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.
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.
Note that the below program is just an example, which can be modified as per your requirements to include more hiking in Rila or Vitosha mountains, extra nights in Sofia and even easier hikes in the Rhodope Mountains. For more details please just use the contact form on your right hand side.
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 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: 520 € 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)
Rent of hiking poles: 15 €/person
Best period: mid-June – 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)
Group size: Min. 2 persons (Traveling solo? Ask us to join you to an existing reservation in order to reduce costs.)
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.