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Spring in the Balkans
May 4 - 13, 2023

Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

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Bulgaria stands at a crossroads on the Balkan Peninsula which 'separates' Europe and Asia. Because of this, Bulgaria has become one of Europe's best bird watching destinations. It is the gateway to many eastern European species and several Asiatic species which can be found on the western-most edge of their range. There is a vast range of habitats to discover and over 420 species have been recorded in this stunningly beautiful country and it is not uncommon to record 200 species during a 9-day tour such as ours.

For some of the Eastern European breeding species, Bulgaria is simply the best destination there is; Levant Sparrowhawk, Pygmy Cormorant, Semicollared Flycatcher, Masked Shrike, Sombre Tit, Syrian Woodpecker, Olive-tree and Paddyfield Warblers can all be found, and depending on weather conditions literally thousands of migrant passerines or raptors as Bulgaria sits right beneath two of Europe's busiest migratory routes; the Via Pontica and Via Aristotelis.


Dalmatian PelicanJoin us as we explore some of the most beautiful, bird-rich landscapes in Europe, we take in the Rhodopes Mountains the Black Sea Coast and the Central Balkan Mountains, these three exciting regions form the backbone of our tour. We will be making many exciting stops along the way to explore some of the wonderful and lush habitats that Bulgaria has to offer. Witness Honey Buzzards and Lesser Spotted Eagles, White and Black Storks, White and Dalmatian Pelicans passing in the thousands at this time of the year. And of course the quality of breeding bird species will astound.  With many species of butterfly, flowers and other wildlife to keep us constantly busy this will be another Sunrise Birding tour you will never forget.

Join Sunrise Birding to experience spring
in the Balkans and some of the best
birding in Europe!

Photos: Spotted Nutcracker. Dalmatian Pelican (Courtesy of Bob Buckler)

Rose-colored StarlingDay 1, May 4 • Travel to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Today plan to arrive at Sofia International Airport (SOF), Bulgaria. We will then get a transfer to our hotel 15 minutes from the airport. Because of the varying flight schedules today is just an arrival day with no activities planned. If you arrive early, there is a nearby park you could check out.  Night Sofia. (No meals included today as we do not know arrival times). Tour starts with breakfast tomorrow May 5.


Day 2, May 5 • Sofia - Western Rhodopes Mountains
After collecting our comfortable bus, complete with Bulgarian driver, we head towards the nearby Vitosha Mountains to search for our first target species the Spotted Nutcracker. It is one of the most sought-after species and we have a great chance of seeing it. In the same area we could find Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Willow Tit, Red Crossbill and Eurasian Treecreeper. Of course their will be many other species as we make our way through this fabulous scenery. The smart looking Black-headed Bunting, plus Ortolan Bunting, Calandra Larks, several species of shrike, Eurasian Hoopoe, Spanish Sparrows, White Storks and our first raptors that may include Montagu's Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and maybe even Levant Sparrowhawk or if the Mulberry Trees are fruiting we could encounter flocks of gorgeous Rosy Starlings. As we get closer to the Western Rhodope Mountains the scenery changes drastically to steep pine-clad hills with rocky gorges and crystal clear streams where we will look for White-throated Dipper and Grey Wagtail.
Night in Yagodina, Western Rhodopes (B, L, D) 


Day 3, May 6 • Trigrad Gorge - Eastern Rhodopes Mountains
This morning we will spend time in the magnificent Trigrad Gorge in search of one of Europe's most special and unique birds the Wallcreeper. This is probably one of the best places to see this much sought after bird. The huge sheer rocky cliffs and gorges also hold Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Eurasian Crag Martins, Rock Bunting and Peregrine Falcon. Once again we will have chances to see White-throated Dipper, and the Grey and White Wagtails that make frequent sorties along the crystal clear mountain rivers. After lunch we will head for the Eastern Rhodopes Mountain region, stopping along the way for refreshments and any birds we may see. We will spend 2 nights in the town of Madjarovo.  Night Krumovgrad (B, L, D) 


Day 4 May 7 • Eastern Rhodopes Mountains
This Eastern Rhodopes Mountain region, consists of towering limestone peaks, rock strewn slopes with open areas devoid of trees and plant-life. There is a Black-headed Buntingvulture feeding-station here where Cinereous, Egyptian and Eurasian Griffon Vultures can all be seen as well as numerous other raptors such as Booted and Eastern Imperial Eagles and Long-legged Buzzards. Black Storks nest on the cliffs and the Chukar Partridge often puts in an appearance as they frequently stand on top of rocks proclaiming their territory. Many other birds can be found among the bushes and rocks including Rock Nuthatch, Common and Blue Rock Thrushes, Woodchat Shrike, Barred, Subalpine, Sardinian and Eastern Orphean, Eastern Bonelli's and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers as well as Sombre Tit, the smart looking Barred Warbler, Hawfinch, plus Black-headed Bunting, Cirl Bunting and Ortolan Bunting which are all fairly common. Isabelline Wheatears can be found and the melanoleuca race of Black-eared Wheatear which is a proposed split into Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. We will also keep a look out for several european glamour birds, namely the European Roller, European Bee-eater and Eurasian Hoopoe. Night Madzharovo (B, L, D) 


