Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear

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Trip code: 
WBB
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Wildlife Holidays
Group size:
5–12
Min age:
16

Brown bear conservation project in the remote Rodopi Mountains

Spend a week in the Rodopi Mountains discovering the realm of the Brown bear. Joined by European Brown bear expert Julian Perry, this holiday gives a unique insight into the behaviour and ecology of these most iconic yet secretive carnivores.

During the course of the week we take daily hikes through the heart of prime Brown bear habitat, recording tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity as part of an on-going Brown bear conservation project.

On two evenings there will be the chance to visit a specially constructed bear watching hide from where there are good opportunities to see some of the bears whose activity we have been monitoring during our days in the mountains. In addition, we will also be collecting and collating images from several camera traps that will be set up in the surrounding forests.

By the end of this holiday we hope you will not only have seen Brown bears in the wild but also have an understanding and appreciation of the fascinating way of life of these mysterious and often misunderstood animals.

Highlights

  • Become directly involved in a Brown bear conservation project
  • Informative daily bear tracking walks
  • Two visits to a hide for wild Brown bear observation
  • Elusive mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and rare orchids
  • Remote landscapes in the Rodopi Mountains
  • Delicious traditional local cuisine

Key information

  • 7 nights hotel, all rooms en suite
  • Travel by private minibus, 4WD and on foot
  • 6 days centre-based bear tracking walks
  • Normally 5 to 12, plus leader. Min age 16 years
  • Countries visited: Bulgaria

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visa's and Vaccinations
  • Single Supplement
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Days of Wildlife
Day by day breakdown
Day 210.0km/6.0miles
Day 314.0km/8.0miles
Day 410.0km/6.0miles
Day 516.0km/10.0miles
Day 612.0km/7.0miles
Day 710.0km/6.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Sofia Airport. Transfer to the village of Yagodina in the remote Rodopi Mountains

    Setting off from Sofia airport we begin a long but interesting 4-hour transfer to the Rodopi Mountains. Our destination is the remote mountain village of Yagodina, where we will be based for the next 6 nights. During dinner, our leader will give an opening briefing about the week ahead and the work of the local NGO ‘Wild Rodopi’ whose Brown bear research and conservation project you will be assisting.

    Hotel Yagodina or similar

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Visit the caves at Yagodinska Peshtera. Circular bear tracking walk in the forests above Yagodina; evening visit to bear hide

    After breakfast, we start the day with a visit to the nearby Yagodinska Peshtera to discover the rich variety of cave formations and cave life that are found within, including some rare cave invertebrates, several species of bat, and a family of Fat (or Edible) dormice. Part of the cave system was once utilized as a prehistoric dwelling, so provides the ideal place to discuss the evolution of bears and their relationship with early Man.

    Returning to the village, we then set off on our first bear tracking walk, which will lead us into the surrounding forests searching for, recording and interpreting evidence of Brown bear activity such as scats, prints and various feeding signs. During the walk, there will be an introduction to safe bear/human interaction and behaviour. In the evening, half the group will have their first visit to the bear hide. Visiting the hide usually necessitates having an early dinner so that we can be in position before darkness falls. Bears are attracted to the hide by the presence of corn but are not dependant on this for their diet. Depending on the amount of activity in the clearing we may stay until around 11 pm, or with permission of the group earlier or later. 

    Hotel Yagodina or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Circular bear tracking walk through forests and meadows; evening visit bear hide

    After breakfast, a short drive brings us to the trailhead for the start of a beautifully varied walk in a little-visited part of the region. Having forded a shallow stream, we then follow a series of old forestry tracks that are also used as a convenient network of trails by Brown bears. This area is not only rich in butterflies and birds, but is also of great historical interest. During our walk, we will visit a site which, according to some historians and archaeologists, was the place where Orpheus was torn to pieces by the wild Maenads, the female followers of Dionysus. It certainly seems a suitably mystical and atmospheric spot that fits in well with Ovid’s poetic description of these dramatic events. After dinner, the second half of the group will have its first visit to the bear hide.

