|DURATION: 8 days
PRICE: € 695
|DIFFICULTY: 3/4 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
TOUR TYPE: Guided
An intense and diverse hiking program is appealing to all those adventure-seekers who would wish to conquer the highest summits in Bulgarian mountains. The three mighty mountain ranges – Stara Planina (Balkan Mountain), Rila and Pirin will open up their hidden treasures and will reveal stunning panoramas ahead. Their premier summits as follows – Rila (Mt. Musala, 2925m, being also the highest on the Balkan Peninsula), Pirin (Mt. Vihren, 2914m) and the Balkan Mountains (Mt.Botev – 2376m). are located in the borders of national parks which will make the visit even more unforgettable due to the unique flora and fauna which will accompany us throughout the hikes.
Spending 1 week walking in Bulgarian mountains will take you closer also to the typical lifestyle in the small villages and for sure you will enjoy diverse meals from the local cuisine.
The trekking program is suitable for experienced hikers, used to walk on rough and steep terrain. Being in a good shape is a strong advantage to accomplish all of the treks, especially those who are not circular.
For the night in the hut in the Balkan Mountains (Day 2) you need to carry a change of clothes (you will not have access to your main luggage that same evening). On Day 4 and after it, you will only carry a daypack. The rest luggage will remain inside the accommodation, where you will be staying.
Day 1: Sofia – Plovdiv
We meet you at Sofia Airport and together we depart towards the second-largest city in the country – Plovdiv. Depending on when you land we may have time to stroll around the romantic streets of the well-preserved Old Town. For sure a short ramble around the city will work as a warm-up hike for us as Plovdiv is also known as The City over Seven Hills. Undoubtedly, this enchanting city has a lot to show, being a delightful mish-mash of different cultures who influenced somehow the local community, traditions, and definitely the modern outlook.
Day 2: Plovdiv – Kalofer – Rai Hut (4-5hrs; 8km; +750m/-0m)
Early in the morning, after breakfast, we leave Plovdiv and start our hiking tour towards the Balkan Mountains, the long mountain chain that cuts Bulgaria into two halves. The transfer (1 hr and 10 mins) will take us to the foothills of Dzhendema National Park where our first trekking adventure starts towards the Rai (Heaven) hut. Perched on a vast green hill, the hut is not surprisingly named like that. The surrounding area is just a small piece of heaven on the Earth, overlooking to lush river valleys and the folded crests of the Balkans which seems to be endless. The trail passes through breezy colourful forest and after we catch our breath by the hut, we will continue our hike towards the highest waterfall at the Balkans – Raisko (Heavenly) Praskalo (125m high).
Day 3: Rai Hut – Mount Botev – Rai Hut – Kalofer – Govedartsi (7-9hrs; 17km; +850m/-1600m)
We will enjoy freshly prepared breakfast outside in the chilly mountain air and when we fill ourselves with enough energy to conquer the highest summit at the Balkan Mountain, we will start the day! Quiet demanding trail with several steep stages and narrow pathways, among which is the famous Tarzan’s trail, ideal of all thrill-seekers. In fact, when we reach Botev Peak (2376m) we can have a pretty nice and long walk across. It is a vast field on whose top are built a weather and radio station, that covers almost 65% of the country TV and radio broadcasting. Going back to our car on a nice and long descend. When we reach it, we continue towards the foothills of Rila mountain where we have our first overnight in the village of Govedartsi.
Day 4: Govedartsi – The Seven Rila Lakes – Govedartsi (6-7hrs; 16-18km; +1100-1300m/-1100-1300m)
Another rendezvous with the pristine beauty of Bulgarian nature will take us to the famous group of glacier lakes. We start in the morning hiking through old spruce forest, which eventually takes us to an old mountain hut, built near the shores of the first from the Seven Rila Lakes – The Lowest Lakes (2100m). Each of the Lakes has a unique shape which suddenly leads to name them after a characteristic body feature such as The Kidney or The Eye. At the edge of the highest located one – The Teardrop (2500m) we can admire impressive panorama towards all of them.
