Pirin is one of the highest mountains in Bulgaria. It is named by the Slavs, after Perun, their superior God. The mountain is situated in the South-Western part of the country. The larger part of the territory of Pirin was declared as National Park. In 1983 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Within the boundaries of the park there are 3 reserves: “Tisata”, “Bayuvi Dupki-Dzhindzhiritsa” and “Yulen”. The relief of Pirin is alpine, which is manifested by beautiful lake Cirques, moraines, U-shaped valleys, rocky thresholds, steep and high peaks. There are 40 peaks above 2500 m. The climate is typically mountainous, with Mediterranean influence in the south part. In the summer and autumn during the day is hot and in the evening the temperatures fall down. In the winter and spring, the mountain is very snowy and the temperatures are very low, especially during the night.
Pirin is probably the most beautiful Bulgarian mountain. Walking tours here you can do on your own or with a guide. This is a high mountain with very changeable weather. Rocks are slippery and during rain or fog they become dangerous. Terrain is difficult on most of the places and waymarks are not always easy to follow. If you prefer to go to a snowshoeing hike, it is strongly recommended to hire a guide. There is a significant danger of avalanches in many places and a few people die each year. Normally tourists combine hiking trek in Pirin and Rila mountains for a week and this is probably the most popular alpine walking holiday you can experience in Bulgaria. You can try doing that even self-guided, with prearranged luggage transfers and accommodation.
Experienced hikers can enjoy many high peaks (above 2000m) during their treks. The highest one is Vihren (2914m/9704ft) and it is the third highest on the Balkan Peninsula. Other interesting peaks to climb are Kutelo, Sinanitsa, Muratov, Kamenitsa, Dzhano, Bezbog and so many others. One of the prides of the mountain are the so called “eyes of Pirin”- more than 180 glacial lakes. The biggest one is Popovo Lake (Papaz giol), with a small island inside. In the next Cirque lie probably the most marvelous lakes – Kremenski Lakes, visible from Dzhano Peak. Although many rivers take their sources from the mountain and there are loads of springs, on some long hikes you won’t find water during the whole day.
There are lots of alive villages and small towns in the foothills of Pirin. The best known are:
• Bansko - the biggest ski-resort in Bulgaria, but also a treasury of numerous Bulgarian Revival-style houses and a home to famous Bulgarian Revival historical figures from the 18th and 19th century;
• Melnik – the smallest town in Bulgaria (217 inhabitants), famous for its unique local wine, preserved architecture and the interesting sand pyramids;
• Dobrinishte and the town of Sandanski – in both places you can enjoy hot mineral waters after a long hike;
• Rozhen village – the Rozhen Monastery is situated here, a very well preserved place of worship which was built in the Middle Ages;
• Razlog – uniquely situated between three mountains (Rila, Pirin and Rhodope (Rodopi) and offering amazing views.
You can stay in guesthouses, family-run hotels or luxury hotels. If you prefer to sleep on higher altitude, you can stay in one of the huts or refuges in the mountain. All of them are working during the summer, some are closed in the winter. In most of them you can order basic food and drinks. Usually it is hard to make a reservation by phone, because of the bad connection or the language difference.
There are more than 1300 plants, some of them are rare, endemic species, glacial relicts or endangered. If you are very lucky you can find Edelweiss. The oldest tree in Bulgaria is situated very close to Vihren hut – Baikusheva white fir (Pinus peuce), 1300 years old. During your hikes you can enjoy walking along pine, spruce, white or black fir forest. There are 45 mammal species such as wolves, bears, foxes, falcons, eagles, wild goats.
