Bulgaria

Predators such as bears, wolves, and lynx can be found, they are elusive but they are rare sights for the camera to behold.

Seven ranges of mountains rippling across the untamed landscape, homely golden beaches stretching out of the sea, forests housing diversities of life forms while cities are lit in cultural, industrial, and artistic expressions. Within the awesome blend of Bulgaria’s nature and history, rich and memorable adventures are guaranteed. 

Bulgarians are pleasant people and hospitable enough to offer help to tourists. No visitor to Bulgaria can fail to be impressed by its religious art, from vast gold-domed churches to miniature icon paintings. For all the time that I spent in Bulgaria, I made sure I was alert with my camera to capture rare moments that may never show up again. I like to fill you in on my experience, the peculiarities of the trip, and how you can optimize your visit to Bulgaria. 

Table of Contents

Why visit Bulgaria for wildlife photography

Bulgaria offers the chance for an unforgettable experience in wildlife photography with a facet of its outstanding biodiversity concentrated in the Rhodopes mountains in a significant proportion. About 93 of the 233 mammalian species of Europe are found in Bulgaria. 

 

Rhodopes mountains is an elegant landscape extending in its immensity between the Southern end of Bulgaria and Greece. It is graced by mountains reaching out to the clouds and they have steep slopes descending into valleys hosting a network of rivers and streams. 

 

It represents a European ecological hotspot with a fecund interaction between the climatic influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the flora and fauna populations. This peculiar ecosystem features a collage of open landscapes, grasslands and rivers, rocky slopes, cliffs, and caves tunneling through the rocky bodies.

 

The Rhodopes mountains are a dwelling place for the red deers, wild boars, brown bears, hedgehogs, jackals,  foxes,   hundreds of bird species, the raptors, trees, shrubs, and grasses at the mercy of natural selection which often involves the extinction of a species and the continual reign of the survivors.

The Rewilding project aims to lend a helping hand to nature to take care of itself. It is a holistic approach to reviving the dwindling biodiversity in the Rhodopes mountains. The sight of Black vultures going about their customary activities of feasting on carcasses, soaring and perching on rocky promontories is a scene to look forward to in the wildlife photography trip to the Rhodopes mountain.

 

One of the rewilding project approaches is to complete the food chain by reintroducing animals into the Rhodopes ecosystem.  For example, to preserve the Griffon vulture, a food chain concluded by herbivores such as a Red deer would fit in the form of its carcass into the diet of a Griffon vulture. The absence of a Red deer, therefore, would dictate a dwindle in the population of the vultures.

 

The rewilding project revitalizes the ecosystem with reintroduced animals and revives biodiversity, which is a backbone to wildlife photography. Ambitious wildlife photographers can have a lifer here, within the ecological splendor invoked by the rewilding project.

Wildlife species to photograph in Bulgaria.

Dominated by luscious forests and seven mountain ranges, Bulgaria allows wildlife photographers a time travel into primeval Europe. Predators such as bears, wolves, and lynx can be found, they are elusive but they are rare sights for the camera to behold.

 

The obvious representatives of the animal kingdom in Bulgaria are the red deers, bison, wild boars, hedgehogs, polecats, and more. In commonplace are the florid hundreds of bird species, from raptors in the rocky ranges of Central Bulgaria to Pelicans teeming in the wetlands at the East. 

 

You may have to pay attention to the growls of the brown bears, they are the most dangerous mammal in Bulgaria. However, they don’t attack humans unless they are provoked.

The best time of the year to visit Bulgaria

Bulgaria enjoys regular seasonal changes which make it easier to fix a trip to the best of times in the beautiful country. Spring, which extends from April to May, is the best time to visit Bulgaria. It is known for its pleasant temperature, especially along the coast which revels in the breath of the Mediterranean sea. 

 

The summer spans between June and August where the days are long and temperatures high and the weather dry and it marks the peak of tourist season in Bulgaria. 

