Rhodopean quest

Bulgaria
September 4th to 13th 2022

This tour takes you on an enchanting journey of the most attractive Bulgarian mountains, giving you a great combination of engaging, neverending highland overland trails, magnificent wild campsites, natural wonders and cultural heritage, slowly unveiling it’s story as we make our way over these desolate and beautiful vistas. We’ll discover both it’s landscape and culture as we progress from the far northwest of Balkan mountain, to the mystical Rhodopean lands in the south. This is perhaps one of the most mesmerizing overland journeys in the Balkans!

What? How long? How hard? How much?

Type – wild camping tour
Duration – 10 days
Approximate length – 900 km
Technical difficulty – moderate with hard details
Tyre type – MT or capable AT tyres recommended

Price
1290 € per vehicle
(regardless of number of passengers)

Where?

As we meet in the morning of August 2nd in the parking lot of the Belogradchik fortress, we’ll first take a scenic tour of the Belogradchik rock, before we venture deep into the forests of the Balkan mountain in the bordering area with Serbia. That will be the beginning of the Balkan mountain journey, which will aproximately take the entire first half of the tour, occasionally descending to towns for resupplying.

The second part of the tour will venture further south, passing the town of Plovdiv on the way to the Rhodopean mountain range which cover a huge part of southern Bulgaria. Tour will end in the small town of Melnik, in the far southwest, after covering approximately 900 km during the 10 days.

Our campsites will be deep in the wilderness, sometimes featuring mountain streams and rivers, in most cases ideal for full comfort far away from any signs of civilization. We will have firewood in abundance, so we will have an opportunity to light campfires every evening, which can also be used for grilling. We will attempt to arrive at the campsite every day no later than 17:00, so that you have plenty of time to setup your little nomadic haven and prepare for the night, enjoying the beautiful surroundings to the fullest. We usually leave the campsite at 9:00, leaving us enough time for a relaxed breakfast and packing up all the equipment afterwards (according to group preferance, we can leave later, or earlier).

Altitudes of the campsites will vary from around 600-700 m, to as high as 1800 m, which means that nights can get quite fresh, with temperatures sometimes dropping below 10 C. So in order to sleep comfortably at night be sure to have warm sleeping bags!

Replenishing our food supplies will be possible 3-4 times during the tour, as we pass by some bigger towns. Therefore we recommend that you equip your vehicle with large capacity / good quality compressor refrigerator, so that you can keep your food fresh over several days.

Every day we will make a lunchbreak sometime between 12:30 and 14:00 lasting for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, so there will be plenty of time to prepare a decent lunch.

Tour requirements

Low gear capable transfer case vehicles are mandatory

Equipment of your vehicle for the Rhodopean Quest should include

  • Offroad tyres (MT or AT class)
  • a compact axe, and a saw
  • 1 or more kinetic ropes for recovery
  • CB radio (40 channels AM/FM capable, EU frequency range)

Optional equipment that we advise

  • Sylicone foil protection over your paint (on the narrow Balkan forest trails you WILL BE scratching your vehicle on daily basis)
  • winch (we’re not planning to get stuck on the trails, but having your own winch can dramatically expedite recovery in case needed)
  • at least 2″ lift (will greatly improve your chances to overcome some deep ruts on our way)

Tour price coverage

Tour price includes

  • one adequately equipped guide vehicle with our guide, and tour guidance during 10 days
  • all fuel and other expenses for the guide vehicle
  • personal counceling before and during the tour
  • appropriate GPS maps and data, that can be made available to the participants, if they have compatible hardware

Tour price does not include

  • individual fuel and toll costs
  • individual food and drink expenses
  • mechanical servicing expenses by third parties
  • individual accomodation expenses before and after the tour (on your way to Bulgaria and back)
  • other individual expenses

How do you know if this tour is for you?

To be able to answer that question, we first have to say…

Who this tour is not for?

  1. It is definitely not for absolute beginners, who would like to try out offroad/overland travel to see if they like it. They will probably find the rugged Bulgarian mountains and the harsh conditions existing in them too extreme for their capabilities, and it could discourage them to try future tours.
  2. It is not for people with cars with “virgin” paint, as the dense vegetation on Bulgarian forest trails will undoubtedly leave significant marks. Or at least they have to come to terms with that fact in advance – either by accepting it or preparing their cars with sillicone protective foil.
  3. It is also not for adrenaline junkies, keen on testing the limits of their vehicles by winching all day long and deliberately searching for extreme sections where they’d drive 3-4 km an entire day.
  4. It is not for people who, either due to excessive concern for their vehicle, or their own driving skills, cannot follow an efficient pace of driving, enabling them to easily cover 70-90 km per day in mixed terrain, that includes at least 20% of harder trails (deep ruts, very rocky trails, steep inclines and descents, significant side angle, etc.).
  5. These are no SUV trails. Vehicles with decent ground clearance and low range transfer box are an absolute prerequisite for entering the tour.

Then who is this tour actually for?

It is for experienced and rational overland travellers with a preference for total wilderness tours (the tour passes through only two towns where we resupply / refuel, and several smaller villages), and under experience we don’t count the Western Alps gravel roads that can actually be driven by any 2WD vehicle. For people that can follow an active driving pace on mixed terrain with an average moving speed of about 13-15 km/h or higher, and are keen on tackling technical challenges in order to reach some extraordinary places deep in the wild. In other words, to drive as fast as possible, and as slow as necessary. We’re certainly not racers, but in order to complete the 900-1000 length of the tour and arrive at campsite decently early every afternoon in order to enjoy the rest of the day and evening, we simply have to be capable to drive efficiently as a team, without waiting for you at every junction 15 minutes or so.

Beware that occasional technical problems (like flat tyres, various breakdowns, needs to recover from getting stuck, etc.) happen in every tour, and driving efficiently provides us with an extra hour in average every day to resolve such unexpected matters without disrupting the pace of the tour. Or simply for making more photo breaks and enjoying the nature in days when no problems occur.

What else you should know about the tour?

For this tour the meeting point will be in the parking lot of Belogradchik fortress in the northwest of Bulgaria. You’ll be supplied with detailed access instructions, coordinates and GPX/KML tracks from your country to meeting point, as well as other details significant for the tour, by email one month before the tour start. Please secure that you have your travel insurance before starting the tour. We expect you to arrive with a vehicle in good technical conditon, which can endure 10 days of overlanding. During the tour a chance to refuel will be available each 200-250 km (petrol, diesel, LPG). All major credit cards (Visa, Master, etc.) work in Bulgaria (both on ATM machines and for paying goods), but it’s advisable to have a small amount of cash for small expenses in the mountainous areas.

Image gallery from the tour area

Tour booking form

If you have any more questions,
ask your guide!

Invoice and payment instructions will be e-mailed to you upon filling out and sending this registration form