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The riddles of the Rila Mountains (8 days)


Mount Rila is considered Bulgaria’s best alpine tourism site, offering a huge diversity of marked hiking trails of varied difficulty levels. Two large international tourist trails (the Е4 and the Е8) cross the mountain. The Rila offers not only the Balkans’ highest peak (Musala, 2925m/9596ft), but also plentiful glacier lakes (more than 180, in fact!), deep river valleys, broad alpine meadows, and diverse flora and fauna. The Rila National Park is the largest of Bulgaria’s three national parks and one of Europe’s largest.

The tour includes all ground transfers, including those from and to Sofia Airport. The walking treks are rather arduous and suitable for people experienced in alpine trekking. Paths are well marked, in addition clients receiving maps and detailed descriptions of the routes in English. Some of the days offer opportunities for choosing between different hiking options, depending on weather and clients’ fitness.

A day trip to the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO heritage site and probably the most famous tourist attraction in Bulgaria is a natural extension of this tour, which many clients prefer to book with us. This involves an extra night in Sofia which is normally appreciated by everyone, allowing also more time to explore the capital. See the ”essentials” box on the right for further details.

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 transfer you to a city center hotel.
Day 2: A panoramic walking route takes you across the crest of Mount Vitosha, including climbing the local high point of Cherni Vrah (2290m/7513ft) as a prelude to the arduous, yet more picturesque hiking treks across the Rila. Along the way, you cross the broad alpine meadows of the Torfeno Branishte Nature Reserve, dip into old spruce groves and follow a path to the stone rivers of the Zlatni Mostove (The Golden Bridges) natural feature. From here, you are transferred to the Rila Mountains and the village of Govedartsi for three overnight stays. (4,30hrs of walking; 11km/7miles, climbing 500m/1600ft and descending 800m/2600ft.)
Day 3: A circular route through the low parts of the Rila above Govedartsi prepares you for more difficult hiking treks to come. Rambling along the path, you enjoy a fascinating kaleidoscope of changing landscapes and wonderful panoramas of rocky peaks and deep valleys in the Malyovitsa part of the mountain. (5-6hrs of walking; 20km/13miles, climbing and descending 650m/2230ft.)
Day 4: 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. (6hrs of walking; 16km/10miles, climbing and descending 750 to 1000m/2500 to 3300ft.)
Day 5: Today’s route takes you to the beautiful Malyovitsa Valley and thence high over the alpine peaks sheltering the secretive Strashno Ezero (The Scary) Lake. More enthusiastic mountaineers may opt for an alternative hiking trek to the Malyovitsa summit which offers incredible views over the nearby crests and peaks of the Rila. At the end of the day, you are transferred for three overnight stays at the Borovets ski resort. (5hrs of walking; 12km/7miles, climbing and descending 900m/3000ft.)
Day 6: Today, you can opt between a brisk morning walk (combined with an afternoon visit at the King’s hunting residence in Borovets) and a rather longer (yet not steep) hiking trek to another less-visited part of the Rila. The route passes through ancient coniferous woods and continues along the Maritsa River valley, gently climbing to the Royal hunting lodge at Saragiol, from where you return to Borovets along a different route (or use the chairlift to cut the mileage down to 25km). (2 or 7 or 8hrs of walking; 10 or 25km or 30km / 6 or 15 or 19 miles, climbing and descending 250-1100m/850-3750ft.)
Day 7: The attempt on the Balkans’ highest summit Musala (2925m/9596ft) is left for the ultimate day. The hiking 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. (5hrs of walking; 13km/8miles, climbing and descending through 750m/2460ft)
Day 8: Transfer from Borovets 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.


Notes: most tourists prefer to call on the Rila Monastery on their way to Sofia, or to have more time to see the capital by booking one or two extra overnight stays there. Booking additional days in Sofia before or after the tour also offers opportunities for day trips with us to Plovdiv, Koprivshtitsa, or Veliko Tarnovo. Contact us for further details.