    Hotel Yagodina or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Panoramic walk in rugged and rocky karst terrain, rich in birds, butterflies and orchids.

    Setting off on foot from our hotel, we make a steep, steady climb up the stony flank of the mountain ridge above the village. Here in spring and early summer, there are several interesting species of orchid to be found, as well as numerous butterflies. On reaching the ridgeback, we climb up to the highest peak where we are rewarded with a wonderful cliff-top viewpoint. The rocks here are home to several typical cliff-dwelling species of bird including the beautiful wallcreeper, Peregrine falcon, Rock thrush, Crag martin and Alpine swift. It is also possible to spot other raptors gliding over, such as Golden eagle, Short-toed eagle, Booted eagle, Long-legged buzzard, Eurasian hobby and Common kestrel. The wonderful views remain with us throughout the day as we continue our walk, zig-zagging steeply down into the depths of the Buynovsko Gorge on a rough and stony path that leads through a favoured feeding region for both Brown bear and Balkan chamois. This evening, the first half of the group will have their second visit to the bear hide.

    Hotel Yagodina or similar 

  • Day 5

    Bear tracking walk through a mosaic of bear habitats in the mountains south of Yagodina; evening visit bear hide

    Having made our way out of the village on foot and crossed an area of rolling open pastures, we begin a steady climb into the forest, following a route that is frequently used by both wolves and bears. The further we climb, the wilder the landscape feels, and in places, the forests are punctuated with clearings and meadows that are often grazed by Roe deer and Wild boar, and where in early summer a variety of rare flowers and butterflies can be seen. Later in the day, we drop into the dappled shade of a river valley, a favoured place for bears, and also a suitable habitat for more interesting plants and butterflies. After supper, there will be another visit to the bear hide for the second half of the group.

    Hotel Yagodina or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Circular bear tracking walk through remote carnivore habitat

    After breakfast we set off from the hotel on foot, beginning a strenuous but highly rewarding bear tracking walk. Having left the village pastures behind, we begin a long steep climb that sees us enter a densely forested region that is roamed not only by several Brown bears, but as our camera traps have shown, a variety of other carnivores including Wildcat, Grey wolf, Red fox, European badger, Pine marten and Stone marten. Especially exciting is the fact that Balkan lynx, a species considered extinct in Bulgaria for almost a century, has very recently been recorded here again! The forests here also harbour many secretive birds such as Hazel grouse, Black woodpecker and Crested tit. The midpoint of our trail brings us out onto some wonderful rock outcrops from where there are stunning views towards Greece, across waves of forested ridges that make a perfect trans-border corridor by which the large carnivore populations of Bulgaria and Greece can intermix. Our descent then leads us down through more silent forest, and what is the heart of core Brown bear habitat. Here we should see plenty of signs of bear activity, including several trees that they have bitten, scratched and rubbed, giving us a chance to learn more about other fascinating aspects of Brown bear behaviour.

    Hotel Yagodina or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Forest and riverside walks in search of orchids, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians; transfer to Sofia

    Leaving Yagodina on foot, we start the day with a short walk along a beautiful forest path, which in spring and early summer is renowned for its exceptional variety of orchids. Formerly an ancient Thracian packhorse route, this path is often used by bears when feeding in the surrounding forests on beech mast and ants. After meeting our bus, a 45-minute drive brings us to the beautiful valley of the Devinska Reka, where we will spend a couple of hours walking a delightful riverside trail. As well as being home to Eurasian otter and a variety of typical riverine birds such as Dipper and Grey wagtail, the valley also forms the heart of a specially designated Prime Butterfly Area and provides the perfect habitat for many rare and beautiful butterfly species. Having enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the river, we then complete the transfer (3 hours 30 minutes) back to Sofia.

    Hotel Hill or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    End Sofia.

    End Sofia.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vaccinations

Bulgaria

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

Hotel ‘Yagodina’ is renowned for its delicious traditional local cuisine, offering generous sized servings of hearty, healthy food, much of it made from home-produced or locally sourced products. Typical meals whilst in the mountains will comprise of:

Breakfast: tea, coffee and milk, with bread, jam, honey and cheese, supplemented in Yagodina by fresh home-made yoghurt and traditional local specialities such as thick pancakes known as 'katmi' and a rice-based dish called 'rodopski klin'.

