“We had a wonderful holiday in Strandja in June 2013. Anja and Dave, your help and advice regarding the itinerary of our holiday and the accommodations was wonderful. We experienced Strandja as an oasis of peace and quiet with magnificent wildlife. Pure joy to visit places where the only sound is that of a stream, golden orioles and nightingales. We saw a lot of species, both inland and on the coast. Many species of flowers and or course also butterflies! The accommodation was wonderful and it was a pleasure to enjoy an evening meal cooked by our host. We had a great time in what was for us a new destination.”
Kees & Ditty l'Ami
“We had a fantastic holiday! Thanks to your information we had very good accommodation in inland Strandja with very friendly hosts, and we also had great walking maps and information, because there is not much information available locally. The nature was superb, we even saw and otter and a wild cat during our early morning walks. Nowhere else have we heard so many nightingales and golden orioles as in Strandja. We hope that the diverse nature will be protected. We will recommend Strandja to our friends. Thanks a lot.”
Kristina & Herman Nachtergaele, België
“Browsing the internet you come across all sorts of advice around holidays. But it always remains to be seen whether these promises that are made beforehand prove to be true. We can reassure anyone that might have doubts; if your holiday is going to be organised by Anja & Dave of 'Visitstrandja' then your expectations are going to be met. Thanks to Anja, we have very much enjoyed our 14 day holiday in the middle of May 2013 and the beautiful Bulgarian and more specifically Strandja nature.
We were not familiar with Strandja but thanks to the information pack that was sent out to us we got a very good impression of the area and what could be seen and done, and after this we asked Anja to plan an itinerary for us. Our rental car was delivered on time and we drove to the west of Strandja, where our holiday started. After a stop in the middle of the nature park and a few days on the coast, we ended our holiday back around Burgas with its wetlands where Anja had organised a guided bird excursion for us, before we flew back to the Netherlands. If in any doubt; don't hesitate to let Anja & Dave organise your holiday. We can only say that all promises were kept and all our expectations were met. ”
Nico & Marlies Leemans, the Netherlands
“As our hobby is photographing butterflies and birds, we decided to try Bulgaria. After coming across the 'visit strandja ' website, I contacted Anja who proceeded to organise our holiday for us. She was so helpful, answering every question I had. She arranged a rental car from the airport, and the bed and breakfast accommodation through out the week. The pack she had sent us included the maps and all detailed directions to get us from one place to another, and any walks we may choose to do on the way. We went on May 20th, a little early for butterflies, but still captured some lovely pictures, especially the fritillaries. The birds are difficult to see, but it was a joy to hear the nightingales every stop we made.
The villages we stayed in were very interesting, where the locals spoke to us in Bulgarian, and we spoke in English, but somehow we got by! The accommodation was very good, and we also had our evening meals provided by the guesthouse. On our last day we drove back up to the lakes at Burgas to spend the day with a bird guide, arranged by Anja. It was a very enjoyable day, a good end to a very interesting week. We had been blessed with lovely weather, sunny and around max 28 degrees C. If you enjoy nature, then visit Strandja. We are a retired couple.”
Janina & John, UK
“If there is something that Jenny and I agree on, then it is that our holiday in Strandja has been one of our most beautiful nature holidays that we have been on (and we have already been on quite a few). We want to thank you very much, our expectations were more than met. It was an experience that we won't forget, we saw 109 bird species, with 10 new species for us, many butterflies and orchids and all of that in impressive landscapes. Thank you again for the perfect organisation of our holiday. Without your knowledge of this magnificent area with its warm people we would not have had the same experience. Bulgaria and Strandja have stolen our heart and we will definitely return, and encourage many friends to also visit this area. ”
Jenny & Michel, Belgium;
“We have had an extraordinary pleasant trip, staying in beautiful and comfortable places. No masked shrike unfortunately, but one of the highlights was a Rock Nuthatch that took food to the female on her nest, unforgetable!”
Rob Chrispijn, the Netherlands who also visited the Rhodopes with our help
“I have been home for a few days now, but Bulgaria is still buzzing pleasantly in my head. It has been a very good time for me and the programme of staying on the coast first worked very well for me. For me it has really been a soul journey and I have acquired an enormous amount of respect for the Bulgarian people and their country. I have had a fantastic time and I already want to come back.”