Day 5, May 8 • Eastern Rhodopes - Sakar Hills
HoopoeThis morning we will head south towards the Black Sea coast where we will stop in the Sakar Hills and Western Strandzha Mountain range. Here is the stronghold of the Eastern Imperial Eagles and we will look for this magnificent bird, alongside other superb species such as Levant Sparrowhawk, Masked and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Olive-tree Warbler and Eastern Orphean Warbler. The Sakar is an area of rounded hills and open valleys with a lowland area of open grassland with scattered trees and bushes where European Sousliks can often be seen running around. It. We will constantly be scanning the skies as birds of prey sightings will dominate as we pass through this rolling countryside. Booted Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier and Short-toed Snake Eagles should be seen as they search of food, and we have chances for Honey Buzzard and Red-footed Falcon, however, the wooded hill-tops in Strandzha also provide shelter to the Semicollared Flycatcher, one of our must-see species. The area is also excellent for woodpeckers with Syrian, Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted, Green and the awesome Black, whilst European Rollers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and Black-headed Buntings are often encountered along the telegraph wires. Night Bourgas (B, L, D) 


EagleDay 6, May 9 • Sakar Hills - Sarafovo
Most of today will be spent birding in Sakar Hills and Western Strandzha Mountains looking for species that we may have missed yesterday. There is just so much in this area and our time here will be well spent checking for woodland birds, and raptors. If the weather is sunning numerous species of butterflies will be an added distraction. Later in the day we will head to Sarafovo where we will overnight. Night Bourgas (B, L, D) 

Days 7 - 8, May 10 - 11• Bourgas Wetlands - Coastal Dobrudza -
Shabla and Durankulak

Today we arrive on the Black Sea coast where we will explore the lakes around the city of Bourgas. Here we find an extensive mosaic of wetlands that form one of Europe's richest bird areas. The Poda Reserve has an impressive list of over 260 bird species which is amazing for a territory of only 1 km². The Pomorie and Atanassovko lakes are shallow and saline (traditional salt pans), they are a magnet for a huge number of birds, especially during migration time. Great numbers of shorebirds may be present during our visit, including Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Stint, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and possibly Broad-billed Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope. Gulls such as Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls are regular, and the tern numbers can be astonishing with flocks of hundreds comprising of Black, Whiskered, White-winged, Gull-billed, Pygmy CormorantCommon, Little and the huge Caspian. Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and Pygmy Cormorant should be found. At the Shabla and Durankulak wetlands close to the border with Romania there are two lakes that are one of the few places in Europe where the Paddyfield Warbler, a typical Asian species, can be easily seen breeding.

Another 80 bird species breed in the region of these two lakes, the most interesting of them being the Ferruginous Duck, Savi’s Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Eurasian Penduline-tit and Bearded Reedling, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Western Marsh Harrier, and along the shore of the sea there are often Red-footed Falcons and Lesser Grey Shrikes, one of the most common shrikes of the area. At the lakes we can also expect to see all the species of Heron, plus more Pygmy Cormorants, and other migrating & summering species of waders, gulls and terns.

Another highlight of the area are the numbers of White and Dalmatian Pelicans. On the northern coast, we will dedicate some time to the steppes and cliffs of Cape Kaliakra, which, besides being a spectacular sight, is a good place for Rosy Starlings, Pied Wheatear and five species of larks that are typical for the Balkan peninsular - Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Skylark, Crested Lark and Woodlark. The Eurasian Stone-Curlew, the Lesser Grey Shrike and the Isabelline Wheatear find refuge in the steppe vegetation, while the coastal cliffs are populated by the desmarestii race of European Shag, Eagle Owl and the Long-legged Buzzard. Looking out to sea may produce Yelkouan Shearwaters often seen fishing in the sea close to the cape, often attacked by Parasitic Jaegers. Other possibilities during our 2 days in this area include Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Eleonora's Falcon, Black, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Sombre Tits, Short-toed Treecreeper and Hawfinch. 2 Nights Krapets (B, L, D)