Lunch: picnic lunches will be eaten in the mountains and typically comprise bread, cheese, salami, salad, a chocolate bar and fruit. Many guests also like to take with them an extra portion of the local speciality that was served up for them at breakfast.

Dinner: will be taken in our hotel restaurant, and will normally include three courses comprising either a salad or vegetarian soup, followed by a main course, and a dessert of fruit, ice cream, or cake/pudding. The cuisine reflects a mixture of Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish and Slavonic influences. We sample many traditional local specialities including 'smilyanski fasul', a delicious bean soup, and 'patatnik', a local delicacy made with grated potatoes, onions, and cheese, then seasoned with mint and other herbs. Jugs of tap water will be provided on the table with the evening meal. Bottled mineral water, soft drinks and alcohol are not included but can be purchased.

There are several Bulgarian wines that you may wish to try, including an excellent red 'Mavrud' from vineyards on the northern slopes of the Rodopi Mountains.

Vegetarians and Vegans: Bulgaria is famed for its fresh vegetables and fruit, so vegetarians are usually well catered for, although in the mountains the variety may sometimes by limited to what is seasonally available. 'Vegans need to be aware that eggs and dairy produce, especially cheese, form the staple part of the diet in the Rodopi region, and occur in the vast majority of traditional meals, so they may find their daily menu somewhat more restricted and less varied. Likewise special gluten-free products are not available, so those clients with wheat/gluten intolerance should, if needed, bring with them something to replace the local bread and pastries that make up the breakfasts and picnic lunches.

Weather

Spring and summer days are usually warm and sunny, with a refreshing mountain breeze that moderates temperatures; but please note that changeable weather and cold temperatures can be encountered at any time in the mountains. Occasionally during spring and summer, there are sudden short violent storms, which require that suitable waterproof clothing is always carried on all walks, and which may force minor amendments to the itinerary; however, after such storms, there is often a prolonged period of settled weather. Later in autumn, overnight frosts and misty dawns typically give way to beautiful sunny days, but it is always worth keeping a pair of gloves and a spare warm layer in the pack for shadier paths or when picnicking on breezy rock outcrops.

Is this trip for you?

The trip is Activity Level 3 (moderate) and has a Safari Rating of 4.

This exciting holiday is focused in core Brown bear habitat, dominated by remote forested ridges and gorges, studded by glades and some stunning rocky karst terrain. It offers a unique opportunity for those wanting not only to observe truly wild Brown bears but also to discover more about the daily life of these secretive animals whilst at the same time contributing to their conservation. Guided throughout by Julian Perry, a bear researcher from the local NGO ‘Wild Rodopi’, you will learn how to find, identify, interpret and record signs of bear presence and activity, including footprints, scats, rub trees and feeding signs, helping to gather vital data about their ecology and behaviour as part of an on-going conservation project.

Our daily bear tracking activities and wildlife observation will involve exploring the mountains on foot. Although the pace of walking will be mostly relaxed and leisurely, allowing time to search for and record signs of Brown bear activity, and provide opportunities to observe and photograph any other wildlife we may encounter, the holiday also involves some strenuous walking in fairly rugged mountainous terrain, where trails are rarely flat, and typically rough and stony. To get the full enjoyment out of this holiday, therefore, you should be prepared for some long steady ascents as we climb over ridges, and in particular confident and comfortable in your ability to make steep descents over rocky paths as we drop down into deep valleys and gorges. 

The reward for this effort is a unique chance to venture into remote bear habitats and observe a wonderful variety of rare European wildlife, including secretive mammals, elusive birds, beautiful butterflies, unusual reptiles and amphibians, plus many endemic plants, including several scarce orchids. Needless to say, the flora and fauna varies from season to season, and it is impossible to guarantee what wildlife observations one will be lucky enough to make on any day or week.