Day 5: Govedartsi – Borovets – Mount Musala – Borovets – Govedartsi (5,30hrs; 14,50km; +690m/-690m)
Time to attempt the Balkan’s highest summit Musala (2925m). We will get transferred to the nearby ski resort Borovets (30 mins each direction) and board on the cabin lift. It takes us to the starting point of today’s trek which in its first stage is very pleasant, almost on a flat relief. Crossing lush green slopes which during the winter a covered with powder snow and attract a lot of skiers and snowboarders, we are going to reach soon a big mountain hut with a glacier lake next to it. Time for a short break and we continue towards the mighty figure of Musala, trekking upon rocky rivers and passing through many glacier lakes. From the highest located one – the Icy Lake starts the most demanding stage of our trail but our efforts will be compensated from the jaw-dropping scenery at the top. We will fulfil our eyes with the rough sea of jagged peaks cuddling into the fluffy clouds.
Day 6: Govedartsi – Rila Monastery – Stob Pyramids – Bansko (1,30hrs; 2km; +80m/-80m)
We bid farewell to Rila mountain and proceed our hiking tour towards the picturesque Pirin mountain range. Before reaching our final destination Bansko, we will stop by the majestic walls of the largest Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery, also listed in UNESCO. For many years it attracts pilgrims from all over the world and you will convince yourself in its uniqueness soon after we cross the gates. Undoiblty, the most spectacular building is the main temple, depicted from inside and outside with the Holy Gospel. We will pamper ourselves with the delicious “mekitsa” (flat fried donuts) still produced by the Old Bakery of the Monastery. A short walk we can make either to the cave of St. Ivan Rilski (the patron of the Monastery) or around the nearby by natural phenomenon Stob Pyramids. Arriving in the late afternoon in Bansko, we will get-well deserved rest in a local tavern before the most challenging hike in our program – the one to Vihren Summit (2914m).
Day 7: Bansko – Vihren Hut – Mount Botev – Vihren Hut – Bansko (6-7hrs; 8km; +960m/-960m)
The Pirin is named after the God of Thunder in Slav mythology Perun and the premier summit Vihren is considered as the home of all Slav Gods. The terrain is very rough, lack of streams or lakes along, but undoubtedly it is very spectacular. There are several ways to reach the top, but we will hike through Golem Kazan Cirque (The Giant Cauldron). Nature can make us the most treasured gift and allows us to observe the shy Balkan Chamois (wild goats) rushing over the rocky hills in the distance. When we go back to where we started, we can take a short break near the oldest tree in Bulgaria (1300 years old) – Baikusheva Mura.
Day 8: Bansko – Sofia
Transfer to Sofia Airport for departure. (2,30hrs drive)
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.
> 880 € per person in twin/dbl room (1 night in a dorm in the mountain hut) (in a group of 2-3 persons)
> 1140 € per person in twin/dbl room (1 night in a dorm in the mountain hut) (in a group of 4-8 persons)
Single room supplement: 90 € (obligatory for all individual clients; not available during the stay in the mountain hut)
Rent of hiking poles: 20 €/person
The price includes: transfers from/to Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all ground transfers as per program; accommodation and meals as mentioned above; English-speaking mountain guide; lift tickets; VAT and all local charges.
The price does not include: museum entrance fees; other meals and drinks; tourist maps (can be requested in advance when booking the tour); tips; medical insurance; alcoholic drinks; personal expenses.
Accommodation: Mountain hut in a dorm with shared facilities (Day 2) and family-run pensions/3* hotels (rest days) in en-suite rooms on half board (breakfast & supper included).
Joining the tour: The tour is organized on private basis only. There are no scheduled group departures, which you could potentially join individually. You can check another similar program with scheduled departure dates, which you can join as individual HERE
Best period: mid June – mid September