|DURATION: 9 days
PRICE: € 740
|DIFFICULTY: 2/3 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
TOUR TYPE: Self-guided
A self-guided hiking tour that combines the most attractive parts of two mountain chains in Bulgaria will take you to 9-day exploration. Starting with the lower and less challenging Rhodope mountains, you will stroll around mystical areas, experience the famous hospitality of the locals, and enjoy the marvellous scenery around you. After the warm-up hikes over the rounded crest of the mountain of Orpheus, you will meet the alpine-like landscape of Rila mountain – the highest ridge not only in Bulgaria but also at the Balkan Peninsula. Impressive vistas from the top of majestic peaks will leave you breathless. Immortalize these memories on your camera so you could get back to your trekking experience anytime you need to remind yourself of the divine beauty of Bulgarian mountains! This independent hiking tour will enrich your knowledge of Bulgarian history and culture because included in the itinerary are also must-see sites such as Bachkovo Monastery, Shiroka Laka architectural reserve, and the oldest inhabited city of Europe – Plovdiv.
The tour combines moderate to arduous treks. The trails are well-marked and instructions were given to every client – easy to follow. In the set of documents are included also a map, GPS tracks, and detailed route notes (one pair per room). To accomplish each hike you need only a small day backpack, the main luggage will remain in the accommodation or in the transfer vehicle. All ground transportation, as well as Sofia Airpot transfers, are included.
/The order of the walks in RIla may be changed for logistical reasons./
Day 1: Sofia – Lyaskovo
Meeting at Sofia or Plovdiv airport (pick ups from Plovdiv/Plovdiv Airport will involve supplement of 40 EUR; landing should be at 15:00 at latest). Transfer to the Rhodopean village of Lyaskovo. Your friendly hosts will make you feel like home! Depending on where you land, the transfer could last 1 hr 30 mins from Plovdiv and up to 3 hrs (from Sofia). Single timed transfer from Sofia will be organized in case of overlapping bookings (departing Sofia at 15:30 at latest).
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra night in Lyaskovo village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
Day 2: Lyaskovo – Yagodina/Yagodina Cave/Eagle’s Eye viewpoint – Trigrad (3-5,30-6,45hrs; 9,50-16-21km)
Today you can choose between two main treks (incl. options to extend them additionally):
Shorter (9,50km; +565m/-355m): A 40min transfer takes you to the entry of the Yagodina Cave: one of Bulgaria’s longest caves, which you can opt to view. Once finished with the cave tour, proceed for Trigrad village through a colorful kaleidoscope of landscapes that immerse you in the idyll of rolling crests, forests, and valleys.
Longer (16km (+1070m/-750m) or 21km (+1385m/-1065m): A 30min transfer takes you to the trailhead where a moderate but nice ascent through gardens and woods brings you up at the crest of the mountain. Enjoy the breath-taking views from the famous Eagles’ Eye observation platform. Then you descend down to Yagodina village, from where you can make a detour to visit Yagodina Cave or head straight for Trigrad village.
*Those who chose the shorter option, can extend their hike with a visit to the Trigrad Gorge (with its 350m high vertical cliffs) and the The Devil’s Throat Cave (housing the highest underground waterfall on the Balkans, 42m high), both near Trigrad. Visiting these sights is a must, and can be done also in the afternoon of Day 3 or Day 4 by those, who opted for the longer treks on Day 2.
Day 3: Trigrad – Zhrebevo – Trigrad (5,30hrs; 18,50km; +700m/-700m)
Your self-guided walking trip will take you today to a more lively Rhodopean village where the population is busy with traditional livestock, agriculture, and wood processing. The pristine nature will completely enchant you. Herds of tranquil grazing sheep and goats will complete the pastoral ambience. No matter how charming they look, do not get very close, as their fluffy guardians are not so welcoming to newcomers.
Day 4: Trigrad – Kesten/Vodni Pad – Trigrad (5,30hrs; 17km; +670m/-760m)
Today, starting with a 10min transfer to the trailhead, you enjoy a particularly pleasant walking trek to the bordering with Greece villages of Kesten and Vodni Pad (until recently within a closely guarded strip proscribed even for those living down the road; you will see remains of the barbed wire border fences, meant to prevent people from escaping to Greece in the years during the 45yrs long communist rule in Bulgaria after WWII). A circular trail takes you up panoramic crests, through pine and beech forests dotted with green meadows and smallholdings, sheltered valleys, and traditional stone houses. The valley of the Trigradska River takes you back to Trigrad.
