- Full Itinerary
- Photo Gallery
- Travel Details
- Know Before You Go
- Other Trips You May Like
Special Offer: Book along with our Fall Spain tour and receive a complimentary night in Bucharest on Sept. 19 + $200 discount per person.
Join us on this Naturalist Journeys tour, following the coastal regions of Romania and Bulgaria along the Black Sea. Our visit is timed perfectly during the peak of fall migration on one of Europe’s biggest bird migration routes, nicknamed the ‘Via Pontica’ after the ancient Roman road that traversed this same region.
We spend the first half of the tour in the ancient Dobrudja region shared with both Bulgaria and Romania. Here, we explore shallow brackish lagoons, sandy beaches, freshwater marshes and reedbeds that host many passage migrants from raptors to waterfowl to shorebirds heading south from Russia towards the Middle East and Africa. Species we should see include Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Red-footed Falcon, and Whiskered and White-winged Terns. Inland areas of this region also feature the flat steppes, the only example of this vast biome in the European Union and home to a rich variety of nesting grassland birds such as Pied and Black-eared Wheatears, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, and Long-legged Buzzard.
We finish our journey on the southern coast of Bulgaria, visiting the wetlands around Bourgas and the broad-leaved forests of the Strandzha Hills, providing us with an entirely new habitat rich in woodpeckers such as Syrian, White-backed, Lesser Spotted, and Black.
We will also not neglect other wildlife and visit some Thracian and Roman historical and cultural sites as we travel through this fascinating part of Europe, some of the oldest inhabited areas on the continent. So, come join us and feel the excitement of seeing large numbers of birds on the move in the culturally and historically rich countries of Romania and Bulgaria!
- “A slow paced, small group tour of the Romanian section of the beautiful Danube Delta and Bulgarian Black Sea Coast natural reserves. We visited a number of ancient historic sites and enjoyed local foods and wines. Top highlights: 1. Spending time in uncrowded, quiet natural reserves with excellently trained group leaders who shared their extensive knowledge with us. I learned so much. 2. Collecting over 150 lifer birds. Especially the White Backed Woodpecker.” — Kathleen Costello Bar Tur, 2023 Traveler
- “Beyond expectations. Numerous new species for me.” — Colette Dubuisson, 2023 Traveler
- Experience the thrill of fall bird migration on Europe’s second-largest migratory pathway, nicknamed the ‘Via Pontica’ after an ancient Roman road
- Observe a wide variety of European waterbirds, from the diminutive Pygmy Cormorant to the colossal Dalmatian Pelican
- Stay at quaint, picturesque towns on your birding travels rich in history and steeped in folkloric customs
- Visit grasslands and stony steppe, a semi-arid grassland, to see Eurasian Thick-knee, European Bee-eater, European Roller, and Pied Wheatear
- Spend time with one of the most experienced European guides, Gerard Gorman
- Marvel at raptor migration as they pass overhead at key bottleneck points such as Cape Kaliakra
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Fri., Sept. 20 : Arrivals in Romania | Sinoe
Welcome to Romania! Arrive at Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), where our guide, Gerard Gorman, welcomes the group. Then, we take a 3 hour drive eastward to the Dobrudja region along Romania’s Black Sea coast. We spend our first three nights in a small hotel in the village of Sinoe.
Accommodations in the town of Sinoe (D)
Sat., Sept. 21 & Sun., Sept. 22 : Black Sea Coast Birding | Dobrudja
We spend two days on Romania’s Black Sea coast, in the northern part of the historical Dobrudja region shared with Bulgaria. There will be optional pre-breakfast birding excursions on both days, perhaps to some nearby pools and wetlands nearby to see a variety of shorebirds such as Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper.
After breakfast, we have a full day to explore the natural history and birdlife of this beautiful region. Brackish and freshwater wetlands around the Danube River delta, the most extensive wetland ecosystem in Europe, are home to Common and Ruddy Shelduck, Little and Great Crested Grebe, Little and Mediterranean Gull, Pygmy and Great Cormorant. A long list of European shorebirds also migrates through the area in the fall, including Marsh and Wood Sandpiper, Spotted and Common Redshank, Little and Temminck’s Stint, and Little Ringed and Kentish Plover.
The Dobrudja region also features dry steppe habitats with many species that are hard to find elsewhere in Europe. The mosaic of dry grasslands, farmland, and woodland harbors European Bee-eater, European Roller, Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Crested Lark, Eurasian Golden-Oriole, and many others.
