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On this 10 days botanical holiday, focused on the early flowers of Bulgaria, we’ll explore the beautiful Black sea coast and the stunning Rhodopi mountains in search for local and Balkan endemics. Spring and early summer are the times of the year when every meadow in Bulgaria is covered with hundreds of flowering plants, giving us the unique choice to discover and photograph them. The cosy accommodation and delicious local cuisine are an additional highlights of this trip.
Day 1. Arrival at Varna airport and transfer to the town of Primorsko. We will stop on route, depending of the arrival time, to see Fritillaria pontica, Primula vulgaris ssp. rubra, Trachystemon orientalis, Platanthera chlorantha, Cephalanthera damasonium, Orchis purpurea. Night in Primorsko.
Day 2. Today we will explore the flora of the sand dunes, hoping to find find some interesting endemic plants, e. g. Anchusa velenovskyi, Silene thymifolia, Silene euxina, Linum tauricum ssp. bulgaricum, Iris sintenisii. Some orchids will also be seen, such as Anacamptis pyramidalis, Orchis purpurea, O. papilionacea, Platanthera chlorantha, Limodorum abortivum. Depending on the season, it is possible to find the endemic Tulipa thracica. Other plants of interest are Lupinus graecus, Gladiolus imbricatus, Nectaroscordum siculum, Ephedra distachya, Medicago marina, Clematis viticella, Pancratium maritimum, Glaucium flavum. Night in Primorsko.
Day 3. Today we will spend some time exploring Strandzha mountain, one of the few areas in Europe, where a great number of tertiary relict plants survive. We expect to see native relict plants (some of them invasive in Britain), such as Ilex colchica, Laurocerasus officinalis, Rhododendron ponticum, Daphne pontica, Mespilus germanica, Epimedium pubigerum, Fagus orientalis and Trachystemon orientalis. Other interesting plants to be seen are Ophrys cornuta, O. reincholdii, Anacaptis pyramidalis, Orchis papilionacea, Paeonia peregrina, Iris mellita. The two local endemics for Strandzha Mt, Veronica turriliana and Anthemis jordanovii are also going to be seen. Other endemic species are the Balkan plants Anthemis parnassica, Verbascum bugulifolium and Knautia degenii. Overnight in Primorsko.
Day 4. Another day to explorer the flora of the coast. We visit one of the few places in the country, where Serapias vomeracea may be seen. Night in Primorsko.
Day 5. Today we are having a longer transfer east towards Eastern Rhodopi Mountains. We will make couple of stops on the way and in the afternoon we will spend some time in the area of our hotel, where we will see a number of southern plants like Achillea coarctata, Genista rumelica, Silene compacta, Verbascum rorripifolium, V. humile, Ferulago campestris, Pistacia terebinthus, Aurinia saxatilis, Alyssoides utriculata, Saponaria strandjensis, Carex depauperata, Smyrnium perfoliatum, Oenanthe millefolia, Salvia sclarea, S. verbenaca. Night in Arda valley.
Day 6. Today we will continue exploring Eastern Rhodopi Mt., expecting to find rarities like Cephalanthera epipactoides, the local endemic plants Galium velenovskyi, Haberlea rhodopensis – one of the few Gesneriaceae in Europe, which survived the Ice age, as well as other interesting species, such as Verbascum phoeniceum, V. xanthophoeniceum, Cistus incanus, Jasminum fruticans, etc. Night in Arda valley.
Day 7. Today we are moving back to the coast and will have a longer transfer to the town of Balchik. En-route we will visit couple of interesting spots, incl. some of the best preserved dunes, where we will see some interesting local endemic plants like Alyssum caliacrae, rarities like Lactuca tatarica, Jurinea kilaea, Artemisia pontica. Night in Kavarna.
Day 8. Today after a short transfer we will visit the area of Cape Kaliakra, where is the southernmost border of the steppe vegetation in Europe. We expect to see some typical steppe plants such as Iris pumila, Paeonia tenuifolia, Astragalus vesicarius, Astragalus spruneri, Mathiola odoratissima, Adonis vernalis, Tanacetum millefoliatum, Stipa spp., Asphodeline taurica, Salvia nutans, Savia austriaca, etc. Night in Kavarna.
Day 9. Today we will have a visit to Pobiti Kamani, rock phenomenon. There we will find the endemic Anthemis regis-borisii, Alyssum borzaeanum and some rare plants, such as Matthiola fruticulosa, Silene supina, Centaurea marschalliana. Night in Kavarna.
Day 10. Drive to Varna for departure with some stops on the way, depending on the flight times.
Walking difficulty: easy to moderate walking.
Useful books and further reading on the Bulgarian flora. There aren't many guides to the Bulgarian flora available in English. “Flora Europaea” is of some use, but one should have in mind that many good endemic plants are neglected by this series. Polunin's “Flowers of Greece and the Balkans” (1980, Oxford) is probably the most useful book in English.
NB. The tour is planned to start the second half of May and depending on the season, the list of the plants seen in flowers may vary.
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