Bee-eaterDay 9, May 12 • Vitosha Mountains - Sofia
Finally we will explore the conifer and alpine zones of the Vitosha Nature Park in the vicinity of Sofia or high mountain birds like the sought after Spotted Nutcracker, plus Red Crossbill, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Goldcrest, Willow Tit, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor and Shore Lark of the subspecies balcanica. During the trip back to Sophia we will also look for White Storks on their nests and European Rollers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoe, Syrian Woodpecker, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Spanish Sparrow, Black-headed Bunting, and Ortolan Bunting. These latter species are almost everywhere in the lowlands. Night Sofia (B, L, D)


Day 10, May 13 • Depart Sofia
Today we will have breakfast and then depart on our various international flights. (B)


Tour Leaders: Steve Bird & Gina Nichol, plus local guides


May 4 - 13, 2023
Registration Form>    
Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

TOUR PRICE:  $2595.00 per person based on double occupancy from Sophia, Bulgaria (Airport code: SOF)

Single Supplement:
$395.00 per person subject to availability.  Price based on exchange rates at the time the tour was posted (**see note below).

Deposit: $500.00 per person per tour. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise [email protected] when you have made payment. 

Group Size: Maximum 10.

Included in cost: Group transfers on arrival, accommodation based on twin occupancy, meals as stated in the itinerary B,L,D beginning with breakfast on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 10, professional guide services, local guides, local park and reserve entrance fees, transportation throughout, boat trips, and services of leaders.

Not included: International airfare to/from Sofia, Bulgaria, passport/visa fees, insurance, departure taxes, items of a personal nature such as: laundry, telephone, beverages, or gratuities for porterage or personal services.   Also, any and all costs arising from pandemic or Covid-19 related issues are not included in the tour cost and are the sole responsibility of the traveler. These include, among others, the costs of Covid treatment, hospitalization, medical fees, transport, meals and accommodation in case of illness or quarantine, and the costs of any Covid tests needed before, during and after the tour.

Transportation/Travel Planning: You will be responsible for making your travel plans to Sofia, Bulgaria.  We have a flight agent that can help if needed. Information will be forthcoming about timings for arrivals and departures.

Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned but there are some uphill treks.  Birding is mostly from open roads, wide tracks and boats. To see a good amount of specialties you need to be prepared for full days. We will generally start early and either have an early breakfast or return for breakfast. Lunches will be either picnic or at the lodges depending on our schedule.


NOTE: This tour is being run in association with Bird's Wildilfe & Nature Tours of Plymouth, England.


RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour:

1) Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected] to confirm availability and hold your place.

2) Review the Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)>

3) Complete the Registration & Release Form (pdf)> and mail it with your deposit of US $500.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC within two weeks to secure your place. 

>Download & print the Registration Form (pdf download).
Instructions are on the form.

Reservations are held with a paid deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once the tour is confirmed to go ahead, we will send you information about booking your flights. Please do not book flights until you receive this information from us and are notified that the trip has sufficient numbers to run. Check or bank transfer are preferred but credit card payments are possible (surcharges of up to 5% are added depending on amount to cover credit card company fees).  Please inquire. Final payment is due January 5, 2022.

**Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:
Please review our Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)> prior to registering for this tour. All cancellations must be made in writing. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.


Sunrise Birding LLC strongly recommends that you consider purchasing a travel protection plan to protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected in case of delay, injury or illness prior to or during a tour. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss and Delay, Emergency Medical Transportation, Pre-existing Conditions, and more.


There are many trip insurers. Here are two options to consider:

CSA Travel Protection
CSA offers coverage for pre-existing conditions if you purchase your policy before making your final payment for a tour.
Please be sure to use Sunrise Birding's producer code: 20201123
when purchasing your policy.
Insure My Trip is a web site that allows you to compare trip insurance plans
to find the right plan for you.


  • Insurance policy requirements vary and the timing of your purchase can affect coverage. Some insurance providers require that for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a policy must be purchased within 7-14 days of booking. Others, like CSA, offer policies that cover pre-existing conditions as long as the policy is purchased prior to making your final payment for the tour.

  • Trip insurance policy premiums may be non-refundable, but they may be able to be amended or transferred. Check with your insurer. It is important to be sure that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate before you purchase trip insurance.

  • Pay attention to coverages provided by your policy. Be aware of the requirements of country or destination can change, so check often. Some policies are now offering Covid related coverages so check with your insurer.

  • US medical insurance plans (including Medicare) often do not provide coverage outside the US. The US State Department strongly advises Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Consult with your insurer prior to your trip to ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider directly or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Be sure to get and keep all documentation of any expenses incurred.

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected].com 
Phone: 203.453.6724