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Rianne, Netherlands: Tailormade hike to seven rila lakes with Dancho:
My mom, sister and I wanted to go hiking to the seven rila lakes during our weekend getaway in Sofia. It was halfway may and not yet the right season for hiking the lakes and too late in the winter season for a snowshoe tour. Tour operators start the hiking tour to the lakes from halfway june. We contacted bulguides and they arranged a tailormade trip for us. We were picked up from our appartment in town in the morning and our guide drove us to the mountains. He provided trekking poles (which we couldn’t bring because we only had handluggage on our flight). The chairlift wasn’t working yet but the guide arranged a 4WD to bring us halfway up the mountain. Even though (or better: because) it was not high season for visiting the lakes we had the best time hiking through the snow and enjoying the wonderfull views. Our guide was very helpfull, knew where to go and above all good company for a day of trekking. For us it was the highlight of our short trip in Bulgaria.
Jen Smith, Mount Vitosha Snowshoe Tour:
Mitko was the hero of our trip to Bulgaria! My husband and I went for a long weekend to Sofia, and we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful nearby mountain. In spite of the fact that we enjoyed the nightlife of Sofia a bit too much in our hotel’s rooftop bar on Saturday night, we made our way to meet Mitko in the lobby at 8ish on Sunday morning. He was timely and cheerful. The four-hour ,mostly backcountry, tour that he took us on was exactly what the doctor ordered! The scenery and peacefulness of the mountain were amazing. To make the scenario even more perfect, it snowed during our entire trek. So, we were walking through lovely fresh powder! Mitko took us to a refuge, as we requested, and we had delicious soup and some traditional beans and sausages. It was really a perfect day, and we could never have navigated the mountain the way that Mitko did. He really knows the nature and the landscape of Vitosha. Additionally, he gave us some interesting cultural and historical perspectives on Bulgaria. Just a great day with a great guide! Thanks. . .and “Merci” from Greg!
Elaine & Andrew Parkin, Snowshoeing near Bansko – Semkovo area:
Our snow shoeing trip to Semkovo on 7th March was thoroughly enjoyable. Mitko advised of the weather conditions ensuring that there was plenty of snow at the venue. He tailored the level of difficulty to our party and not only gave us an entertaining walk but was also very knowledgeable on the history, geography and natural history of the region. We felt very safe with him throughout and would certainly book another trip with him (if available) when we return to Bulgaria, hopefully to experience the beautiful countryside in the summer months. Thanks to Lyuben for organising our amazing day and to Mitko for his knowledgable, safe and entertaining guidance.
Despite the fog and wind we have had a great day snowshoewalking on sunday 26/02/2017. All the 11 people of our group where enthusiastic about the hike but certainly also enthusiastic about our guides, Ivan and Nelly. We all reached the top even though we where all unexperienced with snow-shoeing. I have had experience with other guides in the alps for some hikes in summer and they did’t have as much patience for people who are not so fast as Ivan and Nelly did with us.
“Amazing Hiking in Rhodopies, Pirin and Rila Mountains”
We, a couple with brother (and thereby also brother-in-law) had a 2 week hiking holliday in the Bulgarian mountains august/september 2015. We had 3 hiking days each in Rhodipies, Pirin and Rila mountains. First day at each place we hired Lyuben to guide us and also give advice for the two following days of hiking. Highly recommended – it was simply perfect.
Lyuben was most skilled in telling our skills when it came to hiking and proposed the most excellent hikes. He is a very nice guy that made our stay most pleasant. He acted as guide when needed. The rest of the time he was just another friend that joined us for enjoyable hikes in fabulous mountains.
Going to the Bulgarian mountains is worth the effort. Hiring Lyuben to assist you adds value.
Staffan (Sweden), Agnes (Sweden, born Canadian) and John (Canada)
“Three-day Rhodope Mountain tour”
Lyuben took me on a three-day tour of the villages and sights of the Rhodope Mountains. It was an amazing experience and I was delighted to visit breathtaking vistas, fascinating monasteries and quaint villages in this short amount of time. Lyuben was kind, generous and very well organized. He knows the area very well and was great at adapting the itinerary to my schedule. Luckily, the weather was fantastic this November, so we had sunny days and ran into few people on the trails. I highly recommend booking a tour and would definitely book again, if I visit in the future.
