Summits and Ridges ofBulgaria
Summits and Ridges of Bulgaria
Some of the highest mountains in Europe are situated in Bulgaria and this trip will give you the chance to visit those magnificent forests, lakes and summits which are far less crowded and wilder than the Alps. The 'Summits and Ridges' trip is a moderately challenging trek for those that love the outdoors, but it also has welcoming and comfortable accommodation in local hotels en route. This stunning journey will also allow you to experience the traditional atmosphere of the old towns of Bulgaria whilst discovering and enjoying both the Rila and Pirin mountains and all the majesty, wildlife and views that they offer.
Climb some of the highest peaks, including Malyovitsa (2729m - 2nd highest in the Rila mountains) and Vihren (2914m - highest peak in the Pirin mountains), hike through the Seven Rila lakes, enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains as you witness the alpine world of the Rila and Pirin mountains.
The Rila Mountains are the highest in the whole of the Balkans. National Park Rila is situated in the southwest part of the country and there are more than 200 peaks with many over 2000 meters. There are more than 120 permanent and 30 temporary glacial lakes in the high parts of Rila. The park territory is covered by an important forest ecosystems with spruce (Picea), fir (Abies), white pine (Pinus peuce) and dwarf pine (Pinus mugo). About 95% are natural, with an average age of 90 years. The biodiversity of the park is extremely diverse. There are about 1,400 vascular plants, 105 relict and 57 endemic plant species, such as Rila primrose (Primula deorum), Pawlowski lady’s mantle (Alchemilla pawlowskii) and Ornamental rhubarb (Rheum palmatum L.). The park is home to 282 moss species, 130 algae species and 233 fungi species. The mountain fauna includes 172 vertebrate species, 5 of which are fishes, 20 are reptiles and amphibians, 99 are birds and the mammals are 48. Also resident is the largest chamois population in Bulgaria, the largest alpine European ground squirrel population, one of four alpine newt populations and it's a nesting site for the pygmy owl. The invertebrate fauna is unique with 2,934 species discovered to date. This region really does offer a stunning backdrop visually to any visitor, but the amount of flower and fauna brings an added dimension and level of experience for our trekkers.
Pirin National Park is also in southwest Bulgaria and since 1983, the park has been protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The park includes one of the oldest reserves in Bulgaria – Bayuvi Dupki – Dzhindzhiritsa and was granted this status in 1934 so as to protect the endangered black and white fir (Pinum peuce) and the habitats of many other plants and animals. In 1977, this reserve was included by UNESCO on its list of reserves as part of the “Man and Biosphere” program, as was the park’s Yulen Reserve, in 1994.
Within the park there are more than 182 species of medicinal plants and 1,315 other plant species – roughly 1/3 of Bulgaria’s total. The park is also home to roughly 320 kinds of moss and lichen and 165 varieties of algae. The wide variety of plant life supports many kinds of animals – more than 2,000 invertebrate species and more than 200 vertebrate species. Among them are the European tree frog (Hila arborea) and the Eastern Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), both of which are included in The Red Book, an international list of endangered species. Within the boundaries of the park 159 species of birds have been recorded, amounting to some 40% of all bird species in Bulgaria.
At 2,914 meters, Vihren Peak is the highest point in the Pirin Mountains, second only to Musala in the Rila Range. It is in this region of the park where Bulgaria’s oldest tree grows – the Baykusheva Fir, which is more than 1,300 years old! Pirin requires some experience, as it is more alpine and challenging than Rila. Still it is a mountain paradise for admirers and adventurers. There are many hiking routes in the park, which give access to numerous stunning sights, many opportunities for rock and ice climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, paragliding and much more. Pirin is also home to some of Bulgaria's greatest cultural and historical sites, such as the old towns of Melnik, Bansko and the Rojen monastery.
Our itinerary takes us on a exciting and enjoyable journey through both the Rila and Pirin mountains! Check out the Photos on the horizontal menu tab above.
Map showing route through Rila mountains Route through Pirin mountains
The best months for summer trekking in Bulgaria are traditionally June through to September when the days are long, the weather is dry and the temperatures are hot though the temperatures in spring (April and May) are also very pleasant. We show scheduled open dates here, but we are able to cater for bespoke dates for groups and we can also extend and alter the general itineraries to include extra days. Please do get in contact with us to discuss options.
The trip is moderately difficult, suitable for people with some mountain experience.
