty meals, so much so I gained 3lbs in a week! Thank you for organising this trip, it really was the best holiday ever.

Jane T.
Beautiful scenery, lovely horses, amazing experience. The owners were v. friendly and accommodating. Beds quite hard but nothing uncomfortable. Food incredible, everything really fresh and tasty. My horse was lovely. All very well looked after and well loved. Western saddles very comfy and in good nick. Alex (guide) was awesome. He was fun and interesting but made sure everyone was happy and safe. (Favourite memory?) Galloping my Arab horse very fast!

Rachel A. (Balkan Mountain Trail)
Absolutely perfect holiday! Well organised from the start, friendly and experienced guides, stunning mountain scenery, forward going but well mannered and lovely horses. The mountain huts were basic as we were warned, the guesthouses were lovely and comfortable, the food in all was fantastic. Very happy with my horse, he was very well looked after and a pleasure to ride. Equipment and tack good quality and in good condition. Veronika and Pavlin (guides) were both a pleasure to ride and spend time with. (Favourite memory?) Too many to choose from but probably riding through such beautiful unspoilt country on a very sure-footed horse.

Corina (Singing Rocks)
An authentic mountain adventure with amazing scenery, views and culture. Loved every minute. Accommodation mixed in quality (but no complaints). Hosts were fantastic. Food was brilliant and plentiful! Fabulous horses. Loved the way that although well schooled their characters and nature were always present. The track was in great condition. Alex (the guide) was very competent, professional and friendly. He was very safe, knew his horses as well as the trails. The driver was friendly and ever helpful and went out of his way to help us in challenging situations. (Favourite memory?) The views and the brilliant horses with loads of individual character but well schooled and suited to the terrain.

Marian & Sian (Sept 2018)
 

Horses



Type of horses:

Native east Bulgarian crosses, Hanoverian and Arab.

Nature of horses:

Well trained, calm, responsive and sure footed

Height of horses:

13.2 hh -16.2 hh

Weight limit:

90 kg - however, experienced heavier riders may be accommodated by prior arrangement.

Tack type:

Western - quality tack that has been mostly imported from the US

 

Travel Advice



Please ensure you read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice before you travel.
 

Ride Description

Situated on the northern side of the Balkan Mountain Range in Bulgaria, on the outskirts of the mountain village of Apriltsi, lies this fantastic riding centre which offers two beautiful trail rides and based programmes. Here in the heart of Bulgaria the riding is sensational - far away from traffic, work and everyday life, you can ride right into the mountains to find the freshest air and the cleanest rivers. Nature is everything here and the wildlife adds to the sense of adventure with the smell of the roses and Lavendula, the taste of the cool, white wine made from the local grapes, the real yoghurt and the sun-ripened tomatoes. The stables are surrounded by beautiful fields, a little creek and a mountain lake with green and blooming meadows all around. There is also a little Western bar where guests can enjoy a drink and watch the grazing horses. The views of Mt Botev, standing at 2395m, add to the feeling of the riding centre and the Central Balkan National Park lies just next door. A brown bear is the symbol of the park and you will often see their tracks during your rides.

Riding here is based on the fantastic scenery and famous hospitality that Bulgaria has to offer and if you want to get back to nature, with the help of natural horsepower, then this is the right choice for you. Encounters with the charming local people add an element of culture to the trips and help to make the setting even more ideal for a horseback adventure. The centre uses local East Bulgarian horses or these crossed with Arabians. The local horses are known as being tough, thoughtful and wise and when crossed with the famous strength and stamina of the Arab, it makes for a satisfying companion. The horses are healthy, taken good care of and are accustomed to the mountainous terrain. They are always given days off to ensure that they are in good shape for the rides and riding is in Western tack which is comfortable for the lengthy trail rides and supportive for the challenging mountain riding.