Furthermore, although Brown bears and other wildlife are regularly seen at the bear hide, it is important to remember that these are truly wild animals foraging freely in their natural habitat, and in no way reliant on the small quantities of maize put out as a supplementary snack for them, so there may be occasions when they do not show. However, our guide for this holiday will enthusiastically pass on skills and knowledge not only about the bears but also the other flora and fauna of the region, thus ensuring a highly rewarding, memorable and informative wildlife experience.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotel

Our base for six nights will be the village of Yagodina, a traditional rural settlement famed for its self-sufficiency and the hospitality of its inhabitants. The village lies isolated and tucked away in the Trigrad Karst region, one of the most remote parts of the Rodopi Mountains. Here we stay in the ‘Yagodina’ Family Hotel, a small village hotel offering comfortable twin and single rooms with en-suite facilities and Wifi. The hotel is owned and run by a local family and most of the food (including milk, cheese, butter, jam, honey etc.) is either home produced or locally sourced. Our final night will be at Hotel ‘Hill’, a conveniently located 4-star hotel in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Paul Goldstein is one of very few people that has spent time with all five of the BBC's ‘Dynasty’ luminaries.

Here at Exodus we are incredibly passionate about wildlife and the conservation efforts to save it.

  • Reviewed June 2019
    Jane Von Ruhland

    An extra special wildlife based holiday

    From sitting in a hide observing a glittering night time scene , to searching for Chamois from a hillside viewpoint , this trip encapsulates the world of the Brown Bear explained by the expert Julian Perry . He leads the group across an outstandingly scenic mountain terrain and presents the techniques to track and record the presence of Brown Bears in a non-intrusive way . We were very adequately accommodated in a centre-based family run hotel from where we walked or were driven to local forestry trails and areas used by Bears. With a tremendous knowledge of the ecology of the region , the leader identified and enabled us to observe and photograph flora and fauna including many wildflowers , birds , reptiles , mammals , amphibians and insects.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trip to the Hide at night , lit by moonlight lighting effects , and seeing what was identified by our Leader as a Wildcat at the end of that first evening . Seeing Brown Bear prints and learning of the age and gender . Seeing other signs of Brown Bear presence , like hair , scratch marks in trees . Seeing signs of other mammals such as wolf , pine martin and hedgehog. Identifying wildflowers and butterflies with the leader and other group members.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A leader who can speak fluently the language of the host country , and with an outstanding experience and knowledge of the wildlife , specifically the Brown Bear based on qualified research , who can present this to and lead a range of walkers and interested wildlife enthusiasts is fantastic . He is very informative and respectful of the history of the region and its people. He is always helpful and made the trip the most special week .

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read and look up information on Mountain animals and wildlife . Go on some wildlife survey work voluntarily with your local group beforehand if you can . It was the first time I had used binoculars but that was not a problem for me because I had some previous experience of wildlife surveys. Enjoy the leaders knowledge . Enjoy the groups knowledge . We were lucky to also have a Badger expert in our group .Enjoy the scenery , natural world and the food and company!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I saw a lot of natural life I had not seen before and would like to go on this trip again. If I did I would like to try to go on a Land Only reservation and travel over ground by train , boat and train to Sophia to meet the group . This way it would be even more environmentally sound, and less damaging as no flight would be involved.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Jonathan Proud

    A superb week of walking in beautiful scenery

    Our base in a small, traditional village in the mountains was perfect for walks into the surrounding area. The biodiversity of the Rodopi mountains is amazing and our exceptionally knowledgeable leader helped us identify mammal scats and tracks, birds, reptiles, insects and plants, many of which were new to me. The walks were at a gentle pace, allowing plenty of time for photography.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I'd chosen the trip hoping to see a bear, but there was so much more to it than that. The number and variety of reptiles and butterflies amazed me. The variety of mammal scats and tracks along the forest paths was remarkable, and Julian was able to identify them for us and tell us about the different species. I loved the evening trips to the bear hide and although we didn't see a bear, we did watch wild boar which I'd never seen before.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local fauna and flora. He was well organised, spoke clearly and, being fluent in Bulgarian, communicated easily with the local people too, ensuring that the trip ran smoothly. During breaks on our walks, he gave short talks covering aspects of bear biology and his research work, as well as the traditional farming practices which have maintained diversity in the meadows and forests.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The walks are at a sensible pace, but the terrain is steep in places, so a reasonable level of fitness will make the trip more enjoyable. At the end of April temperatures varied widely during the day, so be prepared with layers of clothing to add or remove as required.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotel was of a high standard, being warm and comfortable, with good sized rooms and modern plumbing. The food was delicious, most of it locally produced, and the staff were friendly and helpful. I enjoyed learning about the leader's research work as he checked camera traps and recorded tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity during our walks. We were observers on this trip and there was no pretence that we were 'volunteering'. Having been on unsatisfactory 'voluntourism' trips before, I found this refreshingly honest.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    T J

