Staying small and flexible is essential for mountain hiking tours. Our international groups vary between 6 and 13 passengers (normally 8-10). When the group is private, the people know each other, and especially when the trails are easier, the group may be larger. We do not require our clients to share their age and nationality when booking a trip. What we require though is that each group member is aware of the tour difficulty, and can manage it.
We know that a huge part of the experience is also the comfortable bed at the end of each hiking adventure. Therefore, we always choose clean and comfortable small hotels or family-run guesthouses with en-suite rooms. In the big cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, etc.) we use centrally located 3* hotels (upgrade options are available for self-guided treks or private guided tours; customers from our group tours with scheduled departures normally stay in the same accommodation). In the mountain villages/cities, we use mainly family-run hotels/guest houses where homemade cuisine is available for all those who wish to experience gastronomy tourism as well. We give preference to hospitality, cleanliness and safety rather than to the presence of a multichannel TV or mini-bar in the room. While some of the hotels perfectly combine all those and many more extras, you won’t be able to find some of these in the smallest guest-houses. Clients booked on programs where sleeping in huts is included, should have in mind that conditions are basic. Although blankets and linens are provided, you may consider bringing your own light sleeping bag. There are no private rooms nor private bathrooms. Sleeping is on bunk beds in dormitories, toilets are also shared, mostly located on the ground floor.
The multi-day tours always include breakfast, while some of them include also supper on selected days. The included meals are mentioned for each tour on the website. Breakfast is usually on a buffet while in some guest-houses you may be asked or advised what would be served in the morning (typical bakery for the area, tea, coffee, juice, cheese, eggs, yogurt, honey/jam, salami, vegetables etc.). Dinner is usually a three-course menu (salad/soup, main meal, dessert). Alcoholic drinks are not included. Bottled water may be included. If you fancy trying local alcoholic drinks, do not miss the chance to try “rakiya” (grapes brandy), which is typically drunk with the salad. We can handle dietary restrictions and food allergies in case they are advised in advance (while booking online you may point out if you have any). Lunches are normally not included in the program and clients could prepare their own lunch pack by ordering it from the accommodation (payable on spot) or simply buying food from the local shops. Mind that in the small mountain villages there are mainly basic goods and non-typical products for the region are rare or most often – not available at all (non-lactose milk, exotic raw nuts, energy bars, etc.). The tap water is drinkable everywhere you stay (incl. Sofia). Along the trails you will find some water troughs, where the water is good to drink too. However, avoid drinking directly from streams and lakes.
Our programs include all ground transfers provided by our licensed vehicles and drivers. You are not supposed to use public transportation means at any point of your holiday. In some occasions, your hosts may also be asked to execute a transfer from the accommodation to the trail head or in the reverse direction. Please, have in mind that the ground transfers can be shared with other travelers on the same or similar program as yours. Your main luggage normally either remains in the accommodation or in the transfer vehicle, so you only have to walk using a day pack. if you are booked on a self-guided tour you will need to comply with the pick up times as scheduled in your documents. It does not mean that if you do not arrive by 17:00 the driver will be gone at 17:10, but bear in mind that other passengers may be waiting for you too at the designated pick up place or the driver as a result may be unable to perform other transfers, scheduled later on, and this will have a potential impact on other passengers as well. In case you are running late or think you are going to arrive a lot earlier than the advised meeting time, you can always call us at the office or directly to the driver in case in prior you asked for his phone number.
Upon booking with us, every client will receive a list of pre-departure information, covering many of this information as well as the must-carry things when traveling on a hiking trip. In a few words, no special equipment is required for our summer hikes. Trekking poles may be useful and you can rent those from us in case you can not bring your own (can be ordered at the time of booking). Comfortable hiking boots are a must, a waterproof jacket, warm clothes. In your daily backpack, you will need only water (at least 1,5 L per person), some snacks or packed sandwiches, and other necessities you may need such as a first aid kit, photo camera, etc. Clothes and shoes could be purchased in the cities before the tour starts (Sofia, Plovdiv, Bansko) but we strongly advise this to happen in your free time and not to ask for additional stops while traveling with a group, as this service may be denied. Those booked on our snowshoeing guided tours must bring along gaiters, fleece bandana or a scarf, ski gloves and ski socks, warm hat, water and windproof jacket and pants, winter hiking boots. Snowshoes and poles are provided by us.
In general, we strongly recommend you to book as soon as you are ready with your travel plans. Booking a lot in advance may prevent you from disappointment in case your travel destination (or dates) is popular and most likely for the accommodations to get fully booked soon. If you already have chosen a trip from our list, make sure you do not wait for the last minute as for guided groups we have limited seats/rooms. July and August are very busy months and even for the self-guided treks, it might be difficult (but still not impossible) to ensure availability in hotels/guest houses for your particular dates. The accommodations we use for some of our programs have no replacement in the same village or nearby, which may cause a complete change of the program if it’s applicable (incl. additional local transfers, charged extra) or you would be asked to reconsider your travel dates.