Visited November 2015
“Rhodopes 3 Day Trek”
Two of us did a 3 day trek in the Western Rhodope Mountains in October 2015. Although we are quite experienced generally in mountain trekking, we have never before hiked in Bulgaria and we speak no Bulgarian. We turned to Lyuben for advice on route selection, the program and for making lodging and food arrangements. The trek was guided by his partner Alexander. We can wholeheartedly recommend their team and the itinerary to any mountain trekking fan, the route from Jagodina Cave to Gela. Although the trails are not technically challenging, still offer a good level of physical exercise, beautiful views on the unspoiled mountain scenery and such surprises as exceptional jagodina cave with its unique stone formations or ruins of orthodox churches dating back to the V century. The villages are full of charm of hidden and somewhat long forgotten mountain settlements however all venues selected by Lyuben and Alexancer were clean, dry, safe and comfortable. Throught the trek we received only exceptionally helpful and friendly service. The food offer was simple but tasteful and full of local flavour. Organization of our trek was perfect with no unwanted surpises. Aleksander turned out to be both a perfect guide and companion sharing his in depth knowledge of history and local tradition, fauna and flora along the way.
Visited October 2015
This is the first time I ever went to Bulgaria and of course the first time I stepped into their mountains. I was expecting a cold day because me and my dad went at the end of october, but lucky for us the sky was blue and the wind was missing. It was a fresh, golden fall and we got to enjoy it. Our goal was the seven Rila Lakes. We started at the cave of John of Rila and the Rila Monastery. Our guide Dimiter told us with detail the story behind Rila Monastery, which of course is much interesting if you are actually there, so stop reading about it on Wikipedia, go there! Plus, if you visit the cave of John of Rila you may wash your sins just by entering the cave.
The next day we continued our trip to the seven lakes. Dimiter told us about the flora and fauna of the area. Of course much of the flowers were let to our imagination because at the end of October you can´t see many of them, but the trees and the frozen waterfalls are just as amazing.
At the end of a morning of climbing we finally reached the the first lake, it is known by the locals as “the kidney” and not so far away you can find the second lake, “the eye”. Those are the only organs you will find, but you will always be amazed by the beauty of the place. We continued hiking, amazed by the view, Dimiter always in a good mood and searching for the best views, telling us things about this beautiful place and happy as if this was also his first time at this amazing place.Finally we reached the highest point of our trip, the green mountain. Over 2000m, surrounded by high peeks, lakes and a blue sky over your head, that view really takes your breath (not only because you have to really walk to reach it).
It was an amazing trip and I would really like to see more of this beautiful place.
“2 day hiking in Rila Mountains”
We (2 Belgian families with kids) enjoyed this month a great 2 day hiking trip in Rila mountains (7 lakes + mountain hut + Rila monastery).
Very good support from Lyuben in preparing the trip. Appreciated a lot the effort to adapt last minute the schedule with one day upon our request..
Itcho was the actual guide during our trip. Excellent knowledge of the mountains and history of Bulgaria. Good English. Very mature in guiding our mixed group.
Visited August 2015
Happy Feet, Toronto:
Rila’s Seven Lakes – Must do on everyone’s to do list!
Never would I have thought booking a professional mountaineering guide would provide me with such a memorable day! Hiking 15 +/- km in a day – wow! didn’t think I was still capable of doing so at this stage of my life. What is there to say about Dimiter aka Mitko: professional, courteous, knowledgeable and too boot, charming! A real gentleman even on what I considered to be the craziest and hardest hike I have done since Machu Picchu! Descents are the worse: Mitko took care I didn’t miss a step; didn’t go tumbling down the stoney path; held my hand and best of all kept me calm! Rila’s Seven Lakes is one of those wonders to be seen and enjoyed. Do the long circuit and avoid the crowds!
“Amazing Hike of Rhodopes mountain!!!”
