Mursalitsa national park trail - Rhodope mountains
8 days, 7 nights, 6 days riding
Mursalitsa national park trail - Rhodope mountains
8 days, 7 nights, 6 days riding
An adventurous trail into the Rhodope Mountains, complete with incredible views, fascinating history and plenty of hours in untouched nature. The ride gives you a true taste of Bulgarian culture whilst still allowing you to escape daily life by riding on peaceful mountain tracks, enjoying untouched scenery and exploring hidden places. An interesting, active trail on safe but fit horses.
This trail has been improved to include a visit to Devil's Throat Cave and also views of Trigrad Gorge. Other highlights of this trail are undoubtedly the visits to two of the Rhodope Mountain's preserved villages, Shiroka Laka and Gela, which are both masterpieces of Renaissance artistry and considered the most iconic destinations in the Rhodopes. Shiroka Laka is both an architectural and folklore reserve, featuring unique houses which were often home to a master of the bagpipes - the Rhodope bagpipes are key to the folk music of the region. The village illustrates ancient rural life with its beautiful architecture, cuisine and the spirit of the locals. One of Bulgaria's most famous movies, 'Time of Violence', was filmed here.
The village of Gela is also called "the valley of the bells and songs" and is centrally located in the mountain range at an altitude of 1500m. It lies at the foot of the most majestic peaks - Golyam Persenk Peak (2191m) and Orpheus Peak (2188m). The village has more than 3300 years of history and is considered to be a cradle of European civilisation. The village is home to the National Bagpipe Festival each summer in the first weekend of August, during which is welcomes up to 15,000 visitors.
Particular highlights of the trail:
- Visit to Devil's Throat Cave
- Trigrad Gorge
- Riding through the villages of Gela, Shiroka Laka and Trigrad - top Rhodope Mountain destinations.
- Passing through a number of protected areas.
- Riding to the natural phenomenon Chairskite Ezera, the 'Chairi Lakes'.
- Visit the rock formations of Chudnite Mostove, the 'Wonderful Bridges'.
- Visiting the Tower of Snezhanka.
- Sightseeing in the Old Town and Ethnographic Museum of Plovdiv.
Day 1: Arrival and transfer from Sofia airport to Plovdiv, a city which is considered to be the cultural capital of Bulgaria and is more than 8000 years old. Plovdiv features the remains of a civilisation older than Rome itself and is a contemporary of ancient Troy. You will take a tour of the old town of Plovdiv, including a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and the antique theatre, one of the best-preserved in the world.
Accommodation tonight is at a 4* hotel in Plovdiv (no pool).
Day 2: After breakfast you will be transferred to the stables, the starting point of the trail, in the 'Sredne Livadi' protected area. The drive is approximately 40 minutes. You will be paired with a suitable horse and can help to tack them up or leave this to Bogdan. Today's ride will take you to the village of Orehovo which is around 500 years old. From here starts the longest eco-trail in Bulgaria, ending near the Aegean sea (Greece). This make Orehovo one of the best starting destinations for tours in the Rhodopes.
You will come across stunning views of the protected area called "Sredni Livadi". The ride will also take you through the old Roman road and an ancient chapel from the 18th century, called Saint Atanas. Lunch today is in a restaurant overlooking the 'Wonderful Bridges' rock phenomenon.
Overnight in a 3* family hotel. Approximate riding time: 4 hours.
Day 3:After another hearty breakfast you will saddle up and make for the village of Zabyrdo, a small mountain village standing at 1400m above sea level which is famous for its production of traditional Rhodope cheese. Lunch today is a picnic. During the day you will ride upon the most famous meadows of the Rhode region - 'llinden' meadows, where the biggest bagpipe festival of the Balkans takes place each year. After riding and arrival at your next accommodation, the horses will be settled and then you will head by car to see the nearby rock formations known as the 'Wonderful Bridges'. These are one of the top 100 tourist destinations in Bulgaria and are a magnificent site - be sure to ask Bogdan for the tale of their origins! You will see an unique panoramic view and scenes stretching across the border into Greece.
