RURAL BULGARIA – BALKAN, RHODOPES, PIRIN & RILA MOUNTAINS

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DURATION: 8 days
PRICE: € 880
DIFFICULTY: 1/2 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: May-October
START/FINISH: Sofia
TOUR TYPE: Guided

If you are planning an escape from the hurried lifestyle we would like to introduce you to the peaceful charm of Bulgarian mountain villages. If you think that relaxation should be spent outside of the big cities and closer to nature, you will really enjoy one week with us! Guided hiking trip will take you to the remote Rhodope mountains, the homeland of the mythical singer Orpheus. While we explore the nature off-beaten tracks we will enrich also our knowledge of the local traditions and culture. The trekking adventure will take us for a day to the highest mountain ranges in Bulgaria – Pirin and Rila. Picturesque alpine landscapes dotted with the blue glittering waters of numerous glacier lakes will colour our photos and memory. Bulgaria is also a paradise for food lovers as the gastronomy will pamper your taste buds with unexpected flavours.
Let yourself experience the magic of trekking in the faraway mountains, sleep in small cosy guest-houses, and enrich your collection of memories from fairy-tale lands.

The trails are not demanding, while some steep inclines may present. Suitable hiking equipment (such as comfortable walking boots, rainjacket, anatomic backpack) will be a must for a pleasant experience. The main luggage will remain either in the transfer vehicle or the accommodation, so you will carry only a small backpack of necessities.


