This unique and innovative itinerary leads you through series of birdwatching hotspots and in short time crosses two borders – the one gradually separating the Continental and Mediterranean climate zones and that between Bulgaria and Greece. We trace the Via Aristotelis flyway from the Dragoman Marsh through the imposing Kresna Gorge, along the impressive sandy pyramids of Melnik to the ranked number 1 birding area in Greece – namely Lake Kerkini. At a glance, the trip plan proves promising in terms of long species list and superb birdwatching throughout the year. Inevitably every traveler comes equipped with great expectations. Believe us, there is always more than you have expected!
* The itinerary is designed for people, who are already in Sofia (Bulgaria), meaning that the tour starts early on the first day and ends in the evening on the third day (without included overnight stays in Sofia). If this is not the case and you need the program adjusted to particular time of the day or if you need us to book a hotel in Sofia for you please just mention this in your booking request.
Day 1. In the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred (1,20hrs) westwards to the biggest Karst marsh in Bulgaria. The checklist here is especially varied in spring and autumn as this wetland lies along the Via Aristotelis flyway and a big number of migrants use it as a stop-over. The composition of the breeding bird fauna is quite diverse, considering also the presence of differing in height Karst hills surrounding the marsh.
Expected highlights include Bittern, Little Bittern, Black Stork, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Long-legged Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Water Rail, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Sombre Tit, Rock Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Stonechat, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, Crag Martin etc. On passage more raptors and water-connected birds could be present (Red-footed Falcon, Black Kite, Wood Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern etc.).
Early in the afternoon we continue southwards to the smallest town in Bulgaria – Melnik, famous for its local brands of red wines and picturesque sandy pyramids, surround the settlement. Short time for sightseeing and wine tasting before dinner and overnight.
Day 2. Trans-border transfer to lake Kerkini in Northern Greece (appr. 1hr). The whole day will be dedicated to birding around the lake. This wetland is a true paradise for birders almost all the year round. In spring and summer the flooded forests and the shallow waters in the north-eastern parts of the lake, where Struma River flows in, give shelter and food to a huge number of waterfowl, namely few hundred pairs of Pygmy Cormorant, 2000+ pairs of Cormorant, appr. 100 pairs of Spoonbill, several hundred pairs of Grey and Squacco herons, thousands of Night Herons etc. Glossy Ibises, Crested and Black-necked grebes, colonies of Whiskered and Common Terns (incl. Black Terns among them), Purple Herons, hundreds of White and Dalmatian (breeding) pelicans, Ferruginous Ducks, Black Storks etc. add extra flavor to this colorful picture. In the Poplar belts around the lake and the hills nearby one could also find Levant Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Penguline Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Masked Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Olivaceous Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Semi-collared Flycatcher etc. Good numbers of waders, song birds and other raptors on passage could also be expected early in spring or in autumn (White-tailed Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Greater Spotted Cuckoo, Greater Flamingo etc.). At lunchtime we will unwind in one of the local “taverns”, trying traditional local specialties. Transfer back to Melnik for dinner and overnight.
Day 3. Birding and light hiking around Melnik (through the sandy pyramids and the caldera of an extinct volcano nearby) will bring more species to the checklist, including Subalpine Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Barred Warbler, Rock Nuthatch, Rock Sparrow, Red-rumped Swallow, Rock Partridge, Honey Buzzard, Middle Spotted Woodpecker etc. Transfer back to Sofia later in the afternoon (with short stop on the way in Kresna Gorge, where we will target Griffon Vultures and Blue Rock Thrushes).
– 1 person: 460 Euro/person
– 2 persons: 320 Euro/person
– 3 persons: 280 Euro/person
– 4-12 persons: please ask for a quote
Single room supplement: 60 Euro
The price includes: private transfers, accommodation on halfboard (en-suite double rooms), pick up/drop off at any location in Sofia, English-speaking driver/guide, fuel and all road taxes, use of spotting scope (one per vehicle)
The price does not include: other meals and drinks, personal expenses, tips