Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear

Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear
Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear
The Rodopi Mountains, Bulgaria
Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear
Bulgaria: Realm of the Brown bear
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  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • What's Included
  • FAQ
  • Reviews
  • Dates
  • Exodus

Spend a week in the Rodopi Mountains discovering the realm of the Brown bear. Joined by European Brown bear expert Julian Perry, this holiday gives a unique insight into the behaviour and ecology of these most iconic yet secretive carnivores. During the course of the week we take daily hikes through the heart of prime Brown bear habitat, recording tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity as part of an on-going Brown bear conservation project. On two evenings there will be the chance to visit a specially constructed bear watching hide from where there are good opportunities to see some of the bears whose activity we have been monitoring during our days in the mountains. In addition, we will also be collecting and collating images from several camera traps that will be set up in the surrounding forests. By the end of this holiday we hope you will not only have seen Brown bears in the wild but also have an understanding and appreciation of the fascinating way of life of these mysterious and often misunderstood animals.

Highlights
  • Elusive mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and rare orchids
  • Two visits to a hide for wild Brown bear observation
  • Informative daily bear tracking walks
  • Remote landscapes in the Rodopi Mountains
  • Become directly involved in a Brown bear conservation project
  • Delicious traditional local cuisine
Food

Hotel ‘Yagodina’ is renowned for its delicious traditional local cuisine, offering generous sized servings of hearty, healthy food, much of it made from home-produced or locally sourced products. Typical meals whilst in the mountains will comprise of: Breakfast: tea, coffee and milk, with bread, jam, honey and cheese, supplemented in Yagodina by fresh home-made yoghurt and traditional local specialities such as thick pancakes known as 'katmi' and a rice-based dish called 'rodopski klin'. Lunch: picnic lunches will be eaten in the mountains and typically comprise bread, cheese, salami, salad, a chocolate bar and fruit. Many guests also like to take with them an extra portion of the local speciality that was served up for them at breakfast. Dinner: will be taken in our hotel restaurant, and will normally include three courses comprising either a salad or vegetarian soup, followed by a main course, and a dessert of fruit, ice cream, or cake/pudding. The cuisine reflects a mixture of Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish and Slavonic influences. We sample many traditional local specialities including 'smilyanski fasul', a delicious bean soup, and 'patatnik', a local delicacy made with grated potatoes, onions, and cheese, then seasoned with mint and other herbs. Jugs of tap water will be provided on the table with the evening meal. Bottled mineral water, soft drinks and alcohol are not included but can be purchased. There are several Bulgarian wines that you may wish to try, including an excellent red 'Mavrud' from vineyards on the northern slopes of the Rodopi Mountains. Vegetarians and Vegans: Bulgaria is famed for its fresh vegetables and fruit, so vegetarians are usually well catered for, although in the mountains the variety may sometimes by limited to what is seasonally available. 'Vegans need to be aware that eggs and dairy produce, especially cheese, form the staple part of the diet in the Rodopi region, and occur in the vast majority of traditional meals, so they may find their daily menu somewhat more restricted and less varied. Likewise special gluten-free products are not available, so those clients with wheat/gluten intolerance should, if needed, bring with them something to replace the local bread and pastries that make up the breakfasts and picnic lunches.

Destinations
  • Europe
  • Rodopi Mountains
  • Bulgaria
  • Sofia
Tour Types
  • Singles
  • Birdwatching
  • Active
  • Adventure
  • Wildlife

Location: Sofia, Yagodina

Setting off from Sofia airport we begin a long but interesting 4-hour transfer to the Rodopi Mountains. Our destination is the remote mountain village of Yagodina, where we will be based for the next 6 nights. During dinner, our leader will give an opening briefing about the week ahead and the work of the local NGO ‘Wild Rodopi’ whose Brown bear research and conservation project you will be assisting.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,Dinner,

