Flower-rich meadows drift across untrammelled landscapes of the spectacular Pirin Mountain of south-west Bulgaria. Within it are exotic lilies, gorgeous alpines and rare endemics hidden among dramatic gorges. There centuries old cultural treats with UNESCO recognised monasteries and beautifully restored mountain villages.
A tour with Tamar Galstyan.
Day 1 19 June Arrival and to Kosovo village.
The traditional village of Kosovo is located deep in the mountains, surrounded with untouched nature. It has typical Rhodope architecture, with houses from 19th Century, including some of national significance. In fact, our accommodation is in one such house that was declared as monument of national culture. Depending on arrival time we can make our first botanical foray for Genista rumelica, Ostrya carpinifolia, Hypericum umbellatum, Anthemis macedonica, Dorycnium herbaceum, Trifolium bocconei, the intricate umbels of Orlaya grandiflora and Silene longiflora. Overnight Kosovo village.
Day 2 20 June Chudnite Mostove
After breakfast, we will first explore the rock phenomenon "Chudnite Mostove" - also called the "miracle bridges" - in the karst limestone valley of the Erkyupriya River. The biggest bridge is 15m wide and almost 100m long. From here we continue to Trigrad village and the scenic Trigrad Gorge with stops along the way for some superb plant species including the delightful Haberlea rhodopensis, as well as the dainty pendant bells of Primula matthioli, Campanula velebitica and C. persicifolia, ruby-infused Epipactis atrorubens, Dactylorhiza saccifera and one of the rarest and most beautiful plants of the entire journey - Lilium rhodopaeum, a ravishing and elegant lily. Overnight in the peaceful Trigrad village.
Day 3 21 June Trigrad Gorge
We will spend the day in the beautiful Trigrad Gorge, located at Western part of Rhodope Mountain. The Rhodopes are also well known as one of the regions in Europe with the richest and most varied fauna. This is the main refuge of the Brown Bear in Bulgaria. This is an extraordinary place with towering cliffs, caverns and the rumble of waterfalls. Plant life includes the fabulous spiny spires of Morina persica whose flowers age from white to deep pink, Campanula lanata, Sideritis scardica, encrusted rosettes of Saxifraga sempervivum, pink Lilium martagon, Haberlea rhodopensis, Malcolmia serbica and Scabiosa rhodopensis. Expect a delicious lunch of local trout. Overnight Trigrad village.
Day 4 22 June Southern Pirin Mountains
After breakfast, we set off for the southern Pirin Mountains via the Dospat River. We will have an easy 4 km hike along the Dospat River to look for Pulsatilla montana, the rare native Verbascum nobile and plentiful orchid species such as the extraordinary saprophytic orchid Limodorum abortivum, Cephalanthera rubra, Gymnadenia conopsea, the bee orchid Ophrys scolopax, Epipactis helleborine subsp. viridiflora, Platanthera bifolia, Orchis coriophora and Anacamptis pyramidalis. In the late afternoon, we will reach the village Teshovo with its medieval stone tower and decorated church. Overnight Teshovo.
Day 5 23 June Bansko & Pirin National Park
From the breakfast balcony of our hotel, there is a superb view towards Teshovo village and the peaks of Pirin and Slavianka Mountains. Here we expect to see the pretty chasmophytes such as Sedum dasiphyllum, blue Trachelium rumelianum, pink Saponaria bellidifolia, Genista subcapitata, along with Pyrola chlorantha, Centaurea managetae, and many others. Bansko town is now a ski resort, but the streets of the old town are very impressive with well-preserved old houses and buildings. Overnight Bansko.
Day 6 24 June Pirin National Park (UNESCO)
Today we will explore the real beauty of Pirin Mountain, with its jagged mountain peaks, crystal lakes and fantastic nature and will discover endemic and rare species of plants. Pirin Mountain is a floristic region with diverse geological composition: limestone and silicate rocks. We will see the oldest tree in Bulgaria, the 1400 years old White-bark Pine (Pinus heldreichii) along with other endemic and rare species like Verbascum davidovii, Viola perinensis, Asyneuma kelererianum, Primula longiflora, Jovibarba heuffelii and Saxifraga sempervivum. We will stop at the mountain hut for lunch and rest before continuing to the higher Okoto Lake at 2050m. Among this stunning landscape are Iris reichenbachii, Daphne oleoides, Aquilegia aurea, Dianthus microlepis and Gentiana pyrenaica, Primula halleri and Primula farinosa, the pretty little carnivore Pinguicula balcanica, Gymnadenia frivaldii and near the late snow patches hopefully Crocus veluchensis. Overnight Bansko.
Day 7 25 June Rila Monastery and Vitosha
Heading north towards Sofia and Vitosha Mountain we will have a stop to explore the western parts of Rila Mountain as well as to visit the famous 10th Century Rila Monastery (UNESCO). Afterwards we will explore the area of Kirilova Poliana, which is a local high mountain meadow where we expect to find Aquilegia aurea, dark Geranium phaeum, lovely purple stained yellow Lilium jankae and purple Viola dacica. Overnight Studena.
Day 8 26 June Golo Burdo & Vitosha Mountains
We will begin in the northern Vitosha Mountains. Vitosha was declared a national park in 1934. and flora includes the endemic Lilium jankae, Tozzia alpina, Silene roemeri and more. After lunch, we go slowly back for Golo Burdo Mountain and area characterized by steppe flora and parts of it are a natural botanical garden with over 300 species recorded. Here we’ll search for the wonderful Himantoglossum jankae, delicate white Anthericum liliago, reddish Echium russicum as well as Centaurea chrysolepis, golden Anthyllis aurea, Adonis vernalis, the lilac stars of Asyneuma limonifolium and the lovely trumpets of Digitalis grandiflora. Overnight Studena.
Day 9 27 June Transfer to Sofia & Departure
International flights from Sofia. There is the opportunity to continue their Balkan experience with our Summertime in the Pindos tour in northern Greece (below).