Explore the mighty Rila mountains of south-west Bulgaria
Hike among shimmering glacial lakes and stunning alpine pastures
Walk to the top of the Balkans’ highest summit, Musala (2925m)
Discover the magnificent Rila monastery, World Heritage Site
Indulge in delicious, hearty home-cooked food— local salami, cheeses and wines
Hiking the Rila and Pirin mountains
Self-guided walking holiday in Bulgaria
Enjoy Bulgaria’s most picturesque alpine treks, climbing the Balkans’ highest peaks: Musala (2925m) in the Rila mountains and Vihren (2914m) in the Pirin mountains. You will trace dramatic ridges, hike past glacial lakes and stunning alpine pastures, as well as visiting the world-famous UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery.
This is the ideal trip for experienced hikers looking for an alternative to the high Alps or Dolomites. Panoramic views will take your breath away as you trek high above the tree line, amongst some of the wildest mountains to be found in Europe.
|8 DAYS / 7 NIGHTS||€680 per person sharing*
*A single supplement charge will apply for solo walkers.
|ACCOMMODATION||family-run pension including breakfast and dinner (Day 1 to Day 3) and 3*** hotel on bed & breakfast basis (Day 4 to Day 8; there are numerous options to have dinner in the taverns and restaurants of Bansko); en-suite rooms everywhere.|
|AVAILABILITY||This tour is available to start from mid-June until mid-September. Starting on a Tuesday-Saturday only; as the cable car to Mt. Musala doesn’t operate on Monday or Tuesday.
If you wish to start this tour on different days of the week (i.e. Sunday to Monday) it may be possible to rearrange the program and visit Pirin before Rila—please contact us for a tailor-made itinerary.
|DIFFICULTY||This tour is meant for well-trained hikers with experience of dealing with bad conditions in the mountains and for people used to walking over rocky slopes with steep ascents and descents. Patches of snow may still be present on some of the trails until the end of July (although the trails are passable from mid-June and perhaps earlier).|
Day 1: Arrive in Govedartsi
You will be picked up at Sofia Airport and transported to the village of Govedartsi, where you will have three overnight stays.
Day 2: Musala summit walk
Distance: 13 km | Ascent & descent: 750 m
Your exploration of the Rila mountains starts with a walk to the top of the Balkans’ highest summit, Musala (2925m). The day begins with a transfer from Govedartsi to Borovets resort, where you board the cabin lift to the trailhead. The path is not particularly arduous, yet is incredibly panoramic, with the rocky face of Musala visible the whole time as your trail takes you past cirques, glacier lakes and mountain shelters. The vistas from the summit to the surrounding uplands and peaks makes the effort worthwhile, as you survey the view from the top of the Balkans.
Day 3: Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes
Distance: 16 km | Ascent & descent: 750 – 1000 m
A shaded path through the Rila’s ancient spruce forests gradually gives way to alpine terrain as you ascend to the Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes, located at between 2100 and
2500 metres above sea level. As you reach the edge of the highest lake you are rewarded with a magnificent view over these shimmering glacier lakes surrounded by the peaks of the Rila mountains.
Day 4: Transfer to Pirin Mountains via Rila Monastery
You bid farewell to Rila this morning and set off for Pirin. Today’s itinerary offers you the chance to relax as you stop for a short visit at Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the most famous and largest Christian monastery in Bulgaria. The exceptional frescoes in the central church form a gallery of Renaissance masterpieces which can be compared to those of the Sistine chapel.
After your monastery visit, you will be transferred to the town of Bansko at the foot of Pirin Mountains. This will be your base for the following four nights. In the afternoon you can take the opportunity to wander the old town’s cobbled streets.
Day 5: Pirin mountains: Polezhan summit walk
Distance: 12 km | Ascent & descent: 650 m | Time: 5 hrs approx.
After breakfast, a car transfer brings you high above Dobrinishte resort, to the Gotse Delchev Hut (appr. 40min). From there you will take a chair lift still higher to the Bezbog Hut. This is the setting-off point for your hike to the Polezhan Summit (2851m), which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in the Pirin. You will gaze in wonder over 17 stunning glacier lakes, the largest of which, Popovo Lake, is over 30 metres deep.
Polezhan is the 5th highest summit in the Pirin mountains. It is surrounded by three Cirques with three groups of lakes – Disilishki in the north, Polezhanski in the south and Strazhishki in the west. You will walk the classic route along the northeast ridge, which is not too difficult or steep, apart from the very last 15-minutes or so of walking as you reach the summit.
Day 6: Cirque of the Banderishki Lakes
Option A: Distance: 16.5 km | Ascent: 800 m | Descent: 1200 m | Time: 5½ hrs approx.
Option B: Distance: 7.5 km | Ascent & descent: 700 m | Time: 3½ – 4 hrs approx.
After breakfast, a 30-minute pre-arranged transfer will take you to the Vihren Hut, from where you have a choice of walks around the pristine glacier lakes.
The longer walk crosses into the neighbouring valley and the Todorini Ochi lakes before descending through the dense spruce forests of the Yulen Nature Reserve and eventually reaching the photogenic valley of the Demyanitsa river.
The shorter walk is no less panoramic and offers you the chance to rest by the shores of the Banderiskki lakes and enjoy the serenity of the mountains.
Day 7: Vihren summit walk
Distance: 8.5 km | Ascent & descent: 1000 m | Time: 5½ hrs approx.
On your final day you will attempt the Pirin mountains´ highest and most famous summit, Mount Vihren (2914 m).
After a 30-minute transfer this morning, you will trek through the Golem Kazan (Giant Cauldron) beneath Vihren’s sheer 300m-high northern wall, whose dolomite precipices offer shelter to rare edelweiss flowers and fretful herds of Balkan Chamois (wild goats). The views are genuinely overwhelming, yet they are just the prelude to the panoramas that open up as you reach the summit and gaze over the surrounding sea of jagged peaks.
Day 8: Departure
Your itinerary finishes today after breakfast, with a transfer to Sofia Airport (2½ hours´ drive approx). If you wish to add further nights to explore Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, then just let us know at the time of booking and we will be happy to arrange this.