 

The temperature dramatically falls in September and the landscape gets heavily dressed in snow. Other resorts close around this time of the year for the ski resorts to commence. Wildlife Photography is best in the spring because many animals may resort to hibernation for a treasured warmth from September down the year.

Where to stay in Bulgaria on trips

Bulgaria is one of the most affordable destinations in Europe and it offers relatively cheap accommodation in comparison to others. Sofia, the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, is in the Western region of the country and its landmarks tell vividly 2000 years of history of Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Russian occupation. It is studded with a mixture of architectural monuments and styles which brings both the neoclassical and modern style to the view of inlanders and tourists alike.

Reputable hotels in Sofia

Sofia has reputable hotels which offer comfortable accommodation for tourists. The Rila Hotel, Metropolitan Hotel, Best Western Lozenets, intercontinental Sofia Hotel among others are homely and affordable.

Sofia

Strolling through Sofia is an attraction in itself. From the immaculately trimmed Gardens in Ivan Vazov to the non-stop party town of Studentzki grad, there is always something to do and see. Concert lovers and theatre-goers will find a harem for performing arts in the Eastern side of Sofia. In short, Sofia is a delightful place to visit in Bulgaria.

Other Touristy areas

Other touristy areas in Bulgaria include Plovdiv, Nesebar, Varna, Sozopol, Burgas among other beautiful cities found in Bulgaria.

How to get around in Bulgaria

The most reliable transport link between cities in Bulgaria is by bus. Buses get to most villages, though these services are seasonal in ski or beach destinations.

 

The most convenient way to get around is by car, especially when one’s itinerary includes the small villages. Drive on the right; the steering wheel is on the left side of the car. 

Trains are slower than buses but can guarantee a scenic view while traveling through the cities. 

 

While in Bulgaria, I and my group on tour visited the Rila Monastery from Sofia by Public bus. It was an enjoyable journey because we were thrilled by the driver who narrated a couple of Balkan folklore during the journey. 

 

The public bus is the cheapest transport link to Rila monastery from Sofia. We left Sofia at the Ovcha Kupel Bus station and got to Rila monastery within 3 hours having covered about 130km. The only drawback to traveling by bus was that it is a scheduled trip such that one can only spend 2hours in the monastery before the departure bus line is set to get back to Sofia.

Is it safe to travel to Bulgaria?

 

Bulgaria is safe to visit right now and, for the most part, has been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990, with which the People’s Republic of Bulgaria was closely aligned.

 

Despite the country having a few issues, many international tourists see Bulgaria as a safe place to visit. Tourism is, in fact, critical to the country’s economy.

What to pack for a wildlife photography holiday in Bulgaria

It is advisable to create a list before one starts packing in preparation for a wildlife photography trip. Unsurprisingly, the camera is the backbone of such a collection. One can refer to other articles of the collection as accessories and they are as follows:

 

  • A backpack: This is of utmost importance to other accessory items because it helps in holding different items together. It is good to be selective in terms of the type of backpack one chooses for the trip. The handles must not be metallic as this can strain the shoulders and cause pain.

 

  • Outer Shell Jacket: The weather in Bulgaria is relatively stable and predictable but occasionally there can be shifts to the extremes. Therefore, it is wise to have an outer shell jacket to shield against the cold. 

 

  • Breathable shirts: They are indispensable and should be taken along while packing for the trip. 

 

  • Wilding shoes: This is to ensure we leave light ecological footprints in nature to mitigate the effect of walking through the forest as compared to hiking shoes.


  • Water Bottle 

 

  • Universal adapter: One can resort to this to recharge your gadgets. 



Passport and Visa Information

International tourists visiting Bulgaria fall into 2 categories: those that require a Bulgarian tourist visa and those who may enter visa-free.

 

Under Bulgarian visa policy, tourist visas for Romania, Cyprus, and Croatia can be used to visit Bulgaria for up to 90 days for tourism. The same is true for foreign nationals who hold a valid Schengen visa. In these cases, a tourist visa for Bulgaria specifically is not required.

