This walking tour, a combination of our classic unguided treks in the Rhodopes and the Rila, takes in the best of the two as regards routes, natural phenomena, and contact with local people. Beginning with the lower, rounded crests of the mountain of Orpheus, you will gradually move across to the arduous steep slopes and rocky outcrops of the Rila. You will have the opportunity of visiting natural and cultural sites such as the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave (considered one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful), the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge with its 300m/1000ft sheer walls, the Shiroka Laka architectural reserve, Bulgaria’s second-largest monastery at Bachkovo, the Old Town of Plovdiv (an architectural and historical reserve) and many others.
The tour includes all transfers, including those from and to Sofia Airport. Hiking treks are of medium and high difficulty. Paths are well marked, with clients receiving maps and detailed descriptions of the route in English.
You walk every day with just a daypack. The rest/unnecessary luggage either remains inside the transfer vehicle, or in your accommodation.
/The tour program can be shortened or extended to match your travel period/
Day 1: We meet you at Sofia Airport (or Sofia / Plovdiv city) and transfer you to the village of Lyaskovo: a fascinating place combining the beauty of the mountain and the warmth of Rhodope hospitality.
Day 2: A short transfer takes you to the entrance of the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave, where you will have the opportunity of enjoying its unique formations. From here, the route takes you through the pretty village of Yagodina and over the hills above it with their smallholdings, on to a thick fir forest that takes you to the edge of the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge. That is where the Dyavolsko Garlo (The Devil’s Throat) Cave is located, with its highest underground waterfall in the Balkans. The next two overnight stays are at the village of Trigrad. (3hrs of walking; 10km/6miles, climbing 650m/2100ft and descending 100m/330ft.)
Day 3: Today, a particularly pleasant circular route awaits you to the village of Vodni Pad hard by the Greek border which until recently cut across the village. Only a handful of people remain in the old stone houses. A colourful diversity of woods, meadows, smallholdings, crests, and rivers accompanies you on your way back to Trigrad. (5-6hrs of walking; 18km/11miles, climbing and descending 700m/2150ft.)
Day 4: Today’s hiking trek reveals to you another part of the Rhodopes near Trigrad. The distant end of the trek is the village of Zhrebevo whence you return to Trigrad along a different route. The tiny village charms with the hospitality of its people, its virgin nature, and its traditional occupations of farming, livestock rearing, and timber felling. (5-6hrs of walking; 18km/11miles, climbing and descending 700m/2150ft.)
Day 5: Time to leave the Rhodopes for the Rila. Today is intended to relax you, with many stops at heritage sights, beginning with a walk along the cobbled streets past the stone houses of Shiroka Laka. You then stop at the Bachkovo Monastery with its miracle-working icon of Virgin Marry, while the afternoon you spend in the Old Town of Plovdiv. You reach the village of Govedartsi in the early evening. It will be your base for the next four overnight stays in the Rila.
Day 6: A path winding through ancient thick spruce forests takes you beyond the upper edge of the forest to the magical Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes. In the alpine zone at between 2100 and 2500m/6900 and 8200ft above sea level, this group of glacier lakes charms you with the magnificent views that open from the edge of the highest one. (5-6hrs of walking; 16km/10miles, climbing and descending 750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft.)
Day 7: Following the Malyovishka River valley, you again rise above rocky peaks to reach the secretive Cirque sheltering the Strashno Ezero (The Scary) Lake. Fitter trekkers may opt to climb the Malyovitsa summit which offers incredible panoramas over surrounding crests and outcrops. (5hrs of walking; 12km/7miles, climbing and descending 900m/3000ft.)
Day 8: Today, you will attempt to climb the Balkans’ highest summit of Musala (2925m/9596ft). A brief cable car climb and a three hour trek take you past a number of Cirques, glacier lakes and mountain shelters on your way up. The views from the Musala over surrounding summits and crests are definitely something that will stay with you forever. (5-6hrs of walking; 13km/8miles, climbing and descending 750m/2500ft.)
Day 9: Transfer from Govedartsi to Sofia Airport.
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.
A DETAILED ROUTE BOOK AND MAP WILL BE PROVIDED UPON ARRIVAL
Notes: you may book additional nights in Sofia before or after the tour, offering you the opportunity of touring the capital or making day trips with us to Koprivshtitsa, Veliko Tarnovo, or other centers.
Accommodation and luggage transfers: family hotels/pensions; en-suite rooms; breakfast and supper. Luggage is transported between accommodations.
Price: 590 € per person in twin/dbl room
Single room supplement: 100 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Rent of hiking poles: 15 €/person
Group size: Min. 2 persons (Traveling solo? Ask us to join you to an existing reservation in order to reduce costs.)
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: 90 € per person (in a group of 2 persons or more sharing a double room; single room supplement: 25 €) (included: pick-up from Govedartsi on Day 9, transfer to Rila Monastery, a guided tour inside the monastery (in English), entry to the museum in the monastery, transfer to Sofia, overnight B&B in 3-star centrally located hotel on BB, transfer to Sofia Airport on Day 10; not included: lunch and dinner on Day 9).
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers according to the itinerary; accommodation and catering as in the itinerary; luggage transfers; detailed route descriptions in English; tourist maps of the Rhodopes and Rila; 24/7 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.