In the description of each hike, it is mentioned the difficulty grade and recommendations if previous hiking experience is needed. In general for the guided treks what matters most is your physical condition (previous experience is not obligatory, but ability to walk on rocks or handling adverse weather conditions may be handy). For the self-guided treks we expect you to be able and handle potentially difficult situations on your own (incl. ability to use maps, follow route notes (incl. along trails that are not signposted well) etc.). A lot of companies recommend certain training programs before taking a tour with higher difficulty. This helps a lot to enjoy the tour in full, rather than making the whole journey a pain (for you, and for your group members if you are a part of a group tour).
We all know how important it is for children to spend time outdoors and grow-up healthy and responsible for the environment. This is the reason why they are welcomed in our self-guided or private guided programs where you can explore nature and experience walking on your own pace pursuant to your children’s convenient speed. Tailor-made programs could be also made to meet your interests. For those who wish to join our guided group tours with scheduled departure dates, we strongly recommend for the children to be above 16 years of age. The guided group tours (incl. the day tours from Sofia) are not suitable for infants or very young children. If you plan to use baby carrier for your little one please check with us in advance for suitable trails and custom-made program (self-guided or private guided tour), as some of the paths in the Pirin and Rila mountains are rocky, steep, and weather conditions may become worse within minutes.
In order to guarantee participation in our tours, you will be asked to pay a deposit (150 euro per person for our multi-day tours) or do the full payment at the time of booking (for the day tours from Sofia). Payment is possible online (by card/PayPal) or by bank transfer. The balance should be paid 40 days before the tour starting date (individual for each program). However, if there are less than 40 days before the tour starts, you will be asked to pay the full amount at once. In case of cancellations, amendments and refund requests, please refer to our booking conditions. You can either come prepared with local currency (Bulgarian Lev), or you can exchange/withdraw here on arrival. Clients, booked on self-guided treks, should know that there are no options to exchange/withdraw money in the villages. You should start such treks with some 200 Bulgarian Levs (appr. 100 Euros) per person for a week. These should be enough to cover costs for drinks, entry fees or meals not included in the tour price. Clients booked on guided treks can ask their guide for assistance, as the places where we stay do have at least ATM’s, but sometimes also bank offices. In most of the shops, restaurants and petrol station in the bigger cities you can pay by card. This is not the case with the small villages though, where cash is king.
Mountain insurance is not provided on any of our treks. We do advise you to come prepared with travel/medical insurance with the proper coverage for outdoor adventures (incl. urgent repatriation). For this purpose, we recommend World Nomads.
Tips you can give only in case you are satisfied with the services you have received –
to waiters in restaurants, guides and drivers. In restaurants, where you pay by yourself, you can leave say 10% of the bill if you liked the service and meals. For a guided group tour (week long) a normal tip for the guide would be 100-120 Euros (total from the whole group) and 50 Euros for the bus driver. Local transfers on self-guided treks can be tipped separately each day if you liked the service (2-10 Euros depending on mileage) and this is best to be done on a daily basis, as transfers can be performed by a variety of different drivers.
All of our staff are speaking English, some of us also other European languages (customer services, travel agents, guides, drivers). Hotels receptionists in the 3* (or higher category) inns speak English too. In general, the young people in Bulgaria speak some English. Some of the elders speak (or at least understand) very well Russian (mainly because of the influence of the USSR before 1989). In the mountain villages (especially the small communities) it would be hard to find someone speaking English, so you have to rely more on body language or phrases, you have learnt before coming in Bulgaria. Despite the language barrier, your hosts will truly make you feel like home! The hosts we use for our self-guided treks are used to handling foreign passengers requests and have certain words and expressions at hand to use should the situation requires. If that doesn’t help though, they (or you personally) can always give us a call and we will do our best to resolve the situation.
The summer in Bulgaria is usually hot and dry (July/August), spring (May/mid-June) is very wet and heavy showers may occur on consecutive days. September/October in the past years is warm and suitable for hiking. However, this information is in general and mainly for the lowlands or trails below 1500 m/4921 ft. The weather in the mountains is always different, unpredictable, and could change very quickly. We require our clients (especially those booked on self-guided trips) to be prepared for walking out in the rain, in foggy conditions, and to have an adequate reaction in case of a thunderstorm. A rain jacket is a must as afternoon rain showers are very common during the summer season. Until mid-June, some snow patches may present in treks that are above the treeline. In case of risky weather conditions, the mountain guide could decide to switch some days of the program or even alternate the route. For those booked on self-guided trips, we strongly advise you first to contact us if you wish to make any changes and switch days as this is normally related to pre-arranged ground transfers. In any reason, we advise you to check regularly the weather forecast on trusted websites such as https://www.mountain-forecast.com/ // https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/bg/
We use licensed guides with previous experience with mixed groups (of ages, abilities, and nationalities). They are all friendly, fluent in English and upon request we can organize private guided treks in other languages too (French, Spanish, Italian, German, etc.; extra charges may apply for the latter).