We took ‘The Villages of Rhodopes’ four day tour. Lyuben was extremely helpful in organizing it, assisting with details and answering all the questions almost immediately. Our guide, Zhivko, was an excellent guide and company during the trip. Very well orginised hike, it took us through forests and valleys of Rhodopes mountains during the day, while we stayed overnight in lovely lodges in small villages with all the amenities and good local food selection.
The hike was a moderate level and I’m sure it is adjustable to any level and also it is easy to tailor it further e.g. adding extra areas or days. We cannot imagine organizing or doing this hike on our own as the path marking are sometimes confusing and even missing, getting lost or being constantly ‘wired’ to avoid missing the path can be frustrating, with Zhivko it was very smooth and enjoyable.
It exceeded all our expectations and made me fell in love with Bulgaria; we saw only a small part of Bulgarian’s nature and it is extremely beautiful, can’t wait for the next summer to explore it further and definitely with this group of guides.
Thank you Zhivko & Lyuben for this amazing hike, all the best and keep up with doing an amazing job, offering these amazing hikes over Bulgarian mountains!
PS: if you like good coffee and honey in the morning, bring them with you as these two are not the best in the lodges/guest houses. In addition since the starting point is Devin we highly suggest visiting Devin’s Struilitza Mineral water pools and hike the wonderful Lakata eco-trail that starts just beside the pools.
Visited August 2015
Frozen wind with snow, sun and cold this was what I faced that day.
More than six hours of walking on top of 3 meter height pine trees, climbing on icy mountain, bending my body against the wind and going all this in back order on our way back.
It isn’t National Geographic story, but easily could be! I never thought that one day in Pirin mountains can give me this feeling.
And honestly, I wouldn’t survive this trip without such professional and friendly guide like Dimiter ( Mitko)! Snowshoeing from Bezbog Hut to Polezan Peak planed by my skilled guide was most memorable day in my Bulgarian vacation!
At least three times I asked myself: “How can I withstand the next part of our track?” And each time Mitko gave me faith in my inner forces.
Making wise stops for refreshing, teaching me to use clever equipment and feeding me with sweet dates – made me feel safe and confident in this fantastic journey into the nature far from civilization.
The way back, when the wind hit our back we were able to talk a lot about animal trails, topography, season changes and many other subjects. Dimiter (Mitko) has deep knowledge in each of those topics and was interesting lector.
This trip was much higher than my expectations and now at home watching photographs taken there I am still excited from that day! Many thanks to Dimiter for this experience and also thanks to Lyuben for fast response and suggesting Mitko as my guide for this trip!
Michal, Czech Republic:
SKITOURING IN RILA WITH BORIS.
In February I spent a perfect weekend in the Bulgarian mountains for skitouring and riding in open area of Rila mountains. Until then, I have had experience of the mountains in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and the Alps of Western Europe, but this was my first experience in this bountiful area. Thanks to Boris, I experienced a great weekend. Base of his recommendation we went to area of Rila Mountains, around Malovitza hut. At the weekend was beautiful sunny weather, which predetermined the possibility of summits tours. Malovitza peak let us come to the peak and let us enjoy the view far around. There are a lot of other places where I have to go in Bulgaria and I am sure, that will be again with Boris smile emoticon Hospitality chalets gave us try “Ore” conditions during sleepover when hut operator decided not to heat that night in rooms, but we survived smile emoticon. Our weekend was shortly after the fresh snowing and condition was just perfect for safe and amazing freeride. Thank you Борис Влаев and Hiking Guide Bulgaria ! I’ll be back soon.
“Excellence in mountain advice and snowshoe guiding”
The mountains of Bulgaria present attractive objectives in both summer and winter conditions, but there are virtually no guidebooks written in English apart from the excellent Cicerone guide to the summer long distance trails. However nothing is available on snowshoeing. My wife and I wanted to hire a guide for a couple of days and then do some routes on a self-guided basis as we were reasonably experienced snowshoers. Having trawled the net I decided to contact Lyuben at Bulguides about my ideas. He was very responsive and helpfully answered lots of my questions regarding the possibilities. In the event he was not available personally but put us in touch with fellow guide Dimiter (Mitko) Samounev. Both guides are fluent in English.
