We are constantly trying to innovate our work and stay focused on the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage. We work to create a different image of Bulgaria – as it has much more to offer than the mass-tourism on our Black Sea coast.
Perhaps most important, we involve the Bulgarian villages in our product and help local people find new sources of income. It is no secret that such poor regions often lose their inhabitants and slowly disappear. This is why we lead tourists to these villages and we are happy that their money stays as a local support.
Our overnight stays are specially chosen to be typical for the region visited and to support a wider range of small and poor communities, with accommodation primarily in family-run guesthouses and B&Bs, in villages and small towns.
We also focus on the future of sustainable tourism in Bulgaria. Every year we improve our product by evaluating the previous tourist season. We inform ourselves about other successful business initiatives worldwide. We work in close partnership with several NGO's and together try to implement new regulations in the tourism law concerning the development of sustainable tourism
Reforestation in Pirin National Park
Pirin National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of our favourite national treasures. The area we have chosen to work with was severely damaged by a large forest fire in 2003. The fire burned 70 hectares of old growth forest - predominantly pines (Pinus heldreichii, Pinus peuce Grieseb and Pinus nigra). The first two are endemic species existing only on the Balkan Peninsula, and are in danger of extinction. The 2003 fire cut their population significantly. The goals of the project are to reforest the destroyed area and also to raise awareness among the government and public. Volunteers do all of the work. Through reforestation we hope to recover the great forest and again bring tourists there (one of the hiking trails in Pirin used to pass through this area).
Restoration of Saint Nicholas Monastery
Saint Nicholas Monastery, a medieval monastery on the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains near the Bulgarian capital Sofia, was once part of the Sofia Holy Mountain network of Monasteries. The church is the only building left standing there. It contains invaluable murals from the early 17th century including some of great importance as unique examples of art from the period. Sadly, the condition of the murals is deteriorating. Cracks are visible in the walls and pieces of several religious scenes have fallen down. Due to the damage done every winter, if we want to save these murals for posterity, we must start conservation work as soon as possible.
We have taken steps to encourage different institutions to take part in and support this project, and we are seeking additional financing for the project.
The short-term goal of the project is to restore the murals of the 17th century church of Saint Nicolas Monastery and plan for their preservation. There are other medieval monasteries in these mountains in the same general area as Saint Nicolas Monastery, and a follow-up project is to create a network of trails for "human-powered" use that connects some of the holy temples from this medieval network of monasteries. To accomplish this we will invite local people to participate.
At this time, no one offers a tour of the monasteries around Sofia. Including them in tourist programs and opening them again will greatly contribute to the development of the region. Local people will find work - guiding tours, creating and maintaining paths, in other small tourism and tourism related businesses. In this way the project combines the restoration of a culturally significant monastery with the well being of the local community.
The projest has been launched in close partnership with locals, Old Sofia Museum, Kremikovtsi Municipality, and Sofia Tourist Board.
Mountain Guide Training Programme
In 1997 Zig Zag Holidays together with Odysseia-In was one of the founders of the association Mountains and People. As a result of this partnership the profession of the "Mountain Guide" was legally recognised and in 2003, together with the Association, we established the first Mountain Guide Training Centre in Bulgaria. The coursework includes theory and practice of Mountain Leadership with about 1200 hours of lessons. The curriculum covers topics such as Alpine Mountain Techniques, Local Flora and Fauna, Environmental Considerations, Group Psychology, Decision Making, First Aid, and in Emergency Situations Mastering.
This centre gives many young people the opportunity to get licensed mountain guides - and to work as such in a responsible way. This is especially important for those living in poor mountain regions.
We are especially proud that we provide work for the young people of Bulgaria, with almost 50 knowledgeable and motivated expert tour leaders and mountain guides between 21 and 30 years old.