The riddles of the Rila Mountains
Rila Mountains are considered as the best place for alpine hiking in Bulgaria as they offer a wide network and large variety of marked walking trails of different difficulty levels. Two major international tourist routes (E4 and E8) cross the mountains. Deriving its name from the Thracian expression of a “well-watered mountains”, Rila not only prides itself being home to the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula (Musala, 2925m) but also with the abundance of glacial lakes (numbering more than 200), deep river valleys, lush alpine meadows and diverse flora and fauna. Rila National Park is the biggest out of the three national parks in Bulgaria and also one of the largest across Europe. The beginning of the tour in Vitosha Mountains is just a prelude to the secrets Rila and some of the real alpine hikes which you will do there. Strenuous but rewarding walks and spectacular landscapes “above the clouds” will show you to some of the most famous hiking areas in Bulgaria.
This self-guided trek has been designed for hikers with previous experience in alpine hiking, where storms and fog could easily occur in summer and adequate reaction might be needed in such situations. The difficulty of the walks increases gradually during the program. Options, that would make a certain day easier or harder are also mentioned in the roadbook and could be considered by clients in case of bad weather conditions or if they wish to exert themselves with more hiking. The suggested itinerary allows the sequence of some of the days to be changed generally depending on the above conditions.
Daily excursion to Rila Monastery (probably the most famous tourist attraction in Bulgaria, UNESCO heritage listed) is a natural extension of this tour (with extra night in Sofia), which is normally appreciated by everyone (scroll down for details).
- Rila Mountains are the sixth highest in Europe, coming after the Caucasus, the Alps, Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees and Mount Etna. The name Rila is allegedly of Thracian origin and is thought to mean "well-watered mountain", owing to Rila's abundance of glacial lakes (about 200) and hot springs in the faulty areas.
- Vitosha Mountains are the oldest Nature Park on the Balkan Peninsula and the most favourite place for hiking for thousands of inhabitants of the capital, exploring either the two nature reserves or ascending the highest peak Cherni Vryh (The Black Peak) – 2290 m a.s.l.
- Rila Monastery (for people who go for the extension) is one of the most remarkable monuments on the Balkan Peninsula equally for its size, natural surroundings, architecture, wall paintings and ancient history dating back to the 10th century.
Day 1. Welcome meeting at Sofia Airport and transfer to your hotel. Time permitting you will be able to explore on your own the city centre by the end of the day.
Day 2. An hour transfer (or depending on your arrival day a chair lift might be used) will bring you to the starting point of the hike – the Aleko Hut. From here a nice dirty road, crossing the plateau of Vitosha Mountains, will lead you to the highest peak of the mountains – The Black Peak (2290m). In a nice weather you will be able to enjoy terrific scenery to the alpine parts of Vitosha, revealing the vast green meadows of the Peat Reserve, supplying water to a number of rivers starting from here. Once the break in the refuge on the top is finished and you have recovered from the first exertion helped by a cup of herbal tea and warm soup the time has come to continue further. The path starts descending gradually tracing the borders of the Peat Reserve all the way down through century-old Spruce woods to the area of the natural phenomenon The Golden Bridges – stone rivers, covered by gold lichens. The car will be waiting for you here to transfer you to Rila Mountains (2hrs), where the walks by the end of your holiday will take place. For the first three nights there you will be based in Govedartsi village. (5hrs of walking; 13,5km/8,39miles; climbing 554m/1818ft and descending 977m/3205ft.)
Day 3. An introduction round walk will give you a taste of the landscapes that will be explored the following days. While hiking through the green meadows facing all the time the highest peaks in the mountains, you will be able to enjoy in the distance the rugged summits, deep valleys and tiny cirques of the Maliovitsa Region, where you will hike the next two days. A delightful kaleidoscope with changing sceneries will keep your eyes busy as you trace again lush glades and coniferous woods, where herds of sheep and semi-wild horses graze. (5-6hrs of walking; 20km/13miles, climbing 705m/2313ft and descending 725m/2379ft.)
