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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed February 2016
    Michael Ramsey

    Wild Bulgaria: Winter Walk and Snowshoe

    This was a very varied trip, which included sightseeing in the old town of Plovdiv (impressive Roman remains, immense town walls and elegant merchants houses) and at the Bachovo monastery on our way to the Rodopi mountains, some lovely ridge walks with stunning panoramic views across the mountain range and down the impressive limestone gorges, visits to two very different show caves, several hours in a game reserve (followed by a night in a spa hotel) and some very enjoyable short walks on transfer days. We finished with an overnight stay in Sofia, and had the opportunity to have a brief look round the major sites before our transfer to the airport.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had so many new experiences that it is difficult to single out any particular one. The programme was very well put together and included a local cookery demonstration and a singing and dancing demonstration by some local women, who picked up the English dances we inexpertly attempted to teach them rather better than we did the Bulgarian ones. The walking was easy, but the days out would have been much more tiring if there had been any depth of snow; some of us used snowshoes on a single day, but others managed without. The Trigrad gorge and the view from the Eagle's Eye were spectacular. The hotel accommodation and food was all excellent, but we enjoyed the stay at the family hotel in Yagodina the most. Seeing wild boar, mouflon and Balkan Chamois was fantastic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Nelly was delightful; she was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and managed to keep a group with very different walking abilities together. We learned a lot about Bulgarian history and wildlife from her. She adapted the programme and the pace to satisfy everyone, worked very hard and was full of fun.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although we didn't have much snow, some of the tracks were very icy, especially in the mornings. We had instep crampons which were very useful, and several of the group used other ice grips on their boots. We were a fairly slow group, which didn't matter because it was so mild, but would have got very cold if the temperatures had been as expected. The cost of living in Bulgaria is low, so extra food and drinks were cheap. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, tipping is generally expected and we did spend more than the suggested spending money. The hotels all had wetrooms (some rather wetter than others), so the advice to take a pair of flip-flops or similar was useful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We saw very few birds, but binoculars were very useful for animal spotting.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Erica Stott

    Wild Bulgaria - a revelation

    Never having been to Bulgaria before, we didn't really know what to expect. However we were attracted to this holiday because of the variety it offered. Although we had freezing temperatures, the holiday well surpassed our expectations. We were kept active with beautiful mountain walks; yet we also managed to see interesting architecture in Plovdiv, go on an animal safari, before having a swim in the luxury spa hotel in Devin, visit some astonishing caves in the Rodopi, have half a day in Sofia and see an ancient monastery. On top of all that there was a cookery lesson and local singing and dancing in Yagodina.. There was just so much to this break. Although the snow wasn't deep enough for snowshoeing, the scenery looked like a wonderful winter wonderland and we had the whole area to ourselves. We had an excellent guide who shared her extensive knowledge of the area and people with us, and we were also accompanied on most of our walks by a good- natured village hunting dog. Everywhere we stayed we had great food and accommodation and the hotel staff in Yagodina were particulary welcoming and friendly.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's very difficult to pick just one moment. The views we had at the high points of our mountain climbs were often breathtaking and the air although cold was so fresh. I enjoyed all the contrasts - seeing Roman ruins and grand merchant houses in Plovdiv, then driving through a modern skiing resort before turning the corner and encountering villages with old rustic mountain homes in the Rodopi. Another highlight was our morning in Sofia. It was Sunday so all the beautiful historic churches were conducting services. I had never seen a Greek Orthodox service or a Russian Orthodox service before.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I couldn't fault Neli at all. She was always there for us. Keen and enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. Moreover she was a thoroughly nice person.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We encountered some challenging walking conditions in the mountains because there had previously been a thaw, and then colder weather had arrived which meant there was a lot of treacherous ice underfoot. You couldn't avoid having to traverse some pretty nasty stretches. We just learnt to take things very cautiously. However I think you can purchase ice grips to put on the soles of walking boots which would have been very useful in the conditions we experienced.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We have never traveled with Exodus before. However we were amazed at the brilliant organisation of the whole trip. We were also impressed by our driver who had to to drive on some poor roads in some nasty conditions with a lot of ice and snow, but he was such a steady and accurate driver that we always had full confidence in him.
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