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Trail to the Singing Rocks reserve (8 days)

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An equestrian adventure in the heart of the Balkan Mountains and the Central Balkan National Park, where lies the impressive reserve called The Singing Rocks. This is an exceptional rock phenomenon, which derives its name from the typical sound, resembling whistling, when the wind blows between the crags, that crown the ancient Beech forest. The reserve is homeland to many endangered species like Golden Eagle, Brown Bear, Ural Owl, White-backed Woodpecker etc. The riding to the reserve is very varying as to the terrain and pace. The hilly paths and the open treeless meadows on the top of the mountains are just created for big riding experiences. The trail in the Balkan Mountains is going through a protected area. The air is as clean as the creek we ride through – over – along. And the scenery  of the surrounding high peaks and massifs in the area are just breathtaking. After a few days you will get familiar with the peaks Mt. Botev (2376m), Maragidik, Mazalat etc. Riding on-top of the ridges you will experience the differences in the northern and southern sides of the Balkan range – two faces of one glorious mountain, which is also the longest one in Bulgaria.

Day 1. Welcome meeting at Sofia Airport. Transfer to the riding base at the foot of the Balkan Mountains (appr. 2,30hrs)
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 around the charming small town of Apriltsi. Around noon we will make a short stop for a picnic near one of the rivers. Eventually we ride back to the riding base along different route, trying our horses following different paces.
Day 3. The trail starts in the morning and we ride in north-east direction through remote villages with traditional architecture from the Bulgarian Revival. At a creek we’ll eat our lunch and after about 6 hours in the saddles and riding along the Balkan ridge over beautiful meadows we reach the small village Tabashko right under the foothill of the mysterious mountain Mara Gidik. We stay in an old style and comfortable guest house. The panorama view from the village to the great national park is astonishing.
Day 4. Starting from the monastery we continue on through dense woods, farmland and nimble creeks until we reach the charming mountain villages of Stokite and Kupen. From here we start riding up. The ride today will be appr. 28km, taking some 6,30hrs. Today we will cross the altitude of 1000m a.s.l. and continue up to our lodge for the night.
Day 5. The mountains still await us. After some 3hrs after breakfast we will reach “Partisanska Pesen” hut, where we can have lunch. The afternoon will be spent on the top of the mountains in the Central Balkan National Park. In a couple of hours more we will get to “Mazalat” hut, where we will stay for the night.
Day 6. The trail takes us further into the national park as we ride towards The Singing Rocks reserve. If the wind is blowing we may be lucky to hear the rocks sing. In the reserve itself there are two short stages where you will have to get off and lead the horse for some 20-30m. The ride today will be roughly 25km and we will need about 7 hrs to complete it. Overnight stay will be arranged in formed dairy, situated at about 1450m a.s.l., where we will be able to watch the sun going down behind the peaks Botev and Maragidik as we have dinner by the fire.
Day 7. After breakfast we will ride backwards in the northern direction, closing the ride circle. We ride down the mountains, leave the national park and eventually arrive in Apriltsi and the riding base nearby, which we already know from our first two nights in the area. Farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 8. Transfer to Sofia Airport for departure.

Accommodation: The trail is based on 7 nights. 3 nights with private accommodation in Apriltsi (2-3 bedded en-suite rooms), 1 night in a monastery and 1 night in a mountain hut (double rooms, shared bathroom), 1 night in a mountain hut (rooms with 5-10 beds, WC/shower on the floor). The trail is with full board. Mineral water is included at all meals, but other drinks are to be paid on spot in leva. Accommodation in 2 or 3 bedded rooms. Single room on request only (against additional fee).You have access to a bathroom every day but not in the room every day.

Departure dates for 2018 (limited group size): 23/6, 21/7, 11/8

Price: € 995 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 as mentioned above, 7 nights with full board, fully equipped ”own horse”, English-speaking riding guide during the trail and luggage transport.

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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