Rhodope Mountains Explorer is an amazing self guided walking holiday in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, unique to The Natural Adventure Company. Visit the impressive Buinovo Gorge, then hike to the Eagle’s Eye viewing platform offering spectacular views of the Rhodopean Range. Trace the footsteps of Orpheus through the mighty Devil’s Throat cave in the Tirgrad Gorge, said to be the mythical Hall of Hades, walk to Chaira Lakes and then take in the splendour of the Canyon of Waterfalls before moving to the comfort of your spa hotel. Accommodation during our Rhodope Mountains walking holiday is in hand-picked 3 or 4-star hotels (spa facilities available on Days 5 and 6).
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Not sure if this is the right holiday for you? Have a look at all our offerings for walking holidays in Bulgaria here.
Day 1: Plovdiv
Arrive in the charming city of Plovdiv on your own, visit the ancient Roman amphitheatre and stroll the beautiful streets of the old town.
Day 2: Yagodina / Eagle’s Eye | 7 km
Morning transfer to Yagodina (115 km / 2.5 hours) – a small village in the picturesque Buinovo Gorge in the Rhodopes’ very heart. Option visit of the beautiful Yagodina Cave. Afternoon hike to the Eagle’s Eye platform offering impressive views to the mountains (some sections are relatively steep but no scrambling required). During good weather, the entire Rhodope Range and even parts of Greece are visible from the platform. Overnight in Yagodina.
Day 3: Trigrad | 11 km
Walk from Yagodina through the picturesque Buinovo Gorge to Trigrad and then to your hotel. Once you arrive in the village, you will also be able to visit the Devil’s Throat cave. The cave’s entrance resembles a devil’s head, and down its throat rushes a massive waterfall that from ancient times has captivated imaginations and given birth to many legends. The most popular of these is that Orpheus descended this hole to the subterranean kingdom of Hades, to seek his lost love Eurydice. Overnight in or near Trigrad.
Day 4: Chaira Lakes / Trigrad Cliffs | 23 km
A circular walk from the hotel to Trigrad Cliffs, then to the beautiful Chaira Lakes and back to the hotel through the impressive Trigrad Gorge. Overnight in Trigrad.
Day 5: Shiroka Laka | 24 km
Morning transfer to the hotel in Shiroka Laka (40 km / 1 hour). Stop to visit the Devil’s Throat cave. Walk from Shiroka Laka to Gela, a small village in the picturesque valley of Oreshica river in the very heart of the Rhodopes. Walk through Gela to Lednistata Lodge and Lednitsata Cave, then descend using another route from Gela to Shiroka Laka through one of the most beautiful parts of the Rhodope Mountains. Overnight in Shiroka Laka.
- Walking for the day: 24 km, 8 hours, ↑700 m ↓700 m (shorter options available)
- Accommodation: a 4-star hotel with spa facilities and a thermal pool (Shiroka Laka Spa Hotel)
Day 6: Smolyan Lakes | 5 km
Morning transfer to Smolyan Lakes (20 km / 30 minutes). After check-in walk from the hotel to Orpheus Rocks and back. After (or before) the walk, you can make an optional visit to Smolyan town.
- Hiking for the day: 5 km, 2-3 hours, ↑150 m ↓150 m
- Accommodation: a 3-star hotel with spa facilities (Mountain Lake or similar)
Day 7: Canyon of Waterfalls / Plovdiv | 7 km
Morning transfer to the starting point of Canyon of Waterfalls eco-trail (5 km / 15 minutes). The trail goes up the river and crosses some 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. Rest and picnic spots always follow them. Walk back to starting point. Transfer back to the hotel (5 km / 15 minutes). Transfer to Plovdiv after lunch (95 km / 2 hours). Overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 8: Departure
Departure on your own (unless you have booked an additional overnight or transfer) after breakfast.
What to Expect
The trip is mostly based in 3 and 4-star hotels and family-run guesthouses, as indicated in the itinerary. Some of them will have spa facilities. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us, and we monitor their quality regularly. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
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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 to you the exact accommodation details upon booking confirmation.
Breakfasts are 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 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, you should 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
We had an absolutely brilliant time and thoroughly enjoyed the Rhodope Mountains which were a revelation to us! The best hotel from the point of view of setting and lovely staff was Mursal in Yagodina. Stunning views and beautiful room, very comfortable bed and delightful people. The best food was in Arkan Kan hotel. Monika was lovely once we had succeeded in warming her up and the chef there produced some fantastic food. [...]The walk from Jagodina to Trigrad was definitely the best walk, though we met a family on the way who took us on a short cut through the forest, away from the track) and this made for a very interesting and special hike, though it was probably much harder work than the planned route. Beautiful views. [...]The transfers were fine (very punctual arrivals and journey timings were spot on), Kotse was outstanding. The trails were fun and for us beginners quite challenging but do-able.
We had a fantastic holiday, Bulgaria is a stunning country and I loved it so much. That waterfall walk is just stunning [...]. Maybe, if its not too much trouble, just a few useful Bulgarian words such as tap water, yoghurt (for breakfast), packed lunch, hot water etc. etc. would help us and the hotel owners (who were all just lovely). Apart from that, thank you for hosting us in this beautiful country and I look forward to our next trip.