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

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  • Reviewed June 2019
    marilyn carroll

    Walking in wonderful Rodopi mountains

    A memorable walking holiday. The walks were through forests, gorges and beautiful wildflower meadows. Lovely views! A very pastoral feel to the whole holiday - and very relaxing. Yagodina is a small friendly village in a peaceful location. The hotel was clean and comfortable. Food was good - lots of local produce was used.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Everyone mentions the lunch stops - but it was so lovely looking at the wildflowers, the birds and the views. There are not many places left in Europe that are so unspoilt. We rarely saw other people when we were out walking. Finding bear paw prints on a walk through some woods was unexpected!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nelly was excellent. One of the best guides I have encountered on a holiday. She spoke English fluently and was a good communicator with the group. Her knowledge of the local flora and fauna was extensive. She gave us a lot of background on the history and culture of Bulgaria. She was very helpful and attentive to the needs of the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I spent an extra day in Sofia and I can recommend this. There is a lot to see in the city centre. The Metro system is easy to use and cheap. Be prepared for showers when out walking and take lots of sunscreen.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I wish I had tried to learn a few words of Bulgarian before the holiday. If you are not flying direct to Sofia make sure you have enough time to make your connecting flight. One hour was not enough when flying from Manchester due to delays.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    John Murray

    A great walking holiday in unspoilt Bulgaria

    This was an excellent trip in a relatively unspoilt and bucolic part of the world. The Rodopi mountains in southern Bulgaria, near the Greek border, make for relatively gentle but sublime walking. We ambled along easy trails through deep gorges, natural forest and woodland, and, best of all, high alpine meadows, with carpets of wild flowers. The hotel in Yagodina was excellent - clean, with plenty of hot water after a day out. The food, even as a vegetarian, was varied, using a lot of local produce, and generally excellent. At the hotel, local beers were cheap, about £1.25 a bottle, though the wines were less so - think UK supermarket prices. It even had fairly good wifi!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    All the walks were lovely, but the lunches among the wild flowers, sitting in a high meadow, were something special.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Neli was an outstanding leader. She was attentive to the needs of her party, patient, and was a great source of knowledge about Bulgaria, its history, politics, and culture. She really knew her local flora and fauna, and even knew all the names in English! She also boasted just about the best English language skills I've come across in a local guide, indeed her vocabulary would have put many native speakers to shame! Most importantly however, she was absolutely passionate about Bulgaria, and the Rodopi in particular.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring a waterproof, it showered on most days, although only in the afternoon. Bring binoculars for the wildlife. Bring at least a one-litre water bottle - it can get hot, and although the walking is not arduous, the days were quite long. If you get Exodus to book flights with a stopover, check the timings. They wrecked our first day by allowing just one hour at Frankfurt airport. The plane was late taking off in the UK, and mayhem ensued. We eventually arrive many, many hours late, after many changes in flights! This was the only negative about the whole holiday however!
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Mick Quinn

    As the Nike Ad says "Just Do It"

    Having travelled extensively but not to Bulgaria previously I was very interested to see what I would think of the country and I wasn't disappointed. I flew direct from Ireland on Thursday and spent two days in Sofia before I joined a group of 15 others on the Saturday. I am not surprised that our trip was full/sold out. We spent a great week enjoying all aspects of rural Bulgaria. The walks averaged out at ten miles a day based in Hotel Yagodina that is ideally situated and very well run. The weather was perfect, despite many forecasts that predicted otherwise.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The consistency of how beautiful the views were each day when we lunched. The other aspect that really appealed to me was how natural the food we ate during the week was and how little processed food was served during our stay at Hotel Yagodina.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nelly's command of the English language is the best I have ever experienced in a non native speaker. Her willingness to help and accommodate people in the group was outstanding. Her passion and knowledge of the flora, fauna, folklore and history of Bulgaria was unsurpassable. I believe she has found her forté as a guide and I intend to nominate her in the Exodus Annual Leader Awards.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Some of the group members who didn't spend a night or two in Sofia either at the beginning or the end of the holiday regretted their decision. I really enjoyed my two day stay in the capital and saw more of it than I imagined I would when I joined an organised cycle tour of the city that covers about 20kms and lasts about three hours.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If in doubt, just book it. I don't think you will be disappointed.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Carmel Elwell

    A fantastic walking holiday in remote and beautiful mountains

    We had five strenuous but not exhausting days walking through really beautiful gorges, meadows and mountains and came back to a welcoming and comfortable simple hotel each evening. Our guide was exemplary in her local knowledge of flora and fauna so there was much to learn as well as to enjoy. Highly recommended if you want to be out all day amidst a fascinating landscape.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Sitting and gazing across the valleys and gorges from 6,000 feet up.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A fantastic leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring binoculars.
  • 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.
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