The Bulgaria Walking and Spa Adventure itinerary, unique to The Natural Adventure Company, starts in Plovdiv and then moves into the heart of Bulgaria’s stunning Rhodope mountains and the beautiful Canyon of Waterfalls, near Smolyan Lakes. The holiday continues with hikes around the forests of the unique village of Shiroka Laka, famous for its distinctive Rhodopean houses, and finishes in the spa town of Devin. The trip is mostly centre-based and features hand-picked accommodation in 3 and 4-star spa hotels on all days.
Our walking and spa adventures are specifically designed to allow you to reconnect with nature and experience the wilderness and great outdoors. Included in the majority of nights are some handpicked 4-star hotels with spas, so if you feel like a bit of pampering after your days hiking it’s all here too! The holiday also lets you experience the unique local culture and try some traditional Rhodopean food and unique local wines. And maybe you’ll have the chance for a little self-discovery along the way.
- The city of the seven hills – Plovdiv, one of Europe’s oldest cities, with its old town and ancient Roman amphitheatre and stadium; designated European City of Culture 2019
- Shiroka Laka village, an architectural and folklore reserve
- Gela village
- Devin – the spa capital of Bulgaria
- The Canyon of Waterfalls
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Not the right holiday for you? Have a look at our other self guided walking holidays in Bulgaria here.
Day 1: Plovdiv
Arrive in the charming city of Plovdiv, visit the ancient Roman amphitheatre and stroll the beautiful streets of the old town. Ryan Air flies directly to Plovdiv; if you fly to Sofia, Plovdiv is easily accessible by train or bus (c. 2 hours, see travel notes).
Day 2: Smolyan Lakes & Canyon of Waterfalls | 5-8 km
Morning transfer to Smolyan Lakes (95 km / 2 hours). After check-in and lunch, you will be transferred to the starting point of the Canyon of Waterfalls eco-trail (5 km / 15 minutes). The trail goes up the river and crosses several water cascades forming a system of small and medium waterfalls that pour their waters from one to the other. The trail crosses metal and beautiful wooden bridges built over Elenska River. They are always followed by rest and picnic spots. Walk back to starting point. Transfer back to the hotel.
- Walking for the day: 5-8 km (3-4 hours)
- Accommodation: a 3-star hotel with spa facilities (Mountain Lake or similar)
Day 3: Shiroka Laka | 9 km
Optional morning walk to the Orpheus Rocks near your hotel. Noon transfer to the village of Shiroka Laka (20 km / 0.5 hours). A circular walk in one of the most beautiful parts of the Rhodope Mountains. Shiroka Laka is an architectural reserve, famous for its characteristic 18th and 19th-century houses.
- Walking for the day: optional morning walk in Smolyan Lakes (2-3 hours, 5 km) and an afternoon walk from Shiroka Laka to Varbovo (3-4 hours, 9 km)
- Accommodation: a 4-star hotel with spa facilities and a thermal pool (Shiroka Laka Spa Hotel)
Day 4: Shiroka Laka Circular Walks | 8-24 km
You have several alternative walks to choose from:
- Walk through the village of Gela, pass by Lednitsata Cave and return to Shiroka Laka on a circular route (24 km, 6-7 hours), or
- Transfer to the village of Gela (8 km, not included), then walk from Gela by Lednitsata Cave and return to Shiroka Laka on a circular route (16 km, 5 hours), or
- Transfer to the village of Gela (8 km, not included), then walk back to Shiroka Laka on the same route (8 km, 2 hours)
- Accommodation: a 4-star hotel with spa facilities and a thermal pool (Shiroka Laka Spa Hotel)
Day 5: Devin
Optional morning walks around Shiroka Laka. Early afternoon transfer to the hotel in Devin (20 km /30 minutes). Devin, in the heart of the Rhodopes, is known as the spa capital of Bulgaria with many mineral springs and its own unique micro-climate. The four-star hotel has its own natural mineral water pools on-site, as well as a large spa centre.
Day 6: Strulitsa Eco-Path | 7 km
The hotel is close to the trailhead of the beautiful Strulitsa eco-path. The circular path passes by waterfalls, through pine, oak and birch forests and reveals breath-taking views to the Rhodope mountains, then follows the meanders of the beautiful Devin river.