Mitko was equally helpful and after a series of e-mail exchanges we agreed on two possible less-visited day routes in the Rila. With warmer weather prevailing when we arrived in Bansko, Mitko suggested a change to starter higher in the Rila at the Treshtenik Hut with the aim of reaching the frozen Ribno Ezero, which we did. The next day we did a longer 8hr route from Semkovo resort up to the Rila main chain to reach Chemnerna and Svednia Vrah. The icy and narrow approach routes to the huts allowed Mitko to demonstrate his competent winter driving skills. On the mountain he was in his element and we both enjoyed his company, learning about the snow conditions, route selection, trees, animal tracks and much else.
Mitko’s navigation and route finding in the misty conditions was excellent and the trips were very relaxing. In conversation, we also learnt a lot about the history of Bulgaria and many other subjects from fishing and food to national music, as well as a tutorial on the Cyrillic alphabet! So all in all, a great couple of days out. Mitko set off as he was instructing aspirant mountain guides on a snowshoeing course, but before he did he provided some sound advice on the safest approaches to some of the Pirin peaks which we followed to reach the summits of Orelak and Bezbog later in the week.
I would highly recommend Lyuben and Mitko to anyone wanting guiding and advice on snowshoeing or walking in the mountains of Bulgaria.
Visited February 2015
“Incredible day of snowshoeing on Mt. Vitosha”
What a perfect winter day on Vitosha! My wife and I had essentially no prior snowshoeing experience, but with the mountain looking so big and beautiful over Sofia this winter, we wanted to give it a try. On very short notice, Lyuben arranged for Dimiter Samounev to be our guide the next day. It was just the two of us, plus our guide. Dimiter is a great guide, by the way. He’s really knowledgeable about the geology, the flora, and the fauna of the mountain and was a lot of fun to be with. He’s also an amazing driver, which really matters given the condition of the mountain road in the winter. His English is great too.
We were very lucky with the weather. There were clear, blue skies and very little wind on the mountain. To avoid the weekend crowds, we went to a less-visited part of the mountain and made our own trail up to a ridge with outstanding views of the Rila Mountains and the Balkan Mountains. From way up there we could see all the way to Macedonia and into Serbia. Looking down, we saw lots of tracks in the snow, including rabbits, foxes, a little deer, and a wild boar…plus snow-covered “stone rivers”. We eventually made a loop back to the mountain hut where we started. Altogether I think we were snowshoeing for 6 hours, and it was so much fun the entire time.
We highly recommend it!
“A truly memorable experience: snowshoeing in Rila”
Having a few free days coming up and a desire to try snowshoeing in a nearby locale, but no clear vision and not a lot of time to plan, I started researching options online. I then found Bulguides.com, which immediately appealed based on the types of trips on offer. So I contacted Lyuben, who promptly responded to my inquiry. He in turn put me in touch with Dimiter Samounev (aka Mitko), who presented a multi-day option in the Rila mountains that perfectly suited my needs and budget.
En route to Sofia to meet Mitko I was still not exactly sure what to expect, as I am an independent, DIY travel type guy generally. (This was my first time hiring a guide in fact.) However, my concerns were quickly put to rest: Mitko is affable, knowledgeable, and an all-around outdoorsmen. He took care of every detail, big and small, from accommodation to car travel to equipment use. It was such a pleasure to just focus on relaxing, enjoying the environs in the Rila area and snowshoeing. He also has an excellent command of English, and deftly manages to be attentive yet unobtrusive.
Moreover, Mitko has a genuine love of nature and the outdoors that is truly contagious. I really learned a lot from him (about snowshoeing, the local area, snow conditions, flora, fauna, animal tracking, and more) while he avoided being pedantic. Mitko was always the consummate professional yet friendly and personable. I could not have asked for more.
I will definitely consider using Bulguides.com again in the future, not only for snowshoeing but also for hiking. And I give the firm a strong recommendation to anyone who wants to discover the natural beauty of Bulgaria with an experienced local guide.
Visited January 2015
Randonner dans les Rhodopes – une expérience inoubliable !
Les Rhodopes sont magiques !
J’adore les montagnes en général, mais les Rhodopes c’est la montagne que j’aime le plus !
