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Balkan Trail (8 days)

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Have you ever been on a ride along ancient trails over impressive mountains, through waste mountain passes, along romping streams and roar waterfall? And further in the wonderful mountain scenery crossing the pasture to small hidden and forgotten villages? If not why don’t you join us on this exciting holiday, where every day brings new challenges, new terrains, new riding experiences and impressions on Bulgarian nature and culture… This is an adventurous ride for riders wishing to try everything. This is possible because here we combine trekking from place to place with our riding bases in the mountains.
The tour is following the ancient trails that for hundreds of years have connected the North of Bulgaria with its Southern parts across the Balkan Mountain, which lies as a backbone along the territory of Bulgaria. Starting from the charming town of Apriltsi, scattered among the rolling hills of the Fore-Balkan parts of the mountain, the route climbs up towards Mt. Botev (2376 m a.s.l.), descends on the southern side of the mountains reaching the Valley of Roses and Sredna Gora Mountains before going back along a different track. The daily rides range between 6 and 8 hrs.

Day 1. Welcome meeting at Sofia Airport and transportation to the riding base in the Balkan Mountains.
Day 2. In the morning you will meet your horse for the first time and will be able to fall into your horse’s ways during the introduction ride in the vicinity of Apriltsi. We know that trust between rider and horse is something that takes time to be built but still the very first steps are the most important and we will do our best to create a firm friendship between both sides. After lunch in the base the trek continues up in the mountains for appr. 3 hrs until we reach the first chalet.
Day 3. The ride continues through the ridges of the Central Balkan National Park and the foots of Mount Botev (2376 m). From the highest parts of the mountains you will be rewarded with remarkable sceneries towards the vast lowlands of the Thracian Plain. After 6-7 hrs ride we will end up in a small monastery where you and your horse will find rest for the night.
Day 4. In the morning you will have some time to explore the monastery life and the small town of Kalofer nearby. The legend tells about the founder of the city (called Kalofer) that he made an agreement with the Turkish sultan about guarding the mountain pass if on the other hand the sultan could guarantee that no shoed horse or weapon would enter the town. After lunch we continue through the Valley of Roses and after some 5 hrs we reach the Sredna Gora Mountains where we spend the night in the chalet Svezhen.
Day 5. A whole day, meant to devote your attention to riding in the terrains around the riding base. Play, fun and games with the horses combined with needed relax at the banks of a small lake nearby – a really exciting experience. In the lush meadows you will have all possibilities to break into trot or gallop or to be a pathfinder together with the riding guide in the remote surroundings. You will also have time to explore the village of Svezhen, which is declared an architectural reserve. It resembles an open-air ethnographic museum and you get the feeling that time here has stopped many years ago.
Day 6. Time to head north again. After 7hrs we will reach the place where we will stay for the night.
Day 7. As we approach the end of the trek we must continue on to Apriltsi, where we get in 6 hrs ride. Farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 8. Transfer to Sofia Airport for departure.

Accommodation:
The Balkan Trail is based on 7 nights. 2 nights with private accommodation in Apriltsi (en-suite rooms), 4 nights in chalets (double or triple rooms, WC/toilet on the floor), and 1 night in monastery (double rooms, WC/toilet on the floor). The trail is with full board during stay and only beer, wine and alcoholics are paid on spot. The luggage is transported in a supporting vehicle and the riding guide is accompanying the party throughout the trail.

Departure dates for 2018 (limited group size):  5/5, 12/5, 19/5, 2/6, 9/6, 29/6, 7/7, 28/7, 4/8, 25/8, 22/9, 29/9

Price: € 995 Euro per person
Single room supplement: 15 Euro per person per night (in hotels only)
The price includes: transfer from/to Sofia or Plovdiv airport on set times, accommodation in private house/mountain chalets/monastery in 2-4 bedded rooms, shower/toilet on the floor, 7 nights with full board, English-speaking riding guide, luggage transfers, fully equipped ”own horse”

