Bulgaria walking holidays should always be accompanied by bathing Bulgarian style, making the most of its many thermal spas. This eight day, self-guided walking holiday through the heart of the Rhodope Mountains does just that. Enjoy carefully crafted walking trails through the likes of the Canyon of Waterfalls, Smolyan Lakes and the village of Shiroka Laka, with traditional Rhodopean houses set in tiers along the riverside. Staying in three and four-star spa hotels, with plenty of Rhodopean food and wine en route, this is a refreshing and enlightening way to explore Bulgaria’s mountain life.
- The city of the seven hills – Plovdiv, one of Europe’s oldest cities, with its Old Town and ancient Roman amphitheatre and stadium
- Shiroka Laka Village, an architectural and folklore reserve
- Gela village
- Devin – spa capital of Bulgaria
- 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 around the beautiful streets of the Old Town.
Day 2: Smolyan Lakes & Canyon of Waterfalls | 8km
Morning transfer to Smolyan Lakes (95km/2h). After check-in and lunch, you are transferred to the starting point of the Canyon of Waterfalls eco-trail. The trail leads you up river and crosses several water cascades, forming a system of small and medium waterfalls. The trail then crosses a series of metal and wooden bridges built over the Elenska River, which are also perfect picnic spots. Walk back to starting point. Transfer back to the hotel.
- Walking for the day: 8km (3-4h)
- Accommodation: a three-star hotel with spa facilities (Mountain Lake or similar)
Day 3: Shiroka Laka | 5km
Optional morning walk to Smolyan Lakes near your hotel. Midday transfer to the village of Shiroka Laka (20km/30mins) where you can walk on the village’s three arching bridges and pretty cobbled lanes, before treating yourself to a spa at the hotel. Shiroka Laka is an architectural reserve, famous for its traditional 18th and 19th-century houses.
- Walking for the day: optional morning walk in Smolyan Lakes (2-3h, 5km)
- Accommodation: a four-star hotel with spa facilities (Shiroka Laka Hotel)
Day 4: Shiroka Laka circular walks | 14-24km
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 (24km, 7-8h)
- Walk on a forest path to Zaevite village, then walk by Lednitsata Cave and return to Shiroka Laka on a circular route (20km, 6-7h)
- Walk on a forest path to Zaevite village, then continue to Gela village and back to Shiroka Laka on a circular route (14km, 4-5h)
- Accommodation: a four-star hotel with spa facilities (Shiroka Laka Hotel)
Day 5: Devin | 9km
Morning walk to the charming village of Varbovo in one of the most beautiful parts of the Rhodope Mountains. Early afternoon transfer to the hotel in Devin (20km/30mins). Devin, in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, is known as the spa capital of Bulgaria with many mineral springs and its own microclimate. The four-star hotel has natural mineral water pools on-site, as well as a large spa centre.
Day 6: Strulitsa eco-path | 8km
The hotel is close to the start of the Strulitsa eco-path. The circular trail takes you past waterfalls, through pine, oak and birch forests that open out to some of the trip’s most spectacular views of the Rhodope Mountains, as well as following the Devin River.
Day 7: Plovdiv
Transfer to Plovdiv (90km/1.5h). Overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 8: Departure
Departure (unless you have booked an additional overnight or transfer) after breakfast.
What to expect
Quality three and four-star hotels, as indicated in the itinerary. Most of the hotels in the mountains have spa facilities, and some have thermal pools. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
Click to view default hotels
Hotels are subject to availability. In the event of 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 inns in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty and terrain
The holiday is suitable for regular walkers and requires a reasonable level of fitness. The trip covers an average of 14km (5.2h) of hiking per day, all of them on gentle slopes of the Rhodope Mountains. Average daily elevation gain is 506m (read more about difficulty grades).
During the tour you will walk mostly on unpaved 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 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, we recommend 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 holiday at any time in the season – so please indicate desired start 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, between May-September, 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 20-40mins, BGN10-15 (£6).
- By bus to Plovdiv Central bus station, the journey will be 2h, BGN15 (£6).
- Take a taxi from Plovdiv Central bus station to the Old Town of Plovdiv, takes around 10mins, BGN5 (£2).
Day 8 – From Plovdiv hotel to Sofia Airport
- Take a taxi from the Old Town of Plovdiv to Plovdiv Central bus Station, takes around 10mins, BGN5 (£2).
- By bus to Sofia Central bus station, the journey will be 2h, BGN15 (£6).
- Take a taxi from Sofia Central bus station to Sofia Airport, takes between 20-40mins, BGN10-15 (£6).
Day 1- From Plovdiv Airport to Plovdiv hotel
- Take a taxi from Plovdiv Airport to the Old Town of Plovdiv is around BGN10-15 (£6) and takes around 20mins.
Day 8 – From Plovdiv hotel to Plovdiv Airport
- From the Old Town of Plovdiv take a taxi to Plovdiv Airport. It takes 20mins, BGN10-15 (£6).
- 7 overnights in three to four-star hotels or family-run guesthouses as listed in the itinerary
- 7 breakfasts
- Daily luggage transport to next accommodation (one bag of up to 20kg per person)
- All internal ground transfers and baggage transfers as listed in the itinerary
- 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 (a digital copy, provided before the tour)
- 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 and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- 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: three extra nights at a beautiful four-star spa hotel in Devin