Winter trekking in Bulgaria
The winter trek in Bulgaria explores the Rila Mountains, a largely untouched world of alpine summits, snowy ridges, deep forests, glacial lakes and panoramic views. The trip is perfect for small groups looking for a challenging alpine walking holiday in an unusual part of Europe, ending with a climb on Bulgaria's highest peak, Mount Musala (2925 m).
The best months for our winter tour of the Rila mountain range in Bulgaria are traditionally February and March when the days are getting longer. We offer open dates and tailormade dates for private groups. The trip is challenging and suitable for people with mountain experience in winter conditions.
Programme for the winter trek in Bulgaria
|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||Summit Lakatishka mountain / hot springs at Belchin|
|7||Summit of Mt Musala from Borovets|
|8||Transfer to Sofia for departures|
|+||optional extra days in Bulgaria, contact us for options|
The Rila Mountains of Bulgaria
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.
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. Higher up you move through gentle and rocky slopes to high mountain plateaus and summits with plenty of caves, river gorges and vertical rock walls to explore along the way.
Video: Sunset over the mountains of Bulgaria
However, the Balkan mountains are much more than that! They are the keepers of Bulgarian spirit, culture and traditions, they have central role in the history of the nation – to Bulgarians it is their sacred land and during the most magical season – the winter – you will experience all of that.
Equipment and clothing for a winter trek in Bulgaria
- BAGS - Day sack of around 40 litres plus a hold-all. Make sure your day sack has a waterproof cover.
- SHELL - Top and bottom gore-tex/waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers plus gaiters
- INSULATION - Layered system to keep you warm- body, hands & head. Thermal base layer, Fleece layers, down jacket, gloves, hats and good quality socks. Have a good sunhat as well as a warm hat and gloves/mitts.
- FEET - Crampon compatible boots (B2 or B3) and good quality mountain boots, double leather or plastic.
- CLIMBING - Snowshoes, crampons and trekking poles are necessary. An avalanche beacon is also necessary, as is a shovel and probe. A walking axe can be used if desired. The centre rents out kit, prices are at the bottom of the page.
- DRINKING & EATING - Two water bottles or a platypus for keeping hydrated on the trail plus your favoruite energy snacks. Flask for hot drinks.
- WASHING & SKIN CARE - wash kit, travel towel, Sun-cream, lip salve AND after sun cream.
- MEDICAL - small personal first aid kit for standard issues like headaches, dehydration, blisters and scrapes. For example take a selection of plasters and small bandages, some tape, compeed for blisters, medication for headaches, strapping for a sprain, dioralyte for dehydration and any other personal medications. Don't forget your European Health Insurance card and also your travel insurance papers since medical care and medications in pharmacies are expensive.
- ADDITIONAL – head-torch, sunglasses which are high UV rating and suitable for mountain conditions and a travel adaptor.
Rental costs (paid locally):
Crampons - 5 euro per day (50 euro deposit)
Ice Axe - 5 euro per day (50 euro deposit)
Avalanche beacon - 8 euro per day (125 euro deposit)
Avalanche kit (beacon, probe, shovel) - 60 euro for the week
Winter trek in Bulgaria detailed programme
|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 the Rila mountains. Short briefing about the trip, dinner and overnight.|
|2||6 hours||Ascent - 675m / Descent - 819m||
Start the day off by hiking towards the Seven Rila Lakes, a vast cirque surrounded by jagged peaks that reach 2,700m in altitude. This area offers some of the most impressive views in Bulgaria and as we trek up to the fifth lake (the Kidney) we start to acclimatise to the conditions and terrain of the Rila Mountains. The descent is along a panoramic ridge with views to the impressive frozen vertical walls of the cirque. Lunch will be a picnic and in the afternoon we'll continue our descent to the beautiful frozen Skakavitsa waterfall (biggest waterfall in the Rila Mountains - 64m) before continuing back to the same family hotel we stayed in on day 1. Today is on easy terrain, usually covered with a lot of snow. There are no rocky sections, exposed ridges, or steep ascents / descents and more than half of the route is in forest. Expect to enjoy a day of picturesque scenery and beautiful views.
|3||8.5 hours||Ascent - 712m / Descent - 1142m||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||6.5 hours||Ascent 698m / Descent 698m||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||6.5 hours||Ascent 896m / Descent 905m||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) hut before continuing on to the so-called 'Evil Gate' – a pass situated between the most challenging summits of the range. From here we'll make a call on the climb of Mount Orlovets (2,685m) depending on the ability of the team and the weather on the day, it may be an option that some of the team rest at the saddle while more experienced winter climbers push for an ascent before descending back to our accommodation in the forests of the lower slopes.|
|6||4.5 hours||Descent 627m||A less challenging day after what will have been three intense days. We'll start with a pleasant hike through the forests in the lower parts of north-west Rila and more gentle Lakatishka mountain, where we can enjoy the best views towards the alpine summits of Rila. In the afternoon we visit the open air hot mineral springs at the nearby village of Belchin before returning back to Malyovitsa valley and the same accommodation for dinner and overnight.|
|7||6.5 hours||Ascent 576m / Descent 576m||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.|
|After breakfast we transfer back to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria for departures.|
Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains cost £945.00
The advertised cost is based on a team made up of 4 people or more, feel free to ask about private dates. If the team numbers are 2 or 3 pax then the cost will be £1195 per person.
- 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
- Flights to Sofia airport
- Drinks during dinners
- Entrance fees for any tourist attractions visited
- Tips and personal expenses
- Personal travel insurance (and GHIC for UK residents)
A deposit of £100 is required on booking to secure your place.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.