A well balanced program with half-day (or shorter) easy to moderate walks, offering more opportunities to visit also culture sites. The stress is on the Rhodope (Rodopi) Mountains (famed birthplace of mythical musician Orpheus), Mount Pirin (Bulgaria’s most beautiful mountain, named after the pagan Slav god Perun), Mount Rila (housing more than 200 glacial lakes and the highest peak on the Balkans – Musala, 2925m) and Mount Vitosha (Bulgaria’s most popular mountain destination due to its close proximity to the capital city of Sofia). We visit some of Bulgaria’s remotest and least-known parts, many of them until recently out of bounds for foreigners, and taste traditional local cuisine and hospitality. Famous sites of cultural importance are also included: Koprivshtitsa (museum-town, housing well-preserved architecture from the Revival Period), Plovdiv (the second biggest town in Bulgaria), Bachkovo Monastery, Rila Monastery (the most famous UNESCO attraction in the country), Shiroka Laka (architectural reserve) etc. An exceptional kaleidoscope of beautiful caves, deep gorges, alpine meadows, glacier lakes, monasteries, and museum villages with authentic old-time architecture.
The hiking program is moderately difficult and designed for people who would not be comfortable on very long and tiring treks, who would yet like to savour the best the landscape and local culture have to offer. Steep but short stages also occur along the trails.
Day 1: Sofia – Koprivshtitsa
We meet you at Sofia Airport and transfer you to Koprivshtitsa at the foot of Sredna Gora Mountains. Koprivshtitsa is a museum town unique with its cobblestone alleys, houses painted in bright colors with expansive verandahs and picturesque eaves. Note that a group transfer is arranged to the overnight destination. In case you arrive early in Sofia we will meet you and offer you an option to explore the city on your own. Please do your best not to arrive later than 15:30.
Day 2: Koprivshtitsa – Plovdiv – Bachkovo Monastery – Kossovo
During the Ottoman rule, Koprivshtitsa withstood many attacks, it was burned down to ashes several times, its inhabitants were frequently robbed and driven away. Many Bulgarians who laid down their lives for the liberation of their motherland had been born here and today we will visit some of their museum-houses to learn more about the local history. Later we continue towards the second biggest Bulgarian town – Plovdiv. Within 2-3 hours of walking along the city we will discover history and culture behind a 7000-year old settlement, written by the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Bulgarian civilizations. You can enjoy sightseeing in the Old Town with its museums, historical monuments, revival period houses, lined with souvenir shops cobbled streets or get impressed by the rich Ethnographic Museum and the ancient Roman Theater. In the afternoon we continue further to Bachkovo Monastery, which is also the second biggest monastery in the country. Our day ends in the village of Kosovo, famous for its old stone houses (we stay overnight in one of them, fully restored and cozy).
Day 3: Kossovo – Shiroka Laka – Lyaskovo – Devin (2hrs; 3-4km; +50m/-50m)
After delicious breakfast at the terrace of your house, overlooking the whole village, we transfer further deep to the heart of the Rhodopes. Our next stop is Shiroka Laka village – architectural reserve, presenting some of the best examples of the local mountain houses. After a short walk along the cobblestone streets we will continue further to the SPA resort Devin. An adventurous eco-path, weaving on wooden bridges over Devinska River, awaits us here as we make our way along the wild valley, crowned with steep rocks where Balkan Chamois (wild goats) may be seen resting. Afternoon is left for relax, when you can try some of the local SPAs. In the evening we head for a short transfer to Lyaskovo village – rustic and fairly typical mountain village, where we have a traditional dinner with local family. Transfer back to Devin for overnight.
Day 4: Devin – Yagodina Cave – Trigrad Gorge – Trigrad (3,30hrs; 10km; +560m/-350m)
A short transfer takes us to the entrance of the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave, where we will have the opportunity of enjoying its unique formations. From here, the hiking route takes us through the pretty village of Yagodina and over the hills above it with their smallholdings, on to a thick fir forest that takes us to the edge of the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge. We stay overnight in the village of Trigrad.
Day 5: Trigrad – Bansko – Banderishki Lakes – Bansko (3,30-4hrs; 8km; +480m/-480m)
Time to leave the Rhodopes and head for Pirin Mountains. Meandering roads bring us to Bansko at the foot of Pirin National Park. We drop our luggage in the accommodation and transfer up to the trailhead at Vihren Hut, where you set off on a hiking trek through the pretty Cirque of the Banderishki Lakes. Loop walk among the lakes in the Cirque will take us to some of them, where we can have rest on their shores and enjoy the serenity of the rocky outcrops around us. Dinner will be organized in a traditional tavern (“mehana”), where we can try some of the local delicacies and home-made spirits.
Day 6: Bansko – Mount Polezhan – Bansko (5hrs; 7km; +770m/-770m)
Today, we visit one of the Pirin’s greenest parts near the Bezbog Hut. An open cable car and a picturesque ramble take us to the largest and deepest of all lakes in Pirin – Popovo Lake (30m/100ft deep). Later in the afternoon, you can have free time to explore on your own the cobble streets of Bansko or maybe try some of the local thermal SPAs around Dobrinishte and Bansko.
Day 7: Bansko – Rila Monastery – The Seven Rila Lakes – Sofia (3,30-4,30hrs; 6-9km; +400-500m/-400-500m)
Quite busy yet another stunning day expects us as we head towards Rila Mountains. First we transfer to the impressive Rila Monastery – UNESCO heritage listed site and one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bulgaria. This is also the largest and most significant Bulgarian Orthodox Church establishment. Next we continue to another renowned place – the Cirque of The Seven Rila Lakes, which we reach by chairlift. These glacier lakes are set between 2100 and 2500m/6800 and 8200ft above sea level, with names fitting their shapes, like Babreka (the Kidney), Okoto (the Eye), and Salzata (the Teardrop). We base for the evening and enjoy our last dinner in the capital – Sofia.
Day 8: Departure
Transfer 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.
Limited time offer:
Price: 1090 € per person in twin/dbl room (based on min 4 full paying clients)
Single room supplement: 160 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Rent of hiking poles: 20 €/person
Best period: mid-June – September
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers included in the itinerary; en-suite accommodation in 3-star hotels and family guesthouses; breakfast and dinner; English-speaking mountain guide; cable car tickets, and all local taxes.
Price does not include: caves and museums entry fees; extra food and drink; mountain maps; travel/medical insurance; SPA procedures.