Location: Yagodinska Cave

After breakfast, we start the day with a visit to the nearby Yagodinska Peshtera to discover the rich variety of cave formations and cave life that are found within, including some rare cave invertebrates, several species of bat, and a family of Fat (or Edible) dormice. Part of the cave system was once utilized as a prehistoric dwelling, so provides the ideal place to discuss the evolution of bears and their relationship with early Man. Returning to the village, we then set off on our first bear tracking walk, which will lead us into the surrounding forests searching for, recording and interpreting evidence of Brown bear activity such as scats, prints and various feeding signs. During the walk, there will be an introduction to safe bear/human interaction and behaviour. In the evening, half the group will have their first visit to the bear hide. Visiting the hide usually necessitates having an early dinner so that we can be in position before darkness falls. Bears are attracted to the hide by the presence of corn but are not dependant on this for their diet. Depending on the amount of activity in the clearing we may stay until around 11 pm, or with permission of the group earlier or later.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner,

Location: Yagodina

After breakfast, a short drive brings us to the trailhead for the start of a beautifully varied walk in a little-visited part of the region. Having forded a shallow stream, we then follow a series of old forestry tracks that are also used as a convenient network of trails by Brown bears. This area is not only rich in butterflies and birds, but is also of great historical interest. During our walk, we will visit a site which, according to some historians and archaeologists, was the place where Orpheus was torn to pieces by the wild Maenads, the female followers of Dionysus. It certainly seems a suitably mystical and atmospheric spot that fits in well with Ovid’s poetic description of these dramatic events. After dinner, the second half of the group will have its first visit to the bear hide.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner,

Location: Kastrakli

Setting off on foot from our hotel, we make a steep, steady climb up the stony flank of the mountain ridge above the village. Here in spring and early summer, there are several interesting species of orchid to be found, as well as numerous butterflies. On reaching the ridgeback, we climb up to the highest peak where we are rewarded with a wonderful cliff-top viewpoint. The rocks here are home to several typical cliff-dwelling species of bird including the beautiful wallcreeper, Peregrine falcon, Rock thrush, Crag martin and Alpine swift. It is also possible to spot other raptors gliding over, such as Golden eagle, Short-toed eagle, Booted eagle, Long-legged buzzard, Eurasian hobby and Common kestrel. The wonderful views remain with us throughout the day as we continue our walk, zig-zagging steeply down into the depths of the Buynovsko Gorge on a rough and stony path that leads through a favoured feeding region for both Brown bear and Balkan chamois. This evening, the first half of the group will have their second visit to the bear hide.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,No Meals,

Location: Yagodina

Having made our way out of the village on foot and crossed an area of rolling open pastures, we begin a steady climb into the forest, following a route that is frequently used by both wolves and bears. The further we climb, the wilder the landscape feels, and in places, the forests are punctuated with clearings and meadows that are often grazed by Roe deer and Wild boar, and where in early summer a variety of rare flowers and butterflies can be seen. Later in the day, we drop into the dappled shade of a river valley, a favoured place for bears, and also a suitable habitat for more interesting plants and butterflies. After supper, there will be another visit to the bear hide for the second half of the group.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner,

Location: Yagodina

After breakfast we set off from the hotel on foot, beginning a strenuous but highly rewarding bear tracking walk. Having left the village pastures behind, we begin a long steep climb that sees us enter a densely forested region that is roamed not only by several Brown bears, but as our camera traps have shown, a variety of other carnivores including Wildcat, Grey wolf, Red fox, European badger, Pine marten and Stone marten. Especially exciting is the fact that Balkan lynx, a species considered extinct in Bulgaria for almost a century, has very recently been recorded here again! The forests here also harbour many secretive birds such as Hazel grouse, Black woodpecker and Crested tit. The midpoint of our trail brings us out onto some wonderful rock outcrops from where there are stunning views towards Greece, across waves of forested ridges that make a perfect trans-border corridor by which the large carnivore populations of Bulgaria and Greece can intermix. Our descent then leads us down through more silent forest, and what is the heart of core Brown bear habitat. Here we should see plenty of signs of bear activity, including several trees that they have bitten, scratched and rubbed, giving us a chance to learn more about other fascinating aspects of Brown bear behaviour.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Yagodina or similar

