Few countries can rival Bulgaria’s scenic splendour and diverse nature. The landscape changes every few kilometers to reveal alpine mountains, rivers with spectacular canyons, vast meadows and forests, coastal wetlands and sand beaches. With this tour we have tried to put together most of the country’s fascinating wildlife features and aspects.
The tour starts in early afternoon from the coastal city of Varna, as the tour participants will be picked up from their hotels in the area or from Varna Airport until 14.00 h (2pm). Then we will transfer north to Coastal Dobroudzha (it takes about an hour and a half driving), where we will check-in for 2 nights in the area of the town of Kavarna. On the way we can stop at one of the Eurasian Eagle Owl sites to see this impressive bird.
Morning – Coastal lakes of Durankulak and Shabla and the sand dunes, separating the lakes from the sea, where we could find some interesting plants like Alyssum borzaeanum, Silene thymifolia, Glaucium glavum, Euphorbia lucida, etc. Here we will be able also to see a big variety of water birds, incl. the Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Western Marsh Harrier, Paddyfield Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Bearded Reedling, the tick-billed race of the Common Reed Bunting (ssp. reiseri) and various species of herons, gulls, terns, shore-birds, plus European Rollers, European Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Red-backed Shrikes in the surrounding areas.
At noon we will visit the steppes and cliffs around Cape Kaliakra, where we can observe the Mediterranean subspecies of European Shag (ssp. desmarestii), Long-legged Buzzard, Stone Curlew, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Pied Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting.
Some of the main species of plants to be seen here include Adonis flammea, Artemisia pedemontana, Iris pumila, Scutellaria orientalis, Salvia nutans, Nonnea atra, Ruta glaveolens, Euphorbia myrsinites, Stipa lessingiana, Silene caliacrae, Salvia austriaca, etc., as well as a lot of species of Potentilla, Onosma, Vicia, Lathyrus, Pisum, Artemisia.
Transfer to the southern Bulgarian coast through the Eastern Balkan Mountains and the Kamchia Nature Reserve, preserving an unique riverine flooded forests, composed by Fraxinus oxycarpa + Quercus pedunculiflora, with a big variety of liana plants, including Smilax excelsa and Periploca graeca. The bird species likely to be seen in both sites include the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Black Stork, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Barred Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Sombre Tit.
The accommodation for the next two nights will be in the town of Sozopol (~ 30 km south of Bourgas).
On the way, when we are passing the city of Bourgas we can visit the Bourgas wetlands for about a couple of hours – to see various water birds like the White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Penduline Tit.
Strandzha Mnts, located in the south-eastern corner of Bulgaria, where in the forests of Fagus orientalis, Quercus polycarpa, Quercus hartwissiana we will be looking for the White-backed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper. In the forests and open habitats we could find a big variety of rare plants, incl. Daphne pontica, Rhododendron ponticum, Epimedium pubigerum, Laurocerasus officinalis, Ilex colchica, Mespulus germanica, Pyracantha coccinea, Stachys thracica, Verbascum bugulifolium, Salvia forskahlei, Trachystemon orientale, Cistis incanus, Geranium asphodeloides, etc.
In the late afternoon – on the way back to Sozopol we can visit the sand dunes and grasslands at Ropotamo river complex (in the southern vicinity of Sozopol). Here we will try to find some rare plants like Tulipa thracica, Ruscus aculeatus, Leymus racemosus ssp. sabulosus, Silene euxina, Linum tauricum ssp. bulgaricum, Stachys maritima, Limodorum abortivum, Verbascum phoeniceum, Verbascum bugulifolium, Iris sintenisii, Jurinea mollis, Calystegia soldanella, Crambe maritime.
The amphibian and reptile fauna of Ropotamo area is also remarkable.
Transfer southwest to the Eastern Rhodopes, with a long stop in Sakar Hills, where we will be looking for the Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Masked Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, Olive-tree Warbler and Orphean Warbler. We will also see a lot of European Rollers, European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoes and Black-headed Buntings, plus colonies of European Souslik.
Accommodation in the area of Krumovgrad for 2 nights,
We will spend the whole day in the Eastern Rhodopes, exploring various habitats – cliffs, arid areas, dry deciduous forests and shrubs.
Main birds to be seen here: Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite, Booted, Short-toed and Golden eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Black Stork, Chukar, Eurasian Scops Owl, Sombre Tit, Black-eared Wheatear (the eastern race ssp. melanoleuca), Isabelline Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Eastern Bonelli’s, Eastern Orphean, Subalpine and Olivaceous warblers, Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Western Rock Nuthatch, Ortolan Bunting, Black-headed Bunting.
The amphibian and reptile diversity in the Eastern Rhodopes is very attractive too, incl. Yellow-bellied Toad, Common Tree Frog, Spur-thighed Tortoise, Eastern Hermann’s Tortoise, Balkan Green Lizard, Erhard’s Wall Lizard, Balkan Wall Lizard, European Glass Lizard, Dice Snake, Large Whip Snake, Eastern Montpellier Snake, Horned Viper, Eurasian Sand Boa, Dahl’s Whip Snake,
In the morning we could visit one of the vulture feeding places in the Eastern Rhodopes, where we could observe some of the raptor and other species of birds, which we have missed or not seen well in the previous day.
Then we will transfer to the Western Rhodopes with several stops in the higher parts of the Western Rhodopes to search for interesting plants and birds in the conifer forests and meadows.
Accommodation in the area of Trigrad for two nights.
In the morning we will visit the Trigrad Gorge, where the main target will be the Wallcreeper. Other birds to be seen here include the Alpine Swift, Crag Martins, Peregrine Falcon, White-throated Dipper, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting.
This is the time of the blooming of the beautiful flower Haberlea rhodopensis.
Other interesting plants: Sideritis scardica, Scabiosa rhodopensis, Arenaria rhodopaea, Hypericum montbretii, Secale rhodopaeum, etc.
In the rest of the day – we can explore conifer forests and meadows in the area, looking for Spotted Nutcracker, Rock Bunting, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Corncrake, as well as some rare flowers, butterflies and reptiles.
Morning transfer for ~ 3 hours to the northern part of the Pirin Mnts. National Park, where we will spend all the afternoon. (We will reach the high mountain areas with the tour bus along an asphalt road going up to ~ 2000 m)
Birds: Spotted Nutcracker, Common Crossbill, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Willow Tit, Rock Bunting, Eurasian Siskin, Black Woodpecker, etc., plus small chances to see a Rock Partridge.
Plants: Lilium jankae, Lilium martagon, Geum coccineum, Jovibarba heuffelii, Senecio pancicii, Dactylorhiza saccifera, Gentiana lutea, Gentiana asclepiadea, Dianthus superbus, Silene roemerii, Cirsium appendiculatum, Cirsium heterotrychum, Heracleum verticillatum, Pinguicula balcanica, Dactylorhiza cordigera, Bruckentalia spiculifolia, Viola dacica, Campanula velebitica
Accommodation for one night in the northern foot of the Pirin Mnts
Transfer (for about three hours) to Sofia for departure