The mountain riding and adventures in the wilderness will show you why horse riding in Bulgaria is something special and with a sure-footed horse and a trusty guide, you are sure to enjoy the experience.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

For the based programme, you will stay in a guesthouse together with the other riders in double rooms. All guest rooms have their own private bathrooms and a balcony or terrace. The guesthouse has a lovely large garden which guests are welcome to use, together with a barbecue, as well as a communal dining room which is available for use when meals are not being served.

Guesthouse accommodation in Bulgaria is comparable to a B&B in England and, of course, you have some privacy during the stay. Full board meals are included with the programmes and these meals will be taken in the house or outside in the garden. During the daily rides, a picnic will be organised for lunch or you will bring a packed lunch in your saddlebags.

On the trail rides, accommodation varies depending on the ride you choose. Some may offer limited shower facilities due to the remote nature of the trail and some, like the mountain huts, are really very basic. Expect to be staying in a mixture of hotels, guesthouses, chalets and mountain huts during your trail ride.

During the riding programmes, all meals are included. Other soft drinks, wine, beer and alcoholic drinks are not included but are available to buy at each overnight stop (payments in cash). The water in this area of the mountains and predominantly clean and safe to drink.

Breakfast will typically be comprised of cold cuts of meats, cheeses and fresh bread, as well as homemade yoghurt, french toast, cake, seasonal fruit and cereal. Herbal or fruit infusions, such as mountain tea, and coffee are readily available with breakfast, or you may wish to try some locally made Banitsa instead.

Lunch will generally be taken at a local restaurant, at private homes on the route or will be a picnic carried with you in your saddlebags. Dinner will be served at your host accommodation each night and will consist of plenty of local and traditional dishes typical of this area of the Balkan Mountains. These meals will usually be hearty and include salad, hot or cold soup to start, a main of meat or fish (or vegetarian alternative)served with seasonal vegetables and side of bread, boiled grains or polenta, as well as a sweet to finish.

Bulgarian cuisine includes a fair amount of dairy due to the regions wonderful pastoral heritage. Special dietary requirements may be accommodated with prior arrangement.

 

Activities

For those taking part in the trail programmes, you will find that there is not a lot of free time or possibilities to take part in other activities. However, those who are staying at the base for the stationary programme, a variety of optional activities and tours are offered at an additional cost (payable locally).

These activities might include a visit to the local town of Troyan, about 25 km away, to see the monastery and to enjoy some shopping. Troyan is a pleasant, metropolitan town with a variety of shops and cafés to explore. Or, slightly further away (50km), you will find the city of Gabrovo and the famous ethnographical museum Etara showing the history of medieval Bulgaria.

Additional costs for these trips will be dependent on distance travelled and number of participants.

 

Further Details

Languages: English, French

Health requirements: No special requirements

Age limit: None within reason

Tuition: No

Included: Accommodation, meals, transfers from and to Sofia airport and riding as per itinerary.

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, other drinks, extra tours or activities, tips and personal expenses.

 

Travel Information

The riding base is situated approximately 180 km from Sofia (approximately three hours by car). You will be met in the airport by a transfer guide with a sign "Riding Base Balkan"

Airport: Sofia

Alternative Airport: Plovdiv

 

Programmes


Balkan Mountain Trail



This is our partner's classic trail ride, following a route over two mountains in the Balkan range. The ride features unspoilt landscapes, a chance to experience the real life of villages and the opportunity to witness the local culture from horseback. During the trail you ride through the Balkan National Park and the lower mountains of Sredna Gora, as well as through the famous Valley of Roses. During the rose growing season, this valley is filled with the scent of rose petals and you will find the region carpeted in small white and blush pink blooms. This trail follows ancient paths that have connected the North of Bulgaria with its Southern parts for hundreds of years.

Saturday:

You will be met by a representative from the riding stables in Sofia airport arrivals hall at the agreed meeting time. Having safely met your driver, you will transfer, together with your travel companions to a hotel in Sofia.

You will enjoy a traditional welcome dinner .

