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Summits and lakes of the Rila and Pirin mountains (8 days + other durations)

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Looking for an independent trekking tour to test your hiking fitness? Bored of the popular walking destinations in the Alps and the Pyrenees? You have come to the right place, looking at our most scenic self-guided hiking trek, which covers the very best of the highest Bulgarian mountains: Rila and Pirin. And for peace of mind – with all ground transfers included!
Climb the giant of Rila, Mount Musala (2925m/9596ft), highest in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula, trace dramatic ridges, visit the world-famous UNESCO site Rila Monastery and thrill on the challenging climb to the Pirin summit of Mount Vihren (2914m/9560ft). Panoramic mountain views will take your breath away along an almost infinite series of trails to alpine meadows, rocky Cirques, remote glacial lakes and onto spectacular ridges and summits.

You walk every day with just a day pack. The rest/unnecessary luggage either remains inside the transfer vehicle, or in your accommodation.

This trip is not suitable for novices as you’ll be trekking high above the tree line, amongst some of the most unknown and interesting mountains to be found in Europe. No rock climbing experience is needed and no “via ferratas” are present. It is meant for very well-trained hikers with an ample experience of dealing with bad climate conditions up in the mountains (incl. fog, thunderstorms etc.) and for people used to walk over rocky slopes, overtaking steep ascends/descends now and then. The terrain in the Pirin and Rila is alpine and includes trails over steep slopes, where sure-footedness is necessary on a couple of occasions. Small patches of snow may still be present on some of the trails until the end of July.

/The tour program can be shortened or extended to match your travel period – check the tab below the itinerary/

Day 1: We meet you at Sofia Airport and take you to the village of Govedartsi, where you will have three overnight stays.
Day 2: The attempt on the Balkans’ highest summit Musala (2925m/9596ft) is left for the first hiking day. To do so you get a transfer from Govedartsi to Borovets resort, where you board the cabin lift to the trailhead. The path is not particularly arduous, yet is particularly panoramic, with the rocky face of Musala visible the whole time while you transit a number of Cirques, glacier lakes and mountain shelters. The view from the peak to surrounding uplands and peaks is head-turning. (5-6hrs of walking; 13km/8miles, climbing and descending through 750m/2460ft.)
Day 3: A shaded path through the Rila’s ancient spruce forests takes you up to the alpine parts of the mountain and the Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes. Located at between 2100 and 2500 metres (6900 to 8200ft) above sea level, these famous glacier lakes will charm you with their magnificent scenery which you can survey from the edge of the highest one. (5-6 hrs of walking; 16km/10miles, climbing and descending 750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft.)
N.B. You can extend your program in Govedartsi with more nights to include climb to Mount Malyovitsa, or trek to The Scary Lake etc. Contact us for details.
Day 4: You bid farewell to Rila and set off for Pirin. During this day, which is meant for relax, you will stop for a short visit at Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the most famous and largest Christian monastery in Bulgaria. The exceptional frescoes in the central church form a gallery of masterpieces of Renaissance art and could be considered a Bulgarian analogue of the frescoes of the Sistine chapel. Thence, you proceed to Bansko at the foot of Pirin Mountains, which will be your base for the following four nights. In the afternoon you can stroll along the cobbled streets and the charming ancient houses in the old part of the town.
Day 5: Car transfer brings you above Dobrinishte resort, at Gotse Delchev Hut. Chair cable car then takes you up to the Bezbog Hut. This is the setting-off point for the hiking trek to the Polezhan Summit (2851m/9354ft) which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in the Pirin, over 17 stunning glacier lakes, including the largest Popovo Lake (30m/100ft deep). Polezhan is the 5th highest summit in the Pirin. It is surrounded by three Cirques with three groups of lakes – Disilishki in the north, Polezhanski in the south and Strazhishki in the west. You use the classic route through the northeast ridge, which is not difficult or too steep, except of the last 20-minute stage of the summit. (5hrs of walking; 8km/5miles; climbing and descending 650m/2100ft.)
N.B.: An easier option is available for this day for clients in need to rest or in case of bad weather: trek to Popovo Lake (3,30-4hrs of walking; 8km/5miles; climbing and descending 200m/655ft.)
Day 6: Pre-arranged transfer brings you up to the Vihren Hut where you set off on a hiking trek through the pretty Cirque of the Banderishki Lakes. From there, you go across into the neighbouring valley and the Todorini Ochi Lakes and thence through the thick spruce forests of the Yulen Nature Reserve on to the valley of the playful Demyanitsa River. Stunning sceneries will be expecting you behind every corner. (6-7hrs of walking; 16km/10miles; climbing 700m/2300ft and descending 1100m/3650ft)
N.B.: An easier option is available for this day for clients in need to rest before the hike to Mount Vihren (or in case of bad weather): loop walk among the lakes in the Banderishki Lake Cirque (3,30-4hrs of walking; 7km/4,5miles; climbing and descending 700m/2300ft)
Day 7: Time to attempt the Pirin’s premier summit, Vihren. You trek through the Golem Kazan (The Giant Cauldron) area beneath the breathtaking sheer 400m/1300ft northern wall of Vihren, whose dolomite precipices offer shelter to rare edelweiss flowers and fretful herds of Balkan Chamois (wild goats). The views are genuinely overwhelming, yet they are just the prelude to the panoramas that open up from the summit over a sea of jagged peaks all around. (6hrs of walking; 9km/5,5miles; climbing and descending 1000m/3300ft.)
Day 8: Transfer from Bansko to Sofia Airport in connection with your flight (appr. 2,30-2,45hrs).

