Spring walking holiday in the Rhodopes, Pirin and Rila Mountains
This is a 8-day walking holiday itinerary that covers some of the best parts of the Bulgarian Rila and Pirin national parks as well as the Rhodopes range. It is designed for the Spring period, i.e. end of May and June, when some of the trails in Rila and Pirin are still blocked by snow and not all the routes are fully open. The program covers the famous Yagodina-Gela trek, visiting the magnificent village of Mugla, the village of Trigrad with its landmarks Devils Throat Cave and Trigrad Gorge, the peak of Karluk, the top of Pirin Mountains – mount Vihren, as well numerous lakes of Pirin. The famous region of the Rila Lakes and Skakavitsa waterfall in Rila plus visit to the Rila Monastery.
Day 1 : Arrival
Meet at Sofia Airport at 14.30. Transfer to the village of Shiroka Luka in Western Rhodope Mountains – 3,5 hours. Accommodation in a family hotel in the village.
Day 2: Karluk peak in the Rhodopes and the village of Mugla
10 min drive to the village of Gela at 1500 m, in the foot of the highest ridge of the Rhodopes – Perelik Ridge. Ascent of the Orpheus Peak (or Karluk, 2188 m), the second highest of the Rhodope Mountains.
Traverse of the main ridge of Rhodope Mountains – Perelik Ridge. We start from the village and ascent to Perelik Hut, than further along the ridge to Mount Karluk – 2188 m. Descent to the remote vilage of Mugla at 1500 m. Accomodation in a family hotel at Mulga.
Note: 3 of the single rooms will be in a nearby property.
Total for the day: 8 hours, +900/-900 m.
Day 3: Mugla – Chairite Lakes – Trigrad – Yagodina trek
6h walk through the most beautiful meadows of the Rhodopes, with great views towards Perelik Ridge. We`ll pass near the landslide formed lakes of Chairite and finally walk to the village of Trigrad, visit of Devil`s Throat Cave and the Trigrad Gorge.
40 min transfer to the village of Yagodina via the Yagodina Canyon, accommodation in a family hotel.
Total for the day: 6 hours, +600/-600 m.
Day 4 : Yagodina Village – Yagodina Cave – Pirin Mountains (Bansko).
3 hours return walk to up to the Eagles Eye Panorama on the top of Sveti Iliya peak and another 30 min descent to the entrance of Yagodina Cave. Visit to the cave.
3 hours drive to the town of Bansko, located in the foot of Pirin Mountains. Walk around the old town of Bansko, dinner in a traditional tavern. in a valley between the main mountain ranges of Bulgaria – Rila, Pirin and Rhodopes. Accommodation in a family hotel in Bansko.
Total for the day: 3,5 hours, +400/-600 m.
Day 5: Valyavishki and Todorini Lakes in Pirin National Park
30 min drive up the mountain. Walk via Demyanitsa Hut and through Ulen Reserve near Valyavishki and Todorini Lakes. Ascent up to a col at 2500 and descent along Buderitza Valley. Accommodation at the same hotel in Bansko.
Total for the day: 8 hours, +1200/-600 m.
Day 6:Mount Vihren – the top of Pirin
Drive up to Pirin Mountains again. Ascent of Mount Vihren (2914 m), the highest point of Pirin Mountains and second highest in Bulgaria. Accommodation at the same hotel in Bansko.
Total for the day: 7 hours, +1000/-1000 m.
Day 7:The Rila Monastery, the Rila Lakes and Skakavitsa Waterfall
1,5 hours drive to the Rila Monastery – the biggest in Bulgaria, located in the heart of the Rila Mountains, a UNESCO heritage sight. Visit to the monastery. 1,15 hours drive to the bottom lift station at Seven Rila Lakes. Lift up to 2140 m, walk around the lakes and descent via Skakavitsa Waterfall, the biggest in Rila. Transfer to Sofia, accommodation in a hotel in Sofia downtown.
Total for the day: 5 hours, +450/-850 m.
Transfer to Sofia Airport, departure.
- hiking boots with ankle support
- rainproof/windproof jacket with hood
- quick dry type long sleeve pants
- a thin down jacket or a fleece layer
- rucksack 25-35l
- sun protection – lotion, glasses, hat
- rain protection – rucksack cover or raincoat
- a pair of thin gloves and a warm hat
- personal first aid kid – any medicines you take, etc.
- trekking poles
Weather: May/June is the beginning of the Summer season in Bulgaria, with slightly lower temperatures comparing to the dry July/August period and higher possibilities of rainy weather. There are still some snow spots in the highest ranges, above 2500 m approximately, thats why we avoid some of the summer routes. The temperatures up the mountains vary between 5-10 to 20-25 C.
