Overview

The Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains will take you through an untouched world of alpine summits, narrow ridges, deep forests, glacial lakes and panoramic views.

It is often described as the 'Great Rila Desert', not because of the landscape but the feeling of infinity and wilderness you experience walking among its endless summits and our Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains provides a challenging but enjoyable journey through them, culminating with a winter climb on Bulgaria's highest peak, Mount Musala (2,925 m).

Over 120 permanent glacial lakes are dotted in-between the peaks of the vast Rila National Park which covers an area of 810 km². The lower slopes are covered in thick forests, primarily spruce, white fir and pine. These forests provide a peaceful habitat for deer, wild goats and falcons.

Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains - Map

Itinerary

The best months for our winter tour of the Rila mountain range in Bulgaria are traditionally February and March when the days are longer, with heavy snowfall and limited rain. 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 good mountain experience, preferably in winter conditions.

Broad Itinerary

Day Activity
1 Arrive in Sofia and transfer to hotel in the forests of the Rila Mountains
2 Acclimatisation day with treks to Skakavista waterfall and the Seven Rila Lakes area
3 Summit of Mt Malyovista via each of the Seven Rila Lakes and Razdela High Pass
4 Circuit trek to the so-called Scary Lake before descending via Yonchevo Lake
5 Summit of Mt Orlovets via the Bulgarian Alpine Club hut and the so-called Evil Gate
6 Ascend to Urdin Cirque before returning to the Malyovista valley
7 Summit of Mt Musala from Borovets
8 Transfer to Sofia for departures
+ optional extra days in Bulgaria, contact us for options

Detailed Itinerary

Day Travel Time Information
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 5 hours Acclimatisation hike to the stunning Skakavista waterfall (biggest waterfall in the Rila mountains - 64m) before continuing on to the area of the Seven Rila Lakes. Expect to enjoy picturesque scenery and beautiful views throughout the day, including the descent along one of the many ridges back to the same family hotel that we stayed in the previous night.
3 7 hours Winter ascent of Mount Malyovista (2,729m) via each of the Seven Lakes and the high pass of Razdela (2,600m), which is easily one of the best viewpoints of the entire Rila mountain range. From the summit we'll drop down in to a nearby valley where accommodation will be provided in another family hotel located in the dense pine forests of the lower slopes.
4 5-6 hours Although shorter, today is more technical as we ascend to the so-called 'Scary Lake' (2,462m), located at the foot of the Rila Range's most popular alpine climbing peaks. The views from the lake and the nearby hut are breath-taking. Our descent is via the alluring Yonchevo lake and on to the same hotel as the previous night.
5 5-6 hours Today is the most technical day through the rockiest part of the mountains. We'll start with an ascent to the BAC (Bulgarian Alpine Club) hutbefore continuing on to the so-called 'Evil Gate' – a pass situated between the most challenging summits of the range. From here we'll climb Mount Orlovets (2,685m) before descending back to our accommodation in the forests of the lower slopes.
6 5-6 hours A less challenging day to hike through the forests, which lead to the entrance of the Urdina valley and a gentle ascent to the Urdin cirque – an almost untouched area of the Rila mountains where you'll see dozens of glacial lakes, pointed rocky summits and many mineral crystals.
7  6 hours A 30 minute transfer to the Borovets ski resort in the early morning before taking a gondola life for 40 minutes on the higher slopes of Mount Musala and our final summit of the tour. Mount Musala (2,926 m) is the highest peak in Bulgaria and offers panoramic views of many glacial lakes, mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks across the mountains in Rila National Park and indeed the entire Balkan peninsula. After our summit we'll return to Borovets ski resort with the gondola and drop down to the town of Samokov for our final night.
8  2 hours 30 mins After breakfast we transfer back to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria for departures.

Cost

Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains cost £745.00

The cost is based on teams of 4 people or more, for groups of 2- 3 people there is a surcharge of £300 per person.

Includes

  • All accommodation in local hotels
  • All meals provided
  • Licensed mountain guide (English speaking)
  • Gondola lifts used during the itinerary
  • Airport transfers and any other transfers as per the itinerary

Excludes

  • Flights to Sofia airport
  • Drinks during dinners
  • Entrance fees for any tourist attractions visited 
  • Tips and personal expenses
  • Personal travel insurance

Kit List

Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains - 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  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 mid-layer. Have a good sunhat as well as a warm hat and gloves/mitts.
  • BASE LAYER - Top and bottoms to wick away sweat and to provide the essential first later of warmth.
  • FEET - Crampon compatible boots (B2 or B3) and trekking boots or shoes for the walk in, warm socks
  • CLIMBING - Crampons, walking axe, harness, sling and some screwgate karabiners
  • 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 – 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.

NB: We can provides snowshoes if required (depends on the condition of the snow), however you should bring your own crampons that are compatible with your boots.

Photos

£745pp

Choose a date and pay a minimum £250.00 deposit to secure your place. Any alterations like discounts are manually added to your invoice afterwards. 

Click here to request custom dates
Tours from only 745pp book
Key Information
  • Duration 8 days
  • Accommodation Hotels
  • Difficulty Moderate/Difficult
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