Lying almost forgotten for years behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria remains one of the continent's best kept secrets. Our trip provides the opportunity to discover the amazingly rich cultural and natural heritage of Bulgaria's remote Rhodope, Pirin and Rila Mountains, with opportunity to interact with local people and learn about their way-of-life. In particular our trip offers a unique insight into the local Pomak (Bulgarian Muslim) community as much of our time will be spent staying in and walking amongst traditional Muslim villages. By way of contrast, we will also visit three of Bulgaria's most striking Orthodox Christian monasteries! And the natural history is equally fascinating: during our hikes, there will be excellent opportunities to see a fascinating variety of rare flora and fauna. We know Bulgaria may not be on your bucket list - but it should be!
Bulgaria is a diverse and stunningly beautiful country with charming small villages, colorful history and culture, and delicious fresh food, much of it organically grown. It also a bit of a hidden gem so we won't see many other American tourists and prices are quite low compared to other countries. We will visit longstanding monasteries; hike in the Rila, Pirin, and Rhodope mountains; meet the local residents of traditional Muslim villages; and learn about the transition this country is going through as it emerges from a long period of Soviet domination.
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What's not included: Travel to and from Bulgaria, alcoholic beverages, snacks, guide gratuities, and travel insurance
This trip is for women in good physical condition who enjoy hiking in beautiful countryside and want to learn about the history and culture of Bulgaria. Although for the most part the hiking is moderate, there are occasional steep ascents and descents on rocky paths; the last day in particular is a challenging true mountain hike. The trip is rated 3. Prior to beginning the trip, participants should be engaging in aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 4 times a week. Rating: 1 2  4 5.
On this trip we combine hiking with cultural exploration, including visiting some of the major monasteries, learning about the culture of Bulgarian Muslim women, eating traditional Bulgarian food, touring its two largest cities, visiting limestone caves, and listening to Bulgarian music. Following traditional shepherds' paths, forest tracks, and ancient Roman roads, we hike in the Rhodope, Pirin and Rila mountains between 1-5 hours per day, with time to stop for photographs, look at nature, and talk to local people. Our daily hikes will take us through a mixture of silent forests and open meadows, as well as over some rough and rocky terrain with occasional steep ascents and descents.
In Sofia we will be staying at one of the nicest hotels in the city. Other than that we'll stay in comfortable tourist-class hotels, often family-owned, that are classified two to three star by the Bulgarian classification system. These hotels offer twin rooms with private facilities. Where possible, we try to use smaller more atmospheric hotels.
Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.
I loved everything about this trip! It was all so wonderful that it's impossible to pick my favorite part!
I would have liked to spend less time travelling on the bus and more time exploring especially Plovdiv and Ria Monastery.
Interacting with locals and learning their customs; having a mix of hiking and cultural activities. The one negative for me was some bus rides were too long.
It was great interacting with locals. The last day was the highlight with the lift ride and more strenuous hike above treeline and seeing the beautiful lakes. Also enjoyed the luncheon prepared by local ladies and featuring Bulgarian foods.
The monasteries, the solitude of the hikes, the cultural experiences.
Our Bulgarian guide Nelly was awesome! A negative would be the amount of bus travel but I realize that she wanted to show us some specific sites.
I fell in love with Bulgaria on this trip. The food was excellent. The hiking was just the right mix of easy to challenging, with stunning views at every turn. The monasteries were amazing and the history of them so interesting. Two highlights for me were the 5pm service at the Rila Monastery and dancing with the Bulgarian women in Yagodina.
Everything ! it was fabulous. Loved Karen, Loved Nellie (she is wonderful) - loved the integration into the local culture and people.
Lunch Bulgarian Muslim village, seeing traditional handicrafts, hike the last day up to the lakes, the stone work in the houses, ref