15 Days / 14 Nights

Bulgaria Balkan Peaks Sofia - Borovets resort - Maritsa river valley - Dolna Banya - Yastrebets chalet - Mussala - Seven Lakes chalet - Rila monastery - Partizanska Polyana chal - Bansko - Vihren lodge - Vihren - Dobriniste - Besbog chalet - Tevnoto Lake - Kamenitsa chalet - Rozhen Monastery - Sandanski - Sofia
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The south-west region of Bulgaria is a rough sea of ridges and peaks separated by valleys filled with virgin forests of spruce and pine, and with a wealth of flora and fauna to observe. As well as having the opportunity to visit the fascinating hill villages of Bansko and Melnik, our trekking rout is through the two major ranges, the Rila and Pirin mountains. There are claimed to be 140 lakes in the Rila, and have given the mountains their name. Rila is an ancient Thracian word meaning "mountain full of water". Few ranges in Europe have so many rugged peaks; 132 are over 6500 feet and 78 rise above 8000 feet. The highest is Moussala (9397ft), the highest in south-east Europe. The Pirin mountains are characterized by many limestone peaks, alpine streams and lakes. Our rout not only takes us into the heart of the range, now on the world heritage list, but to the top of Vihren, at 9564ft, its highest summit. Through sparsely inhabited, both ranges nevertheless have a sophisticated network of trails, all waymarked, and mountain refuges, reflecting the popularity of hill-walking of Bulgaria.
This trek is graded B/C and should be within the capabilities of any normally healthy individual who is used to hill walking, and has some backpacking experience. The C grade aspect of this trek is reflected only in need to backpack for the periods indicated below. The rout is not difficult and average daily walking time is around 5 hours. For Days 5 to 9 and Days 11 to 13, it will be necessary to backpack - but not communal food supplies. Otherwise, all you need carry only a light daypack with items for the day.
All food and accommodation are included in the tour cost. Apart from Sofia and Sandanski, where we will be in hotels, most of the time we will overnight in chalet/mountain lodges. These are generally well-furnished, have dormitory accommodation, and other the range of basic facilities one would expect from mountain refuges elsewhere in Europe.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHINGIf you are already a hiker or backpacker you will probable already have much of the clothing and equipment required. As in all high mountains the weather can suddenly turn extreme; waterproofs, a worm sweater and good walking boots are essential items to take. A sheet sleeping bag, or similar, is recommended. A detailed list of personal equipment and clothing will be sent with confirmation of reservation.

Although Bulgaria lies in the very south-east corner of Europe the climate is never extreme in summer. Better described as moderate continental, we would expect daytime temperatures between 68 and 75 F. Perhaps a degree or two cooler higher in the mountains. Given the time and location of our treks, we would not expect any significant rainfall other than summer showers, and perhaps a rare thunderstorm.
The following itinerary is intended as a working guide only. It is subject to variation as a result of weather, local conditions and governmental restrictions. We reserve the right to alter (lengthen or shorten) any trek at any time if necessary.

Dates: 18.6.2005, 16.7.2005, 20.8.2005, 10.9.2005


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Prices include

  • board: F/B (breakfast and dinner) ;
  • 14 overnights in hotels and chalets ;
  • all transfers;
  • guide in English;
  • entry taxes ;
  • Participants - min 4 pax

Prices do not include

  • Passport
  • insurance
  • personal clothing and equipment

Day 1

Day 1 Arrival in Sofia airport, transfer and overnight in Borovets (4290ft).

Day 2

Day 2 After breakfast we walk along the Maritsa river valley to Chernata Skala (Black Rock). The vertical eastern face of this rugged feet rises several hundred feet above the river. The observation platform on the cliff-top offers fine views over Raduilvillage, the Dolnobanska hollow and the town of Dolna Banya. Return to Borovets for dinner and overnight.

Day 3

Day 3 This morning a 15 minute chair-lift ride take us up to its terminus at 5984ft. A hour and a half's walk away is the Chakur Voivoda lodge (6562ft). A little over an hour's walking brings us to Sarugyol meadow and fine views of Deno peak (9153ft), the valley of the Prava Maritsa river and the Moustachal and Moulichal peaks. The Sarugyol lakes are another hour's walk from here. They owe their names (Sarugyolis the Turkish word meaning "yellow lake") to the abundance of yellow flowers surrounding them in summer. We then hike up Shatara peak (8186ft) for some fine mountain views. After enjoying a picnic lunch, we descend via another rout to take the chair lift to Borovets (6 hours walking).