Accommodation and luggage transfers: three-star and family hotels; en-suite rooms; breakfast every day; supper on Days 2 to Day 4 incl. (options to have supper outside your hotel in Sofia and Borovets resort are numerous). Luggage is transported between accommodations.

Limited time offer:
Price: 440 € 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: 90 € (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;
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 Borovets Resort on Day 8, 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 9; not included: lunch and supper on Day 8).
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers in the itinerary; accommodation and catering as in the itinerary; luggage transport; detailed English descriptions of routes; tourist maps of the Rila; 24/7 emergency hotline, and all local taxes.
Price does not include: cable car tickets; extra food and drink; medical insurance; personal expenses.

"lovely hiking, very well organized"

Did the one week ‘riddles of the Rila mountains’ self-guided tour in August ’17. We were both very happy with the service Traventuria provided. The drivers picking us up and dropping us off were always on time and very friendly. The route descriptions and maps were very clear, also providing us with alternatives on days when we were tired and the hikes themselves were very nice. They were also pretty flexible with the schedule: we cancelled our first hike just 2 hours in advance because of bad weather, switched two days around because of the same and were even able to ask the driver during a hike to pick us up an hour later.

We are used to hiking holidays in which we do all the research and planning ourselves and I do think that it would be possible to do this trip unorganized if you hire a car, but this was just so much easier. No worrying about hotels, transfers, traffic, the best routes, etc. All we had to do was show up and hike, which was exactly what we wanted. If I could do this holiday again, there’s some small things I’d change about the routes but I’d talk it over with someone who knows the area first: not all the hiking routes in my GPS actually existed.

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"Self Guided Hiking in the Vitosha and Rila Mountains"

My son and I thoroughly enjoyed our week long hiking tour. All the connections were great, the hotels very comfortable, clean and helpful. The hiking was though some challenging (to us) ‘mountainous’ terrain and although very exhausting, it was also very satisfying. Our experience in Bulgaria was exceptional. We added a few days at the beginning of the trip and took in a couple of museums; the Museum of Socialist Art (great communist era statues) and the National Museum of Military History (numerous communist era vehicles/tanks and MIGs. Look forward to seeing Bulgaria again!

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“Fantastic week of walking in awesome scenery”

We did the 8 day self-guided Riddles of Rila walking tour in the first week of July 2017. The tour was well organised with comfortable accommodation and good customer service. The walking maps were complemented with useful detailed directions in English and Traventuria staff were friendly and helpful. The walking was tough, with some long distances & a lot of climb on quite rocky terrain. Rewards were incredible views. Highlights of the week were: 7 lakes (day 4); scary lake (day 5); and Mt Musala (day 7). We took the short 10k walk on day 6 as we were too tired for the 30k option, and were able to spend the rest of the day at a swimming pool & spa at Hotel Rila (20 Leva per person). Great food in Borovets, more basic in Govedartsi (particularly for the vegetarian). Sometimes the walks were a bit longer as measured by GPS compared to the descriptions in the written guide. Sofia was great and it was a shame only to have one night there so would recommend extending the trip a couple of days either before or after to see more of the city. Borovets also had mountain bikes for hire, horse riding, swimming and zip wires – all activities it would have been fun to try if we’d had the time…
We are averagely fit in our mid-thirties with reasonable hiking experience and wouldn’t have wanted to be any less fit than we are to cope with this tour!

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“Rila Mountains self guided tour (1 week) - great”

I did this self guided tour in June, overall it was a great experience even though the weather was not on our side.
Traventuria were really helpful and responsive throughout. The tour was well organised, the hotels very pleasant and the routes for the walks were well written.
It was my first visit to Bulgaria, had no idea what to expect, and it turned out to be a really lovely and interesting place.

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“Self-guided hike in Rila mountains - very well organized!”