Terrain: We follow marked tourist trails in the Rhodopes, Pirin and Rila national parks at elevations between 1500-2900 m asl . Only walking paths with some steeper sections (up to 35 degrees) to climb, no any technical difficulty or exposure – i.e. it is pure walking only and no hands are needed to deal with the terrain.
The areas we visit – Rila Mountains:
The great Rila Mountains are probably the most famous alpine range in Bulgaria. Not only because of their beauty and scale – they are the highest in the country and on the Balkan Peninsula – but also because of their special charm, fed by legends and stories about them. These start with the Tracian origins of the mountain’s name (Rila – well-watered mountain), following are the stories about the first ascent of the peak point of Musala by Philip of Macedon during 2nd century BC – an expedition that took 7 days. Also the unclear theories about the appearance of the name “Musala” – it is considered that the name of the highest peak of the mountains comes from Arabic and means “Close to God”. Than come the stories about Saint Ivan Rilski, the most honoured Bulgarian saint, who spend years walking from one place to another, praying and feasting as a hermit in these mountains, before establishing the Rila Monastery in Northwestern Rila. Rila is also a holy place for the sun worshippers of the White Brotherhood, a peaceful sect established in Bulgaria in the beginning of 20th century by Petar Dunov. They celebrate a New Year at the considered by them as a holy region of the Rila Lakes every August. Finally the reputation of Rila Mountains as favourite place for the members of the Bulgarian monarchy before WWII. They built the mountain resort of Borovets, some hunting lodges and paths around the mountain, some of them with the only purpose to organize a panoramic walk and show the beauty of the mountains to their guest – the Austrian Kaiser, during his visit to Bulgaria.
Nowadays Rila is mainly known as a place with unique preserved nature and as a paradise for the lovers of the outdoor activities. Its vast network of hiking routes gives plenty of opportunities for trekking trips. Among the most famous ones are the Rila sections of the International Long Distance Walking Routes E4 and E8 (read more about these routes here). There is a good network of mountain chalets and shelters to spend the night while on a trip. This is also possible in some of the villages at the foot of the mountains – Govedartsi, Mala Tsurkva, Madzare, Beli Iskar, Sapareva Banya and so on. It winter, snowshoeing and ski touring trips are possible between January and April. The Malyovitsa area is a popular rock climbing destination, so the Skakavitsa area is famous with the ice climbing routes, although for a relatively short period during winter when the waterfalls are frozen. The nowadays Borovets ski centre, the successor of the former royal mountain resort, is not far from the capital Sofia and is a good place to ski – both pistes and off-piste. The lower parts of the mountains offer many options for mountain biking.
More at https://bulguides.com/rila-mountains/
The areas we visit – Pirin Mountains:
If you ask a Bulgarian hiker “Which is your favorite mountain?” its very common that you’ll get “Pirin Mountains” as an answer. Why is that? Pirin attracts the outdoor lovers with its glory to the “most difficult” Bulgarian mountain as much as the reputation of the sunniest mountain range. With its rocky peaks and jagged ridges, glacial lakes and centuries old forests, Pirin has an image of a real alpine-like mountain, paradise for those who like walking in the mountains, surrounded by airy views and stunning landscapes. Its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea determines the mild and sunny climate, but also ensures a good amount of snowfalls in winter, brought here by the Mediterranean cyclones.
Of course, the first impression of the mountains is when you see them from down the valley – in this case for the majority of the visitors this is the Razlog Hollow – a flat area between Rila, Pirin and Rhodope Mountains, where are located the biggest town in the area – Razlog, and the most popular starting point for hiking in Pirin Mountains – the town of Bansko. Bansko is also the biggest and most modern Bulgarian ski centre. The first look towards the mountains after crossing the Predela Pass is astonishing and imbues respect. The whole main ridge of Northern Pirin is seen stretching from the north-west to the south-east – rocky peaks and high mountain passes which are the top part of long valleys that cut the mountains all the way down to the hollow.
More at https://bulguides.com/pirin-mountains/
The areas we visit – Rhodope Mountains:
Some people use to call it “Mother Rhodopa”. These mountains have a completely unique image in the Bulgarian’s minds during the ages. Rila and Pirin were the high, jagged, airy, cold and severe mountains, where it was possible to live the summers only, if you are a tough nomad, but not the winters. The Rhodopes, despite their mountain climate and difficult terrain, are seen as a Shelter. They are a place to hide, to spend your life and find your living. Inhabited from many centuries, these mountains saw all the fights and conflicts that happen in the area, they saw many different populations who crossed their territory, but it was always calmer and safer up the mountains, it was always a more sheltered place for the pupil.
More info at: https://bulguides.com/rhodope-mountains/