Migrating Red-breasted Flycatchers and other songbirds are often in bushes this time of year. We will also probably see our first flocks of passage storks, pelicans and raptors moving southwards. A real highlight is being able to see both Great White and Dalmatian Pelican loafing in the wetlands or flying overhead. Dalmatian Pelican is an impressive species, the most massive member of the pelican family and perhaps the world’s largest water bird.
Accommodations in the town of Sinoe (B,L,D)
Mon., Sept. 23 : Birding all the way to Bulgaria!
After breakfast, we head south by road to Bulgaria, often hugging the coast and birding along the way. We make numerous stops and check the roadside wires and trees. Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Common House-Martin, and Red-rumped Swallow are often flying over the fields and towns, while we keep an eye open for Little Owl perching stoically on village rooftops. Finally, we arrive in the small seaside settlement of Krapets in northern Bulgaria, the southern portion of the Dobrudja region. Krapets is a sleepy town surrounded by vast wheat and sunflower fields, known for its dunes and rich birdlife.
Accommodations in the town of Krapets (B,L,D)
Tues., Sept. 24 & Wed., Sept. 25 : Lakes of Northern Bulgaria | Krapets
We have two full days to explore various sites on the northern coast of Bulgaria. Lake Shabla is a semi-saline lagoon, separated from the sea by high sand dunes. The edges of the lagoon feature huge reedbeds, while large areas of open, shallow water rich with food attract large numbers of migrating birds in the early fall. Here, we may see Whiskered and White-winged Tern, Slender-billed Gull, Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pied Avocet, Ferruginous Duck, and Garganey.
Lake Durankulak is another coastal wetland to the north of Lake Shabla, also separated from the sea by high sand dunes. The mix here is slightly different from that of Lake Shabla, and here we may see Eared Grebe, Purple Heron, Common Kingfisher, Syrian Woodpecker, Bearded Reedling, and Eurasian Penduline-Tit.
Cape Kaliakra, a highlight of our time here on the Bulgarian coast, is a narrow headland that juts out into the sea with sweeping views. The remnants of a medieval fortress and its fortified walls feature prominently on the headland, the remains of the Principality of Karvuna’s medieval capital. The ruins and nearby stony steppe host Pied Wheatear, Red-backed Shrike, Crested Lark, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart, and Eurasian Thick-knee. Kaliakra’s steep cliffs host gulls and the Black Sea race of European Shag, a marine cormorant. We might also see Yelkouan Shearwaters skimming the surface of the sea from land here, as well. If weather conditions are in our favor, the cape is a migratory bottleneck with migrating raptors moving overhead in large numbers. Short-toed, Lesser Spotted and Booted Eagles, Levant and Eurasian Sparrowhawks, European Honey-Buzzard, Western Marsh- and Montagu’s Harriers, Eurasian Hobby and Red-footed Falcon all travel down the western Black Sea in fall migration. We will check for a roosting Eurasian Eagle-Owl, too.
Accommodations in the town of Krapets (B,L,D)
Thurs., Sept. 26 : Balkan Mountains | Sozopol
We continue our journey today southward, stopping on the eastern edge of the Balkan Mountains and at coastal riverine forests. Depending on the latest bird migration news, we may visit raptor watchpoints to watch raptors such as European Honey-Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk, and Red-footed Falcon move overhead. We may also stop by a banding station, where a range of Old World warblers, Bluethroat, Eurasian Wryneck, and other European bird species can be observed in the hand at very close range—not only observing details that are hard to notice in the field but also learning about their migratory journey through Eastern Europe and beyond.
Finally, we arrive in the delightful town of Sozopol—our home for three nights. Founded in the 7th century by Greek merchants, it is one of the oldest port cities in Bulgaria. This historical town is an excellent base from which to explore the birding sites of southern Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
Accommodations in the town of Sozopol (B,L,D)
Fri., Sept. 27 : Saline Lagoons & Freshwater Lakes in Bourgas
Today, we bird several wetlands on the coast of southern Bulgaria, including deep freshwater lakes and shallow saline lagoons around Bourgas. The saltpans at Pomorie are often a great place for shorebirds, egrets and herons. Lakes Bourgas, Mandra, and Atanasovsko are often very busy with birds in fall, with both resident species and migratory species using the lagoon as a refueling station before continuing their journey to the Middle East and Africa. Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, White and Black Storks, European Honey-Buzzard, Booted, Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Black Kite, and Levant Sparrowhawk are all species we may observe. Other likely birds include Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Temminck’s Stint, Red-necked Phalarope, Slender-billed Gull, Little Gull, Gull-billed Tern, and White-winged Tern. Rarities like Terek Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper are also possible.