Meals: ,Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner,

Location: Devinska Reka

Leaving Yagodina on foot, we start the day with a short walk along a beautiful forest path, which in spring and early summer is renowned for its exceptional variety of orchids. Formerly an ancient Thracian packhorse route, this path is often used by bears when feeding in the surrounding forests on beech mast and ants. After meeting our bus, a 45-minute drive brings us to the beautiful valley of the Devinska Reka, where we will spend a couple of hours walking a delightful riverside trail. As well as being home to Eurasian otter and a variety of typical riverine birds such as Dipper and Grey wagtail, the valley also forms the heart of a specially designated Prime Butterfly Area and provides the perfect habitat for many rare and beautiful butterfly species. Having enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the river, we then complete the transfer (3 hours 30 minutes) back to Sofia.

Accommodation: ,Hotel,

Accommodation Name: Hotel Hill or similar

Meals: ,Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner,

Location: Sofia

End Sofia.

Accommodation: ,

Meals: ,Breakfast,

Included
  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

Not Included
  • Single Supplement
    -
  • Travel insurance
    -
  • Visa's and Vaccinations
    -
Yes, Transfers for group flights.
Minimum 16 year age people can go this tour.
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.
Visas are not required for Bulgaria for British and other EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.
5* Bulgaria Bears. Excellent walks at a steady with informative breaks
Inspiring views with Julian who was very well informed and put the information across in any easily understood and entertaining way. Only saw one other group in the week and the occasional person on the walks.. Hotel and food was plane and good
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5* 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!
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5* Wonderful wildlife adventure
This was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had, combining walking in the mountains with the opportunity to see and learn about bears in the company of a true expert and bear enthusiast and a great group of fellow travellers. I really can’t fault this trip, the scenery is stunning, the wildlife is all around you, and the food, accommodation and hospitality of the local people are a delight.
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5* Bulgaria Rodopi Mountains: beautiful and brimming with wildlife
I am so glad that a friend suggested this holiday to me, as it surpassed all of my expectations. The Hotel Yagodina is a splendid base: the staff are very friendly and the food from local sources is served in generous portions. Some of the local specialities cooked for breakfast were eagerly taken in lunch boxes to supplement the sandwiches and salad (which we made up ourselves from a table of ingredients, including fresh fruit and chocolate bars!). Maria's cheesecake and apple strudel were memorable. All of the walks were enjoyable in themselves, for the beautiful scenery, the diversity of flowers and butterflies, however having Julian as our leader took this holiday to a higher level. Every day he showed us evidence of the bears living in the area and told us interesting facts about brown bears; he is also very knowledgeable about birds, butterflies, moths, reptiles and amphibians, as well as the plants unique to the Rodopi Mountains. One of the best holidays I have had.
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4* Walking walking walking
This was my first walking holiday and must admit it was a title too much for me. But to put that into context I had a pacemaker fitted 5 weeks prior to the trip and didn't want to cancel. The holiday was mostly walking up and down mountains looking for signs of bears - including trees, paw prints, log movements, and the obvious thing all bears do in the woods! So if you like walking and hiking then you will enjoy this part of the holiday.The hotel was fabulous, food was lovely, staff were excellent, rooms great, and overall much better than expected.The expert guide Matthew was great, helpful, funny, knowledgable and looked a little like a cuddly bear (don't tell him that)The hide you get to go on an evening to have the chance to see the Bears feeding is perfect. We were very lucky seeing bears on both evenings I went. The other half of the group saw bears also and this can't be guaranteed but was great. One thing to note is the journey to the hide was fun but very bumpy and so not great for anyone who is injured or getting over surgery.Organisation of the trip was perfect, everything ran to plan and very well put together and organised.So overall really good holiday, but be warned you will need to enjoy walking lots!
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5* 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!
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5* 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!
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5* 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!
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5* Beartastic!