    A Fascinating Adventure!

    This was a truly wonderful trip that combines hiking, wildlife and scientific research, in a unique blend of 'eco-research-tourism'. Exodus - please offer more tours like this!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was inspirational, though the most inspirational part is learning about the bears and other wildlife that live in these mountains, then slowly starting to understand how it all fits together. In addition, the Rodopi mountains are beautiful, particularly in Autumn - there are some great hikes in this trip, with fabulous views. The hotel and food were also great, with local milk, cheese and honey straight from the village. It was also good to be based in a single hotel for the week, with lots of walks starting and finishing right on our doorstep.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about all aspects of biology, particularly bears. He is clearly well-known and connected in the local area, and did a great job of making everything run smoothly. One of the highlights of the trip were daily 'lectures' from Julian, usually during our scenic picnic lunches, about the various aspects of bear ecology.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have a reasonable level of fitness and have some hiking experience, you should be fine on this trip. A typical day would comprises leaving the hotel with a packed lunch at 08:30 and returning at around 16:00, hiking slowly in the mountains in-between. We totaled 75 km and 3500 m height gain over our 6 days of walking, with hikes ranging from 8 - 14 km. So, the pace is pretty slow, as we were constantly stopping to look for wildlife / change camera traps etc. Julian will adjust the pace and route depending on the groups fitness level and interests anyway. That said, the terrain is fairly steep and rocky, though the trails are good. So, if you have new gear or are relatively inexperienced at hiking, it would be a good idea to put in a bit of practice beforehand so that you get the most out of your trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't come expecting to see a bear. This is not a 'bear-watching' trip, but a chance to explore and learn about the Eurasian Brown Bear and the habitat in which is resides, plus contribute to a long-term research program. We didn't see a bear during our week, though there was plenty of evidence throughout all of our walks. We did, however, see a group of 11 wild boar during one of the evenings at the hide, who seemed to be acting very defensively and on high alert, occasionally charging off into the undergrowth to chase something away. Sure enough, there is a photo of a bear on one of the nearby camera traps at the exact time we were there in the hide, so there is little doubt a bear was within a few yards of us.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    William Stanton

    WBB180915

    An excellent trip in a lovely part of the world. Seeing an adult female bear at the bear hide was amazing. Pity she was scared off by a group of wild boar but they were great to see too. The walks were great and weren’t too challenging although be prepared for a lot of uphills!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    See the adult female bear was very good but equally as good was the scenery. I didn’t think this area of the world would be as pretty as it was. Also it was good to see a lot of other wildlife especially birds and butterflies.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was great. His enthusiasm was contagious and he was so knowledgeable. What he doesn’t know about bears and Bulgaria isn’t worth knowing. He was also very knowledgeable on other flora and fauna.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We booked an extra night in Sofia at the end which I was glad of as it is an interesting city and there are a few decent bars!
  • Reviewed October 2018
    J. D.

    Great and Informative Outdoor Adventure!

