Several centuries BC Jason and the Argonauts set off in the good ship ‘Argo’ in search of the Golden Fleece. Orpheus was one of the crew and his special skill was the ability to play the lyre so beautifully that he charmed the birds and beasts, and more importantly for Jason, prevented the dreaded Sirens from luring the Argo onto the rocks. This ride takes place in what used to be Thrace and is now the Rhodope Mountain in Bulgaria, the home of Orpheus.
The area blends remote villages, ancient Eastern Orthodox churches and mosques into the outstanding natural scenery to create something that is uniquely Bulgarian. You will become part of this pluralist world because we will be on horseback which is exactly the way the “Ancients” used to travel.
Itinerary description day-by-day:
This trail ride explores the forested area surrounding Orpheus Paek (2,188 m) in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains.
Day 1: Getting there
We will meet you at the airport in Sofia and drive you east towards Plovdiv, European city of culture 2019, before turning south into the mountains. The village of Belashtitsa is about 2 hrs from Sofia.
Overnight in a family-run hotel 3 ***
Day 2 Setting off
The starting point is in the nature reserve Sredni Livadi which is a 40 min drive away. Meet the horses: we will match you up with a suitable horse based on the information you give us during the booking process. Set off in a southwesterly direction towards the village of Lilkovo. We follow an old Roman road (not tarmac) and pass several rural hamlets. Picnic along the way.
Riding time: 4 hours
Overnight: 3 ***Family-run hotel
Day 3 Discover the local cheese
Ride out towards the vllage of Zabyrdo (1,400 m) famous for traditional artisan Rhodope cheese. Nearby is a natural rock formation which is always a popular photo with the horses in the foreground.
Overnight in a family-operated guest house.
Riding time: 6 hours
Day 4: Shiroka Laka
Today we are heading for one of the so called “Rhodope pearls” which is an architectural and folklore reserve. The village of Shiroka Laka is cobblestoned village with traditional street bazars selling all sorts of local produce. If you fancy a stroll around town, the Ethnographic Museum is well worth a look; it’s set out like the home of a wealthy Rhodope family from the end of the 19th century.
Overnight: family-operated guest house.
Riding time: 5 hours.
Day 5 : The Drunken Forest
The journey continues into the heart of Mursalitsa National Park. Then along the enigmatically named Valley of Bells which takes us to the village of Trigrad. In the village is the vast Ilinden Meadow which hosts the annual bagpipe festival. En route we pass the Chairi Lakes, formed by glaciers during the ice age. Also on the way is the strangely named “Drunken Forest”, where the trees are not growing vertically, but rather in all directions and angles.
Riding time – 7 hours
Overnight: family operated hotel.
Day 6: The Devil’s Throat
Visit the biggest and most beautiful of Bulgaria’s caves, the Devil Throat, on foot, by way of the Trigrad Gorge. Ride back to the Valley of Bells to the village of Gela.
Riding time – 7 hours
Overnight: family guest house.
Day 7: Return to Trigrad
The last riding day: ride along the famous “Panoramic Road to Mount Snezhanka” which is 21 km long and takes about 3 hours to cover. It rises to 2,000 m at the foot of Snezhanka Tower. The view from the top of the tower spans 360 degrees revealing the beauty of all the Rhodope Mountains and as far as the Aegean Sea.
Riding time: 4 hours
Overnight: 3 *** family hotel
Day 8: Depart for Sofia
After breakfast – say goodbye to the guides and the horses; departure for Sofia.
Included in the price
• Professional guide and first aid kit
• Airport transfer to the starting point and return to Sofia
• Support vehicle for baggage transport, with radio connection at all times
• Full board from day 1 dinner to day 8 breakfast
• Twin saddlebags for each rider
7 nights in twin rooms in small family-run hotels
• Contact with local people
• Culinary delight (fresh products only)
• Visiting the iconic Bachkovo Monastery
• Visiting the following caves:
o The Devil’s Throat (the highest underground waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula)
Lunch on Day 1 and Day 8
Entry tickets for museums
Tips for guides
Rider experience: riders must be comfortable at all paces and in open country.
Terrain: some rough mountain terrain with climbs and descents. There are frequent level sections through grassland, without fences, allowing some longer canters. Riders should be able to get over natural obstacles such as shallow rivers, gullies, dips and fallen trees. No jumping.
Paces: all paces. Approx walk (50% of the ride); trot (35% of the ride); canter/gallop (15% of the ride).
Accommodation: 5 nights in twin rooms in two-star family hotels; 1 night in a hunting lodge; 1 night in rustic but cozy mountain hut.
The horses are good-tempered and suited to the mountainous terrain; they are brave and easily get over natural obstacles on the way (rivers, small gullies, fallen trees). They are not afraid of cars and ride with ease on busy roads and through more urban areas. They are friendly and well trained. Height between 1,50 and 1,60 metres.
The saddles are large and comfortable for long days in the saddle; the weight limit for riders is 95kg.