This is a thoroughly enjoyable holiday if you enjoy the outdoors, walking, sampling local cuisine and of course tracking and even seeing bears! Our week could hardly have been better, from the very comfortable and friendly hotel, which served local dishes for every meal, to our expert guide and to the stunning scenery and wildlife which surrounds the lovely village of Yagodina. It was great to be able to walk from our hotel and experience such diversity of habitats, including lush open meadows filled with wild flowers, a mind boggling diversity of butterflies and even Corncrakes, beech woodland, rocky escarpments offering fantastic views of the countryside as well as raptors such as Hobbys and Peregrine Falcons and of course pine forests where the evidence of bear activity is all around you. Seeing bears during the day is extremely difficult but we had great success up at the hide where we saw big, solitary males and mothers with their young cubs. We even saw a sounder of Wild Boar complete with a young family of beautifully marked piglets. However the highlight was undoubtedly when we were fortunate enough to spot a mother bear with 2 of this year's cubs in an open area below us. They were entirely oblivious to our presence and we could watch them behaving entirely naturally. Something I will never forget.
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5* 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.
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5* What an amazing place!
This was my first ever trip with exodus and it was absolutely incredible. The scenery was beautiful, the walks were great, plenty of opportunity to look for bear activity, and one of the best experiences in my life. We saw a bear and cubs, and that was such an amazing sight! Julian and the staff at Yagodina were lovely, the group were very friendly, and it was just simply a lovely trip!
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5* Bulgaria, The Realm of the Brown Bear
We had an excellent trip, learning about the evolution, distribution, habitat, food and habits of bears. We studied and measured " bear " trees and scats and were able to deduce the age and sex from these! The walks were well varied through stunning scenery.
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5* Rodopi bears!
A brilliant trip in all respects!Scenery, group leader, wildlife, hotel, food all get top marksGreat walking and was lucky to be with a lovely group of just 6 of us plus Julian our leader
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5* Unforgettable Trip!
This was the best trip I've been on in years.It's so rare to have a trip which includes both walking and wildlife, but Julian created the perfect combination of the two with this trip. The scenery was spectacular, and it was just the right level of challenging for a townie who doesn't normally do that much walking!The locals in Yagodina are absolutely lovely, and the hotel staff couldn't do enough for us.The food was nearly all homemade and was so delicious. We certainly didn't go hungry!We were also so lucky to see as many bears and other wildlife as we did, and to have such a lovely group and guide who got on as well as we all did. We didn't stop laughing all week!I highly recommend this trip to anyone who likes walking, wildlife, stunning mountain and meadow views, delicious food and lovely people (what's not to like??)
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5* 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.
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4* Wonderful bears!
Beautiful scenery, fantastic guide. Observing bears was a real highlight.
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5* A really great week
Beautiful scenery, great walks, lovely people and good food. And of course bears.
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5* Bulgaria: The Realm of the Brown Bear
A wonderful week in the magnificent Rodopi Mountains. Excellent walks, lots of flora and fauna with very good photographic opportunities. Led by such a great guide who gave us insights into the local culture and taught us so much about the bears that roam this fascinating wild corner of Europe.
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5* A great introduction to the wildlife and way of life in the Rodopi mountains
A brilliant and unusual combination of great walking and wildlife interest. On holidays these are usually separated but this worked so well, as you really came to appreciate the environment in which these animals,plants,reptiles etc flourished. Julian did a fantastic job in explaining everything and I think we learnt a lot in a week - he went over and above what was necessary in a leader. The hotel was lovely and everyone very friendly and helpful. The bears and wild boar were the highlight, also the short cut in the truck on the way home from the hide!!!
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5* A great introduction to the wildlife and way of life in the Rodopi mountains
A brilliant and unusual combination of great walking and wildlife interest. On holidays these are usually separated but this worked so well, as you really came to appreciate the environment in which these animals,plants,reptiles etc flourished. Julian did a fantastic job in explaining everything and I think we learnt a lot in a week - he went over and above what was necessary in a leader. The hotel was lovely and everyone very friendly and helpful. The bears and wild boar were the highlight, also the short cut in the truck on the way home from the hide!!!
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5* A wonderful walking and wildlife experience!
This really is the best walking and wildlife combination I've ever been on. Loved that we did good mountain walks in the day time through varied and stunning scenery whilst focusing on wildlife along the way. Visiting the bear hide in the evenings was really fantastic, loved seeing so many bears in their natural habitat, so exciting! Julian was such a brilliant guide, so professional, knowledgeable, capable and fun, thanks Julian!
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5* What's not to like?
Lovely hotel with super staff (Thank you Maria and team) good local food and beautiful scenery.Interesting and scenic walks punctuated by examination of scats, bear 'mesage'; trees, orchids, birds and mammals,
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You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.