Nell Berger, the Netherlands
“Your plan has worked perfectly! We are in Bulgari and are having a great time! Thank you! ”
Tim & Sarah, Engeland
“The landscape of the Rhodopes is very beautiful! Thank you for helping me again to organise my holiday in Bulgaria, I really like the way this works. ”
Niels van Esterik, Nederland who also visited the Rhodopes with our help
“The info pack has arrived. The walks are all explained and described SUPERBLY. The maps and tips about Bulgaria in general are very welcome. The whole pack is certainly worth the money. Car hire has been arranged. Summarizing, thanks to you we are going to have a brilliant holiday. Thank you for everything. ”
Jorre en Saskia, Nederland
“Just a quick message that we have received the rental car fine and that everything was spick and span. in the mean time we have already done the walks in Brodilovo and Kosti, and they were brilliant. We are also going to walk all the other routes and we will no doubt also discover some additional trails of our own. We want to thank you very much for all your help. It has certainly made our stay in Strandja very special. Thank you! ”
Carla & Yves, the Netherlands
“I am looking back on my holiday with fond memories! I really appreciate it that you both invest so much time in a holiday and really try to deliver a tailor-made trip. It made my stay very valuable because through all the tips and local contacts the country comes so much more alive! ”
Niels van Esterik, the Netherlands
“At the annual “butterfly day” of the Dutch Butterfly Conservation, I saw a small leaflet with information on Strandja Nature Park in Bulgaria. I took it with me with the thought: “might be interesting”. It turned out to be an amazing holiday. What a fantastic area.
With help and advice from Anja & Dave, originally from the Netherlands but now living in Bulgaria, it became an unforgettable nature holiday. Our tailor-made wildlife holiday took us on a journey along the pristine Veleka river. From the source, 320 metres above sea level, to the mouth at the Black Sea. A distance of 50 km as the crow flies with all the accompanying landscapes. We stayed and dined in local small-scale accommodation in the park. Through this you support the local economy and you support a bright future for the nature park. True eco-tourism.
Starting at the source, we saw splendid wild peonies in a woodland. Somewhat higher in the hills we visited species-rich limestone grasslands with many species of orchids including the Woodcock Orchis, Butterfly Orchid and the very special Ophrys reinholdii. Of course accompanied by clouds of butterflies including species such as Southern Festoon and Yellow-banded Skipper.
In the middle of the park the river runs through a rolling “Lord of the rings” landscape. Black-headed Bunting, Roller, Hoopoe, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrikes -all over the place-. Spanish Sparrows breeding in stork nests (commensalism), Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark. Golden Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard in the air. Collared Flycatcher and Semi-collared Flycatcher in an old oak forest. What will we see behind the next hill?
Close to the village of Kosti, the river flows through a wider grassy valley with Ash and Alder woodland. So many White-backed woodpeckers! We got very good views and calls of at least six individuals. In the wet haymeadows, Black Storks walk around. A Lesser-spotted Eagle was circling high above our heads. All of this finished with the never ending songs of Golden Orioles en Nightingales. It makes the experience complete.
In a deep valley we found an age-old broadleaved forest with a special flora. It feels like you are entering a sanctuary. Along a crystal clear brook, in the shade of old Eastern Beeches and a beautiful oak species Quercus polycarpa, many relict species can be found such as: Daphne pontica, Ruscus hypoglossum, Cyclamen coum and the pontic Rhododendron. Here not, like in our parks, smothering everything else, but scattered throughout the forest. In balance.
After that, a visit to a local beekeeper where we try the purest and most delicious honey ever tasted. While we were still enjoying the after taste of the honey, we spotted a Sombre Tit. A Duke of Burgundy flies by and in the brook we spot a fresh water crab. What more can I say?
When you think you have see it all, then all of a sudden there is the deep blue Black Sea. A complete new experience. A breathtaking view with a flower-rich beach. For us from the Netherlands a wonderful new sight. A Greek Tortoise tries to overtake us, above the sea Gull-billed Terns are fishing. Every now and then a Harbour porpoise tumbles through the water. High on the steep cliffs, lichens and sedums colour the rocks red, orange and yellow in a subtle play of colours. Here we find thousands of Ploughshare Orchids. Luckily here the coast has been spared from building those gaudy apartment hotels.
On the way back to Burgas another two days of birdwatching at the salt lakes around the town. With the skyline of the city on the horizon, it is a wonderful experience to be surrounded by thousands of birds. White- and Dalmatian Pelican, White-winged, Whiskered and Black Tern, all European Heron species, Pygmy Cormorant, the ever present, gracious Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, even a Spur-winged Lapwing (you can expect anything on a migration route) Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Grey Shrike, Collared Pratincole, Olivaceous Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Penduline Tit... Cormorants breed in huge old electricity pylons. Two White-tailed eagles are overlooking the area with an expression resembling; “what shall we eat today?” Enough choice I would say.
Dear Anja & Dave, we have enjoyed it to the fullest. Many thanks!
Henk Ruiter, the Netherlands
“During July 2010 we visited Strandja Nature Park with help and advice from Anja and Dave at VisitStrandja. The result was 12 fantastic days spent exploring the small villages and towns, tranquil forests and rugged coastline of the Black Sea that Strandja has to offer.
Put quite simply, Strandja is stunning. The main draw for us were the opportunities for seeing wildlife, and we weren’t disappointed. Butterflies coming out of our ears….reptiles galore.…fields that literally come to life with grasshoppers when you walk into them….watching bats swooping over sand dunes to the loudest chorus of frog song you’ve ever heard! It’s also pretty impressive when the commonest birds you’re hearing are nightingales…
As well as providing detailed information and walking maps for every place we visited, Anja and Dave accompanied us on several trips, providing us with more local insight into the history, wildlife and culture of the area. Many of the places highlighted were off the beaten track, which we wouldn’t have found otherwise. They even took us to meet a local beekeeper!
