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BULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAVITOSHA MOUNTAINNATIONAL PARKPIRINMOUNTAINSKRUMOVGRADBURGASETARABANSKOPAMPOROVOTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE36Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia; transferVitosha MountainNational Park.Day 2Vitosha MountainNational Park.Day 3/5Bansko, Pirin MountainsNational Park.Day 6/7Pamporovo, RhodopeMountains.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable touristclass hotels with private facilitiesthroughout.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. Easy to moderate day walks.FocusPlants, plus other wildlife.LeaderAlan Outen, plus local guide(s).Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: BGR01Bulgaria - Flowers of the BalkansAn 8-day holiday to Bulgaria in search of the alpine, and other, flowers of the Vitosha MountainNational Park, the Pirin Mountains National Park and the Rhodope Mountains.Saturday 22nd June - Saturday 29th June Cost: £1,295Bulgaria is an exceptionally beautifulcountry of pine-clad mountains,dramatic rocky gorges, alpinemeadows and wooded valleys whichstretch from Serbia and Macedonia in thewest, to the shores of the Black Sea Coast500 kilometres or so to the east. It is oneof the least visited countries in Europe, yetthis undiscovered corner of the Balkansholds one of Europe's richest floras,including many endemic species thatoccur nowhere else on Earth. IndeedBulgaria's geographic position and widerange of habitats ensure a quiteoutstanding diversity of exciting plants andother wildlife and the country is rightlybecoming an increasingly populardestination for botanists and wildlifeenthusiasts alike. This botanical holiday, designed tocomplement our spring and autumnbirdwatching tours, will introduce you to awealth of beautiful alpine and lowlandplants, many of which are endemic to theBalkan region - all set amidst Bulgaria'sdramatic landscapes, rich culture and veryfriendly peoples. Our tour begins with aflight to Sofia, Bulgaria's beautiful andvibrant capital city. We then drive the shortdistance to the Vitosha Mountain NationalPark where we will be based for the firsttwo nights of the holiday. The pine-cladhills and alpine meadows of this nationalpark are home to a wealth of wildliferanging from Brown Bear and Wolf to over1,500 species of higher plants, 31 speciesof which are Balkan endemics. During ourtime here we will visit the BistrishcoBranishte Nature Reserve, a UNESCOBiosphere Reserve that holds such plantsas Gentianella bulgarica,Lilium jankae,Hungarian Snowbell (Soldanellahungarica), Lesser Twayblade (Listeracordata), Military Orchid (Orchis militaris)and the endemic conifer of the region, theMacedonian Pine (Pinus peuce). For thoseinterested in birds, the forests andmeadows hold Nutcrackers, Ring Ouzels,Ortolan Buntings and Hoopoes, and awide variety of butterflies can be found inall these habitats.We next head to the small town of Banskothat nestles within a valley at the foot ofthe Pirin Mountains. Bansko will be ourbase for the next three nights as weexplore the Pirin Mountains National Park.This is the largest national park in all ofBulgaria, covering over 40,000 hectaresand encompassing 100 peaks over 2,000metres in height. Both acidic andcalcareous rocks are exposed here, andthe flora is extremely rich; indeed 20% ofall the plants outlined in the Bulgarian RedData Book occur within the national park!We will spend our time slowly exploring theforests, alpine meadows, glacial lakes androcky gorges of the park, in search of suchplants as Campanula lanata,Symphyandrawanneri,Centaurea kotschiana, Heart-shaped Orchid (Dactylorhiza cordigera),Long-flowered Primrose (Primula longiflora)and many others. We will also visit the'Baikusheva Mura', an old and twistedMacedonian Pine thought to be the oldesttree in Bulgaria at 1,350 years. Althoughthe botany is sure to keep us enthralled, aquick glance skyward might reveal aGolden Eagle drifting silently overhead orthe undulating flight of a BlackWoodpecker passing high above a forestclearing. Pine Martens are common inthese forests and although Brown Bearsand Wolves occur here too, they are onlyglimpsed by the lucky few.For the final two nights of our tour wemove to the alpine village of Pamporovo.This will be our base as we explore thepine forests, rocky gorges and alpinemeadows of the beautiful RhodopeMountains. Over 2,000 species of planthave been recorded here, 90 of which areendemic to the Balkans. We will search forsuch species as the endemic Haberlearhodopensis,Arenaria rhodopacea andMinuartia rhodopaea, plus Campanulaorphanidea,Sideritis scardica, SerbianStock (Malcolmia serbica), MacedonianRagwort (Senecio macedonicus) and Irisreichenbachii. This is also an excellentarea for orchids and we hope to find,amongst many others, such species asRed Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra),Large White Helleborine (Cephalantheradamasonium), Greater Butterfly Orchid(Platanthera chlorantha), Bug Orchid(Orchis coriophora) and Elegant Lax-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflorassp.elegans). If we can tear our eyes awayfrom the ground for a few minutes we maysee a passing raptor, such as a Short-toedEagle, perhaps a flock of Crag Martins, oreven a crimson-winged Wallcreepercreeping up the vertical limestone walls ofthe magnificent Trigrad Gorge.With our holiday now drawing to a close,we must sadly retrace our steps back toSofia in time to catch our flight home butfor those wishing to add a little culture and sightseeing to the tour, we thoroughlyrecommend spending an extra couple of nights in Sofia, a charming andcaptivating city. Rhodope MountainsOrchis militaris

37Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia and transfer toKoprivshtitsa. Day 2/4Madzarovo.Day 5/6Pamporovo.Day 7/8 Melnik.Day 9Transfer Sofia and flyLondon.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusDragonflies and other wildlife(mainly birds and butterflies).LeaderDave Smallshire, plus local guide.Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: BGR05BULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAMADZAROVODOSPATPAMPOROVOKOPRIVSHTITSAMELNIKBURGASTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBulgaria's Dragonflies A 9-day tour in search of the dragonflies and other wildlife of the mountains and lowlands in central and southern Bulgaria. Saturday 29th June - Sunday 7th July Cost: £1,395Bulgaria is a diverse and beautifulcountry, its geographical positionand wide range of altitudes andhabitats ensuring an exceptional range ofdragonflies, as well as many interestingbirds, butterflies and other spectacularwildlife. This particular visit is timed tomaximise our sightings of as manyspecies of dragonfly as possible on thewing, and during our special quest we willvisit the bogs, streams, rivers, ponds andlakes in some of Bulgaria's most beautifulsettings. First, we will explore the marginsof the towering Balkan Mountains, then thespectacular Rhodope Mountains that liealong the Greek border. Finally, travellingthrough the Pirin range, we will concludeour holiday with visits to the biodiversityhotspots in the Struma Valley in south-eastern Bulgaria. It will be a tour thatenables us to see many of the country'sdragonflies (potentially 50 species), plus ahost of other wildlife, in beautiful and oftendramatic landscapes. We begin in the shadow of the BalkanMountains, at the picturesque village ofKoprivshtitsa. Here we will look along theRiver Topolnitza and its tributaries for thelocalised Ornate Bluet (Coenagrionornatum), together with the Small Pincertail(Onychogomphus forcipatus) andgoldenring (Cordulegaster) species. Ourtiming and elevation will mean that manydragonflies may also be watchedemerging, a fascinating experience. Wewill also keep a watchful eye above us forthe Eastern Imperial Eagles that hunt forSousliks in the botanically-rich grasslands,and search the flower-filled meadows thatprovide nectar for so many differentinsects, amongst them such stunningbutterflies as the Large and BalkanCoppers and the rare Russian Heath. Journeying south-eastwards toMadzarovo, we will pass a roadside Bee-eater colony at which Isabelline Wheatearsalso breed, and enjoy a picnic lunchbeside the tree-lined Marica River. HereGomphids such as River Clubtail(Gomphus flavipes) and Green Snaketail(Ophiogomphus cecilia) may be found,together with hordes of White-leggedDamselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) thatseem to occur everywhere in Bulgaria. Theriparian woodland echoes with the calls ofGolden Orioles, whilst Lesser Grey andMasked Shrikes take advantage of theabundance of insects beside the river. From Madzarovo we will visit the ValchiDol Valley, a fabulous setting for thepeculiar Odalisque Damselfly (Epallagefatime) that breeds along a temporarystream. The tiny hawker, Eastern Spectre(Caliaeschna microstigma), and BalkanEmerald (Somatochlora meridionalis) alsofrequent the stream, where patches ofdrying mud provide tasty salts for bluebutterflies. In fact the whole area is goodfor butterflies, including the spectacularEastern Festoon and tiny, but perfectlyformed, Little Tiger Blue. Overhead,raptors patrol the skies, amongst themLong-legged Buzzards, and Griffon,Egyptian and even Black Vultures. We willmake a pilgrimage to a cool, shady andslow-moving section of the River DeimiDere near the Greek border. Here theBulgarian Emerald was first discovered byDr. Milen Marinov in 1999, although wemay be a little too late in the season tosee it.Travelling higher into the RhodopeMountains, our next base is amongst theconiferous forest through whichNutcrackers, Black Woodpeckers andCrested Tits range. From here we are ableto explore sites of contrasting character. Atthe Smolyan Lakes both NorthernDamselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum) andDowny Emerald (Cordulia aenea) may befound, whilst at the magnificent limestonegorge at Trigradboth Wallcreeperand the Apollobutterfly are virtuallyguaranteed. Finally, further westwards, inthe beautiful Pirin Mountains, we willsquelch past a wonderful display oforchids in Bulgaria's largest peat bog and,lower down, look for Europe's largestdragonfly, the Balkan Goldenring(Cordulegaster heros). Our final base, the picturesque andhistoric village of Melnik with its strange,pyramid-shaped rock formations, liesamongst the foothills of the Pirin range.From here we will search for the elusiveBlack Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) andBlade-tail (Lindenia tetraphylla), and a widerange of other dragonflies that breed inthe old gravel workings near the StrumaRiver. The nearby hot springs at Rupitesound an odd place to look fordragonflies, but not all of the water there isnearly boiling! In this, one of the hottestparts of the country, insects areeverywhere. As well as dragonflies andbutterflies, these include two trulyspectacular Orthopterans: the armadillo-like Bradyporus dasypusand the hugeSaga hellenica, a bush-cricket that feedson bush-crickets!Our journey back to Sofia gives us thechance to visit yet another of Bulgaria'sbiodiversity hotspots, the Kresna Gorge.Here the insect theme continues, withvarious clubtails and Sombre Goldenring(Cordulegaster bidentata) to be seen, plusa host of butterflies along woodland rides- a fitting conclusion to our holiday! Sombre Goldenring(male)Odalisque Damselfly (male)Rhodope Mountains