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Cycling in the Rhodope Mountains

Cycling in the Rhodope Mountains

Overview

With its stunning gorges, authentic villages and millennial history, the Rhodope Mountains are among the most exciting and undervalued regions to explore in Bulgaria. The itinerary will take you through some impressive karst formations such as the Buinovo and Trigrad gorges, the Devil’s Throat cave and the Chudnite Mostove rock arches. This tour is a great combination of sportive activity and cultural exploration, suitable for those looking for a great cycling adventure. During the tour, you will be biking along winding and undulating mountain roads with limited traffic.

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 kind of assistance, you can call the driver and immediately get the help and support you need.

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival


Once you arrive in Sofia, a transfer will pick you from the airport and take you to your cosy guesthouse in the outskirts of the city on the slopes of Vitosha mountain. Depending on the timing, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the vibrant life and cultural sites of the capital.

Day 2: Belmeken Lake – Velingrad | 60 km


We start the day with a short drive to the village of Sestrimo (90 km, 1.30 hrs). The starting point of the cycling tour is just a few kilometres outside the village. We will cycle through thick coniferous forests before reaching our first stop for the day – the Belmeken dam, located above 2000 m (for those of you who would like to avoid the long and challenging uphill at the beginning, it is possible to get on the support vehicle and start the tour directly from the dam). After a short break, we continue toward the Yundola area, known for its vast mountain meadows. Afterwards, we start descending to the renowned spa town of Velingrad, where we stay overnight. Here we will have some free time to swim in mineral water pools and relax after a full day of cycling.

  • Cycling for the day: 60 km, ↑ 1420 m ↓1450
  • Cycling for the day (without the climb to the dam): 40 km, ↑ 620 m ↓1450
  • Accommodation: Starata Kasta Velingrad or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 3: Batak Lake – Beglik Lake – Dospat | 71 km


Today’s starting point is a few kilometres away from Velingrad. We will cycle through the picturesque landscape of the Tsigov Chark area and along the shores of Batak Lake. We will enjoy the views of the blue-green waters of Goliam Beglik and Shiroka Poliana lakes before reaching the town of Dospat. We will spend the night in a hotel in the town.

  • Cycling for the day: 71 km, ↑1320 m ↓830 m
  • Accommodation: Tihiya Kut Family Hotel or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 4: Yagodina cave – Devil’s Throat Cave – Trigrad | 48 km

After breakfast, we start cycling towards the scenic Buinovsko Gorge, passing through the town of Borino. We will take a short break to enjoy the breathtaking view and then continue to the next stop – the Yagodina Cave. We will have some time to explore the cave, known for its impressive cave pearls. Afterwards, we continue to the village of Trigrad, passing through the narrow Trigrad Gorge, surrounded by 250-meter-high cliffs on both sides. Here we will visit the second cave for the day – the Devil’s Throat Cave, housing one of the highest underground waterfalls in Europe. Overnight in Trigrad. 

  • Cycling for the day: 48 km, ↑1200 m ↓1250 m
  • Accommodation: Zdravets Guesthouse or similar
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 5: Shiroka Laka – Smolyan | 64 km

We start today’s cycling with a pleasant descent along the Trigrad River. We will reach the village of Grohotno and visit the natural rock phenomenon “The Elephant”. We will then continue cycling along the Shirokolushka River before reaching the village of Shiroka Luka. We will take a break here to savour the spirit of this architectural reserve, famous for its preserved houses dating back to the Bulgarian Revival Period (19th century). Our next stop is the beautiful Smolyan lakes, and afterwards, we are heading to the town of Smolyan, where we will spend the night.

  • Cycling for the day: 64 km, ↑1440 m ↓1560 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Uzunski or similar 
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 6: Smolyan – Rozhen – Borovo | 58 km

The first stop for today is the small mountain town of Rozhen, where the National Astronomical Observatory is located. Afterwards, we are cycling uphill to a big picturesque meadow situated at 1700 m. The meadow marks the beginning of a gentle downhill ride towards the town of Laki. On the way there, we will pass through the scenic protected area – Momina Voda. We will explore the picturesque village of Borovo, located just a few kilometres away, as well as the famous religious site Krastova Gora, known for its healing mineral water. Overnight in Borovo.

  • Walking for the day 58 km, ↑ 1480 m ↓1420 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Varnentsi or similar 
  • Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 7: The Wonderful Bridges – Bachkovo Monastery – Sofia | 54 km

Today we continue riding downhill along the Jugovska river valley. Upon reaching the main road Smolyan-Plovdiv, we will meet our driver for a short transfer to a junction nearby, from where we will ride about 16km uphill to the rock phenomenon Wonderful Bridges. The next stop is Bachkovo Monastery – the second biggest one in Bulgaria, consisting of several buildings. Transfer to Sofia for the last overnight of the tour.

  • Cycling for the day: 54 km, ↑1040 m ↓1570
  • Accommodation: Hotel Zdravets or similar 
  • Meals included: breakfast

Day 8: Departure 

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

  • Meals: 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 48 to 71 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

The trip can start on any day from May to October for a minimum of 4 people. We can organise the trip for 2 people as well; however, a supplement will be applied (please click on the ‘Dates & Prices’ button on the right for more details).

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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