Trail Running in Bulgaria – guided or self-guided outdoor adventure in Eastern Europe.
If you love trail running and you love exploring different cultures and unique nature we could offer you some great experiences in our home land – Bulgaria. The mountains of Bulgaria are suitable for trail running in all seasons, although the highest routes are possible from mid June to mid November, depending on snow conditions. The terrain is perfect for various distances and difficulty levels – from flat forest runs or hill strolls, suitable for beginners and recreational runners, who just want to enjoy the nature around in a moderate pace, to ambitious ridge routes with impressive elevation gains and more technical terrain. The good infrastructure – high mountain access via asphalt roads and the mountain huts and lodges in the higher parts of the mountains make it possible to arrange quick single day runs or multi-day trips.
We are proud to offer for the first time in Bulgaria – trail running trainings, trips and itineraries with a certified mountain guide. Our colleague Kaloyan Peychev loves running in the mountains and can propose you a suitable trip, no matter if you are a beginner or advanced runner. Kaloyan is a great fan of climbing, ski touring, bare foot running and long distance running and competitions. You`ll get the proper guiding, instruction and supervision during your training, together with a good introduction to the Bulgarian nature, culture and everyday life by a local guide. Along with that, we can provide all the information and logistical support you need, in case you are experienced enough and want to go running by your self. Please check our Self-guided section for more info on what we can offer.
Trail running in Bulgaria is getting massive for the last years – more and more people get hooked by this amazing outdoor activity, which leads to increase of the number of the competitions and events organized, where one can meet fellow runners. These vary from 5-10 km long city park or city surroundings runs, open for everyone – from beginners and amateurs to committed athletes, massive events where everyone can challenge their endurance and motivation, and on the other end are professional competitions and attempts to put new records from the elite. All this leads to easier access to information on all the aspects of this mountain sport, more equipment offered on the marked, trainings and knowledge sharing between the runners.
The great Bulgarian long distance route Kom-Emine (E3, KE) was the subject of a few runners and mountain bikers for the last seasons and after a few breaks of the last record from 1987 (5 days and 14 hours) it currently (2017) has new limits: 4d, 13,10h running by Kiril Nikolov-Dizela and 2d, 22,49h on a mountain bike by Borislav Yordanov. The route gains increasing popularity among foreign visitors as well and while most of them would walk it for 20+ days, some, like our guests Robbie Britton and co. did run it for 10 days. Check the trailer of their film about the mountain running of Kom-Emine in Bulgaria in 2017 (happy to say it was organized with our support) below:
Probably the most popular race both for amateurs and professionals is Obikolkata na Vitosha – the Vitosha mountain ring or Vitosha 100km – a long run or bike ride around Vitosha mountain next to Sofia, held in June every year, since the 80’es. The number of runners that attempted it in 2017 is around 750, although the total number of the participants is growing year by year. Together with that some of the participants are doing a duo competition – twice the distance, bike ride plus marathon run, totally around 200 km. Other popular and tough annual mountain running marathons in Bulgaria are the Malyovitsa Skyrun (Rila Mountains), Pirin Ultra (Pirin Mountains), Persenk Ultra (held in the Rhodopes) and Stara Planina 100×24 (100k for 24 hours along the ridge of the Balkan Mountains).
There are almost unlimited possibilities for trail running across the mountains of Bulgaria. The mountain routes vary greatly in distance and in vertical profile. The most famous ones follow the main mountain chains of the country:
E3 – The Balkan mountains or Stara planina crosses the whole country from west to east. Starting near the border with Serbia with the Kom peak (2016m) the route follows the main mountain ridge for the impressive 600km and finally ends on the Cape Emine, right on the Black Sea. The whole route could be done with running in 10-12 days by advanced runners. Anyway shorter sections of the route can be organized according to your current abilities and experience.
E4 – Vitosha – Verila – Rila – Pirin – Slavyanka – “only” 250km long, this route crosses the highest mountains in Bulgaria from the capital city Sofia south to the border with Greece. The vertical profile of the route is impressive – 14000m of ascent and 13000m descent in 250km! It can be done in 5-7 days or you can split it in shorter sections for longer pleasure 🙂
E8 – Rila – Rhodopes – this route starts from Borovets, the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria and quickly climbs mt Musala (2925m) – the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula. Than it continues through the wide Rhodope massif – almost endless pine forests cover the higher western part. The further you go to the east the vegetation changes and more rocks get exposed to the surface. Many geological phenomena, relicts of the latest volcanic activity in Eocene are concentrated here. The whole route is around 425km long and relatively not steep (11000m of ascent) making it quite a challenge for adventurous runners.
Read more about the Long distance routes of Bulgaria.
Vitosha Mountain Range, together with the lower ranges of Lozenska Planina and Plana mountains offers the best terrain for trail running next to Sofia. Vitosha is raising at 2290 m, while Sofia is at 500 asl, the distance between them is short and the access – quick. That means you could go both for a quick run in the highest parts with 200-500 m of elevation gain or do a proper ascent straight from the Sofia suburbs all the way to the top, with 1500+ meters to climb…
Have any questions or want to join a run?
Cover photo: trail running in Verila Mountains with great views towards Rila, by Rus Vakrilov.
Author: Lyuben Grancharov
“The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a page” (Augustine of Hippo). I enjoy filling up the page, called “Bulgaria”, both working as a guide and writing about the mountains of Bulgaria on this blog.