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Trail to Mount Botev through “Hell and Paradise” (8 days)

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Are you ready for a unique nature experience and are you ready for a riding challenge off the beaten horse riding tracks in the Balkan Mountains? Mount Botev(2376m) is the highest peak in the Balkan Range from which you will experience the most dramatic view to the northern and southern Bulgaria. Dismounting your horse up here is really something very special – and even more special if you have passed the reserve Severen Djendem. The name means “Northern Hell” and is the highest reserve in the Central Balkan National Park, encompassing a beautiful, wild, and inaccessible section of the Central Balkan Range. The Reserve includes the nearly vertical northern slopes below Mt. Botev: looming rock tiers, short and steep watersheds, overhanging cliffs, rock bridges, jaded cornices, deep precipices, numerous waterfalls, as well as grassy terraces. From the top we ride down through the largest reserve Djendema (Hell) centred on granite extrusion near Mt. Botev, combined with limestone outcroppings to form steep slopes; deep, narrow gorges; massive rock cliffs; and huge waterfalls. The waterfall Raiskoto Praskalo (Paradise waterfall) is directly below Mt. Botev! Because of its specific geological and climatic conditions, the area is rich in endemic species and rare plants. The trail brings us right into the home of the Balkan chamois, bear, wolf, red deer, roe, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, and wall creeper. This area actually comprises the only rock complex with centuries-old forests, rock faces and precipices known in Bulgaria, as well as the mightiest rock belt in Bulgaria, Djendemite.
To wake up in Hizha Rai (Rai is paradise in Bulgarian) is like a dream – you have a gorgeous view to the majestic cliffs and the waterfall and the next morning you will get a complete contrary experience waking up in the monastery where we also stay overnight and definitely will enjoy the quiet spirit overwhelming this magic place. And when the church bells ring and a new day’s ride along the Balkan Mountains is waiting we’ll pass the heroic town of Kalofer and you will experience the atmosphere of belonging to the mountains, the nature and freedom and enter the Central Balkan National Park at Tazha. From here remains an incredible farewell view to the peaks and the endless meadows of the Balkan Mountains and the final downhill ride to Riding base Balkan.

Day 1. Meeting with the rep from Riding base Balkan in the airport and drive to the mountains. Hotel accommodation in double rooms. Dinner.
After dinner you will get the final information about the expected weather conditions, packing, how to ride the horses at steep crossings etc.
Day 2. In the morning you will meet the horses we have chosen and trained specially for this trail. Our ride today is to “Mandrata” on the top of the Balkan Mountains – riding off the beaten horse riding tracks and on paths and through canyons never ridden on our trails! The first part of the ride is in a fast tempo where you really will get acquainted with your horse and after that we start riding straight uphill. We overnight in a former dairy in about 1450 m. 2-4 bedded rooms with sh/toilet. We enjoy the dinner at the fire and watch the sun going down behind the mountain peaks Maragidik (1889 m) and Botev (2376 m).
Day 3. We start in the morning packing our gear and head the top of the mountains. We ride along the magic Severen Djendem Reserve and our preparations to this trail are tested. The say “the mountains divide the country in two parts” will be so very evident to you after today. Hopefully we’ll reach the summit in the afternoon and from there we have only 30 minutes of steep downhill riding to the shelter where we stay overnight.
Day 4. Today’s ride is from “hell to paradise” – literally spoken (may be). When the sun rise and expectations for the day are right in front of you we ride downhill to crossways and borders of the reserves and the nature park, we pass through challenging canyons and over the most fabulous places. We’ll ride about 15 km in about 5 hours and we will ride through the Djendemja Reserve before we in the afternoon will reach the big mountain hut Hizha Rai. In the afternoon we recommend a short walk to the highest waterfall in on the Balkan Peninsula: Raiskoto Praskalo (124,5 m /408,4 ft).
Day 5. From this alluring place we ride downhill through the old wood and to the open meadows at the foothill of the Balkan Mountains where the Valley of Roses starts. During the whole day you will experience the magic atmosphere of this area and the horses will show you what down hill riding means! We’ll ride about 19 km in about 5 hours to the monastery where we stay overnight. After the ride we recommend a short walk to Byala reka (an eco-path in the canyon).
Day 6. We start at the monastery meadows, continue to the picturesque mountain village of Kalofer and ride along the foothill of the Balkan Mountains. The lunch will take place on the terrace of a hospitable Bulgarian family. The trail brings us back into the “Central Balkan National Park” and in an altitude of about 1250 m we stay overnight in the Hizha Triglav. Today you’ll ride about 20 km in 5-6 hours.
Day 7. After breakfast we ride in the northern direction and the circle ride is closed. We ride down the mountains, leave the national park and come down in Apriltsi. The ride of the day is about 5 hours and we end in Riding base Balkan. We will overnight in the same hotel as the first night. Dinner in the hotel.
Day 8. Breakfast and free time until departure for the airport.

Accommodation:
This trail is based on 7 nights. 2 nights with private accommodation in Apriltsi (en-suite rooms), 5 nights in the mountains: 1 in shelter, 3 in mountain huts with shared facilities and 1 in a monastery (2 twin bedded rooms sharing bathroom). The tour is with full board and only beer, wine and alcoholics are paid on spot. The luggage is transported in a supporting vehicle and/or packing horse; the riding guide is accompanying the party throughout the trail.

Departure dates for 2018 (limited group size): Please contact us for details!

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, accommodation as mentioned above, 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.
N.B.!
For this trail ride we use only rather small horses with proven skills in extreme riding situations. They are in top condition for this trail. From day 3 in the morning to day 5 in the evening you have only the luggage our packing horses can have on their bag. (Limited baggage allowance). From day 3-5 your luggage is safe behind the monastery walls. You should be an experienced rider, fit and secure in the saddle. You are fully confident and competent riding in the open. On this trail the rider weight limit is 90 kg/ 14,1 stone/ 198 lbs and a perfect up-to-date riding fitness is required. In addition you should have a good head for heights. Due to the mountainous terrain the pace is mostly slow but challenging asking for a quiet and patient mind. But there are opportunities for trot, canter and some fast gallops. This ride is therefore very suitable for experienced riders with a spirit of adventure. We have chosen the ultimate dates for this ride, but the weather in this area is known as though and unpredictable. On the top on Mt. Botev is a staffed meteorological station – thanks to our local net-work we have the best possible access to their know-how. Normal temperatures on the top in the period are 2-8C in the morning and 12-18C during the day. On the southern slopes up to 30C during the day.
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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