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Many and varied are the mountains in Bulgaria, but Teteven Balkan combines the best of them all - picturesque valleys with sparkling rivers and ancient forests with hidden meadows, high ridges and tops, crowned with rocky peaks revealing spectacular views, and villages scattered at the foothills, where life is lived with an old rhythm. This part of Stara Planina is loved by tourists both for the preserved nature and for the pleasure of touching the authentic life of the local people: tasting home-made rakiya with home-made appetisers is an integral part of the experience.
The tour is diverse and combines horseback riding with seeing cultural sights and immersing in the atmosphere of this beautiful Bulgarian area. The trek runs in the relatively low part of Stara Planina - between 400 and 1100 m asl. You will ride along dirt roads and trails. The terrain is rugged and rocky in places, with an option to trot and canter.
We spend between 4 and 6 hours in the saddle every day, and the duration of each ride in most of the days can be changed according to the abilities and will of the riders. Luggage is transported by car and the saddling is western or English.
Apart from the overnight at a hotel in Teteven, all other nights we will stay at guest houses where the food is cooked by the hosts or in small rural restaurants. Thus, the contact with local culture is closer and the impressions - more vivid and immediate.
Stara Planina is the longest Bulgarian mountain, stretching from Bulgaria's western border all the way to the Black Sea, dividing the country into two. Its old name is “the Balkans” from where the name of the Balkan Peninsula originates. Great part of Bulgaria's history is related to it. Fighters against the Ottoman rule hid in its forests. The Bulgarian spirit revived in its towns in the XVIII and XIX centuries.
Central Balkan National Park covers the high central part of Stara Planina. On an area of 70 000 hectares ancient forests and many animals, including representatives of endangered species, find tranquility from the aggressive human impact. The best preserved beech forest on the Balkan Peninsula is in the Boatin Reserve. The average age of the trees is 130 years. The reserve is protected under the UNESCO “Man and Biosphere” Program.
The Glozhene Monastery „St. George“ was founded in XIII century. It is situated on an extremely scenic place, perched on high cliffs from where a spectacular view is revealed. Vasil Levski - the Apostle of Freedom - found refuge in it in Turkish times.
Etropole Monastery was founded in the XII century. It declined after the conquer by the Turks but at the end of XVI century it was restored and became one of the most important spiritual centers in the Bulgarian lands. The surrounding area of the monastery offers pleasant pastoral scenery and in immediate proximity to the monastery the Varovitets waterfall is located. (optional)
Saeva Dupka cave is one of the most beautiful Bulgarian caves. It is 205 meters long and over 1 million year old. Its five halls and numerous galleries are full of bizarre cave formations. It is illuminated and urbanized.
Troyan Monastery is the third largest monastery in Bulgaria. It was founded around the year 1600. The relic of the monastery is the miraculous icon of the Three-Handed Virgin Mary. The villages around Troyan are famous for their numerous pottery workshops. (optional)
Mineral springs in Chiflik and Shipkovo. The water in the pools is with different temperatures and an hour or two in them are a wonderful and refreshing relaxation, especially after physical strain, such as horseback riding. (optional)
Day 1. Arrive Sofia
Transfer to our hotel for overnight. Private transfer is included.
Day 2. Golyam Izvor
After breakfast we drive to the village of Golyam Izvor in Teteven Balkan, about 1.5 hours drive, where we meet our horses. Our first ride is in the vicinity of Golyam Izvor.
3-4 hours riding.
Day 3. Golyam Izvor - Glozene Monastery-Golyam Izvor
The road passes through meadows and mixed forest. We will ascend the heights above the village where we will see the first beautiful view of the central ridge of Stara Planina and the town of Teteven surrounded by rocky peaks. Then, we will descend through an ancient beech forest at the end of which Glozhene Monastery is located. Perched on a high rock, it reveals an even more spacious view of the Danube plain.
Duration of the ride: 5 hours
Day 4. Golyam Izvor – Brusen - Lopian
The route starts with a dirt road along one of the ridges in the region, passing through Brusen village. Then we head off Southwest to the village of Lopian where we have late lunch and stay for overnight. An optional tour to Etropole Monastery and the waterfall near it (30 min drive)
Duration of ride: 5-6 hours
Day 5. Lopian – Cherni Vit
The trail again passes through mixed forests, but this time - uphill. We will then ride along unwooded ridge, after that we will descend to the village of Cherni Vit. In the afternoon we will have a trip by car to Saeva Dupka cave which is known for its beautiful formations. Overnight in a guest house in Cherni Vit.
Duration of ride: 4-5 hours
Day 6. Cherni Vit – Teteven
The ride on this day starts from Cherni Vit leading us close to the the Boatin Reserve which is part of the Central Balkan National Park which protects the nature in the central part of Stara Planina. Afternoon will be spend for sightseeing Teteven. Hotel in Teteven.
Optional trip by car to Troyan Monastery (80 km) and Chiflik Spa.
Duration of ride: 4-5 hours
Day 7. Teteven – Golyam Izvor. Back to Sofia.
In the morning a transfer to Cherni Vit village where we have left the horses the previous day. On that last day of ride we will climb once more one of the many ridges from where we will have a last look of the scenery we have admired in the past week. Transfer back to Sofia for overnight at a hotel.
Duration of ride: 5-6 hours
Day 8. Departure.
Good to know:►Horses: Most of the horses are crossbreeds between the local East-Bulgarian and Karakachan with a mid-height of 1,50 cm, they are well known as thoughtful and tough, and are thus extremely well-adapted to the mountainous region of the Stara planina Mountains. The maximum weight limit of the riders is 100 kg. ►Saddles: Western and military. Riding helmet is not mandatory. ►possible extensions fex. Black Sea: You can combine your horseriding holiday with an extra week at the Black Sea coast in Sozopol, Nessebar, Lozenets etc.