    Had a great time on the Bulgarian Brown Bear trip! Trip leader, Julian, was very enthusiastic and well-informed on the region and subject matter. Bulgaria is a beautiful country and the local people were wonderful. The owner of Hotel Yagodina, Maria, runs a great hotel and her and her staff serve fantastic food. Julian took us on some wonderful hikes and provided great information about bear behavior, habitat, biology, etc. Visiting the bear hide in the evening provided a fun opportunity to view the bears and other wild life. Julian made sure we had multiple opportunities to visit the bear hide in order to ensure we had an opportunity to see a bear. The hikes themselves were challenging, but not so difficult that we had any real problems completing them. Julian was willing to point out other wild life during our hikes, and was very engaging with people in the group. Julian is passionate about bears and excited to share the subject with others. He made sure we were taken care of and educated about the wonders of bears!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I didn't have any one particular moment that was the most inspirational, but taking in the vistas at the top of mountains we climbed after a long hike were serene moments. It was relaxing and inspiring to look out at all the pristine nature.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was an enthusiastic and well informed group leader. He is very passionate about bears and Bulgaria, and was happy to share his knowledge with the group. He was also well informed about many other aspects of Bulgarian wild life and Bulgarian culture. He made sure we were healthy, happy, and well taken care of.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Wear good hiking shoes and be prepared to fill up on delicious Bulgarian food for the hikes! Also make sure to carry some of the local currency with you, there is the possibility to purchase locally-made traditional crafts from the village. I purchased some beautiful hand-made items in the village.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Tina Nicholas

    Wow what a holiday!

    Wildlife, conservation, expert patient guide, mountain hiking, remote rural village community, and an intimate family run hotel were all the components that blended perfectly together to form this holiday into my ultimate relaxing get away with a dusting of excitement, anticipation, and adventure on top!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Glimpsing a large male Brown Bear sauntering slowly from the dark shadows of the Rodope mountain forest into the moonlit clearing in front of the hide. This precious moment was greatly anticipated & further enhanced by the fact that on the two previous evenings spent in the hide, Jays were the only wildlife that we saw. For me the fact that viewing of Brown Bears is never a guaranteed experience, re- enforces that they are extremely wild animals whose behaviour is still relatively un -influenced by the presence of humans and small scale tourism. Our group were therefore very honoured and privileged to be able to then watch him on this third night in his natural habitat for well over an hour - an emotional, awe inspiring & humbling experience where the previous unfruitful hours were soon forgotten.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian Perry - is a dedicated conservationist who is more than willing to inpart his knowledge about Bulgarian wildlife to anyone who shows an interest. He is also a kind, patient, calm group leader whose attention to detail and organisational skills are second to none. Thank you Julian, you made a potentially good holiday into an awesome one!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Ensure you read the Exodus trip notes. Written by Julian himself, in my opinion these notes describe the holiday and activities perfectly and therefore you can judge if this holiday is your cup of tea or not? Take at least one hiking pole, if not a pair. My pole helped me negotiate some of the steep mountain paths more confidently and safely and it was the one piece of equipment I am glad I packed.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This holiday benefits the local rural remote community by using a small intimate family run village hotel who serve local produce, and display and sell local crafts. Julian and The Bear conservation project also serve to educate the local residents about the facts and myths associated with these large carnivores to encompass a symbiotic living relationship.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Pamela Downes

    Wonderful wildlife adventure

    This was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had, combining walking in the mountains with the opportunity to see and learn about bears in the company of a true expert and bear enthusiast and a great group of fellow travellers. I really can’t fault this trip, the scenery is stunning, the wildlife is all around you, and the food, accommodation and hospitality of the local people are a delight.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to pick one! Walking along mountain trails and finding evidence of bear activity all around us. Seeing bears from the hide. Walking through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers and beautiful butterflies.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian is an excellent guide to the bears and wildlife of Rodopi. He is passionate about his subject and has built up his learning over so many years, I know and understand so much more now about the lives and habitat of brown bears. He is also an amusing storyteller and we all had a lot of laughs along the way.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Some of the trails can be challenging and I found walking poles a great help. Otherwise, just go and enjoy yourself, you will have an amazing time. I spent a couple of extra nights in Sofia at the end of the trip. It’s an ancient and interesting city and well worth the time spent there.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Annie Thompson

    A wonderful walking and wildlife experience!

