Travel and cultural documentary photographer Jacob James has a passion for immersing himself in new cultures and experiences. His work revolves around capturing the human side of life for people right across the globe, whether that’s the nuances in different cultures that make us all unique, or the simple, instinctual emotions that deep down we all have in common.
Adventurer by name, adventurous by nature. Our Adventurer tours are for those of you who love to take the path less beaten, to explore beneath the skin of a country and to find those magical moments of authenticity. To hear stories from those who live the wonderful cultures of this planet and to photograph real life, as we find it, wherever that may be.
Witness the brave icy river celebrations of St.Jordan's Day
Experience the craziness of the traditional New Year's Kukeri festivals
Be enchanted by the traditional and unique Kukeri fire festival at night
Fall in love with the dramatic scenery of the Rhodope mountains
Day 1 - Arrival
Zdrasti and welcome to Bulgaria! Depending on the time of your arrival we can arrange for a tour of centre of Sofia. In the evening, we will get together for a welcome meal over traditional dinner where we can get to know each other better and discuss the upcoming journey.
Day 2 - Sofia
We will spend day 2 exploring Sofia in detail, with a special focus on the old, monumental Stalinist architecture.
We will also spend time at the women's market, one of the liveliest locations in Sofia, where we will have the opportunity to photograph locals in all their vividness.
For those who are interested, we will also have time in Sofia's industrial districts, home to a strange mix of old buildings left over from the communist period placed in the context of a contemporary industrial landscape.
Day 3 - St Jordan's Day
Very early in the morning, we will head off for the small town of Kalofer, where we will photograph the celebration of the feast day of Epiphany. The main attraction is the traditional dance performed by local men in the icy waters of the river Tundzha. The participants perform the traditional Bulgarian dance of horo accompanied by musicians playing bagpipes.
The ritual in Kalofer is a variation of the popular celebrations held across Bulgaria on Epiphany, which involves a priest throwing a cross into a body of water (river, sea or lake) and young men diving into the water to retrieve it.
We will spend the rest of the day shooting in the historic villages of Kalofer, Karlovo and Koprivshtica, where we will spend the night.
Day 4 - Kukeri and Babinden
Again very early in the morning, we will head off for the town of Blagoevgrad, where the traditional Kukeri Festival will take place. We need to be there at about 11.30 AM, when the parade starts. Kukeri are elaborately costumed Bulgarian men and women who perform traditional rituals intended to scare away evil spirits. The costumes cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals with large bells attached to the belt.
The kukeri walk and dance through villages to scare away evil spirits with their costumes and the sound of their bells. About 1200 participants take part in the street parade.
After the festival (at about 14.00 PM) will set off for the village of Gorno Dragliste, where we will have traditional lunch. After lunch, we will explore the local villages surrounding Dragliste. If we are lucky, we may have the chance to photograph the traditional Babinden celebrations.
After we will go back to Gorno Draglishte, where we will spend time with our host, who will give us the chance to learn more about the local life and food. In the evening you will have a homemade traditional local dinner and also will have the chance to listen to authentic folklore music and songs performed by a local folklore group.
Day 5 & 6 - Eastern Rhodopes
After breakfast, we will head for the village of Leshten. In the early years of the 20th century Leshten was a busy village with more than 500 inhabitants. Nowadays there are only a few local permanent inhabitants, but many of the old houses have been restored and renovated.
On the way to Leshten we will pass through Gorno Dryanovo, a picturesque village with a predominantly Muslim. Even though the village lacks preserved old houses, it is especially interesting because of the lively activity carrying on along almost the entirety of the main street. Unlike villages with a primarily Christian composition, villages with large Muslim populations are full of life as the people there rarely leave them to live in big cities.
At the end of the road is the village of Kovachevitsa. The architecture of the houses in Kovachevica is original and unique. Most of them were built in the second half of the 19th century, but there are also new houses, built in the same style. It has been the location for the filming of many Bulgarian movies. In the evening, there will be the opportunity to spend time editing and critiquing the images from the last few days.
The next morning, we will set off for the village of Pirin. In the past, this settlement was one of the great centres of medieval ferrous metallurgy in the region. There were here 11 furnaces (primitive) and 5 big hammers where about 30 forges for horseshoes, horse-nails, and other agricultural implements working. Along the river, clinging one to another, are situated the old stone-adobe houses, all in the shape of a cross. The streets are narrow, steep and small, which further contribute to the enchanting atmosphere of the village.
Afterwards, we will set off for the stone village of Dolen, declared an architectural reserve because of the unique Rhodopes stone houses. Each house has its own specifically shaped chimney, and the streets are made of stone. Many of the houses are dilapidated, others are subject to intensive renovation, but still, here you can feel the spirit of the Bulgarian village of the last century.
We will have a late lunch in the town of Dospat, where we will have the chance to taste the famous Dospat trout, bred in some of the numerous fish farms around dam lake Dospat. Local people say that coming to Dospat without eating trout is like going to Rome without seeing the Pope.
Then we will continue our photo journey through the magical Rhodope Mountains to Teshel where we will spend the night.