My sister and I took an 8-day self-guided hike in the Rila mountains organized by Traventuria and enjoyed every minute of it!
The organization of this hike was very good – transfers always exactly on time, friendly and helpful drivers, good communication. We did not have any previous mountain hiking experience and were suggested to choose a guided hike but we didn’t – and had no problems what so ever during the hikes as the route notes were very clear and easy to follow. Got lost only once during the trip 🙂 and found our way easily again with a little help from Google Maps.
The daily hikes were mostly marked with rather high difficulty levels 4-, 4, 5- (out of 5) but despite our lack of mountain hiking experience we managed well (a fit physical condition is needed of course). Some of the hikes would have been difficult in case of bad weather (lot of climbing on the rocks, some parts would have been slightly dangerous when rocks would be wet) but luckily we only had sunshine and great weather (with the exception of the last day with morning till night rain and thunder, so we chose to skip the last hiking day and spent time in the ski resort instead).
During some of the daily walks we almost saw no other hikers / people at all (during weekdays) which is nice if you prefer to stay away from crowded hiking routes like we do. More people were out there on weekends but still did not feel too crowded.
The accommodations were nothing too fancy but nice and clean and well located. Meals (breakfasts and some half-board dinners) were good and service fast and friendly. A bit of language challenges in some places (as only Bulgarian was spoken; English nor Russian did not help much).
Nothing to complain about, really 🙂 I would recommend Traventuria to anyone (and actually already have).

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“Riddle of Rila (Self-guided Walking Tour)”

We booked this trip at short notice and Traventuria were very helpful and efficient in organising the preliminaries for our holiday. Upon our arrival in Bulgaria and throughout the course of our stay, we found all of Traventuria’s operatives to be highly reliable, effective and knowledgeable. The itinerary was moderately challenging in places but the directions were very good and offered us the unforgettable experience of being out on our own in the picturesque mountains of Bulgaria. The accommodation in all centres provided everything we needed, and we particularly enjoyed staying in Govedartsi where we were made to feel very welcome by our lovely hosts at Hotel Djambazki. The recommended free walking tours of Sofia are well worth the time as was the fabulous Rila Monastery extension trip.

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“Rila Mountains”

Having very limited time, but looking for something special for our wedding aniversary trip we decided to use the support of Traventuria to organize a hiking trip in the highest mountains of Bulgaria (not romantic? c’mon :)) And I must admit that it was a perfect choice.
Everything was perfectly prepared. The hiking routes were described very precisely – maybe even too precisely for experienced hikers, but remember that it is prepared for all kind of people. Even if you have no experience in walking in the mountains you would not get lost. Our drivers were always on time. Some of them were a bit quiet, but some of them loaded us with a lot of interesting information about Bulgaria. The choice of the hotel in Sofia is perfect – great location, nice room – what more do you need? And the family pension in Govedartsi… even better.
I’m also very much pleased with the email communication with the company. Their answers were always comprehensive and they give you a lot of valuable tips. Don’t be afraid to ask or suggest anything. Your points will always be taken into consideration and the final choice will be yours.
So if you don’t have time to organize everything yourself or just want to learn about Bulgaria – don’t hesitate to use Traventuria.

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“Rocking the Rila Mountains”

We booked the one week Riddles of the Rila self guided walking tour with a days extension to the Rila Monastery. All our arrangements were completed over the internet with no fuss. Every detail of our trip, including transfers, accommodation and meals ran without a hitch.
The accommodation arranged in Govedartsi was especially fantastic with Georg and family being perfect hosts, and meals some of the best in Europe.
Our walking notes were pretty good, although a few of the distances were understated, and a couple of the directions were a little unclear. Make sure you can hike with a map and compass! Having said that, the choice of walks was brilliant, and especially the mountain climbs were some of our most memorable ever!
The trip to Rila Monastery was fine and interesting – it is a very important place to Bulgarians. We did feel that we were up sold on the lunch stopover, which ended up our most expensive meal in Bulgaria! And the stopover to the “auto museum”/ junk yard was odd to say the least!
We will definitely be back to for another self guided walk with Traventuria in the amazing mountains of Bulgaria!

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