Brown Bear Watching
Most of the tourists wishing to observe brown bears head for Finland and Romania, without considering the recently developed excellent opportunities in Bulgaria – a country with one of the richest biodiversity in Europe. The tour as a philosophy is an ecotourism product. Your visit will help preserve the fragile harmony between locals and the high concentration of large carnivores in the area, while you stimulate the pride of your hosts in their nature and cultural specialties. With a main focus on viewing Brown Bear in the pristine habitats of the Rhodopi Moutains, the 5 day itinerary has great added value with superb birdwatching, soft hiking, sightseeing of village Shiroka Luka (architectural & folklore reserve) and loads of impressions from the numerous natural attractions in the region.
Day 1. Upon arrival at Sofia Airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to the heart of the Rodopi Mountains. If time allows short stops for birdwatching will be supplemented. In the evening we will enjoy a lecture by our local guide (ranger) and you will receive interesting information about bear conservation programs, the annual and daily behavior patterns of the animals, their food composition and distribution in the region. The dinner is freshly-cooked native specialty. The accommodation is in a family hotel with individuality and charm, located at the famous village of Trigrad.
Day 2. After healthy breakfast we head to the nearby Trigrad Gorge, where we will scan the vertical rocks for the elusive Wallcreeper. Here is one of the most notorious places in Europe for observing this beautiful bird. The more lucky guests of the gorge may return home with nice photos of a Wallcreeper, taken from a short distance. Later we enter the legendary Devil’s Throat cave and explore the Thunder Hall (the highest on the Balkans) with its picturesque waterfall. The itinerary continues with moderate 2 hours trek to the impressive Yagodina Cave. The breathtaking panoramas are one of the many merits of the route. The path passes through mixed forest and green meadows – usually here are the first tracks and traces of bears, which we will see. The bird species list will increase with Goldcrest, Firecrest, Dippers, Bullfinch, Black Redstart, Common and Alpine Swift, tits (Great, Coal, Marsh & Willow), Nutcracker and other. An hour long guided tour of Yagodina Cave, considered one of the most beautiful Bulgarian caves, is included. A short transfer back to Trigrad and you will have time at leisure and early dinner with a home prepared delicacy. Transfer to the bear-watching hides - all equipped with benches, beds and toilet. They are soundproof and completely safe. We can spend the whole night there or leave whenever you decide to.
Day 3. Today we continue with on foot exploration of the bears’ habitats. We will observe bear markings and measure footprints. Spotting the animal in daytime is not excluded. The guide will be keen on showing you Balkan Chamois, Red and Roe Deer, Golden Eagle, Hazel Grouse, Capercaillie Black and White-backed Woodpecker (subspecies lilfordi). Key facts about these species will also be presented. Early dinner (the culinary temptations with local dishes will continue) and off to a night excursion to the hides. They are located in different areas and depending on the rangers’ advice, we spent the night at the one, from which spotting a bear is most probable. Some of them are reached by 4WD and some by walking. Other mammals are also passing by and frequent visitors are wild boars and roe deer.
Day 4. Only 40 km from is the architectural and folklore reserve Shiroka Luka. The village owns its fame for the authentic Rhodopean houses and specific songs accompanied by "kaba gaida" – a type of bagpipe. We will pay special attention to the masterfully and richly decorated Chruch of Holy Mother of God. For the afternoon a short, but very scenic trek is planned. The evening is dedicated to bearwatching.
Day 5. Breakfast and departure according to your flight.
We can book extra nights in Sofia for you or extend the tour with birdwatching itinerary: 1 night/2 days in the region of Madzharovo, Eastern Rodopi Mountains with en route stop along Maritsa River. By prolonging your stay you will increase your sighting with Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Imperial, Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Roller, Black Kite, Masked and Woodchat Shrike, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler and many more.
Please take a look at our birdwatching tours or daily tours starting from Sofia.
Dates, Prices & Remarks
Though, in certain years Bulgarian brown bears are active throughout the year (even in winter time) the tour runs from April to late October – considering the features of the habitat and our experience, the most advisable time to come is late April to late May (period also good for birdwatching). Please do consider arrival, which matches (+/- 3 days) the full moon as brighter nights are better for nocturnal observations. There are between 400-700 brown bears in Bulgaria. The densest populations are in Central Balkans and in the Central Rodopi. A research in the region (60 000 ha) of Trigrad, Devin and Shiroka Luka shows that it is inhabited by about 40-50 bears. The hides are constructed along some of the most used bear routes. The use of experts, the fine location of hides, and the high density of the bears are all the factors needed to guarantee a first class experience. Having 3 attempts in consecutive evenings increases to a very high extend the chance of seeing this magnificent mammal (usually from a distance of 30-50 meters). However, we consider that all written percents referring to observation probabilities, to be a mere marketing speculation. Bears have large individual territories and can cover significant distances in one night. Their movement depends on numerous factors (season, food availability, sex…). Our program includes wildlife and cultural tours during the daytime and has an accent on local cuisine specialties. Even if you are unlucky of seeing a bear, you will still have worthwhile memories of Bulgaria’s nature, people and traditions.
Large carnivores and human relationship has very sensitive socio-economic aspects. Traventuria follows very strict responsible travel ethic, established by environmentalists and local professionals. Our company is a partner of BALKANI Wildlife Society (the leading Bulgarian NGO in protection of the Brown Bear, Wolf and Lynx) in their conservation activities.
Price: 690 Euro/person (for 2-4 pers.; larger grpups: please get a quote)
Single room supplement: 70 Euro
The tour price includes: English-speaking guide throughout the tour; local guide (ranger); all ground transportation; entrance fees to the hides and caves; accommodation in family ran hotel on half board.
The price does not include: International flights, beverages, tips, food outside of the mentioned meal plan.