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07 - 14 May 2020
07 - 14 May 2021
Vultures, wine, tombs & castles
There's a brilliant mix of habitat, with the wallcreepers in the gorges of western Rhodope, and the griffon vultures circling the volcanic crags of eastern Rhodope and the Arda valley.
And the history! The Thracians and their cities, temples and 60,000 tombs. Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques. Along the way we'll also meet the beekeepers, tobacco farmers and the conservationists who work and live here.
Vultures, wine, tombs, castles. Maybe some morning walks for jackals and other mammals. It's a birding trip and then some.
Day 1 – Sofia to Trigrad
Fly in. Depending on flights in, we aim to stop at a couple of lakes and birding spots, before driving through the Trigrad gorge and spending 3 nights just above it.
Red-backed shrike, black-headed bunting, honey buzzard
Day 2 – Trigrad gorge & Gate to Hades
Ridiculously steep and narrow gorge. Wallcreeper territory. Afternoon walk to border with Greece and Orpheus's cave. Lunch of fresh trout with beekeepers.
Pallid swift, crag martin, ring ouzel, spotted nutcracker.
Day 3 – Around Trigrad
Village of Jagodina and walk to a gorge viewpoint - nearly twice the size of the Eiffel Tower. Afternoon walk in the border forest with Greece.
Common and blue rock thrush, short-toed eagle
Day 4 – Western to eastern Rhodope
Change of scenery: forested west to sparse, volcanic east. Stops for food & wine and birds along the way. 3 nights by River Arda.
Black & white storks, Spanish sparrow, lesser grey shrike
Day 5 – Vulture Feeding Stations
Egyptian and griffon, plus maybe black vulture. Lunch with Pomak family. Afternoon birding and walks in the old volcano crater.
Golden, booted, LS eagles, blue rock thrush, masked shrike
Day 6 – Birds plus ancient castles
The ancient castle of Perperikon is carved into the rock, as is the Tatul Sanctuary. Something to behold. Surrounded by scrub and another chance to see birds from the previous day.
Day 7 – Imperial eagle & Koprivshitsa
Before heading back NW toward Sofia, we'll try see imperial eagle near Lefka. Then back north, hopefully with a break in Plovdiv, before staying 1 night in picturesque Koprivshitsa.
Day 8 – Sofia: afternoon or evening flights
Spend some hours in beautiful Sofia. We recommend you stay another night to really get to know the city, but we'll have time to see the highlights before flights after lunch. Sofia's park also has 60+ bird sp.
Recommended reading for the tour, Kapka Kassabova's Border: Journey to the Edge of 'Europe', winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the year, 2017.
A full, day by day run through of the itinerary, including details on hotels, meals and timings, can be found here
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Day 1: Sofia (arrival), Trigrad
Day 2: Trigrad gorge & cave
Day 3: Around Trigrad
Day 4: East Rhodope (Trigrad - Arda)
Day 5: Vultures
Day 6: Perperikon & Tatul
Day 7: Eagles to Koprivshtitsa
Day 8: Morning in Koprivshtitsa
Day 1: Arrive Sofia. Melnik via Rila
Day 2: Melnik pyramids, then Trigrad
Day 3: Gorge & Gate to Hades
Day 4: From western to eastern Rhodope
Day 5: Vulture feeding stations & Pomaks
Day 6: Birds plus Thracian castles
Day 7: Imperial eagle & Koprivshitsa
Day 8: Sofia
WHAT IS BIRDS PLUS?
"The question of all questions for mankind - the problem which underlies all others and which is more deeply interesting than any other - is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature."
We love our birds, but not always the chasing around to see as many as possible. Sometimes we'd rather just relax in a spot, take it in and come what may.
So our Birds PLUS tours set a more relaxed pace, with the occasional long lunch at a winery, and we stop to look at many of the natural and cultural highlights along the way. Furthermore, where possible we meet the locals who shape the habitats and live alongside the birds.
But the tour is still focused on birds and it is led by a local, expert birder.
We think our Bird PLUS tours are a great trip for birders whose friends and family mightn't come on a pure birding trip, but would like to join for the mix of landscapes, walks, culture and overall abundance of nature.
Important note: if you're looking for a dedicated birding tour and maximising time in the field, then you might get itchy feet on these trips. We'd be happy to customise them for individuals and groups though. Our contact details are at the bottom of the page.