Sunday: Sofia - Apriltsi

After your first breakfast complete with famous Bulgarian yogurt, you will be transferred by car to Apriltsi a journey of c.180 km, around 3 hours driving. You will be introduced to your horse for the week, which will have been matched to you using information provided prior to your arrival. 

Then you will make your first leisurely ride out of the town of Apriltsi in order to get to know your horse and its ways. Today's ride will begin in the fields and low areas of the riding base and will continue through small villages and agricultural areas. The ride is easy and gives guests a chance to make any changes they need to prior to the ride. Overnight in a guest house, rooms with private facilities. 

c. 3 hours riding 

Monday: Apriltsi - Tabite

After breakfast you will start riding in the surrounding fields and will  continue through small villages and at a creek your guide knows a good place for the lunch. During hot days it is possible to jump into the pool or the cooling mountain creek. After lunch the first mountain experience of the trail is waiting and you ride uphill for roughly 3 hours and enter the Central Balkan National Park. Overnight in Tabite Lodge. 

c. 5 hours riding

Tuesday:  Tabite - Kalofer Monastery

The trail continues through the National park, one of the most valuable and largest protected areas in Europe, over the Balkan Mountains and with splendid views to the highest peak in the Balkan Range; Mt. Botev (2395 m) and from this high the Mariza plains open up in the horizons. After 6-7 hours ride the day ends at a small monastery, still functioning and with a nice monastery garden and a small church. After the ride we recommend a short walk to Byala reka; an eco-path in the canyon with plenty of bridges over the flossy river). Dinner and overnight in the monastery.

c. 6-7 hours riding

Wednesday:  Kalofer Monastery - Svezen Hut

In the morning you will have time to explore the monastery and the life in the fields. Here you will meet sheep and shepherds and busy farmers in the field. After lunch the trail will pass through the Valley of Roses, blooming from mid May to mid June, followed by a beautiful old forest. After nearly 5 hours you are exactly on the top of the Sredna Gora Mountains, where you will overnight in the chalet Svezhen (1050m). From the top you have a splendid view to the Rila and Rhodopi mountains. 

c. 6-7 hours riding

Thursday:  Svezen Hut - Triglav Hut

After an early breakfast you will head back to the North, riding through small villages in the Rose Valley. You will stop for lunch in a private house and then start ascending the mountain. You pass one of the checkpoints of the national park and the scenic waterfall Babsko (54m) until you reach the mountain hut Triglav for overnight. 

c.  8 hours riding

Friday: Triglav Hut - Apriltsi - Sofia

Your trail will continue over the mountains with great views to the peaks Zelenikovets, Kurtbashitsa, Kolata and the sharp pyramid of the peak Maragidik (1889m). You start the descent riding through the centuries-old beech forest and at Ostershka River you will enjoy your last lunch before you start riding through the villages and back to the stables, where it all started.

Transfer back to Sofia for overnight where you will spend the night in a 3 star  hotel.

 c. 5-6 hours riding.

Saturday: Transfer

After breakfast you will transfer to Sofia Airport for your departure flight.



Accommodation: The Balkan Trail is based on seven nights full board accommodation.
Two nights in centrally located 3*** hotels in Sofia
Three nights in lodges/huts in rooms with private facilities
One night in monastery and one night in mountain hut (day 6) in rooms with shared facilities
Minimum group size: 1
Maximum group size: 8
Ability description: Intermediate and above.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 5 - 7 hours riding per day
Departure dates: 2021:
29 May-6 June, 12-19 June, 3-10 July, 24-31 July, 14-21 August, 4-11 September, 25 September-2 October, 9-16 October
 
Pricing: 2021:

806 per person

Price includes 7 nights shared room accommodation, full board meals, riding, pick up/drop off at Sofia airport, local guide and English-speaking translator, as well as luggage transportation between overnight stops.

Single occupancy is 18 per person per night, for those who do not wish to share a room. Please note that single rooms are subject to availability and may not be possible every night on this trail.

The price does not include: tips, drinks (except water) and other personal expenses, maps, flights or travel insurance.

Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding.

All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.