The accommodation where we stayed was great, particularly at the inland villages where we stayed in small guesthouses. It was great to be able to support small local businesses, in return for which we got genuine hospitality and delicious home-made Bulgarian cuisine.
The level of information and support both before and during the trip was above and beyond what you would expect. All the logistics were taken care of (even weather updates!), leaving us free to worry about what to look at next.
Well organised and ethically-motivated, we’d strongly recommend using VisitStrandja for a wildlife holiday in Bulgaria. Thank you very much Anja and Dave, we had a wonderful time.”
Julie Danby and Antony Mould, UK | Also see this review on tripadvisor.
“Wild rivers, old oak forest, species-rich meadows, beautiful orchids, butterflies, and many birds, that was Strandja for us. We visited Strandja Nature Park in May for 11 days. Anja and Dave have prepared a wide range of walk descriptions. For example along the Veleka River, the volcanic coast of the Black Sea, and through beautiful old-growth forests. Nature in this part of Bulgaria is still very beautiful and unspoilt. Time has literally stood still in the Strandja Mountains. We stayed in B&Bs in small villages. The hospitality and warm contact with the Bulgarians was a very special experience. We’ll definitely come back! ”
Hanneke Oudega and Arjen Goutbeek, the Netherlands
“Already, Bulgaria seems like a long time ago, but fond memories come back again and again. My strongest impressions were the timeless feeling you have here, and all the moments when the nature was all around you. With every step there was something new to see, hear, feel or smell. It was amazing; simply pure joy. Relaxed travelling with clear directions and maps. We no longer felt a “stranger” in the area and got to know all the most beautiful places. Again thanks very much for the fantastic week. ”
René van Heerde, the Netherlands
“We are ‘real’ butterfly fans and every year we look for a beautiful place in Europe to go on holiday. That is not so easy. There are plenty of beautiful areas, but the further away, the less you know about them. So you go looking for people that can help you. With finding special places, good accommodation and beautiful walks. In short, with advice for a great holiday. And this is what we found in Dave and Anja.
Their love for the nature and for Strandja was contagious, and we couldn’t wait to get there. We studied Bulgarian on the plane. And that was necessary. Because the Bulgarians in Strandja rarely speak a word German or English. But this made the meetings with the Bulgarians extra special. They so much want to talk with you that you have all the time to look things up in your phrase book. Of course they still don’t always understand you, but with some Rakia and the Bulgarian speciality Oblak, it becomes clear that language is only a small part of understanding each other.
We were most fond of Zlatina. She managed our first guesthouse and the local bar. She cooked our evening meals and prepared far too large lunch packs for us. A kilogram of food for lunchtime. No, you won’t starve with her. And of course we should not forget our farmer. We tried to make some small conversation with the help of our phrasebook, and ended up going home with him. He milked the goats and sheep in the garden. We helped him sieve the milk and eventually left with 1 ½ litres of fresh milk in a large cola bottle.
The Bulgarians have really surprised us. Prejudices, you find them everywhere, but we wish people would be so hospitable everywhere in the world.
In Strandja we have discovered the Veleka River in four places. From the source to the estuary, to a park in Burgas with the same name. And with the river, the landscape and nature changes. Beautiful nature in a beautiful corner of Bulgaria. Where time has stood still for a long time, although also here the modern world is creeping in. I wish it won't go too fast. That not everyone will give in to money and power. That the area stays as it is. If you still want to see people with horse and carriage in Europe, that are completely able to care for themselves, living off the land, and that are happy doing so, then you should come to Strandja now. Who knows how long it will stay like this.
If you come to Strandja to see hundreds of butterfly species, then you will not succeed. We came to seventy species. For more species you need high mountains and you will not find these in Strandja. But there are very many butterflies here. Near Mladezhko, in a pasture as big as two football fields, we did not only see 43 species, but thousands of individuals. And with species like Large Blue, Eastern Baton Blue, Meleager’s Blue, Blue Argus, Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, Eastern Short-tailed Blue, Grecian copper, Ilex Hairstreak, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Cardinal, Camberwell beauty, Large Tortoiseshell, Freyer’s Purple Emperor, Eastern Rock Grayling, Lattice Brown and ten different kinds of skippers you can’t complain at all!
And then there are the very many birds, tortoises and reptiles. And the ancient culture. And the splendid Black Sea. Yes, it was a great holiday. We won’t forget it soon.
Anja and Dave, thanks a lot! ”
Arthur van Dijk and Mireille de Heer, the Netherlands
“One of our guests specializes in producing video for businesses, internet and multimedia and has made a beautiful video of his holiday to Strandja in July. For more information about his business, see www.webcomp.nl ”
Many thanks for our wonderful holiday! Rudy en Marianne Strijker, the Nederlands
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The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. - St. Augustine