Day 5: Trigrad – Shiroka Laka – Bachkovo Monastery – Plovdiv – Govedartsi
This day will be devoted to the exploration of Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage and so you can save your energy for the upcoming challenges in Rila. Leaving Trigrad in the morning, you will head off towards Shiroka Laka village proclaimed as an architectural reserve. Lying on both banks of a river, the village represents the typical Rhodope and architectural style form the Revival Period and also keeps and spreads the rich folklore traditions of the region. The journey continues towards the second-largest monastery complex – Bachkovo Monastery. In the main temple is kept the most treasured item – a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary dated back to the 14th century. After the visit of the monastery, you will travel to Plovdiv – the oldest still inhabited city in Europe, second largest in Bulgaria and also famous with numerous remains from the Roman period. there is uniquely preserved Old Town along whose cobbled streets you may stroll around and spend the afternoon. Arriving in Goevdartsi, a charming village located in the foothills of the majestic Rila mountain, you will be welcomed with a tasty dish and enjoy the well-deserved rest in a cozy family guest house.
Days 6-8: (final details with the order of the walks in Rila Mountains will be available inside your tour program, which will be emailed to you prior to your arrival in Bulgaria)
A: Govedartsi – The Seven Rila Lakes – Govedartsi (6-6,30hrs; 17-19km; +1200-1310m/-1200-1310m)
Today you will encounter the pearls of Rila mountain – the world-known Seven Rila Lakes. It is a group of glacier lakes, each with an unusual shape, resembling a body feature or telling a story with its name. During summer weekends this place is very busy so your circular trek will be off the beaten path for a while and you are not going to use the chairlift, where the big crowds are gathering. Hiking upon terraces, bit by bit the stunning beauty of Rila will reveal itself and when you look down from the highest lake you will be rewarded with a divine panorama of the Lakes below. The lowest located one is at 2,100m and the highest one at 2,500m.
B: Govedartsi – Malyovitsa – Scary Lake/Yonchevo Lake or Mount Malyovitsa – Govedartsi (5,30-7hrs; 12-14km; +880-1040m/-880-1040m)
You start the day with a short transfer to the Central Mountain School at Malyovitsa Valley (20 mins driving time). From there you follow uphill Malyovishka River, running through giant fir trees and surrounded by mighty rocky peaks. Soon your trail will elevate above the tree line and the trekking will end up by the crystal-clear waters of The Scary Lake (2465m). Jagged peaks are reflecting in the waters and fulfil the eyes. For the adventurous hikers, there would be an option to climb Malyovitsa Peak (2729m) the cradle of the Bulgarian rock-climbing and mountaineering. From the top, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Rila Monastery, nestled in the warm embrace of a green forest.
C: Govedartsi – Borovets – Mount Musala – Borovets – Govedartsi (6hrs; 14,50km; +690m/-690m)
The last day of this independent walking tour will let you climb on the “rooftop of the Balkans” – the highest summit in Rila and the whole Peninsula – Musala (2925m). A short car transfer will take you to ski resort Borovets (25 mins driving time) from where you board the cabin lift. The path will pass by some mountain huts, the cold waters of glacier lakes and a shelter where you can stop for a short break before the last ascend. Despite being the highest summit the trek is not difficult except this last stage of the trail. Your efforts will be compensated by jaw-dropping scenery of the sea of mighty peaks. In clear weather, you would be able to admire the crest of Rhodope mountain from where you started your trekking adventure, as well as the ridges of Rila, Pirin and Balkan mountains.
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra nights in Govedartsi village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
Day 9: Govedartsi – Sofia
Transfer back to Sofia from Govedartsi (appr. 1,30hrs).
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: 740 € per person in twin/dbl room
Single room supplement: 125 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Solo travellers supplement: 520 € (incl. sgl room supplement)
(Traveling solo? Ask us to join you to an existing reservation in order to reduce costs.)
Rent of hiking poles: 20 €/person
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers according to the itinerary (pre-defined/fixed schedule of the daily transfers, which you need to follow); accommodation in en-suite rooms (family hotels and pensions), incl. breakfast and supper; luggage transfers; detailed route descriptions in English; tourist maps of the Rhodopes and Rila; GPS tracks; emergency hotline, and all local taxes.
Price does not include: cable car tickets; cave entry charges; extra food and drink; travel/medical insurance; personal expenses.
Best period: this tour can start every day during the period mid-June – mid-September; October is also possible with a change of the program of Day 8; (advance booking is required as some accommodations are small and get fully booked months in advance)
Extension to Rila Monastery: 95 € per person (in a group of 2 persons or more sharing a double room; single room supplement: 30 €) (included: pick-up from Govedartsi on Day 9, transfer to Rila Monastery, 1,30-2hrs free time to explore the monastery, transfer to Sofia, overnight in 3-star centrally located hotel (incl. breakfast); not included: lunch and dinner on Day 9, airport transfer on Day 10, guiding services).
SCROLL DOWN FOR ALL DATES