J’ai voulu y randonner avec ma famille et ma belle-famille.
En faisant des recherches sur internet je suis tombée sur le site des « Guides de montagne » et très rapidement j’ai compris que j’étais tombée à la bonne adresse. Lyuben mon interlocuteur par mail, m’a mis en confiance grâce à son sérieux et son professionnalisme. J’ai vite compris que j’avais à faire à quelqu’un de compétent.
Avec lui nous avons ciblé un parcours qui correspondait au mieux à nos attentes.
Lyuben s’est occupé de tout : les réservations des hôtels et des bus, l’acheminement des bagages, les assurances…
Comme tout était organisé de A à Z nous avons profité au maximum de notre randonnée.
Sans Lyuben nous n’aurions pas pu engager les mêmes sentiers et chemins envoûtants que la nature rhodopéenne nous proposait. De plus il a toujours pris en compte nos souhaits et nos capacités du moment présent. Donc sur place il nous proposait des options de parcours selon l’état physique de chacun. Il était à nos petits soins.
Ainsi je peux dire que notre randonnée dans les Rhodopes était un pur bonheur !
À tous ceux qui cherchent un guide hautement qualifié nous vous recommandons vivement Lyuben.
“Beautiful hiking in Rila Mountains”
I had only 2 days spare in an other-wise hectic business trip, and wanted to spend some time in a beautiful, quiet place. I am glad I chose Lyuben and his team. (Normally, I will organise everything myself, but I had no time to investigate, and no time to “get lost”.) Maya was my guide and driver. She is knowledgeable, extremely competent and friendly and easygoing. It was 2 days in the Rila Mountains spent sightseeing, hiking, and rejuvenating.
I corresponded with Lyuben to organize the trip. He responded quickly (when he wasn’t in the mountains himself) and thoroughly. My travels were in March, the start of spring, and as a result, hiking was unpredictable. Was there snow? Snow shoes or not? Lyuben planned as best he could given assumed weather conditions, and Maya adjusted on the spot for actual conditions. I did not want to snow shoe, so the route we chose was not meant to have snow. As it turned out, mother nature had other plans. Although we did not reach our planned destination, the journey was magnificent.
Maya also had great knowledge of the places that we visited – the history of Boyana and the Rila Monastery, and of Bulgaria itself. She is an enthusiastic bird-watcher and identified birds and plants as we walked, as well as giving me insight into the geology of the lakes and mountains. I would highly recommend Maya, Lyuben and the Hiking Guides of Bulgaria.
Elsa and John, USA:
“Outstanding guide; wonderful experience visiting Rhodope Mountain villages”
Planning a first visit to Bulgaria, we (married couple aged 60) puzzled over how to include some hiking and time in mountain villages. This was complicated by the fact that we don’t speak/read Bulgarian and we prefer to skip car rentals while vacationing. Poking around, I ran across Lyuben’s website and the description of a multi-day hike to villages in the Rhodope Mountains. We hadn’t thought about hiring a guide, but all the hike descriptions sounded like they were written by someone with a deep appreciation and knowledge of the outdoor world and local history. And the Rhodope Mountain hike seemed like exactly the kind of thing we were hoping to do.
Lyuben was quick to respond to our email inquiries and everything sounded good, including costs. We Skyped to discuss things further and soon we had a plan.
Seeing a small section of the Rhodopes on foot and being treated to the terrific hospitality of our village hosts was just an outstanding experience. This kind of trek and the village visits would not have been possible for us on our own and it was our good fortune that the Lyuben’s mountain guide organization is available. As others have commented, Lyuben is an excellent guide in every way, calm, organized, perceptive, knowledgeable, and helpful. He was a pleasure to deal with from start to finish and beyond (I am looking forward to checking on his hike photos which he kindly made available to us after we went our separate ways).
We highly recommend Lyuben /his mountain guide organization to anyone wanting to hike in Bulgaria.
