Brown bear watching holiday in Bulgaria

“Join a small group and bear watching expert within Bulgaria's forest-clad mountains as you track bears over daily distances of 12kms and keep watch in bear hides from 7 - 11pm.”


Rodopi Mountains | Yagodinska Peshtera | 2 x evenings in bear hides | daily bear tracking walks | Buynovsko Gorge | Yagodina village | Devinska Reka |

Description of Brown bear watching holiday in Bulgaria

This wonderful week of brown bear watching in Bulgaria takes place within the realm of the Rodopi Mountains to the southeast of Sofia where you’ll join a small group and a brown bear watching expert, Julian Perry, on a uniquely exciting holiday, far from the tourist-filled coast.

A succession of daily treks take your group deeper into the realm of Bulgaria’s brown bears as you learn how to look out for tell-tale signs of bear activity and record evidence as part of a registered conservation initiative.

Not only does this brown bear watching holiday include daytime tracking it also features nocturnal searches too with a couple of evenings spent in a bear hide keeping watch over areas where recent activity has been noticed during the day. Alongside both of these bear watching activities the group will also be able to check camera traps that have been hidden within the forests. These sorts of images offer fascinating insight into brown bear behaviour as well as providing an exciting moment for groups collecting and collating photographic data.

Although no brown bear watching holiday in Bulgaria can guarantee completely successful sightings we’re sure that this week away is as good as it gets with plenty of educational and exciting encounters to help travellers begin to understand the behaviour and habitat of one of Europe’s most impressive predators.

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

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25 Apr 2020
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02 May 2020
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09 May 2020
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06 Jun 2020
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12 Sep 2020
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Brown bear watching holiday in Bulgaria

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.


Accommodation and Meals:
You will spend most nights in Yagodina village, which is a traditional rural settlement, known for its self-sufficiency, hospitality and agricultural lifestyle. The hotel is family run and produces some of its own food. By using this smaller, yet characterful accommodation, we are improving the employment and income opportunities in this remote community. They endeavour to supply clients with fresh, locally grown produce and regional specialities, such as Yagodina yoghurt, thick pancakes called ‘katmi’, bean soup- ‘smilyanski fasul’ and ‘patanik’, which is a delicacy made from grated potatoes, onion, cheese and mint.

This exciting new bear tracking and conservation holiday takes you into the realm of the brown bear, and offers a unique insight into the behaviour and ecology of these most iconic yet secretive large carnivores. During the course of the week, we will make 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. Not only will this provide vital data about bear activity in the region for a local wildlife NGO, but it will also provide you with a privileged insight into the daily life of the bears. In the evenings, there will be the chance to visit a specially constructed bear watching hide, from where we will hopefully have an opportunity to see some of the bears whose activity signs we have been monitoring during our days in the field. 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, you will hopefully not only have had the chance to see wild brown bears in their natural habitat, and know how to find and identify their tracks and signs, but also have a better understanding and appreciation of the fascinating way of life of these majestic, mysterious and often misunderstood animals.

The data that is collected during the week by the group will be used by the wildlife NGO ‘Wild Rodopi’. Which has recently been short listed by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation for their annual award for conservation. Clients travelling on this trip will be directly involved in the conservation of this region and its local brown bear inhabitance.

Local Craft & Culture:
This trip really aims to celebrate and share the rural, agricultural lifestyle of the people in the Rodopi Mountains, which in other places has been overtaken by modern life. There are plenty of products in Yagodina which have been made by the villagers that are totally unique to this area, such as food, wine and handicrafts. We aim to support these traditional processes of manufacturing with our commerce. During the trip we also arrange for the local folk dance group to perform for our clients and teach them traditional songs and dances. Again, we pay the folk group a fair wage and they often receive tips from this as well, so we are really making a positive impact on local people.

Water is a really important issue with walking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

1 Reviews of Brown bear watching holiday in Bulgaria

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 26 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Spending time in the bear hides and being able to watch mother and cubs for over an hour.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be realistic about what wildlife you are going to see; i.e. walking in largish group (12 + guide) and wariness of local wildlife. Definitely take binoculars for watching bears / other wildlife from hide.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Use of small village hotel, local driver and nature reserve guides benefitted local people. Because more and more people are visiting the area with the sole purpose of viewing wildlife this is supporting conservation in the area. Local people are more inclined to look after the environment and protect the wildlife in it as tourism is providing more jobs and also bringing more money into the area.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Was an excellent trip. Guide was superb - friendly, very knowledgeable and passionate about the area, its wildlife and people. Hotel was clean, staff were lovely and there was plenty of good food. Day walks were the right length and lucky that everybody else on the trip were also lovely. Also lucky with our bear and boar sightings. Would definitely recommend.

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