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 MAPS WILL BE PROVIDED UPON ARRIVAL

Accommodation: family-run pension including breakfast and dinner (Day 1 to Day 3) and 3-star hotel on bed & breakfast basis (Day 4 to Day 8; there are numerous options to have dinner in the taverns and restaurants of Bansko); en-suite rooms everywhere;

Limited time offer:
Price:
540 € per person in twin/dbl room
(Already saw a tour with similar program and price? Give us a chance to convince you why our offer is much better!)
Single room supplement:
80 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Solo travelers: 
810 € (incl. also sgl room supplement)
(Traveling solo? Ask us to join you to an existing reservation in order to reduce the above price)
Rent of hiking poles: 15 €/person

Best period: mid-June – mid-September; traveling on later dates is also possible (till the end of October), but with a program reduction (the climb to Mt. Musala will be waived since the lift used for it won’t be working after mid-September).
(this program is meant to suit Tuesday-Saturday arrivals; as for the climb to Mt. Musala a cabin lift is needed (which doesn’t work Monday and Tuesday), should you wish to travel on different days of the week (i.e. Sunday to Monday) we will have to rearrange the program and possibly put Pirin before Rila, but no hikes will be lost); 

Price includes:
transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers for the daily treks as per itinerary; accommodation and catering as mentioned; detailed route notes in English and maps; 24/7 emergency hotline and all local taxes.
Price does not include: extra meals and drinks; lift tickets (appr. 15 Euro/pp); travel/medical insurance; entrance fees for museums.

“Self guided summits and lakes of Rila and Pirrin Mountains”

Every transfer was spot-on time with friendly drivers. The hikes were challenging as expected but led to some spectacular scenery. Pre-training and good hiking shoes, preferably boots, a must. Trails were well labelled with coloured markers and the route notes were very detailed and easy to follow. Accommodation was good. An excellent package and well priced.

Click to read the original review on TripAdvisor

"Self-guided hiking"

I booked a self-guided hiking trip quite last minute with Traventuria. I am a solo traveller but they were happy to combine my transfers with another group, significantly cutting my cost. All transfers were on time and in very comfortable mini buses. Hotel choices are decent. I was at first concerned about getting lost going on a self-guided hikes but nothing to worry about since Traventuria provides detailed route maps and descriptions. If I come back to Bulgaria, I won’t hesitate to use them again.

Click to read the original review on TripAdvisor

“Awesome self-guided hiking in Rila and Pirin”

Through another provider we booked the self-guided walking tour “Peaks And Lakes Of The RIla And Pirin Mountains”. Traventuria was the on-the-ground service provider in Bulgaria, responsible for the itinerary, booking all accommodation and arranging all ground transportation.
We spent our first two days hiking in the Rila range, based in Govedartsi. Day 1 was the summit of Musala, Bulgaria’s highest peak. This was a very manageable hike for anyone with hiking experience. It was a Saturday and was packed with people which took away from the experience somewhat. I’d much rather go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Day 2 was a tour of the Seven Rila Lakes, which was phenomenal. Very challenging hiking (especially to reach the top two lakes) but we were rewarded with breathtaking scenery.
On Day 3 we stopped at the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery on our way to our next base (Bansko). The monastery was incredible and well worth the two-hour visit we spent there.
We spent our last three hiking days based in Bansko, which felt almost deserted in early August. Day 4 was a fairly easy day (an out and back to Popovo Lake from the Gotse Delchev Hut). Day 5 (a tour of the Byderishki Lakes from the Vihren Hut) was also beautiful and rewarding. For the final day, instead of tackling Vihren as per the itinerary, we decided to go back to Gotse Delchev Hut and climb Mount Polezhan. This was about four hours of fairly challenging hiking, particularly the final 300m of ascent, but again the reward at the top was amazingly breathtaking scenery.
The route book provided by Traventuria was fantastic and we felt the directions provided for each hike were very clear. The accommodations were fine for a walking trip (comfortable bed and a good shower) but are fairly basic. There was no air conditioning – it was extremely hot but did cool down enough in the evening with the windows open for it to be manageable. The drivers were great, very friendly, excellent English and were always on time. We felt the organization of the trip and all the support was first class.
If you find yourself in Bansko we would highly recommend Mehana Voivodata on Pirin Street – great atmosphere, friendly service and huge portions of delicious traditional Bulgarian food at very reasonable prices.