|1||Arrive in Sofia and transfer to hotel|
|2||Ascent of Mount Malyovitsa (2,729m) in the Rila mountains|
|3||Trek to Razdela Pass (2,600m) and Rila Monastery|
|4||Trek through southern section of Rila mountains to Bansko, at foot of the Pirin mountains|
|5||Ascent of Mount Vihren (2,914m) and back to Bansko|
|6||Trek the central ridge of the Pirin mountains to Tevno Ezero Hut (2,515m)|
|7||Trek past glacial lakes and through pine forests to the town of Melnik|
|8||Transfer to Sofia for departures|
|1||1 hour 30 mins||Arrive at Sofia airport where you will be met by your guide and transfer to a picturesque family hotel deep in the forests of Rila mountains. Short briefing about the trip, dinner and overnight.|
|2||7 hours||After breakfast we ascend Mount Malyovitsa (2,729m) – one of the symbols of the region. The summit offers incredible 360 degree views of the countless peaks and glacial lakes in the Rila mountains. After a picnic lunch our route follows a ridge leading us to the famous Seven Rila Lakes where we descend to our hotel in the dense pine forests. The whole trek takes about 7 hours.|
|3||6 - 7 hours||After breakfast it is a short transfer with a gondola lift to the higher parts of the Rila mountains. Todays route passes nearby each of the Seven Rila Lakes with a picnic lunch at one of the many picturesque points along the way. After reaching the Razdela pass (2,600m), one of the best viewpoints in the Rila mountains, our trail leads us down towards the world famous Rila Monastery – a UNESCO listed site. Tour of the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, hidden deep in the very heart of the mountain (largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria). Accommodation in a lovely family hotel nearby where we'll also have dinner.|
|4||6 hours||Today is an easier trek than that of the previous two days. After breakfast and a short transfer (20 minutes) we walk through the beautiful southern part of the Rila mountains to reach the 'Macedonia' hut (2,166m), located on 'Bears Pass' for a picnic lunch. Descend to the little village of Dobarsko before transferring to Bansko, a town of old traditional buildings and typical Bulgarian folk music, located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains. Overnight in a local hotel.|
|5||6 hours||After breakfast we make a short transfer (30 minutes) to a mountain hut at 2000m where we'll start our ascent of Bulgaria's second highest peak, Mount Vihren (2,914m) – which is the highest peak of Pirin mountains and the most technical part of the trip. Today is all about the incredible views of alpine peaks, marble rock walls and glacial lakes before returning back to Bansko for dinner at a Bulgarian tavern where we'll experience traditional food, wine and music.|
|6||7 hours||After breakfast it is a 30 minute transfer to Vihren hut (1,950m) where we'll trek through the very central ridge of the Pirin mountains. Another day packed with stunning views of many lakes and peaks before reaching the tiny Tevno Ezero (Dark Lake) hut (2,515m), in the very heart of Pirin National Park. The trek is about 7 hours in total and we'll overnight in this unique hut located at the foot of the impressive Mount Kamenitza (2,816m).|
|7||4 hours||After breakfast at Tevno Ezero hut we'll trek past a group of glacial lakes, and through pine forest to a beautiful village zone nеаrby where it is a short transfer to the town of Melnik – the smallest in Bulgaria, with a population of just under 400. Melnik is located in Blagoevgrad Province, in the south-western Pirin Mountains and is an architectural reserve (96 of its buildings are cultural monuments). Accommodation will be provided at a local hotel and we can celebrate our final night together in a traditional tavern.|
|8||2 hours 30 mins||After breakfast we transfer back to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria for departures.|
Summits and Ridges of Bulgaria cost £745.00
The cost is based on teams of 4 people or more, for smaller groups there may be a supplemental charge - contact us for details.
- All accommodation in local hotels and Tevno Ezero mountain hut
- All meals provided
- Licensed mountain guide (English speaking)
- Gondola lifts used during the itinerary
- Airport transfers and any other transfers as per the itinerary
- Flights to Sofia airport
- Drinks during dinners
- Entrance fees for museums and historical monuments
- Tips and personal expenses
- Personal travel insurance
A deposit of £250 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 4 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. We make payments as flexible as possible and you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.
Summits and Ridges of Bulgaria - Kit List
The basic idea of the kit is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the trail and be comfortable in the evenings
- BAGS - Daysack of around 40 litres plus a hold-all for clean clothes which can be left in hotels and/or transferred from starting points to finish points in your hold-all (include padlock for hold-all). Make sure your daysack has a waterproof cover in case of showers.
- SHELL - Top and bottoms to keep off wind/rain. A gore-tex jacket and trousers, or equivalent brand of waterproof material, will be fine.
- INSULATION - Layered system to keep you warm- body, hands & head. Fleece or light down for evenings and cold mornings. Trekking clothes should include shorts and T-shirts plus long trousers and hiking shirt or top. Have a good sunhat as well as a warm hat and a pair of gloves.
- BASE LAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to and keep the sun off when it gets hot. Thermal leggings are perhaps not necessary on this trip unless you get particularly cold easily, but lightweight trekking tops - long and short sleeved - are very useful.
- FEET - good quality trekking boots with a high ankle are necessary on this trip and perhaps a pair of sandals (or trainers) to allow feet to relax in the evenings. Make sure the boots are worn in if they are all leather. Take several pairs of good quality trekking socks.
- DRINKING & EATING - Two water bottles or a platypus for keeping hydrated on the trail plus some energy snacks (water purification tablets are necessary). Breakfasts and dinners are provided in the hotels and it is generally picnic lunches during the treks.
- WASHING & MEDICAL - wash kit, travel towel and small personal first aid kit for standard issues like headaches, dehydration, blisters and scrapes. Don't forget your E111 card if European, and also your travel insurance papers since medical care and medications in pharmacies are expensive. Don't forget good quality sun-cream and lip salve, water purification tablets, cold water travel wash (biodegradable) and insect repellent.
- ADDITIONAL – lightweight sleeping bag (with liner), trekking poles (useful but not essential), books or kindle, head-torch, map, sunglasses which are high UV rating and suitable for mountain conditions and travel adaptor.
Choose a scheduled date or ask about private dates and itineraries.
The minimum deposit is £100 with the balance in instalments and final payment six weeks before travel.
- Duration 8 days
- Accommodation Hotels & Mountain Hut
- Difficulty Moderate