Inala’s Bulgaria Tour - where east meets west
16-29 May 2024
Beautiful landscapes, fantastic birds and friendly people, our round trip takes you to the best places in the country
from the Eastern Rhodope Mountains to the Black Sea Coast.
* Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, and other greatwaterside birds
* Stunning scenery in the Strandja, Sakar and Rhodope mountain ranges
* Eastern raptors including Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Levant Sparrowhawk
* Incredible variety of habitats from steppes to jagged mountain and extensive wetlands
* Westernmost Pied and Isabelline Wheatear, Rose-coloured Starling and Paddyfield Warbler
* Fantastic viewing of Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vultures plus eagles at feeding tables
* Amazing variety of butterflies and dragonflies, good selection of reptiles and other wildlife
* Historical towns with Ottoman style architectureand ancient Thracian archaeological sites
(This tour has been designed to adjoin our Hungary tour so you are welcome to join us for both (and a discount will apply!)
•Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tourswith local guide
Day1.Thu 16 May 2024.Sofiato Tryavna.Accom:Tryayna.
Days 2-4.Fri 17, Sat 18 & Sun 19 May 2024.Tryavna,Central Balkan NP to Durankulak
Days 5-7.Mon 20, Tue 21 & Wed 22 May 2024.Durankulak to Darafovo.
Days 8-10.Thu 23, Fri 24 & Sat 25 May 2024.Eastern Rhodope Mountains.
Days 11 & 12.Sun 26 & Mon 27 May 2024.Eastern to Western Rhodope Mountains.
Day 13.Tue 28 May 2024.Western Rhodope Mountains to Sofia.
Day 14.Wed 29 May 2024.Depart Sofia.
B-breakfast; L-lunch; D-dinner
Day 1. Thursday 16 May 2024. Sofia to Tryavna.
This morning, we will meet our local guide in Sofia. Those who are taking both Hungary and Bulgaria tours will fly together from Budapest to Sofia. We will then head to Tryavna enjoying some birding enroute if time permits. We will spend one night in the historic town of Tryavna.
Accommodation: Hotel in Tryavna (ensuite room). Meals included: D.
Days 2-4 inclusive. Friday 17, Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 May 2024 inclusive. Tryavna, Central Balkan NP and Durankulak.
Tryavna lies in the Central Balkan National Park. It is surrounded by beautiful forests and a morning walk might add some higher elevation species to our list such as Black Redstart, Coal Tit and Common Crossbill, before we leave for the Black Sea Coast
It takes 5-6 hours to reach our next destination, Durankulak. Our lodge is situated on the shore of the famous Lake Durankulak, thus offering great opportunities to bird from the balcony before dinner. Spanish Sparrow, Black-headed Bunting, the black-headed race of Yellow Wagtail are garden birds here. Bee-eater, Hobby, Calandra Lark, Little Owl can also be seen from our hotel.
Lake Durankulak is one of the westernmost breeding sites of Paddyfield Warbler and while looking for these nice songsters we might find many other species such as Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Whiskered and Black Tern. Marsh Harriers are plentiful and there might be divers or skuas out in the Black Sea.
Further south is Lake Shabla where we will scan the shallow waters for waterfowl and raptors. In the past we have found here Red-crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Collared Pratincole and Terek Sandpiper.
It is a short drive from Durankulak to the steppe country above the spectacular cliffs of Cape Kaliakra. Here, and at nearby Yailata, are the most western populations of Isabelline and Pied Wheatears as well as good numbers of Black-headed Buntings and Lesser Grey Shrikes. We’ll search for well camouflaged Stone Curlews and hope to see Rose-coloured Starling here too, though their numbers vary greatly from year to year. The powerful song of Calandra Larks will be ringing in our ears and amongst them are smaller numbers of Short-toed Lark. There are two rare mammals here, the Steppe polecat and the Romanian Hamster, but we would have to be extremely lucky to see them. On the cliff top stands a ruined castle from where we can scan the sea in search of Yelkouan Shearwaters and Skuas which pass through here, while Mediterranean Shags nest down below and there is always a chance of a passing Harbour Porpoise or Bottlenose Dolphin. Alpine Swifts nest on the cliff face.
Accommodation: Durankulak (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.
Days 5-7 inclusive. Monday 20, Tuesday 21 & Wednesday 22 May 2024. Durankulak to Sarafovo.
Driving south we will make a stop at the oak woodland near Goritza looking for Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Short-toed Treecreeper.
By late afternoon we will reach our accommodation near Burgas where we will stay for the next two nights. From here we can visit the extensive wetlands around Burgas exploring the lakes, saltpans, reedbeds, flooded meadows and marshlands of one of Europe’s richest birding areas, where over 300 species have been recorded. We should see White and Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants here.
The shallow lagoons of Atanasovsko and Pomorie attract many shorebirds including Kentish Plover, Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt plus we’ll check through the passage waders in search of Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpiper. Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Little Gull can all be seen here along with Gull-billed and other terns. Of all the various races of Yellow Wagtail the black-headed race found here is probably the most stunning! Nearby the reed fringed Mandra Lake is also full of birds with Squacco, Purple and Night Herons in the reeds, White-winged Black Terns dipping down to the water in search of emerging insects all to the continuous soundtrack of Savi’s and Cetti’s Warbler. Golden Orioles flash between the poplar trees from which Penduline Tits collect the fluffy seeds to build their intricate hanging nests. Glossy Ibis, Ruddy Shelduck, Spoonbill and many other species are all possible here. Time allowing we may also visit Lake Poroy surrounded by meadows and a nice forest. It is the best place to find Ruddy Shelduck, but European Roller and Bee-eater, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole will keep us busy too. We may visit the historic town of Nesebar situated on a small island near the coast to wander on the narrow streets.