Click to read the original review on TripAdvisor

“Highly Recommended! Week Self-Guided Trip Rila/Pirin”

My wife and I did the self-guided “Peaks And Lakes Of The RIla And Pirin Mountains” trip and had a great time. All of the hikes were beautiful and the materials provided ensured we never felt lost. Hikes were physically challenging, but not technical or too difficult for someone in good shape who hikes. The staff was wonderful, transfers invaluable.
It is worth mentioning that Bansko mid-week in July felt almost completely empty. Great for hiking, but a little strange at dinner.

Click to read the original review on TripAdvisor

“A very well, managed, friendly and professional organisation judging from our experience”

I want to thank you for the very professional way in which your company organised the trip for Mike and I. Everything was clear before we left the UK, the materials for our self-guided days were very helpful and we were entirely satisfied with the accommodation in Govardartsi and Bansko. We were met on time by your representative when we arrived and our tour guide for the week could not have been in any way more helpful or more charming than she was. Despite the disappointing weather, we enjoyed our visit to Bulgaria. Both Mike and I would like to return one day to climb Vihren and Maliovitsa.

Click to read the original review on TripAdvisor

Suggested versions of the original 8-day tour (mind the possibility to add extra days and hikes in other mountains of Bulgaria (Rhodopes, Vitosha). We are flexible on making any combination, which would suit your travel plans.
For full description of each day check the original 8-day tour or get in touch with our travel agent for details. Detailed route notes, maps and other documents will be provided to you on Day 1 by the driver who will be doing your transfer.

Option 1: 9 days/8 nights (suitable if your flights are on Day 1 and Day 9)
Day 1. Sofia Airport -> Govedartsi
Day 2. Govedartsi -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 3. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Govedartsi (5-6 hrs; 16km/10miles, +/- 750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft.)
Day 4. Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
Day 5. Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko
Day 6. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo Lake -> Bansko (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)
Day 7. Bansko -> Demianitsa Hut/Bynderishki Lakes cirque -> Bansko (6-7hrs; 16km/10miles; +700m/2300ft, – 1100m/3650ft)
Day 8. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko (6hrs; 9km/5,5miles; +/-1000m/3300ft.)
Day 9. Bansko -> Sofia Airport

Option 2: 7 days/6 nights (suitable if your flights are on Day 1 and Day 7)
Day 1. Sofia Airport -> Govedartsi
Day 2. Govedartsi -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 3. Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
Day 4. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Panichishte -> Bansko (4,30 hrs; 12km/7,5miles, +750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft., -350 to 600m/1100 to 1800ft.)
or Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko (transportation only with enough time left at the monastery) for a suppl. of 25 Euros per car (1-3 pers.) and 40 per bus (4-8 pers)
* N.B.: Exact option should be decided at the time of booking
Day 5. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko (6hrs; 9km/5,5miles; +/-1000m/3300ft.)
Day 6. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo Lake -> Bansko (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)
Day 7. Bansko -> Sofia Airport

Option 3: 6 days/5 nights (suitable if your flights are on Day 1 and Day 6)
Day 1. Sofia Airport -> Govedartsi
Day 2. Govedartsi -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 3. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Panichishte -> Bansko (4,30 hrs; 12km/7,5miles, +750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft., -350 to 600m/1100 to 1800ft.)
or Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
or Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko (transportation only with enough time left at the monastery) for a suppl. of 25 Euros per car (1-3 pers.) and 40 per bus (4-8 pers)
* N.B.: Exact option should be decided at the time of booking
Day 4. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo Lake -> Bansko (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)
Day 5. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko (6hrs; 9km/5,5miles; +/-1000m/3300ft.)
Day 6. Bansko -> Sofia Airport