Day 1: Sofia – Koprivshtitsa

We meet you at Sofia Airport and together we depart towards Koprivshtitsa. Located in the green heart of Sredna Gora mountain, this small town keeps the spirit of the Revival Period alive.
Day 2: Koprivshtitsa – Plovdiv – Bachkovo Monastery – Kossovo
We will spend our morning exploring this magnificent architectural reserve town, strolling around the cobbled hilly streets among superb houses that are keeping the spirit of its glorious past. The settlement was demolished several times but its brave and proud inhabitants raised it every time from the ashes. The planned itinerary is to visit some of the notable house-museums which were also the homes of national heroes from the Bulgarian chronicles. Later we continue our cultural travel towards Plovdiv – the oldest constantly inhabited city in Europe. We will completely dive into the artistic ambience, especially when walking around the romantic Old Town. The modern city is keeping numerous remains from different epochs and influences among which are most strongly present the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman artefacts. Definitely, outstanding landmarks are the Seven Hills among which the streets are winding and offer a short natural escape for its citizens. Later the day we will travel to the second largest monastery in Bulgaria – Bachkovo Monastery. Located in the outskirts of Rhodope mountain, this sacred place will reveal many curious stories and will amaze us with the unique murals and the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. Our first overnight will take us to the picturesque village of Kossovo.
Day 3: Kossovo – Shiroka Laka – Lyaskovo – Devin (1,30-2hrs; 3km; +50m/-50m)
After having breakfast at the balcony of the marvellous stone house where we spent the night, we will set off to our next destination. We board the vehicle and continue towards Shiroka Laka – another mountain village that keeps the spirit of the past. Lying on the riverbanks of a playful river, the village attracts visitors with the unique outlook of typical Rhodopean architecture. After the visit, we will proceed to the spa city of Devin, where a short walking tour will diversify our cultural stroll. The eco-path is circular, looping around lush green hills and following the river Devinska. Some of the stages of the trail are wooden bridges and boardwalks fixed on the sheer walls of the river gorge. We may spot even wild goats, resting peacefully in the green paradise around us. The afternoon could be spent in the spa centre of the hotel while the evening we will have a short transfer to the village of Lyaskovo where dinner will be served in a local rural house with very friendly hosts! (transfer between Devin and Lyaskovo is approx. 30 mins in one direction).
Day 4: Devin – Trigrad – Zhrebevo – Trigrad (6 hrs; 18km; +700m/-700m)
We leave Devin city after breakfast and continue towards the charming Trigrad village, huddled between green hills and tall rocks. To reach the remote village, we will drive through the stunning Trigrad Gorge, where mighty rocks will be hanging a few meters above the car. In the depths of these rocks is located the creepiest cave – Devil’s Throat. We will do our best to visit it either today or tomorrow as for sure it will be a peculiar experience hearing the loud roaring waters of the highest underground waterfall in Bulgaria. The cave itself is veiled in mystery and probably here the famous singer Orpheus crossed the border between the real-life and subterranean kingdom to seek his beloved Eurydice. Our daily trekking will start from Trigrad village and will take us on a circular walk to Zhrebevo village, a small settlement so close to the Greek border. Throughout the day many panoramic views will open up so we could capture all of the moments not only in our minds but on photo cameras as well.
Day 5: Trigrad – Trigrad Gorge – Yagodina – Dolen – Bansko (4 hrs; 10km; +350m/-560m)
Probably this morning we will start with the visit of Devil’s Throat Cave in case yesterday we did not have the time. After the visit, we will start hiking uphill until we climb on the top of the Trigrad Gorge. There we will dip into an old dense forest and our trails start winding between the trees, then suddenly crosses open meadows. The wildlife in the area is very rich so we might be lucky if we have a glimpse of it or at least spot the traces of different animals among which may be also the brown bear. Our trek will finish by the entrance of another cave, the longest one in Bulgaria and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Yagodina Cave houses different formations among which are also the rare draperies and cave pearls. After the cave tour which will last about 40 mins, we will board again our vehicle to continue our trekking tour in another picturesque mountain – Pirin! ( 2 hrs and 30 mins transfer time)
Day 6: Bansko – Banderishki Lakes – Bansko (variety of options: 4-7 hrs; 6-8km; +480m/-480m).
In the itinerary is planned a hike to a group of glacier lakes also known as Banderishki Lakes. If you are fit enough and also interested in conquering the highest summit in Pirin mountain, the program could be varied and instead of the Lakes, we can trek to Vihren (2914m) The trek is rather arduous and demanding but will reveal the outstanding raw beauty of the mountain. If we stay for the hike to the Banderishki Lakes, we will walk through an old spruce forest, next to a playful river. The trail is zigzagging among the crystal-clear waters of the lakes and we can make short picnics by the shores of some of them. The divine landscape is diverse and will fulfil our eyes with splendid views. The evening we will get well-deserved rest in a local tavern trying the delicious cuisine of the region.
Day 7: Bansko – Rila Monastery – The Seven Rila Lakes – Govedartsi (3,30-4,30hrs; 6-9km; +400-500m/-400-500m)
Very busy day but all of our efforts will be compensated with impressive views and unique experiences. We leave Bansko early in the morning (1 hr 30 mins transfer time) and soon we will find ourselves in front of the majestic walls of the largest monastery complex in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery (UNESCO). When we pass through the gates a breathtaking scenery will enchant us. In the first place, our attention will be attracted by the marvellous main temple, depicted from outside with the Holy Gospel. We will be glad to admire also the high balconies with flowers hanging from railings. After the visit, we continue towards the pearls of Rila mountain – The Seven Rila Lakes. Another group of glacier lakes that appeals to visitors from all over the world to discover their divine beauty. Located between 2100m and 2500m hiking around the lakes is pleasant with some steep stages. Each of them is honoured with a name that perfectly describes the extraordinary shape such as Babreka (The Kidney) or Trilistnika (The Threefoil). The night we will spend in the charming village of Govedartsi.
Day 8: Govedartsi – Sofia
Transfer from Govedartsi to Sofia Airport (1 hr and 30 mins).

Hiking time: hiking time only is mentioned on each day (not including stops for pictures, picnics, breaks etc.); these are based on an average hiker’s speed of 4-5km/hr on flat terrain, additional 30min for each 300m elevation gain, and a backpack weighing not more than 10-15% of your body weight. Still this varies a lot on the terrain and hiking experience of each client.


Price:
> 1140 € per person in twin/dbl room (in a group of 2-3 persons)
> 880 € per person in twin/dbl room (in a group of 4-8 persons)
Single room supplement:
120 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers in the itinerary; accommodation in 3-star hotels and guesthouses (rooms with en-suite facilities); breakfast and supper; English-speaking guide; chairlift tickets, entry charges to caves and museums and all local taxes.
Price does not include: extra food and drink; mountain maps; medical insurance; personal expenses.
Best period: May/June-September/October (changes in the hikes might occur for departures in May and October).
Joining the tour:
The tour is organized on private basis only. There are no scheduled group departures, which you could potentially join.

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