No matter how many days you have for hiking, there will always be a suitable trail in Pirin for you. Here are some exemplary routes with different durations. Most of them can be combined to make the hike longer (the durations of the hikes are approximate and depend on the physical shape and condition of the tourist):
• Yavorov hut – Koncheto ridge – Vihren hut (2 days): Passing along Koncheto is probably the most classical, feared and in the same time desired path for many tourists. However, be very wary, especially if you have fear of heights. The starting point of the hike usually is Predela pass (6km from Razlog). The hike to Yavorov hut, where you can sleep is 5-6 hours (a nice easy hike in the woods). The next day is a tough one. Yavorov hut – Vihren hut: about 8 hours, passing along Koncheto (the Horsie), which is a very steep and narrow ridge at 2700 m above the sea level (8990ft), surrounded by vertical slopes and spectacular sights. If you want to climb Mount Vihren at the end of the hike, add 2 hours more. The hike finishes at Vihren hut.
• Bansko – Tevno Lake – Pirin hut – Melnik (3 days): Starting point is Bansko. After that a taxi / minibus to Vihren hut and about 7 hours hike to Tevno Lake refuge, passing along the Tipits ridge. On the next day, the hike to Pirin hut can be between 3 and 8 hours, depending on which paths you are going to take. On the third day you have about 5-6 hours descending from Pirin hut to the town of Melnik.
• Dobrinishte – Bezbog hut – Valyavishki Lakes – Vihren hut (2 days): Transfer to Dobrinishte village and Gotse Delchev hut. Than you can take the cable car or hike to Bezbog hut and overnight there. The next day the hike passes by Valyavishki Lakes, descends to Damianitsa hut and finishes in Bansko. The duration is about 6 hours. The same tour can be done even for one day if you exclude the overnight stay in Bezbog hut.
• Mount Vihren (1 day): Transfer to Bansko and Vihren hut. From there to the peak the ascent is 3 hours. To go back to the hut you would need another 2-3 hours. There is a circular route passing through the stunning area of Kazanite (The Bid Cаuldron) and then descends along the normal path on the other side of the peak.
There are a few festivals and events taking place within the area of Pirin:
• Pirin Sings – takes place every even year at Predela Pass, in the end of July or in the beginning of August. It is a national folklore festival. A weekend full of colors, singing and dancing.
• Pirin Folk – takes place every year in Sandanski in September. An international singing contest with folklore songs.
• International Jazz Festival Bansko – takes place every year in August in the resort. It is very popular in Bulgaria and is the biggest summer fest in the country.
• Rock Fest Razlog – a new festival with the best Bulgarian rock bands.
• Golden Grape – a wine festival in Melnik – the guests of the smallest Bulgarian town can taste the local wine and enjoy the folklore performances. It takes place in the beginning of February.
• Kukeri Fest Razlog – Takes place right after the New Year - on January 1st. "Kukeri" is an old Bulgarian tradition dating back to ancient pagan times, when it was believed the dramatic masks and costumes had the power to protect their wearers against evil. The fest is a real treat for the hangover after the New Year celebration in the nearby town of Bansko.
Can Pirin Mountain cry, will sing us three local sisters (video clip).
TOURS IN THE PIRIN MOUNTAINS
GUIDED HIKING TREKS:
> Summits and lakes of the Pirin and Rila mountains
> Hiking trek in the Rhodopes, Pirin, Rila and Vitosha mountains
> The great triad – Botev, Musala and Vihren
> Vitosha, Rila and Pirin – the great winter adventure / snowshoeing
SELF-GUIDED WALKING TREKS:
> Peaks and lakes of the Rila and Pirin mountains
> Pirin Mountains Self-guided Hiking Tour + extension (Rila/Vitosha/Rhodopes)
> The Grand Balkans Circle
CENTRE-BASED HIKING VACATIONS:
> A centre-based Mount Pirin programme
SHORT HIKING BREAKS:
> The best of the Rila and Pirin in four days
COMBINED WALKING HOLIDAYS:
> Rural Bulgaria – Balkan, Rhodopes, Pirin and Rila
> Along Bulgaria’s mountain and heritage trails
> Bansko snowshoeing & ski/snowboard adventures, Pirin Mountains