Accommodations in the town of Sozopol (B,L,D)
Sat., Sept. 28 : Woodpeckers Galore in the Forests of Strandzha Hills
On our final full day of the tour, we head inland to the broad-leaved forests of the Strandzha Hills. This is an excellent area for woodpeckers, and we may see Syrian, White-backed, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted, and Eurasian Green Woodpecker here. We should also see Black Woodpecker. Slightly larger than North America’s Pileated Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker is the largest species of its family in Europe. Other targets include Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Short-toed Treecreeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Sombre Tit, and Long-tailed Tit. We also visit the Ropotamo wetland and coastal sand dunes. As usual, we will keep scanning the skies for migrating bird flocks, too!
Accommodations in the town of Sozopol (B,L,D)
Sun., Sept. 29 : Departures from Bulgaria
After breakfast we head inland to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, where the tour ends. Please schedule departures for the afternoon or stay on in the city. (B)
Great White Pelicans by Dimiter Georgiev
Cape Kaliakra by Gerard Gorman
Cape Kaliakra Fortress Ruins
White Storks by Dimiter Georgiev
Bulgaria Strandzha Mountains
Coastal Saltmarsh, Black Sea by Gerard Gorman
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the Journey is $TBD, based on double occupancy, per person.
The tour price includes airport transfers, 9 nights’ accommodations, all meals from dinner on the first day through breakfast Day 10, professional guide services, park and preserve entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.
Cost of the journey does not include airfare from your home to Bucharest, Romania or items of a personal nature, such as drinks from the bar, telephone, and local guide gratuities (at your discretion, we will give some guidelines).
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival: Plan to arrive in the morning on Friday, September 20, 2024, no later than noon. Your guide will pick up at the airport and the nearby Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Airport at 1PM for a 3.5-hour drive to your first night stay.
Arrival Airport: Bucharest Henri Coanda International (OTP), Bucharest, Romania
Departure: September 29, 2024 in the late-afternoon or evening. You have a four hour drive back from the last hotel of the journey, and you need to be at the airport three hours ahead of your flight.
Departure Airport: Sofia International Airport (SOF), Sofia, Bulgaria
Travel Tips and Extra Services: As our birding and nature tour hotels are all out of the cities, please book your hotel directly for early arrival or extra time. If you want just a place to rest up, the Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Airport is easy to book online and convenient for the arrival. There is another Hilton Garden Old Town in the city, and any number of boutique or historic hotels. You can also work with our travel agent for ideas for this city time. We are experts in the birding and nature aspects; we do not have city tours or other services, but there are loads of great suggestions online. Here are a couple of helpful sites that might be helpful in addition to Frommers, Fodors, etc.
- https://travelnotesandbeyond.com/things-to-do-in-bucharest-romania/ https://teaspoonofnose.com/sofia-bulgaria/
Visas are not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
Gerard Gorman is a deeply experienced birding and wildlife guide, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe where his knowledge of the wildlife sites of the region is second to none, having visited every country from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In recent years he has led several Naturalist Journeys groups across Europe and Africa. Gerard is also an author, and his books include Central and Eastern European Wildlife (Bradt, 2008) and Birding in Eastern Europe (WildSounds, 2006). His main ornithological interest focuses on woodpeckers, and he is regarded as an authority, authoring an unprecedented seven books on the family, including the acclaimed Woodpeckers of the World (Bloomsbury, 2014) and Woodpecker (Reaktion, 2017). His latest works include, The Wryneck (Pelagic Publishing, 2022), is the definitive monograph on this fascinating species and The Green Woodpecker (Pelagic Publishing, 2023). Gerard is also interested in wildlife tracking, and his Pocket Guide to Tracks and Signs of European Wildlife (Bloomsbury) was published in 2014.
Photo credit: probirder.com
Other trips with Gerard Gorman
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. We advise having at least one blank passport page per entry stamp. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassies of Romania and Bulgaria website for guidelines.
