A nine days photography journey in Bulgaria for photographing of orchids, tulips and butterflies

Tulips, orchids and butterflies photography

Monday 24th April - Tuesday 2nd May 2023

This tour is focused on the very first spring orchids, tulips and butterflies in Bulgaria. During the tour we will visit various habitats (mountain meadows, low-land deciduous forest, scrub and bushes, rocky places to meadows, riverbanks and sea coast), giving us the opportunity to find local and interesting species like: Monkey Orchid, Lady Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, Tulipa rhodopea, Iris reichenbachii, Pale-flowered Orchid, Pink Butterfly Orchid, Cephalanthera epipactoides, Helleborines, Tulipa thracica, Long-lipped Tongue Orchid, Sageleaved Rock-Rose, Pink Rock-Rose, Ophrys reinholdii, Ophrys cornuta, Tulipa australis, Tulipa urumovii and many more. Beside the orchids and the tulips, which are our main focus, we shall also see and photograph some of the beautiful early butterflies we rarely photograph on our butterfly tours. These are Eastern Festoon, Southern Festoon, fresh swallowtails, Yellow-banded Skipper, Grecian Copper, Chequered Blue, Lattice Brown etc, as well as many other insects. Sunlight at this time of the year in Bulgaria is good for photography all day, but we will still take full advantage of the early morning and late afternoon light.


Day 1 Arrival at Sofia airport and transfer to Dobrostan for two nights in a small family hotel.

Day 2 Today we`ll explore the Dobrostan ridge. We`ll visit a limestone ridge above the St. Petka Muldavska Monastery, along the path to St. Ilia Peak where will looking for: Orchis simia (Monkey Orchid), Orchis purpurea (Lady Orchid), Orchis tridentata (Three-toothed Orchid), Anacamptis pyramidalis (Pyramidal Orchid), Ophrys mammosa, Tulipa rhodopea a rare Bulgarian endemic Tulip, Iris reichenbachii a Balkan endemic species. Depending on time we can visit the area of Martsiganitsa chalet where can find: Dactylorhiza sambucina (Elder-flowered Orchid), Orchis pallens (Pale-flowered Orchid).

Day 3 All day transfer to Eastern Rhodopes, town of Ivailovgrad, next to the Turkish border. We shall have a few stops along the route for orchids, flowers and butterflies. Two nights in family hotel in Ivailovgrad.

Day 4 Region of Ivailovgrad town is popular as an orchid`s paradise. Calcareous hill, secondary deciduous forest, shrubs and grassy places, river valleys, wet meadows and even more different habitats. Both days we will be looking for some of the rarest and beautiful orchid species: Orchis simia (Monkey Orchid), Orchis purpurea (Lady Orchid), Ophrys mammosa, Ophrys cornuta, Anacamptis pyramidalis (Pyramidal Orchid), Anacamptis papilionacea (Pink Butterfly Orchid), Anacamptis morio (Green-winged Orchid), Limodorum abortivum (Violet Limodore), Latanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid), Himantoglossum calcaratum (not-flowering). 

Day 5 Today we shall visit the Likana protected area, declared for the protection of the only locality of Cephalanthera epipactoides. This orchid has oriental sub-Mediterranean distribution and is endemic to Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Other orchid species observed in the vicinity are: Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine), Cephalanthera damasonium (White Helleborine), Cephalanthera rubra (Red Helleborine, but may be not-flowering),Anacamptis papilionacea, Anacamptis pyramidalis, Limodorum abortivum, Himantoglossum calcaratum, Orchis purpurea, Ophris cornuta, Ophrys mammosa and Ophrys apifera.

Day 6 Long all-day transfer to the Black sea coast to town of Primorsko. Short stop along the road at the vicinity of Ustrem village (marble quarry), Sakar Mountain looking for Anacamptis papilionacea, Ophris cornuta, Orchis tridentata, Anacamptis morio, Iris sintenisii. Another stop near Arkutino lake for Anacamptis pyramidalis, Iris suaveolens and Tulipa thracica is one of the rarest wild tulips in Bulgaria, a Balkan endemic, which natural range also includes Croatia, Greece and Turkey. Last stop just before Primorsko to see a beautiful population of Orchis purpurea. Two nights at small hotel near the Black sea.

Day 7 Short transfer will bring us in vicinity of Strandzha Mountain. First stop will be to Silistar protected area. Here we`ll looking for: Serapias vomeracea (Long-lipped Tongue Orchid), Anacamptis papilionacea (Pink Butterfly Orchid), Anacamptis morio (Green-winged Orchid), Verbascum bugulifolium, Verbascum phoeniceum, Cistus salvifolius (Sage-leaved Rock-Rose), Cistus incanus (Pink Rock-Rose). Then a short trip to core part of the Strandzha Mountain to see mixed populations of Ophrys reinholdii and Ophrys cornuta (possibly hybrids between them).

Day 8 Three hours transfer will bring us to the Eastern Balkan Mountain in Sinite Kamani Nature Park. Here we`ll take pictures of Anacamptis morio (Green-winged Orchid), Orchis simia (Monkey Orchid), Orchis purpurea (Lady Orchid), Orchis tridentata (Threetoothed Orchid), Ephalanthera damasonium (White Helleborine), Dactylorhiza sambucina (Elder-flowered Orchid) and Orchis pinetorum. We will find the graceful Yellow Tulips Tulipa australis on mountain meadows and rocky places. Depending on the year, it is possible to see Tulipa urumovii in flowers. This wild tulip is among the most notable of Bulgarian endemics. Stay overnight near Sliven.

Day Early morning session, time permitting, followed by transfer to the airport.


Photo and video gallery

Early spring photography - orchids, tulips and butterflies

Early spring photography - orchids, tulips and butterflies

Early spring photography - orchids, tulips and butterflies tour gallery