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Best of the Bulgarian Alps: Rila and Pirin Guided Adventure  The Natural Adventure

Best of the Bulgarian Alps: Rila and Pirin Guided Adventure

Overview

Rila and Pirin mountains are often referred to as the Bulgarian Alps for a reason, both ranges are defined by vast mountain sceneries full of jagged peaks and glacial lakes and offer great hiking opportunities for all mountain lovers. This itinerary will take you through the most beautiful areas and the highlights of the two national parks. Explore these majestic mountains as you trek through some of the Balkans’ most spectacular alpine scenery and highest summits, past impressive peaks and sparkling glacial lakes. The daily walks can be modified according to the group’s shape, still, some previous experience is recommended for you to enjoy the tour.

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Sofia

Once you arrive in Sofia, a transfer will pick you from the airport and take you to your hotel. Depending on the timing, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the vibrant life and the cultural sites of the capital, or just relaxing and preparing for your mountain adventure.

Accommodation: Hotel Niky or similar

Day 2: Musala Peak (2925 m), the higest on the Balkans | 6-7 hrs

An early morning transfer will take you to Borovets, the oldest mountain resort in Bulgaria, where you will get on a gondola to Yastrebets area (the drive to Borovets takes about 30 min, and the gondola ride approx. 30-40 min). Once you get off, you will be already above the tree line at an altitude of 2369 m, and you will see your goal for the day: Musala Peak. You will initially walk on a flat dirt road leading to Musala hut, situated next to the Musala lakes. After the hut, you start hiking on a rocky trail passing by a couple of glacial lakes only to reach the most famous of them – Ledeno Ezero. From the top of the mountain (2925 m) in good weather, you can see as far as Greece to the south and Danube River to the north. The way back is on the same trail. Take the gondola down to Borovets. A transfer will take the group back to the accommodation in Govedartsi. 

Day 3: Malyovitsa Valley | 6-7 hrs

A short transfer (30 min) will take you to the start of your walk, Malyovitsa ski and mountaineering centre. Entering the Rila National Park, you follow a river trail that will take you to the Malyovitsa valley. For about 1 hour you walk through a coniferous forest and reach the Malyovitsa hut. The trees are already behind you giving space to typical alpine vegetation. The scheduled route for the day is a loop walk through the wide cirque of Prekorechki Lakes, but if the group is in a good shape it is also possible to climb Maliovitsa peak (2729 m), where you can experience a 360-degree open scenery of the most Alpine part of the Rila Mountains.

Day 4: The Seven Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery | 5 hrs

The day starts with an early transfer to Pionerska hut (approx 1 hr) from where you take the chairlift to the high parts of the mountain (above 2200 m) and the Seven Rila Lakes. You will then take on the loop hike to the Razdela saddle and the stunning “Zeleni Rid” ridge, from where you start descending back to the chair lift. Once you get back to your transfer car, you will continue on an hour-long transfer to Rila Monastery, the biggest in Bulgaria, listed as a UNESCO Heritage site. You will spend the last part of the day travelling to Bansko (1.30 hrs), where you will spend the overnight.

  • Accommodation: Family Hotel Hadzhi Georgi, private en-suite rooms
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner
  • Walking for the day: 5 hrs ↑ 610 m ↓ 610
  • Today your main luggage will join you at Hotel Tsarev Vruh

Day 5: Bezbog Hut – Tevno Ezero | 6 hrs

In the next two days, you will explore the beautiful region of Tevno Lake (Tevno Ezero), located in heart of Pirin Mountain. You start the day with a drive to Gotse Delchev Hut (30 min) and a lift ride to Bezbog Hut (20-30 min), from where you will start your hike. In about 5-6 hours of walking, you will get to one of the most beautiful parts of the mountain, where you will spend the overnight in a refuge on the banks of a lake, surrounded by towering jagged peaks.