- Visas are not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Bulgaria and Romania and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport in Romania (OPT). Departing from Sofia International Airport in Bulgaria (SOF). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Bucharest, Romania (OTP)
Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please refer to your emergency contact list, and contact your ground operator, with a copy to our office. You may also phone or text your guide. Quite a few of your guides will set up a WhatsApp connection so you can also reach your guide by phone.
The arrival airport for this tour is Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP). Upon arrival at the airport, you will pass through immigration and customs and exit to the main terminal area. Your emergency contact sheet will be helpful at Immigration when they ask where you are going. At the airport, there are ATMs to withdraw money and change desks where US Dollars can be changed for Romanian leu (plural lei).
We will coordinate your pick-ups close to your departure with operators and guides once we have all travelers completed travel information. Please make sure we have both your ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE information, so they can plan this. It is imperative that we have your correct TRAVEL information; we appreciate if you email us a copy of your flight reservation. They will check internet for your updated flight information.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Sofia, Bulgaria (SOF)
Please plan your flight home for the last day of the tour in the afternoon from the departure airport, Sofia International (SOF).
We will provide transfers or arrange for taxis to the airport for all departures as needed for the departure day. The departure fee is now typically built into your airline fare.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas & Documents
You must have a passport that is in good condition and is valid for six months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. If you are from another country, please contact the website of the Romania and Bulgaria embassies for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:
It is recommended to check for changes 60-90 days before your tour departs but, at the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Requirements requiring visitors from more than 60 visa-free countries (including the U.S.) to get a travel authorization when entering Europe for brief stays have been delayed until 2025. Learn more at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. Do bring any prescription medications with you and its best if you have a copy of the prescription in case of loss. A supply of standard over the counter medications for common ailments is recommended.
At the time of writing there were no other required vaccinations to enter Romania or Bulgaria. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. A helpful website for planning is the Center for Disease Control (USA) as below, or by phone (800) CDC-INFO.
We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and medications for common ailments, as well as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. You should bring an adequate supply of any prescription drugs you use, and in addition, a list of generic names of your medicine as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. When traveling with medication, it is a good idea to pack any drugs you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also a good idea to carry with you and up-to-date record of known allergies or chronic medical problems so that emergency treatment, if necessary, can be carried out without endangering your health.
Weather & Climate
Romania and Bulgaria generally have cool, dry autumns. Highs average in the mid- to high-70s°F, and lows in the mid-50s°F., with mild to moderate humidity. Rain, though unlikely, is possible. Come prepared with layers of clothing, including a rain-jacket that can double as a windbreaker, and an umbrella. Bring walking boots for use in the day and more comfortable shoes for meals and relaxing.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Please, pack light. Dress is very informal and comfortable throughout the trip, and casual dress is suitable at all locations. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day.
Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – and things that are comfortable and easy. Please avoid white or brightly colored outerwear for the field. Laundry services can be arranged at some of our hotels, those where you have multiple nights. But it is most convenient if you are content with hand laundry.
Please consider bringing a water bottle or two; while we will have water at all times during our trip, an enormous amount of plastic waste is generated by beverage containers which can be avoided if you bring a bottle and refill it every day.
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear!
The leu (RON) is the official currency of Romania and the lev (BGN) is the official currency of Bulgaria. For the current exchange rate, please refer to online converter tools like www.xe.com, or your bank. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as the local currency, an ATM card, and a credit card. Your guides will help you as you cross to Bulgaria by land so will not have the airport ATM to use, but you may also be able to get some of both currencies in Bucharest. Also, larger hotels and restaurants will allow Euros.
We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. You can exchange your money in either country. The easiest way is to withdraw funds from a local ATM. ATMs are widely available in both Romania and Bulgaria and will typically offer you the best exchange rate. The ATM will give local money and your bank will convert that into US Dollars. Many banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey. Hotels can also change money.
Credit cards are commonly accepted in Romania and Bulgaria. We suggest you have more than one card available. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (one Visa, and one MasterCard; American Express is less accepted), if possible. A EUROCARD or ACCESS sign displayed means the establishment accepts MasterCard. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling to Romania and Bulgaria to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees. Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.
Many people ask how much money to plan to bring for spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Typical items people purchase include: local souvenirs and T-shirts, artworks, drinks before or with dinner, maps and natural history books.
Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Some guidelines follow. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide at a location, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.