    This really is the best walking and wildlife combination I've ever been on. Loved that we did good mountain walks in the day time through varied and stunning scenery whilst focusing on wildlife along the way. Visiting the bear hide in the evenings was really fantastic, loved seeing so many bears in their natural habitat, so exciting! Julian was such a brilliant guide, so professional, knowledgeable, capable and fun, thanks Julian!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspiration part of the trip was witnessing bears during the day, a mother and her cubs foraging around in the open! This was truly amazing!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian really is such a great guide, he certainly knows his stuff and is extremely passionate about it. Julian obviously loves his job and therefore he's such fantastic company to be around. As a group we were all traveling on our own and Julian really helped gel the group together, it was a really fun and informative week, loved it so much! Julian was also extremely professional when it came to safety and giving us information in great detail about each walk for the day ahead. Loved that he offered us little snacks just when we needed them! Thanks so much Julian, you're a really great asset to Exodus.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I would suggest don't go with expectations that you're definitely going to see bears in the wild then you'll be really excited when you do! Make to most of going to the bear hide, try not to miss a night...... when will be your next opportunity be to spend the evening in a bear hide! Make sure you've got a good level of fitness and these wonderful walks are hilly. Take binoculars!
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Emily Vickery

    Unforgettable Trip!

    This was the best trip I've been on in years. It's so rare to have a trip which includes both walking and wildlife, but Julian created the perfect combination of the two with this trip. The scenery was spectacular, and it was just the right level of challenging for a townie who doesn't normally do that much walking! The locals in Yagodina are absolutely lovely, and the hotel staff couldn't do enough for us. The food was nearly all homemade and was so delicious. We certainly didn't go hungry! We were also so lucky to see as many bears and other wildlife as we did, and to have such a lovely group and guide who got on as well as we all did. We didn't stop laughing all week! I highly recommend this trip to anyone who likes walking, wildlife, stunning mountain and meadow views, delicious food and lovely people (what's not to like??)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    All the bear sightings - especially the cubs! I was also blown away by how spectacular the views were in the mountains.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was a truly excellent group leader. He's a real expert in bears and other wildlife in this area, and it's very evident how important their welfare is to him. He has also had such a fascinating life so far, and has a lot of amazing and hilarious stories to tell! We had a real laugh with him during our week in the mountains, and I really think that this trip wouldn't be the same without him. He really made it special.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Expect to walk a lot, and some of the peaks are quite high if you have issues with heights. The food in Yagodina is delicious, but the portions are huge so don't expect to lose any weight! Also take some binoculars - I didn't and I really wish I had!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you Julian and the rest of the group for an unforgettable week :) I hope this trip is still running for years to come.
  • Reviewed June 2018
    Anne Balfour

    Beartastic!

    This is a thoroughly enjoyable holiday if you enjoy the outdoors, walking, sampling local cuisine and of course tracking and even seeing bears! Our week could hardly have been better, from the very comfortable and friendly hotel, which served local dishes for every meal, to our expert guide and to the stunning scenery and wildlife which surrounds the lovely village of Yagodina. It was great to be able to walk from our hotel and experience such diversity of habitats, including lush open meadows filled with wild flowers, a mind boggling diversity of butterflies and even Corncrakes, beech woodland, rocky escarpments offering fantastic views of the countryside as well as raptors such as Hobbys and Peregrine Falcons and of course pine forests where the evidence of bear activity is all around you. Seeing bears during the day is extremely difficult but we had great success up at the hide where we saw big, solitary males and mothers with their young cubs. We even saw a sounder of Wild Boar complete with a young family of beautifully marked piglets. However the highlight was undoubtedly when we were fortunate enough to spot a mother bear with 2 of this year's cubs in an open area below us. They were entirely oblivious to our presence and we could watch them behaving entirely naturally. Something I will never forget.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being able to see the bears behaving entirely naturally was something I'll never forget. I realised just how gentle they are. In Bulgaria, where they are fully protected and therefore not hunted, it is possible to see them behaving as they should. Simply minding their own business and quietly eating their berries.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian is a wonderful guide. His knowledge of the bears and the local wildlife is second to none. His sense of humour and friendliness contributed to making this a very enjoyable tour.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on 020 8772 3936