Day 4. Probably the most eminent part of Rila Mountains will be visited today – the area of The Seven Rila Lakes. A stroll in the largest cirque in Rila, housing seven of its blue pearls (The Eye, The Tear, The Kidney, The Twins, The Trefoil, The Fish Lake and The Lower Lake) will show you some of the secrets of Rila National Park. Short transfer (20min) from your lodge will take you to the starting point and will bring you back from the same place at the end of the day as you have finished your loop-like hike, tracing all or some of the lakes between 2095 and 2535m a.s.l. Sheer slopes, big moraines, crystal blue surface and loads of magnificent landscapes will make this a hike to remember. (5-6 hrs of walking; 18,7km/11,6miles, climbing and descending 1310m/4298ft)
Day 5. Another wonderful walk expects you today as you explore the valley of Maliovitsa River and the cirques of the above lying Scary Lake and Yonchevo Lake. Having transferred to Maliovitsa Resort (15min) you start walking upstream Maliovitsa River, enjoying the picturesque valley of the same name. In a short while you will reach Maliovitsa Hut – recommended place to stop for a cup of tea and short break since the difficult part of the hike starts from here. The track gradually traverses more ridges and lakes with superb views of the surrounding summits. The Scary Lake derives its name from the thunder crashes that resound loudly from the neighbouring peaks during a storm. Just on the contrary is the Yonchevo Lake with the calmness of its green shores. The hike ends again in Maliovitsa Resort where a transfer will pick you up and will bring you together with your luggage to the resort of Borovets – the oldest Bulgarian ski resort and your base for the remaining three nights. (5-7,30hrs of walking; from 12km/7miles to 18,7km/11,6miles, climbing and descending from 880m/2887ft to 1600m/5249ft.)
Day 6. Easier loop hike will be done today as you will need some rest after the walk on Day 5 and before the climb to Mt. Musala on Day 7. The dirty road to the Black Rocks will lead you through century-old woods, green meadows covered with flowers and playful creeks. If you seek a breath-taking view you will find it when you get to the terrace on the top of the 135m high Black Rocks – to the left you will see the valley of Maritsa River, to the right lies the plain of Dolna Bania while as a background stands the summit of Mt. Musala. The next stop will be done at “Sarygiol” – wooden palace, built almost 100 years ago and used by the kings during The Third Bulgarian Kingdom as a hunting lodge. From here the path continue down to Chakyr Voivoda Hut and The Wolf Rocks, reaching eventually Borovets resort. (From 2 to 8hrs of walking; from 8,10km/5miles to 29,40km/18,3miles, climbing from 20m/65,6ft to 1261m/4137ft and descending from 255m/836,6ft to 1261m/4137ft.)
Day 7. Today you will target the highest peak in Bulgaria and on the Balkans – Musala (2925 m a.s.l.). A ride on the gondola-lift to Yastrebets Peak (2369 m a.s.l.) will provide you with good starting point for the hike. Enjoyable walk along an almost flat trail heading straight towards the jagged form of Mount Musala will lead you to the Icy Lake refuge, lying at the foot of the peak. Reaching the top normally takes 2,30hrs for the lift station. The view from the peak is truly breath-taking – you can make out the remaining peaks of Rila Mountains; the marble edges of the Pirin Mountains; Mount Vitosha and the Sredna Gora Mountains; the green summits of the Rodopi Mountains; and last, but not least, the long body of the Balkan range. (5-6hrs of walking; 14,20km/8,82miles; climbing and descending 690m/2264ft).
Day 8. Transfer to Sofia Airport (1,30hrs) for departure.
DETAILED ROAD BOOK AND MAP WILL BE PROVIDED UPON ARRIVAL
Dates, Prices & Remarks
>>> Extra day including visit to Rila Monastery
Stay one more day and visit one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery (UNESCO heritage site). Scroll down for prices.
Days 1, 5, 6 and 7 – 3-star hotels with en-suite facilities. Days 2, 3 and 4 – family-run pension with en-suite facilities. Meal plan is based on half board (breakfast and dinner included) except for Day 1, Day 5-Day 7, when no dinner is provided Restaurants in Sofia and Borovets are abundant). Luggage is taken care of throughout the tour.
Best period: mid June – mid September
Price: 490 € (limited time offer)
Single room supplement: 90 €
Price for solo travellers (incl. single room supplement): 690 €
Extension to Rila Monastery: 90 € per person (in a group of min. 2 persons sharing dbl room; single room supplement: 25 €)
(included: pick up from Borovets Resort on Day 8, transfer to Rila Monastery, guided tour in the monastery (in English), entrance fees for the museum in the monastery, transfer to Sofia, overnight in 3-star centrally located hotel on BB, transfer to Sofia Airport on Day 9; not included: lunch and dinner on Day 8)
The price includes: a trip, fully inclusive of all ground transfers from airport to airport (pick up/drop off at Sofia Airport); detailed roadbook in English and maps; luggage transportation; accommodation and boarding as mentioned above; 24/7 emergency hotline; VAT and all local taxes.
The price does not include: other meals, lift tickets, tips, entrance fees, alcohol drinks and other personal expenses.