  • Accommodation: Tevno Ezero Refuge, dormitory rooms with shared facilities
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner
  • Walking for the day: 6 hrs ↑450 m150 m
  • Luggage transfer not included – please take a backpack with your necessities for the overnight in the refuge and the following day, until you are transferred back to Bansko

Day 6: Tevno Ezero – Demyanitsa Hut – Bansko | 6 hrs

Today’s walk will take you to the neighbouring valley, revealing stunning views over two of the most beautiful glacier lakes of Pirin – Prevalski (2664 m) and Valiavishki (2300 m-2475 m) lakes. It will take you about 5-6 hours to reach the road under Demyanitsa Hut, where you will meet the driver who will take you back to Bansko.

  • Accommodation: Family Hotel Hadzhi Georgi, private en-suite rooms
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner
  • Walking for the day (easy option): 6 hrs; 150 m 650 m

Day 7: Vihren Peak (2914 m) | 6-7 hrs

In the morning you will be transferred to Vihren hut (20-30 min), where your round walk starts. The route will take you to the peak through its south-west ridge, the last section of the climb finishes with a slightly more technical part (no scrambling) facilitated by a steel rope which you can hold to feel more secure. On the way to the peak, you will have a chance to enjoy scenic views of many of Pirin’s high peaks, as well as the Vlahini and Bunderishki glacial lakes, and once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with marvellous views in every direction. The way down goes along a different path that will take you back to the starting point where your transfer car will be waiting for you to take you back to Bansko. Transfer back to Sofia for the overnight.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Niky or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast
  • Walking for the day: 6-7 hrs, 1000 m 1000 m

Day 8: Departure

A complimentary transfer will take you to Sofia airport or to the city centre in case you have booked additional nights.

What to Expect

Accommodation

You will spend 6 nights in small cosy family-run hotels (private en-suite rooms) and one night in a mountain refuge (dormitory rooms with shared facilities). We have carefully hand-picked all the places, and we regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

Hotel Niky, Family Hotel Djambazkata Kasta, Tevno Ezero Refuge, Family Hotel Hadzhi Georgi

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide you with the exact accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included on each day, and 5 dinners are included from day 2 to day 6. For your lunches you can shop from the local grocery stores or order a lunch pack from the accommodations.

Difficulty & terrain

Appropriate for experienced walkers in good physical shape. The walks take an average of 6-7 hours per day with approximately 600-1000 m ascent/descent (read more about difficulty grades). None of the routes involves scrambling, and there are no sheer drops, still most of the paths are steep and rocky, requiring sure-footedness. The trails are very well signposted and you will be accompanied by a certified mountain guide. 

When to go

In 2023 this trip is available from June to September, with one guaranteed departure each month: 24th June, 15th July, 12th August, and 2nd Sep (the exact dates and prices are also available in the booking form). Other departures can be organised at any date upon request for groups of more than 4 people.

The climate is temperate continental with an average 200 days of sunshine a year. It is influenced both by the colder air coming from the north and by the warmer breeze from the Mediterranean. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but, in the June-September period, the daily averages are 15 – 25°C. Spring and autumn are pleasant with cold nights and occasional rain and thunderstorms. High summer daytime temperatures are rarely too hot as even though temperatures can occasionally reach 30°C, the mountains and forests remain cooler, dropping at night to 5-15°C.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Our recommended arrival airport for this tour is Sofia.

Note that if you book extra nights in Sofia before the holiday, the additional airport transfer to your Sofia hotel is not included, but the downtown is easily reachable by metro or taxi (20-30 min), or you can book an additional airport transfer.

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 nights at standard hotels in a double room with ensuite facilities
  • 1 night in a mountain refuge (dormitory rooms with shared facilities)
  • English-speaking mountain guide
  • Meals as per program: 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners from day 2 to day 6
  • Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 8 of the tour between 9:30 and 22:30
  • All ground transportation during the tour as described in the itinerary
  • Lift tickets

Excluded

  • Airfare
  • Meals not listed in the itinerary (lunches and dinners on Day 1 and Day 7)
  • Luggage transfer on day 5
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room (not possible on day 5)
  • Extra nights in Sofia before or after the tour upon request

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