Day 4

Day 4 This morning we take the gondola-lift to Yastrebets chalet (7710ft) to the heart of the Mussala section of the Rila mountains. To the south, about two and a half hour's walk away, is the Mussala massif. We ascend on a winding path past the Mussala lakes to the top (9397ft). All around is a vast skyline of mountain ridges; the magnificent Rila, the marble cliffs of the Pirin to the south, to the north-west the dome of Vitosha, the Sredna Gora in the distance to the north, and the endless slopes and ridges of Rhodope massif to the east. After a picnic lunch we descent to overnight in Borovets (5 hours walking).

Day 5

Day 5 For the next four days, till Day 8, we will be backpacking. Transfer by coach to Vada mountain lodge in the North-Western Rila. After a pack lunch we trek to Seven Lakes, some of the most picturesque alpine lakes in the Rila mountains. If the lower part of the cirque, by the sixth lake,
is Seven Lakes chalet (7205ft). Dinner and overnight here (five hours walking).

Day 6

Day 6 After breakfast climb past the rest of the Seven Lakes to Ivan Vasov lodge (7546ft). We follow the path along a mountain ridge and up and over the Damga mountain (8760ft). The path then drops in a series of steep descents to Rila monastery, set in the thickly-wooded valley below. Behind its heavy gates is revealedexquisite architecture with high arches and columns, 1200 outdoor murals, sunlit verandahs and old fountains. Overnight in a chalet close to the monastery (6 hours walking).

Day 7

Day 7 Morning 4 mile walk along the track from the monastery to Partizanska Polyana chalet. Just about here is one of the most scenic spots in the whole of the Rila mountains - fine views of the Elani, Orlovets, and Zlia Zub peaks and the Dvuglav and Iglata peaks. We cross from the left to the right bank of the Rilska river and hike up to Fish Lakes lodge (7316ft), between the upper and lower of the Fish Lakes. (5 hours walking).

Day 8

Day 8 The terrain around us is now more stark and rugged, relieved only by a series of glistening glacial lakes. It becomes more verdant as we descend below the tree line to Semkovo chalet. (5 hours walking). Here we are re-unit with our main baggage.

Day 9

Day 9 Our last day in the Rila mountains begins with 3-4 hour descent to the village of Belitsa. From here it is a short bus transfer to Bansko. Bansko is an old town with well-preserved 18-th and 19-th century houses. The interiors are a pleasure to see. Bankso is also the startpoint for our trek in the Pirin mountains, Bulgaria's largest national park.

Day 10

Day 10 Today a short drive of ten miles take us to Vihren lodge (6397ft) high on the left bank of the Bunderitsa river. From here we make circular walk which take us up Vihren (9564ft), the highest peak in the Pirin. From the lodge we take the path which leads up to Kazana shelter which lies at the height of the cirque ridgewhich divides it from the Malkiya Kazan cirque. Continue to the Premkata saddle and into Vihren. From the summit a steep path to the south leads to Vihrenski Preslap col (in half an hour) and descends past the Vihrenski Voda brook to merge with the path we took earlier. Continue to Vihren lodge and return by coach to Bansko. (6 hours walking).

Day 11

Day 11 Till Day 13 we will be backpacking. A short bus transfer brings us to the village of Dobriniste. At first we walk up a mountain road before taking to the trail which leads us to Besbog chalet (7400ft) where we overnight.

Day 12

Day 12 From Besbog we trak past Popovo Ezra lake and beneath the Kralevdorski cirque. Surrounded by the highest peaks of the Pirin, we press on up tp Tevnoto Lake, one of the Pirin's finest lakes. We pass by Tevnoto Lake shelter (8250ft) on its south-eastern shore. Cross the Kozi Preval (8235ft) and descent to overnight at Kamenitsa chalet. (7 hours walking)

Day 13

Day 13 The day begins with a short walk to the roadhead and then by coach to Rohzen monastery, set amid a fantastic panorama of eroded landscapes. Famous for its beautifully - carved altar, the monastery church has stained glass windows, murals and fine icons. We visit the village of Melnik, currently in the process of preservation with the support of UNESCO. The houses have solid stone walls, wide balconies and large fireplaces, and are topped by small towers. From here we drive to Sandanski, one of Bulgaria's best known spa towns. Dinner and overnight in the Hotel Sandanski, a 4 star hotel - with swimming-pool.

Day 14

Day 14 After breakfast drive to Sofia. Lunch in rout. Free time for shopping and sightseeing in the afternoon.

Day 15

Day 15 Transfer to airport for mid-day flight Sofia - London /Heathrow/.

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