Visited October 2013
Sonja Risa, Australia:
“Wonderful experience, a highlight”
I contacted Lyuben in may by email enquiring about a guided trip in the Rila or Pirin Mountains. He responses promptly and professionally but I didn’t organise anything at the time as I was unsure of my plan. So when in Sofia I Email Lyuben and ask, at very short notice, if he could organise a guide for me in two days to visit the Seven Lakes in Rila Mountains for two days. He can and he does. Lyuben was busy competing in a marathon event so he organised Margi to be my guide. I had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed my walk with Margi through the Rila mountains. She was very knowledgeable of the mountains/routes, had allot of walking/hiking/mountain experience and was allot of fun. I have allot of walking experience but wasn’t confident walking alone in the mountains in a new area. I was so pleased to have Margi as my guide, it is a highlight of my travels. I would highly recommend Lyuben and his associates and the guide cost is worth every cent. Highly recommend Lyuben and his guides.
Visited September 2013
Yannis Serafimides, Greece:
Fantastic experience, very knowledgeable and helpful guide, will definitely do it again and will recommend Lyuben to other foreign climbers interested in the unique beauty of Bulgarian mountains!
Thank you Lyuben!
Hi Lyuben, I just wanted to say a huge thanks for an awesome weekend, it really was one of the best trips I’ve had so far in my life, although I still have black toes from my boots and a missing big toenail lol good times.
Frank and Chris from Holland:
“Snowshoe adventure in Beautifull Bulgaria”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 4, 2013
In februari 2013 we (my girlfrien an I) did a wonderfulll 8 day snowshoeing trip with our guide, Lyuben, from hiking guide Bulgaria. In the past we’ve done a lot of summer hikes on our own in the apls, but due to the winter conditions and the fact that we had no expierence with hiking in Bulgaria we decided to hire a guide for this trip.The scenery and local people in bulgaria where amazing and we really enjoyed these 8 days, Lyuben, our guide, really made the trip perfect for us, He had a good feeling for what we wanted and this resulted in beautiful, challeging hikes and interesting encounters with the local people that live in the mountains. One night he even improvised a stay with local people in a small village in the rhodope moutains which made the trip a real adventure for us. Due to his extended knowledge of all mountain area’s in bulgaria (Rila, Rhodope, balkan and Pirin) he could also improvise a perfect alternative plan in the rhodope mountians when the weather turned bad high up in the Rila mountains.
Lyuben tailored a program for us and gave a good overview of the costs, accomodations and alternatives at forehand. This resulted in a trip that was perfect for our budget and whiches. When plans changed during the trip, Lyuben also left enough options such that we could have our say in what type of accomodations to stay in.
Thanks to Lyuben we have seen parts of Bulgaria that we had never seen when we did the trip on our own. I’m certain that hiring a guide like this is definitely worth the money and thanks to Lyuben the trip was a great adventure for us!
Tara Steward, UK:
Hey lyuben. Thanks so much for a wonderful week hiking in Bulgaria back in October 2012. We all had a superb time, your knowledge and commitment was impeccable. We would all like to come back and do another hike in the spring, maybe may/june 2013!!!! Can u let me know the best time for you and which weeks your free please. Thank you.
Lisa and Simon, New Zealand:
“Amazing Bulgarian hiking guide!! Highly recommend.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 2, 2012
We had a fantastic 5 days hiking in the Rhodope mountains with an amazing hiking guide, who really made our trip. Lyuben, our Bulgarian guide could not have been more helpful. We were really impressed with his local knowledge of the area, accommodation and transport options, and thankfully for us, his excellent English skills. (Our guide also had first aid and mountain rescue experience so we felt we were in safe hands while out in remote areas!)
We traveled over lovely scenery during our hike and Lyuben was really happy to go at a relatively challenging pace that suited us during our trip. We stayed in a range of accommodation depending on the villages we stopped in – including a country hotel style as well as village huts with local families and guesthouses. We definitely felt we got value for money – and a tour tailored to our budget and the level of challenge that we had requested. We were very relieved we hadn’t tried to go out and attempt the walks by ourselves – some of the paths were not always marked, signs were impossible to understand at times, and we would have had a very hard time organising accommodation and supplies!
We would definitely recommend Lyuben as a guide to anyone wanting to go out in the Bulgarian mountains!!
Visited July 2012