Horses: There are more than 25 horses in the riding base – all of them in good condition and trained to ride in the mountains; Most of the horses are of the East Bulgarian breed and crossings with Arabians and local horses; The East Bulgarian breed is well known as tough, thoughtful and wise, and in harmony with the famous strength and power of the Arabian it gives a combination that fully satisfies the riders and the challenges in the nature; The average size is 160-165 cm. The saddles are Western (Australian or American). There are small saddlebags.
Saturday: 
Saturday is arrival/departure day. Accommodation before/after the ride is available upon request.
Transfer from/to Sofia: The riding base is situated about 180 km from Sofia or about 3 hours by car. We arrange one transfer for arrival and one transfer for departure. In the airport all guests are met by our transfer guide with a sign. We recommend arrival to Sofia Airport not later than 18:00 and a flight for departure after 12:00. The time of departure to the mountains from the airport and from the mountains to Sofia airport is arranged according the timetable for latest arriving guest – earliest departing guest. If a guest is having a stay in Sofia before/after the riding holiday the meeting/farewell point is still in the airport. Meeting time will be announced 8-10 days prior to arrival.
Individual transfer: Individual transfer or transfers at times not corresponding with the above are available at an additional fee of 150 EUR per car (up to 3 persons) one way. Individual transfer has to be confirmed in advance and the additional fee is to be paid in advance. In case of flight delays we need information as soon as possible during the Saturday. If the delayed arrival is later than 18:00 the extra charge is the same as for
the individual transfer.
Full board: First meal is dinner on day of arrival and last meal is breakfast on day of departure. Mineral water at all meals included. For vegetarians we kindly ask you to let us know if you are eating milk and eggs products and also fish. All kinds of diets (including vegan, diabetic, gluten, lactose etc.) to be confirmed separately.
Currency: We recommend that you exchange to leva (BGN) before arriving to Bulgaria. In Sofia airport you do have a last chance from an ATM. You do not need a lot of money as the stay is all inclusive (besides from soft drinks, beer, wine etc.) and of course if you visit one of the small cafes or shops in one of the villages. 100-150 BGN per person is a fair guess of how much you need for a week.
The weather in the mountains: We use these sites: www.yr.no (search: Apriltsi, Lovech (Bulgaria)) and www.wunderground.com – find Bulgaria and check Botev Vrah (this station is perfect for the trails as you pass very near to the top). Other stations you can use is: Lovech and Plovdiv – most probably the weather will be a mix of the information you find here. You must always bring warm clothes and rain gear to the mountains even if you have seen a weather forecast promising sun and 25C.
Riding gear: The horses are saddled and ready for the riders – you only bring your personal equipment: Riding helmet – recommended!!! Riding boots/jodhpurs/western boots (please make your own choice as long as you feel comfortable and they have a heel), riding pants and chaps (ordinary jeans are not recommended, preferable is cowboy riding jeans for the purpose), and gloves. (Spurs are not needed). Remember natural insect repellent for the horse and yourself.
Gear for the day: You’ll find saddlebags at the riding base. During the day you bring only what is needed for the day. A fleece, rain gear, sun block, wet wipes, camera and water bottle. Remember to have your passport and insurance with you all the time.
Towel: For the overnights in the mountains you’ll need to bring your own towel.
You can choose to pack like this:
We recommend that you do not bring more than 15 Kg and that you use a duffel bag / sports bag. The reason is that on a trail your luggage will be loaded in and out of the cars many times and it is important that you don’t bring more than you need. Put your clothes in plastic bags – it is practical when you stay overnight a new place every day. Also remember a torch, towel, wetwipes.
Riding clothes:
> Comfortable riding trousers or cowboy jeans + chaps (ordinary jeans will rub all the wrong places).
> T- Shirts / shirts.
> 1 fleece / thermal top.
> Socks + underwear.
> 1 wind-& water proof (riding)-jacket.
> Rain gear – jacket and pants/poncho.
> Riding boots – Riding helmet – Riding gloves.
Spare clothes:
> Spare shoes / sandals, 1 pair of trousers, t-shirt /shirt/sweater. Night clothing / Socks / Underwear.
> Indoor shoes.
Others:
> Water bottle. Cap & sunglasses (for riding!).
> Pocket knife / Torch / Binoculars/ Book / Pen & paper,
> Camera with accessories
> Toiletries inclusive tissues / Wet wipes & bathing shoes.
> Towel (for the trail!).
> Personal first aid kit: Please remember your own doctor is the right person to give you an advice!
> Plasters, Band-aids, Insect repellent, After bite cream, Sun cream, Lip balm, > Painkillers (headache or other mild aches and pains), Antiseptic cream / pads, Calamine lotion. Medication for an upset stomach, Re hydration salts (to recover from upset stomach), throat lozenges a.o.
> Passport, money, insurance, travel documents.
From May to mid June & mid August to October:
> A scarf and warm clothes (also for the night).
> From mid June to mid August:
> Swim wear, shorts, sun shirts.
Mobile phones & electricity: You’ll have mobile coverage in Apriltsi and on the trails almost all the time. You’ll find free wi-fi only at the first and last night in Apriltsi – limited access. If you need data access please secure it for your devices before arrival. Electricity is 220 Volts. An adapter or a transformer may be required. It is normal that you find only one power outlet in each room.

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