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Cycling Along the Balkan Mountains  The Natural Adventure 61

Cycling along the Balkan Mountains

Overview

This trip will take you along the scenic foothills of the central Balkan Mountains, famous for their unspoiled nature, green valleys, precipitous cliffs and gentle, rolling hills offering plenty of unique biking opportunities. You will start cycling in the Goliam Izvor village, passing through the Central Balkan National Park and finishing in Veliko Tarnovo – the Old Bulgarian capital. Along the route, you will pass through picturesque villages and revival period towns, exploring the village life of the country, as well as its turbulent history, genuine local architecture and vast mountain landscapes.

This is a fully supported tour, meaning that there will be a minivan with a bike trailer accompanying you all the time, so in case you get tired or need any assistance, you can call the driver and immediately get the help and support you need. This way, you can enjoy the trip to the fullest, whether you are a keen cyclist or a beginner enthusiast.

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Sofia

Once you arrive in Sofia, a transfer will pick you up 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 cultural sites of the capital.

Day 2: Sofia- Goliam Izvor village – Ribaritsa village | 48 km

An early-morning transfer (1 hour) brings you to Golyam Izvor village, where the ride starts. You start cycling towards the town of Teteven, and just before reaching it you will have an optional detour to the scenic Glozhene monastery. When reaching Teteven, you can take a short break to explore the town and visit the local historical museum and church. Afterwards, you will continue cycling to the resort village of Ribaritsa, where we will spend the night.

  • Cycling for the day: 48 km, ↑ 620m ↓510 (+ possible detour to Glozhene Monastery: 16 km ↑↓ 430 m)
  • Accommodation: Hotel Virgin Ribaritsa or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 3: Ribaritsa village – Troyan Monastery – Apriltsi | 77 km

You start today’s ride with an ascent to the highest point of the day – Bogoi pass (1185 m). Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with a long and scenic descent to the town of Troyan, where you can stop for lunch. Shortly after getting out of the town, you will reach Troyan Monastery, the third biggest in Bulgaria, where you can see some impressive frescoes and visit The Pottery and Craft Exhibition “Oreshaka” located next to the site. The last cycling section for the day will take you to the scenic village of Apriltsi, where you will enjoy a great view of the central part of the mountain and its highest peaks.

  • Cycling for the day: 77 km, ↑970 m ↓1060 m
  • Accommodation: Tihiya Kut Family Hotel or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 4: Apriltsi – Gabrovo – Etura | 61 km

After breakfast, you start cycling along isolated village roads from Apriltsi to Gabrovo. En route, you will pass by numerous small villages, green meadows and river valleys. The cycling starts with a short ascent, followed by a long and pleasant all the way to the town of Gabrovo. After a short break, you continue towards “Etura”- an open-air ethnographic museum, where you can take a break or add an additional 6 km of cycling to the nearby Sokolski Monastery. 

  • Cycling for the day: 61 km, ↑700 m ↓800 m
  • Accommodation: Stranopriemnitsata or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 5: Gabrovo – Tryavna – Bozhentsi | 58 km

After breakfast, you start the daily ride from Gabrovo, beginning with a short ascent, followed by a descent towards the town of Tryavna, where you can take a break for lunch and explore the charming old town and its genuine revival architecture. Afterwards, you are heading to the Bozhentsi architectural reserve which is the final stop for the day and a true hidden gem.

  • Cycling for the day: 58 km, ↑1010 m ↓1000 m
  • Accommodation: Parlapanova Kusta or similar 
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 6: Bozhentsi – Dryanovo Monastery – Elena | 46 km

A transfer in the morning (20 min) brings you to the Dryanovo monastery, where you can explore the beautiful Orthodox monastery and visit the cave nearby. Today’s ride starts from the village of Yalovo towards the town of Elena, passing by several small villages and along the magnificent Iovkovtsi dam. 

  • Cycling for the day 46 km, ↑ 800 m ↓800 m
  • Accommodation: Eleni Palace or similar 
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 7: Elena – Arbanassi – Veliko Turnovo / Sofia | 42 km

Starting from Elena, you continue cycling to the last point of the trip – Arbanasi Architectural Reserve. Today’s landscape includes green meadows, vast pastures, cultivation lands, shrubby hills and finally, the beautiful plateau over Veliko Tarnovo. You will take a short break for lunch in Arbanassi before continuing to Veliko Tarnovo and exploring the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. In the late afternoon, a transfer will take you to Sofia, where you will spend the last night.

  • Cycling for the day: 42 km, ↑600 m ↓730
  • Accommodation: Hotel Niky or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast

Day 8: Departure 

After breakfast, a transfer will take you to Sofia airport.

  • Meals included: Breakfast

What to Expect

Accommodation

The trip is mostly based in small family hotels/guesthouses with private en-suite rooms. 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

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

Meals as listed in the itinerary: 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners. Dinner is not included only for the overnights in Sofia, where you have plenty of restaurants to choose from. As for the lunch meals, on each cycling day there is a restaurant along the way and you will also be able to shop on your own from the local grocery stores or order a lunch pack from your accommodation.

Difficulty & terrain

Appropriate for cyclists in good physical shape. The trip is graded as moderate, with routes ranging from 42 to 77 km per day (read more about difficulty grades). The cycling goes mostly on isolated village asphalt roads with little traffic, and the road conditions are relatively good (with some exceptions such as bumpy sections, potholes, rough asphalt). There are no offroad sections.

The tour is escorted, so there will be a minivan with a bike trailer accompanying you all the time, so in case you get tired or need any kind of assistance, you can get the help and support you need. The driver/tour leader with the supporting vehicle and the luggage inside checks several times a day if everything is OK with the cyclists, waiting by crossroads, and accompanying them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When to go

In 2023 this trip is available from April to October, with one guaranteed departure each month: 22nd April, 20th May, 9th September, and 7th October (dates and prices are also available in the booking form). Other departures can be organised at any date for groups of more than 4 people.

The climate in Bulgaria is temperate continental with an average of 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.

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 overnights in small family hotels/guesthouses
  • Meal plan as described in the itinerary (7 breakfasts, 5 dinners)
  • Supporting vehicle and English-speaking tour leader/driver
  • Luggage transportation and all transfers described in the itinerary
  • Airport transfers from/to Sofia airport
  • Route notes and maps
  • Technical bike support during the cycling sections

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Bike rental
  • 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
  • Extra nights in Sofia before and/or after the holiday
  • Bike rental

Bike Rental

In case you would like to rent a bike from us, we can offer you our standard hybrid bikes equipped with 24-speed Shimano derailleur gears or our E-bikes with 250W Brushless Gear motor.

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