Day 7 & 8 - Western Rhodopes
Over the next two days, we will explore the western Rhodopes, starting with the incredible Trigrad Gorge - sheer limestone cliffs that surround the river Trigradska before plunging into the Devil's Throat Cave and 530 meters further emerging as a large karst spring.
We will then continue with the Buinovska River Gorge, another magnificent part of the Rhodopes. In the afternoon we will have a photo session in the mountainous village of Yagodina, where we will spend the rest of the day. This village is a great example of rural Bulgarian lifestyle within the Rhodopes and is full of opportunities to photograph this.
Then we will continue to the picturesque village of Shiroka Laka, famous for its authentic Rhodopean houses set in tiers on both banks of the local river, before ending our day in the village of Smilyan, where we will spend the night.
The next morning we will explore Smilyan village before exploring the villages along the road to Arda. Next stop will be the village of Mogilitsa, famous for Agushevi konatsi, the 19th-century winter estate of a rich Ottoman feudal lord, Agush Aga, and his son. At the end of the road, we will visit the village of Arda, a picturesque place and the last stop before the Bulgarian/Greece border.
Day 9 - Devil's Bridge
After breakfast, we will continue eastwards to the village of Ardino, then from there to the Devil's Bridge and the village of Dyadovtsi. The village of Dyadovtsi is the epitome of an abandoned village, made up of old houses with stone roofs covered in ivy, some of which are slanted while others have already nearly collapsed into rubble. The so-called Devil's Bridge is a landscape photographers dream, its stone construction includes a second arch with openings to allow water from the turbulent Arda River to pass. We will finish the day in the village of Ardino where we will sleep for the night.
Day 10 - Asenovgrad and Plovdiv
After an early breakfast, we will head north to the “The Wonderful Bridges” cave and rocks phenomenon. It is situated in the karst valley of the river Erkyupriya in the West Rhodope mountains. In the past, the bridges had been one entire cave, formed under the destructive activity of the river waters. Parts of it collapsed with time, forming majestic marble bridges.
We’ll then head to the next stop which will be Asen's Fortress, located 2 kilometres from the town of Asenovgrad. The fortress has existed since the time of the Thracians, and during the Middle Ages was a main strategic point. Its position at the gateway to the Rhodope makes for spectacular photographs.
In the afternoon we will arrive in Plovdiv. After checking in the hotel we will have a chance for a late afternoon photo stroll through the narrow streets of the old part of the city. The town in its present appearance was built around seven hills – the hills of Plovdiv. Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe – the beginning of its history dates back to 4,000 years BC. It’s also situated in one of the most industrial regions and if there is interest we can arrange to shoot this industrial landscape too.
Day 11 - Fire Kukeri
After a relaxed breakfast, we will have another photo walk in Plovdiv, before heading to a group of small nearby villages, where we will attend the unique fire Kukesi Festival. The festival is spread across a small group of villages and is the highlight of the journey. The fire, Kukeri costumes and synchronised bells and drums make for a spectacular sight and a unique photo opportunity.
Once the festivities conclude, we will head back to Sofia to spend the night.
Day 12 - Departure
Our trip finishes in the capital. Depending on your departure time we can arrange further exploration of Sofia or even onward travel. By this point, you’ll be leaving us with a smile on your face and a hard drive full of unique imagery.
Of course! If your partner in crime wants to join our adventure they’re more than welcome. All our tours are designed to immerse you fully into the culture of the destinations that we visit. We think even non-photographers would find this pretty fascinating. The only caveat we have is that this is first and foremost a photography adventure and any accompanying non-photographers would be required to stay with us at all times throughout the tour.
Yes. It is a mandatory requirement on all of our tours that each participant has their own travel insurance policy. We highly recommend a travel insurance policy that not only covers medical expenses and repatriation but also covers your personal belongings and liability. For more information on travel insurance and our suggested providers please visit our travel services section.
Also, as a traveller with Intrepid Exposures, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visas and travel documents. Despite the fact we can’t sell you visas directly, we work with a number of partners who can find you the best solution to match your needs. If you need help arranging visas for any of our tours, please get in touch and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
We will try our very best to cater to any dietary needs, that being said we cannot always guarantee it due to the remoteness of some of the places we stay. We will notify you if this is the case and work with you to come up with a fair solution. As long as you notify us of any requirements or allergies when booking your trip we will do our best to accommodate any needs you have.
Yes, of course! Unfortunately our website doesn't offer this functionality yet. If you wish to pay the deposit and then the remainder in one instalment you can do so using the website. If you would instead like to pay for the trip in its entirety in one payment, please contact us directly and we can advise you on the best way to do this.
We do, but on a trip by trip basis. Some tours naturally lend themselves to extensions, others not so much. Please consult the individual tour pages for more details on the extensions offered. If you would like to create your own personal tour extension, please contact us directly for assistance in doing so.
We do everything in our power to make sure out tours run smoothly, that being said there’s certain things we can’t control. Natural disaster or conflicts in the areas we travel may mean that we have to rearrange our plans and itineraries. However, we will keep a close eye on developments in the areas we travel and notify you if there are any issues or doubts.
In a word, Yes. All our tours are covered by Protected Travel Insurance (PTS). This means that your money goes into a protected bank account and can’t be accessed by us until you get back from your trip, so should anything happen your money is 100% protected. Find out more