Please note that these suggested tips are quoted in U.S. Dollars. You will want to convert and tip in lei or lev, respectively, for Romania and Bulgaria. As Gerard is from Hungary, the best choice for him would be either US dollars or Euros. In Bulgaria you also have a local Bulgarian guide.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
You can make international calls from most of our hotels. The country code for the USA is 1
International calls to the U.S.: Dial 00 + (1) + country code + area code + number.
- To call Romania, the USA exit code is 011, then dial 40 + phone number.
- To call Bulgaria, the USA exit code is 011, then dial 359 + phone number.
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turn on your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.
Wi-Fi will be available in most hotels and restaurants, at least in the common areas. If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.
Romania and Bulgaria use northern European standards, so the voltage is 230V, higher than in the United States (120V), with a frequency of 50 Hz. Electrical sockets (outlets) in both countries are primarily "Type F" and accept the standard continental European dual round-pronged plugs. This socket also works with plugs C and E.
You will most likely need to bring a power plug adapter, and a voltage converter in order to use appliances or devices from the U.S. that do not automatically detect and convert voltages. To be sure, check the label on your appliance. More information can be found at www.power-plugs-sockets.com.
Romania and Bulgaria are in the Eastern European Time Zone, which is 7 hours ahead of New York (Eastern Daylight Time). Romania and Bulgaria do observe Summer Time (or Daylight Savings Time). A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Lightly!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Dress is very informal. In general, the weather during your stay should be pleasant, with highs averaging in the mid- to high-70’s, and lows in the mid- 50’s with mild to moderate humidity and we want you to be comfortable. Rain is possible in September. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects, and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – and things that are comfortable and easy. Layering is your best strategy for comfort.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts (2-3)
- T-shirts or equivalent (4-5 – remember you may be buying some anyway!)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (gel bandanas work well to keep you cool)
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight walking boots (heavy boots not needed)
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Lightweight sweater or jacket; fleece fabric is ideal, but a sweatshirt will do
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho (great if this doubles as windbreaker)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- Umbrella (a great option for occasional rain as you can keep using your binoculars)
- Photo Identification
- Airline tickets
- Passport with copy kept elsewhere
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Small flashlight with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock
- Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
- Insect Repellent
- Toiletry articles
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
- Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Chargers for cameras and/or phones, and three prong adapters if needed
- Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional)
- Cell phone
- Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid Items
- Personal medications
- Personal first aid kit, including medications for general ailments, colds and stomach ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, etc.) and antiseptic cream or wipes.
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
- Insurance information
- Vaccination records
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Romania & Bulgaria; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you.
Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Europe.
History & Culture
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Birding the Black Sea Coast
- Romania: https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/checklist.jsp?region=ro
- Bulgaria: https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/checklist.jsp?region=bg
Wildlife – iNaturalist.org
- Romania: https://www.inaturalist.org/places/romania
- Bulgaria: https://www.inaturalist.org/places/bulgaria
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
World Wildlife Fund
Biodiversity Information System
The European Nature Trust - Romania
Black Sea – UN Environmental Programme
World Wildlife Fund
Geology & Geography
History & Culture
- Romanian: https://omniglot.com/language/phrases/romanian.php
- Bulgarian: https://omniglot.com/language/phrases/phrasefinder.php?lang2=bulgarian
- Romanian: https://rolandia.eu/en/blog/romanian-culture-traditions/14-mouth-watering-romanian-foods-that-everyone-should-try
- Bulgarian: https://sofiaadventures.com/bulgarian-food-cuisine-best-dishes/
Helpful Travel Websites
Arrival: Bourgas International Airport (BOJ), Bucharest
Departure: Sofia Airport (SOF)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories
Travel Health Pro (UK)
Foreign Exchange Rates
Electricity and Plugs
Date & Time
Photo credits: Banners: Sozopol (NJ Stock), Great White Pelicans (Dimiter Georgiev), Pied Wheatear (NJ Stock), European Bee-eater (NJ Stock), Thumbnails: Syrian Woodpecker (NJ Stock), Eurasian Thick-knee (NJ Stock), European Bee-eater (NJ Stock), Red-footed Falcon (NJ Stock), Eurasian Roller (NJ Stock), Pygmy Cormorant (NJ Stock), Black Woodpecker 9NJ Stock), Pied Wheatear (NJ Stock)