 

Travelers from various other countries enjoy exemption from tourist visa requirements.

Other places to visit in Bulgaria

Of utmost importance to wildlife photography are photography hides. They are confines where life can be captured on cameras without disturbing the target species. It offers the opportunity to capture intimate moments of life in the wild world. They, unsurprisingly, rank high on the list of places I visit on wildlife photography trips.

A reputable example is the East Rhodope Hide located in Madzharovo. The hide is a room tucked in stones under a green canopy. It is the only place in Bulgaria where the populace of three different species of vulture (Griffon, Egyptian and Black vulture ) can be photographed. The best period to visit this hide is between October and March.

The Bee-eater hide indents one of the most biodiverse locations in Bulgaria, it is surrounded by a plain of spiny grasses, green, trees, and perches which are favorite spots for the Bee-eaters. The hide is at a safe distance from which the Bee-eaters can be captured without disrupting their routine activities such as their curious breeding behaviors and feeding.

A wildlife photography holidays to Bulgaria is at best incomplete without featuring the alluring Dalmatian Pelicans at Lake Kerkini in Greece. It is an artificial lake feeding off River Strymonas and it is bordered on one of its shores by Bulgaria. It represents a stopover for migratory birds before they continue their journey across the world.

Dalmatian Pelican among other migratory bird species stands out with its halo white wings, huge beaks, and some antisocial traits. However, rather than being shy and wary, they are calm around humans as though they have been waiting to feature in a wildlife photograph.

My Suggested Itinerary for a Wildlife Photography Holiday in Bulgaria

Your Wildlife Guide

Bogdan Boev

Visiting Bulgaria is always fantastic.

However, I would personal never visit without been in contact with Rewilding Europe photographer and friend Bogdan Boev.

After retiring from 17 years of professional basketball career, Bogdan pursued his career as a conservation photographer in his home country of Bulgaria.

He has contacts and access to some of the best hides, landscapes and projects across the country and without his support you’d be missing out of hundreds of wildlife photography opportunities.

You can contact him via his website: https://bogdanboev.com/ 

Dimitrovgrad

5 Days

Bogdan has a host of hides around the Dimitrovgrad area for you to use and visit.

I’d recommend you spend 5 days here at least as there are a lot of species to target including:

  • Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)
  • Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
  • Semi-collared flycatcher (Fecedula semitorquata)
  • Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)
  • European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
  • Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
  • Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
  • Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes)
  • European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
  • European scoops owl (Otus scops)
  • European Roller
  • Bee-eaters
  • and 1000s more
  •  

Bogdan is a fantastic host and will ensure you go away with brilliant images.

East Rhodope

3 Days

You can’t visit Bulgaria without experiencing the East Rhodope Hide located in Madzharovo. The hide is a room tucked in stones under a green canopy. It is the only place in Bulgaria where the populace of three different species of vulture (Griffon, Egyptian and Black vulture ) can be photographed. The best period to visit this hide is between October and March.

Bogdan again can help you book and guide you at this location.

Helpful Resources

Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to plan your wildlife photography holiday to Bulgaria!

Here are some helpful resources to help you get your trip started:

Flights: CheapOair and Expedia are the best places to start looking for cheap flights and great deals from your home country.

Accommodation: Booking.com is the best places to start looking for cheap hotels and packaged holidays and tours.

Homestays: Home Away and Air BnB are the best places to start looking for cheap homestays, log camping and campsites.

Travel: BusBud is the only place I look when looking for public transport whilst traveling. They offer the safest and cheapest solutions.

Car Rental: Expedia is the best places to start looking for cheap car rental deals for any country in the world.

Travel Insurance: World Nomads offer great insurance deals and coverage for worldwide travel at affordable prices.

Day Trips & Tours: Expedia has a huge range of activities and tour options available, wherever you are in the world. From daytrips to full safaris.

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