Day 8: Departure
Departure on your own (unless you have booked an additional overnight or transfer) after breakfast.
What to Expect
Quality 3 and 4-star hotels, as indicated in the itinerary. Most of the hotels in the mountains have spa facilities, and some have thermal pools. We have carefully handpicked all places, and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Click to view default hotels
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 exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included. When no restaurant is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or you can pre-order packed lunch from your hotel the night before. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or from restaurants and taverns in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty & terrain
The holiday is appropriate for regular walkers and requires a reasonable level of fitness. The trip covers an average of 14 km (5.2 hours) of hiking per day, all of them on the mellow slopes and rolling hills of the Rhodope Mountains. Average daily elevation gain is 506 m (read more about difficulty grades).
During the tour you will walk mostly on unpaved timber roads and hiking trails; some sections may include walking on asphalt. Most of the trails are well-marked and signposted. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from May until October. Weather is best in June – September. As July and August are the busiest months, it is preferable that you book as early as possible. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your vacation on any time in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.
The climate in the Western Rhodopes 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 May-September period, the daily averages are 20 – 25C. Spring and autumn are pleasant in the Rhodopes with cold nights and occasional rain. High summer daytime temperatures are rarely too hot as even though temperatures can occasionally reach 30C, the mountains and forests remain cooler, dropping at night to 12-18C. The Rhodopes are recognised as having some of the purest air in Europe.
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By train or bus
Day 1- From Sofia Airport to Plovdiv Hotel
- Take a taxi from Sofia airport to Sofia Central Bus Station, it will take you between 20-40 minutes 10-15 BGN (6£).
- By bus to Plovdiv Central Bus Station, the journey will be 2 hours 15 BGN (6£).
- Take a taxi from Plovdiv Central Bus Station to the Old City of Plovdiv, takes around 10 minutes and costs 5 BGN (2£).
Day 8 – From Plovdiv Hotel to Sofia Airport
- Take a taxi from the Old City of Plovdiv to Plovdiv Central Bus Station, takes around 10 minutes and costs 5 BGN (2£).
- By bus to Sofia Central Bus Station, the journey will be 2 hours 15 BGN (6£).
- Take a taxi from Sofia Central Bus Station to Sofia Airport, it will take you between 20-40 minutes 10-15 BGN (6£).
Day 1- From Plovdiv Airport to Plovdiv Hotel
- Take a taxi from Plovdiv airport to the Old City of Plovdiv is around 10-15 BGN (6£) and you will reach in about 20 minutes.
Day 8 – From Plovdiv Hotel to Plovdiv Airport
- From the Old City of Plovdiv take a taxi to Plovdiv Airport. It takes 20 minutes and about 10-15 BGN (6£).
- 7 overnights in hand-picked 3 to 4-star hotels or family-run guesthouses as listed in the itinerary
- 7 breakfasts
- Daily luggage transport to next accommodation (1 bag of up to 20 kg per person)
- All internal ground transfers and baggage transfers as listed in the program
- Detailed pre-departure holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions and road notes; maps with daily routes and optional hikes marked
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras & supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Private airport transfers
- Extra nights in Plovdiv or Sofia, before or after the tour
- Spa Extension: 3 extra nights at a beautiful four-star spa hotel in Devin
Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you with our feedback. It has been nice to think about it again now though, we have very happy memories of the trip. The whole trip was exciting and memorable, we hadn't done anything like that before outside of the UK. The anticipation of the different hotels and what each walk would bring made it fun. Even the possibility of a bear around each corner made it exciting! We loved waking up in the fresh mountain air at the Mountain Lake Hotel, and we had fantastic views from our room which is very important to us.[...] Everything was great at the hotels and with the transport. All the hotel staff were very pleasant and helpful. Every taxi was punctual, and the drivers tried their best to chat with us. We ate at local restaurants and hope each area we visited benefited to some degree from our stay.
The first minor issue we encountered was on arrival at Plovdiv airport. We had assumed that there would be a taxi rank, however it was soon clear we would have to phone for a taxi. Fortunately a British student let us share her taxi into the city. It would be useful for other travellers into Plovdiv to be aware of this, especially when the flights arrive at night time.
Overall it was a great trip and we would consider doing another with you.