Bulgaria - spring on the Black Sea coast

Spectacular displays of spring flowers, with bird migration at its peak along the Via Pontica.
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This trip will take in some of the highlights of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, an area amazingly rich in wildlife.

In the south we will take in the lakes and wetlands around Bourgas. Here w e w ill find many w etland birds, including Squacco Heron, White and Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant and Spoonbill. Northbound migrants should include all three marsh terns in smart breeding colours; Red-footed Falcon, Honey Buzzard and Lesser Spotted Eagle, sometimes in large flocks; both White and Black Stork; and a variety of waders heading up to the wetlands of Scandinavia, Poland and Russia.

This corner of Bulgaria is amongst the richest areas in Europe for reptiles and amphibians, and we will be joined by a local expert to help us track down some of the area’s specialities, perhaps including the beautiful Leopard Snake or Reddish Whip Snake and two species of tortoise.

Heading north we will spend time on the flower rich steppe around Cape Kaliakra, where a staggering 450 species of plants include splashes of red Paeonia tenuifolia, yellow Adonis vernalis, and carpets of abundant dwarf irises in a range of shades of purple and yellow. In this area we have a better chance than almost anywhere in Europe of catching sight of a Wild Cat.

This area is famous for several breeding birds with very restricted ranges in Europe, and we hope to find Pied Wheatear, Sombre Tit and Semi-collared Flycatcher all on their breeding territories.

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

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Day 1 Our fight takes us to Bourgas on the Black Sea coast from where we transfer to our hotel.

Day 2 We spend our first day around the internationally important wetlands in the Bourgas area looking for both European species of pelican, Pygmy Cormorants and large colonies of Purple and Squacco Herons, Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis, as well as a variety of waders and wildfowl. Great Reed Warblers sing from the reeds while White-tailed Eagle and Marsh Harriers soar overhead.

Day 3 This corner of Bulgaria is noteworthy for its reptiles and amphibians. Today we will be joined by an expert Bulgarian herpetologist, who will help us to track down some of these special animals: Blotched Snake, Meadow Lizard and Eastern Slow Worm are all possible, as well as two species of tortoise and European Glass Lizard.

Day 4 A travelling day takes us north towards Varna via the forested foothills of the Eastern Balkan Range. Semi-collared Flycatchers nest in specially provided nest boxes in the oak woodland, which are also used by Forest Dormouse: we hope to track down both species today. The woods are also home to several species of woodpecker, including Grey-headed, Middle Spotted and the wonderful Black Woodpecker, and we may also spot Hawfinch, Sombre Tit and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler today

Day 5 We will spend today exploring Cape Kaliakra and the nearby steppe. The coastal steppe is an area famous for its displays of wild flowers including beautiful dwarf irises Iris pumila and Iris suavelons, the fine-leaved Paeonia tenuifolia, yellow Adonis vernalis and bright patches of Adonis flammea. Nesting birds include Calandra Lark, Isabelline Wheatear and Stone Curlew.

Day 6 After breakfast, we will travel to Lake Durankulak, to be greeted by a cacophony of Savi’s and Great Reed Warblers and Marsh Frogs. Migration should be in full swing, with flocks of White-winged Black Tern, Whiskered Tern and Little Gull feed over the reeds, groups of Red-footed Falcon heading north, and Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and White Storks settling in for the summer.

Day 7 We will start the day at Lake Shabla, where Ferruginous Duck, Squacco Heron and Ruddy Shelduck may be among the highlights. The surrounding scrub and woodland is home to Syrian Woodpecker and Red-backed Shrike. From here, we go to the archaeological reserve of Yailata, a mysterious clifftop site with more than 100 troglodyte dwellings from the 5th century BC. There’s a lot more to this site than history: the clifftop grassland is home to many wild flowers, including several local endemics. Pied Wheatear nest amongst the rocks, while out to sea we hope to spot Yelkouan Shearwaters low over the waves.

Day 8 We retrace our steps, back to Bourgas. If time allows, we may visit more of the wetlands, hopefully finding a good variety of north-bound gulls, terns and waders, perhaps including Broad-billed Sandpiper or Slender-billed Gull before we head to the airport and our flights home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

Our accommodation will be at good three-star local hotels, all with en-suite accommodation. Meals provided during the stay will be a mixture of Balkan and International dishes, with an emphasis on local cuisine and plenty of salads. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

Transport will be by small bus, minibus or smaller vehicles if necessary.

Group flights

Group flights are from London Luton to Bourgas.

Overland travel

You can reach Bourgas by train from London, on a sleeper train via Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.

Time zone

Bulgaria is two hours ahead of UK time.

Entry requirements

If you hold a British passport, you can travel to Bulgaria for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave.

The weather in Bulgaria should be pleasantly warm, even hot: rain is always a possibility, as is cooler weather, particularly in the evenings and on the coast.

On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a relatively slow pace. The longest walk (Day 7) will be just over 7km, mostly downhill. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some (gentle) slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Good (light) walking boots are essential. All walks and excursions are optional.