Overnight tonight in a family-run guesthouse. Approximate riding time: 6 hours.
Day 4: Today you will ride towards one of the so-called "Rhodope Pearls", an architectural and folklore reserve! The village of Shiroka Laka is truly symbolic of Bulgarian culture with cobblestone streets and intriguing bazaars, making for an unforgettable tourist experience. Reaching the village on horseback is like an adventure from the 19th century.
Some of the most interesting places in the village are the ethnographic museum which is laid out like the house of a wealthy Rhodope family from the end of the 19th century. The Church of the Assumption was built in 1834 and took just 38 days to construct, thanks to the help of all the village's inhabitants.
Overnight tonight in a family guesthouse. Approximate riding time: 6 hours.
Day 5: The journey continues on into the heart of "Mursalitsa" national park, an experience not to be forgotten. In the morning you will visit Devil's Throat Cave, a spectacular sight and a popular attraction. You will ride towards the village of Trigrad where you will see the Trigrad Gorge, a canyon made of vertical marble rocks. Today you will pass between some of the most beautiful natural lakes in the Rhodopes - the Chairi Lakes were formed by the sliding of glaciers during the Ice Age. You will also pass by the "Drunken Forest" where the trees grow as strange angles and in all directions. Lunch today is in a small bikers' bar within an old village, a great experience.
Overnight tonight in an authentic traditional family owned hotel Approximate riding time: 6 hours.
Day 6:After today's breakfast you will ride back towards the village of Gela, covering the same stunning route as yesterday but in reverse. There is some time to explore the Chairi Lakes on foot, perhaps daring to step out across the old walkways for a peek into the clear waters. You will stop for lunch at the same bar as yesterday.
Overnight in same family-run guesthouse in Gela. Approximate riding time: 6 hours.
Day 7: This is the last riding day but the adventure is not over! You will explore some more unforgettable scenery of the ancient Rhodopes. You will ride upon the famous "panoramic road" to Mount Snezhanka, around 21km distance (roughly 3 and a half hours). This path will take you to almost 2000m above sea level, to the foot of the Snezhanka Tower which overlooks winter ski slopes. You will take lunch in the tower restaurant and can enjoy the views from the tower top - 360 degrees revealing the beauty of all the Rhodopes and even parts of the Aegean Sea.
After lunch you can either go straight in the car to your accommodation or you can help Bogdan to take the horses to a nearby stables, a short ride down the slopes.
Accommodation tonight back in 5* hotel with spa and olympic size swimming pool. Approximate riding time: 4 hours.
Day 8: After breakfast it is time to say farewell and to head to Sofia airport for your departure (approximately 3 hours in the car). On the way back there may be some time to visit the Bachkovo Monastery, actually the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria.
NB. For most nights of the trail the horses are tethered on fields nearby to your hotel - they are accustomed to this and it allows them to graze and to have some freedom of movement.
Minimum group size:3
Maximum group size:8
Ability description:Riders should be confident intermediate and above, happy to ride at walk, trot and canter in open country and for long distances. Some of the terrain is rough (and they sometimes trot over difficult ground) with trots and canters sometimes being fairly long. With this in mind, we only recommend the trail for riders who are quite fit.
Type of ride:Trail ride.ONE DIRECTION PROGRESSIVE RIDE(NOT A CIRCULAR TRAIL AS 80% WORLDWIDE TRAILS ARE)
Total riding time:6 days of riding with hours varying from 4 to 6 hours each day.
Guests can fly into Sofia or Plovdiv. The tour starts in Plovdiv but most guests fly to Sofia as there are a lot of flights into and out of the capital city.
Transfers are included from the two airports at set times. You should ideally arrive into Sofia no later than 16:00, in order to allow time for sightseeing in Plovdiv. On departure day your flight should not leave Sofia before 12:00.
If you are coming into Plovdiv instead then please contact us for timings.