Winter Tour of theRila Mountains
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).
Above: One of the Seven Lakes
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.
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.
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 challenging and in bad weather could easily be described as intense, suitable for people with good mountain experience, preferably in winter conditions.
|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|
|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) 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||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 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.|
2 hours 30 mins
|After breakfast we transfer back to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria for departures.|
Winter Tour of the Rila Mountains cost £745.00
The cost is based on teams of 4 people or more, feel free to contact us for private itineraries and costings.
- 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
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.
Above: Strajite Ridge
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.
Above: Winter Tour of Rila Mountains will offer the beauty of the Alps without the crowds
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
- Difficulty Moderate/Difficult