If your travel buddy could not join you or you prefer to be all alone into the woods, then you are welcome in most of our self-guided and guided programs. The per person rates of our programs (guided and self-guided) are calculated on a sharing basis. For those who wish to be alone in the room, or for the odd number of travelers we have added the single room supplement which covers the expenses on using a room for one person only (within a group of at least 2 passengers booked on the same tour). Solo travelers, booked on our guided group tours, should pay the single room supplement by default. We never pair up customers, who don’t know each other, and put them into a twin share room. Solo travellers on self-guided treks: in order to save money and share ground transfers with other passengers, please check with us for existing bookings around your preferred travel date. If there are such, we can join you, and you will only need to pay the single room supplement. If not, but you are dedicated to make a certain self-guided trek, we have price for solo travellers on our website too. Mind though, that although you share the transfers with other people, they may not be OK to walk with you. Please respect the privacy of the other customers along the trail, as one of the reasons they booked a self-guided tour is to NOT walk with other tourists.
Most of the treks are with good network coverage, but you have to expect that in the forests and the deep valleys the signal will be weak or even gone for a while. However, even with no signal emergency calls may still be possible. The national emergency service line is 112. Use it in case of a real emergency where instant help is needed (injured people for example). In case you get lost or need to contact our office by emergency, please use our contact in your rote notes. WiFi is common in Bulgaria these days. It exists in all of the accommodations we use (although the signal may be good in the lobby only). And what is best – it is normally free for guests of the accommodation (some 5* hotels charge hefty fees for WiFi, but these inns are normally out of our scope for the treks we do). Some of our company vehicles have free WiFi on board too (ask the driver for the login credentials)..
If you are booked on a guided group tour you don’t have to worry about navigation, as this is something your guide will be taking care of. All of our self-guided hiking tours include a set of documents that will be given to you upon arrival (or via email before you land). There you will find maps with marked trails and detailed route notes in English. GPS tracks we send if explicitly requested only. You can upload them on a designated device, or using the necessary application – even on your smartphone. The trails are in general well-maintained. Way marks on some of the stages are made by us. If you encounter any discrepancies inside the route notes please report them to us, so we can take them into account for next customers. We do our best to keep them up to date, but forestry roads and new paths may appear anytime, paths may be blocked due to sudden landslides etc.
An average lunch in a mid-range restaurant, comprising a salad, main meal and dessert, will cost you around 13-20 BGN. A bottle of wine will cost appr. 20-35 BGN, while a local beer will be 2,50-3 BGN. Shops are as usual cheaper: a local beer there costs 1,10-2 BGN, good wines start from 7-8 BGN.
The wildlife in Bulgaria is rich and if you are lucky enough, you may spot footprints of different animals among which hares, wild boars, jackals, foxes, deers or even bears (the latter mainly in the Rhodope Mountains). These animals will hear or smell you from a long distance, so you don’t need to worry that you will come across the bigger ones. Be prepared to meet guard dogs that protect the herds of grazing cattle. These are not kept on a leash and the dogs might act hostile in the presence of unknown humans whom they consider a danger to the herd. Therefore, we strongly recommend not to get too close to the grazing animals. Trying to say a few words to the shepherd normally calms down the dogs too. There are no records for toxic insects and there are only two snakes that are poisonous. Mosquitos do not spread diseases, you have to be careful with mites and after each hike check your body. The repellent spray may be useful. If you have some kind of allergies, please, bring with you the necessary medications.
In case you can not find your program among the variety of tours we have, you are always welcome to discuss your preferences with us. Some of our programs can be shortened, others can be extended, or combined with each other. We do not organize wild camping holidays, or self-guided hut-to-hut treks.
The main religion is Orthodoxal Christianity, however, there is a big number of Muslims and pilgrims of other denominations. As everywhere around the world, we should respect the religious rules especially in the temples. In the Orthodox temples you better have your knees and shoulders covered, always take off your hat and sunglasses when you enter inside. The same is valid for mosques and moreover, women have to cover their heads with a scarf (usually provided from the mosque if they do not have their own). Some mosques do not allow people from different religions to enter, while the biggest ones will welcome you but there might be different entrances for women and men. In any case, you have to ask for permission if you want to take pictures in a church, mosque, synagogue or any other temple. In some places, it is completely forbidden in order to preserve murals.