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Touring with Exodus

With over 45 years’ experience of taking people on amazing adventure holidays, Exodus can help you reach some of the most incredible destinations on 500 itineraries across more than 90 countries around the world. All staff at Exodus have a passion for travel and adventure, and some team members have been professional archaeologists, wildlife guides, overland drivers, mountain leaders, diving and ski specialists and mountain bike gurus. But that’s not all. This reputable company is a Which? recommended escorted tour provider and has won many prestigious awards, including Best Activity and Sports Holiday Company at the 2018 British Travel Awards.

Exodus is all about adventure and helping others to achieve their travel dreams by offering a fantastic range of guided group holidays, self-guided trips, tailor-made getaways and escorted tours. So, if you’re looking to discover different countries, cultures, environments, cities, mountain ranges, deserts, coasts or even jungles, the expert team at Exodus can help you plan an unforgettable solo, group or family adventure.

Each tour and adventure has been created to give you maximum value for money, often including authentic activities, as well as flights, accommodation and a tour guide. And as the team has developed one of the very best and most exciting collections of guided-group tours and self-guided holidays, you’re guaranteed the adventure holiday of a lifetime, no matter which one you pick. Trips include everything from family adventure holidays and walking and cycling tours to mixed-activity tours and seasonal getaways. You can also ask Exodus to plan a tailored itinerary from scratch or tweak an existing one, which means you can book a bespoke holiday that is designed just for you.

Need some inspiration? You can enjoy varied walks in the stunning Spanish mountains, experience the magic of Italy in Tuscany or explore the rich Sri Lankan history and culture by bike. Try a host of different activities in glorious Turkish surroundings, ski through the magnificent Norwegian wilderness or embark on a journey through India’s tropical south. Visit Iceland and East Greenland, see the spectacular marine wildlife in the Maldives or cruise along the mighty Amazon River in Peru – the options are endless!

When it comes to travelling together as a family with Exodus, all family holidays are specifically designed to offer a mix of education and exploration, with plenty of downtime. Each adventure and tour has been created with one of three age ranges in mind, but children outside of the 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16 age bracket are welcome to travel too. Plus, the price for children up to the age of 16 is 25% lower than the adult cost for Exodus guided holidays to help make your trip more affordable. From canoeing and cycling in the Dordogne to safari tours in Africa and dolphin watching in Costa Rica, Exodus offer family adventures all over the world.

Something that makes this adventure holiday and escorted tour operator unique is the loyalty scheme, the Exodus Collective. When you book your second trip, you’ll join the Collective and be given access to exclusive discounts, sales previews and special travel benefits. The more you travel with Exodus the more you’ll be entitled to, and your membership also grants you special access to exclusive travel content.

At Exodus, they make sure that everyone travels respectfully and courteously in a small group to minimise their impact and to ensure each holiday is a beneficial experience for all those involved. Where possible, they believe in putting money directly into the communities they visit by eating locally produced food and using locally owned and run accommodation. They also strive to provide as much flexibility and choice as possible to make it simple for you to experience a memorable holiday, your way.

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tour details

This tour is operated by Exodus

7 nights from pp exc.flights; per Night
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Start:Sofia
Finish:Sofia
Group size:5 - 12
Suitable for: 16 to 99
Physical rating:Moderate
Meals:6 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 6 dinners.
Diets:Please inform Exodus of specific dietary requirements
Tour operated in: English
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