Option 4: 6 days/5 nights (suitable if you are already staying in Sofia before the tour starts and extend again your stay there after the tour ends on Day 6)
Day 1. Sofia (morning pick up from clients’ hotel) -> Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
Day 2. Govedartsi -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 3. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Panichishte -> Bansko (4,30 hrs; 12km/7,5miles, +750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft., -350 to 600m/1100 to 1800ft.)
or Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
or Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko (transportation only with enough time left at the monastery) for a suppl. of 25 Euros per car (1-3 pers.) and 40 per bus (4-8 pers)
* N.B.: Exact option should be decided at the time of booking
Day 4. Bansko -> Demianitsa Hut/Bynderishki Lakes cirque -> Bansko (6-7hrs; 16km/10miles; +700m/2300ft, – 1100m/3650ft)
Day 5. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko (6hrs; 9km/5,5miles; +/-1000m/3300ft.)
Day 6. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo lake -> Sofia (late afternoon drop off at clients’ hotel in Sofia (own arrangements) (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)

Option 5: 5 days/4 nights (suitable if you are already staying in Sofia before the tour starts and extend again your stay there after the tour ends on Day 5)
Day 1. Sofia (morning pick up from clients’ hotel) -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 2. Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
Day 3. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Panichishte -> Bansko (4,30 hrs; 12km/7,5miles, +750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft., -350 to 600m/1100 to 1800ft.)
or Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko (transportation only with enough time left at the monastery) for a suppl. of 25 Euros per car (1-3 pers.) and 40 per bus (4-8 pers)
* N.B.: Exact option should be decided at the time of booking
Day 4. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko (6hrs; 9km/5,5miles; +/-1000m/3300ft.)
Day 5. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo lake -> Sofia (late afternoon drop off at clients’ hotel in Sofia (own arrangements) (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)

Option 6: 4 days/3 nights (suitable if you are already staying in Sofia before the tour starts and extend again your stay there after the tour ends on Day 4)
Day 1.
Sofia (morning pick up from clients’ hotel) -> Borovets -> Mt. Musala -> Govedartsi (5-6hrs; 13km/8miles, +/- 750m/2460ft.)
Day 2. Govedartsi -> The Seven Rila Lakes -> Panichishte -> Bansko (4,30 hrs; 12km/7,5miles, +750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft., -350 to 600m/1100 to 1800ft.)
or Govedartsi -> The Scary Lake/Mt. Maliovitsa -> Govedartsi (5hrs; 12km/7miles, +/-900m/3000ft.)
or Govedartsi -> Rila Monastery -> Bansko (transportation only with enough time left at the monastery) for a suppl. of 25 Euros per car (1-3 pers.) and 40 per bus (4-8 pers)
* N.B.: Exact option should be decided at the time of booking
Day 3. Bansko -> Mt. Vihren -> Bansko
Day 4. Bansko -> Mt. Polezhan/Popovo lake -> Sofia (late afternoon drop off at clients’ hotel in Sofia (own arrangements) (5hrs; 8km/5miles; +/-650m/2100ft.)

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.
Where hiking specifics are not mentioned for a certain day, only transportation services are included (with time allowing sightseeing on your own in Rila Monastery where this is included in the itinerary – contact us for details).

Best period: the tour can start every day during the period mid-June – mid-September; traveling on later dates is also possible (till the end of October), but with a program reduction (the climb to Mt. Musala will be waived since the lift used for it won’t be working after mid-September). Advance booking is required as some accommodations are small and get fully booked months in advance.

Included:
– Pick up at Sofia/Airport
– All ground transfers as per program
– Accommodation in twin/dbl rooms with en-suite facilities everywhere, incl. breakfast (three-star hotels (Bansko) and family pensions (Govedartsi)
– Dinner included in Govedartsi
– Luggage transfers
– Detailed route notes and maps
– 24/7 emergency hotline

Not included:
– Lift tickets and entry fees
– Drinks and extra meals
– Guiding services

PRICELIST:
Per person in twin/dbl room / Single room supplement / Solo travellers:
Option 1: 570 Euro / 90 Euro / 890 Euro
Option 2: 485 Euro / 70 Euro / 755 Euro
Option 3: 460 Euro / 60 Euro / 715 Euro
Option 4: 470 Euro / 60 Euro / 730 Euro
Option 5: 415 Euro / 50 Euro / 645 Euro
Option 6: 380 Euro / 40 Euro / 590 Euro
* extensions to Rila Monastery, when given as an extra option, should be added to the above price

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