Accommodation: Sarafovo near Burgas (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Days 8-10 inclusive. Thursday 23, Friday 24 & Saturday 25 May 2024.We head west through beautiful scenery of hills, valleys, field and woodland to the Eastern Rhodope Mountains.
En route we drive through the Strandja Mountains, an endless chain of crests and wood-covered tops. Raptors here include Booted and Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite and Long-legged Buzzard. Roadside fence posts and wires are dotted with Rollers, Bee-eaters and Black-headed Buntings. Later we stop en route in the Sakar Mountains one of the least known mountain areas, located in the southeast of Bulgaria. It is an area of rounded hills and open valleys, the higher parts covered with broad-leaved forests, while most of the area is steppe grassland with scattered trees, bushes and agricultural land where Imperial Eagle has its stronghold. This is a great area for raptors with Short-toed, Lesser-spotted and Booted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Levant Sparrowhawk all possible and we’ll look for Olive-tree Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Masked Shrike.
We spend 2 full days in the volcanic landscape of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. Rolling hillsides alternate with rugged landscape of jagged peaks, towering cliffs and sparsely vegetated, boulder-strewn slopes in this beautiful mountain range renowned for its impressive list of raptors, and we will be on the constant alert checking anything that breaks the skyline. Almost any of the Bulgarian birds of prey can be seen here with good chances of Golden Eagle. We’ll visit feeding tables where Griffon, Egyptian and European Black Vulture feed on carcasses along with White-tailed Eagle and sometimes Imperial Eagles come in to join the throng. Black Storks nest nearby, and the scrubby bushes and rocky landscape are home to Chukar, Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Olivaceous, Orphean, Sardinian and Subalpine Warbler, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Ortolan and Black-headed Bunting. Pallid Swift and Red-rumped Swallow nest in the gorges as does Blue Rock Thrush. A fantastic variety in superb scenery. Reptiles and insects are also abundant in the dry hills. We will hope to see European Glass Lizard, Balkan Green Lizard, Hermann’s and Spur-thighed Tortoise and a good selection of butterflies and dragonflies.
The region also offers a good insight into the history of ancient Bulgaria and we shall visit nearby sites with remains of Thracian culture. One such place is the city of Perperikon. Rising 470 m above the picturesque valley of the Perpereshka River, Perperikon stands atop a rocky hill, at the heart of a lush forest. The site has been intensively excavated, revealing walls, stairs, cisterns, churches, palace buildings, a necropolis and the remains of a medieval fort. Perperikon is the biggest megalithic site in the Balkans.
There are many Thracian rock niches, scattered around the area. The dark spots of trapezoid niches, carved in precipitous rocks, can be seen everywhere around Madzharovo. There is an array of about 100 niches spotting the limestone body of a massive rock called Kovankaya, or Beehive Rock, on the road near the village of Dolno Cherkovishte, about 20 km northwest of Madzharovo that we are going to visit as well.
Accommodation: Madzharovo in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. Meals included: B, L, D.
Days 11 & 12. Sunday 26 & Monday 27 May 2024. Eastern to Western Rhodope Mountains.
Leaving the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, we head for the village of Trigrad in the Western Rhodope Mountains, where we spend the last 2 nights. On the way we stop exploring coniferous forests and alpine meadows for Spotted Nutcracker, Firecrest, Ring Ouzel, Crested and Willow Tit plus many flowers including orchids. Trigrad Gorge is one of the most popular European sites for observing Wallcreeper and we will visit the site in the morning in the hope of finding this unique bird. Other species of note are Peregrine Falcon, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Dipper and Grey Wagtail.
Accommodation: Pamporovo or Trigrad in the Western Rhodope Mountains Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 13. Tuesday 28 May 2023. Western Rhodope Mountains to Sofia.
We’ll leave the Western Rhodope Mountains and enjoy more birding en route to Sofia. In the afternoon we may visit Vitosha Mountain for more high elevation birds or we may have a stroll in the historic downtown of Sofia.
Accommodation: Sofia. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 14. Wednesday 29 May 2023. Depart Sofia.
This morning we transfer to Sofia airport for our flights home.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.
Tour Price: USD$7,060 per person twin share). Single supplement: USD$ 440
Group size: 6 -12 people + tour leader Tonia Cochran + local guide.
Price includes: 13 nights’ accommodation in ensuite guesthouses and hotels and hotels at Tryavna, Durankulak, Sarafovo, Madzharovo, Pamporovo/Trigrad and Sofia, plus specialist guide and transport, return transfers from/to Sofia, all meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary.
Price does not include: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature or activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
We are pleased to offer a discount for taking adjoining Hungary and Bulgarian tours so please ask if you are interested.
The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.
Mobility: This tour is suitable for a range of activity levels and there are options for joining some walks and for more relaxed touring nearer the vehicle if you prefer.