PEAKS AND LAKES OF THE PIRIN & RILA MOUNTAINS

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DURATION: 8 days
PRICE: € 635
DIFFICULTY: 3/4 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
START/FINISH: Sofia
TOUR TYPE: Guided

Enjoy Bulgaria’s most picturesque alpine treks, climbing the Balkans’ tallest summits: Musala (2925m) in the Rila and Vihren (2914m) in the Pirin. Our route crosses huge national parks with broad alpine meadows and serrated summits, glacier lakes, stone rivers, encountering rare plant and animal life. The program includes a visit of the Rila Monastery, listed by UNESCO and one of Bulgaria’s best-known sights.
The walking treks are rather arduous and suited to very fit people experienced in alpine walking. The hiking program is based in two main centres (one each in the Pirin and the Rila), allowing the routes to be additionally adapted to group specifics, and to be undertaken with only a small backpack with a day’s supplies of water, food, and clothing. There are sufficient alternative walking routes in case of bad weather.
You walk every day with just a daypack. The rest/unnecessary luggage either remains inside the transfer vehicle, or in your accommodation.


Day 1: Sofia – Bansko

We meet you at Sofia Airport and transfer you to Bansko at the foot of Mount Pirin (appr. 2,45hrs).
Day 2: Bansko – Mount Polezhan – Bansko (5hrs; 7km; +770m/-770m)
30min transfer to Gotse Delchev hut above Dobrinishte resort. Chair cable car to the Bezbog Hut. This is the setting-off point for the hiking trek to the Polezhan Summit (2851m) which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in the Pirin, over 17 stunning glacier lakes, including the largest Popovo Lake (30m deep). Polezhan is the 5th highest summit in the Pirin. It is surrounded by three Cirques with three groups of lakes – Disilishki in the north, Polezhanski in the south and Strazhishki in the west. We use the classic route through the northeast ridge, which is not difficult or too steep, except for the last 20-minute stage of the summit. Descend and transfer back to Bansko (time permitting there is an option to try the local thermal pools of Dobrinishte that same afternoon).
Day 3: Bansko – Vihren Hut – Banderishki Lakes Cirque – Demyanitsa Hut – Bansko (6-7hrs; 16km; +615m/-1215m)
Today, we visit one of the most picturesque parts of the Pirin: the Banderishki Lakes Cirque (30min transfer to the trailhead). Many trekking routes cross this beautiful area. We pass among some of the 16 glacial lakes, revealing one by one as we climb the terraces. The walking trek through the Todorina Porta takes us directly to the Yulen Nature Reserve, from where, by way of the Todorini Ochi (Todora’s Eyes) Lakes, we descend into virgin fir groves to the Demyanitsa Hut. From here, we follow a shady path along the Demyanitsa River. 15min transfer back to Bansko.
Day 4: Bansko – Vihren Hut – Mount Vihren – Vihren Hut – Bansko (6-7hrs; 8km; +960m/-960m)
The target today is Mount Vihren: Bulgaria’s second-highest and the Pirin’s highest summit (the trailhead we reach again by 30min transfer). Breathtaking views offer themselves to us as we climb through the Golem Kazan (The Giant Cauldron) area bounded by the 400m tall northern face of Vihren. Today you will explore the Karst parts of Pirin, which are also home to the endangered Edelweiss, the elusive Wallcreeper and the shy Balkan Chamois (wild goats). We will do a circular climb of the summit and will eventually descend back to Vihren hut, where we will board the transfer vehicle for another 30min drive down to Bansko.
Day 5: Bansko – Rila Monastery – Skakavitsa Waterfall – Panichishte (3-4hrs; 9km; +390m/-390m)
We bid farewell to Pirin and set off for Rila. Our first stop is the Rila Monastery (2hrs drive from Bansko), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the most famous and largest Christian monastery in Bulgaria. The exceptional frescoes in the central church form a gallery of masterpieces of Renaissance art and could be considered a Bulgarian analog of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Thence, we proceed to the Panichishte Resort (1,30hrs drive from Rila Monastery), where we visit the Skakavitsa Waterfall (70m) before supper or simply ramble in the shady woods near our mountain lodge (the SPA resort Sapareva Banya may also be used as a place to stay overnight).
Day 6: Panichishte – The Seven RIla Lakes – Mount Malyovitsa – Govedartsi (7hrs; 18km; +800m/-1200m)
We go by cable car to the foot of the Seven Rila Lakes Cirque. Trekking past the Lakes (each named after their most characteristic feature, like The Kidney Lake, The Twin Lake, The Trefoil Lake, etc.), we continue along the crest where we enjoy further stunning views towards the Urdini and Elenski Lakes and the Rila Monastery in its deep valley beneath us. Passing the Malyovitsa Summit (2729m, known as the cradle of Bulgarian rock climbing and mountaineering), we descend into the valley of the same name and settle into a family hotel at the village of Govedartsi.
Day 7: Govedartsi – Borovets – Mount Musala – Borovets – Govedartsi (6hrs; 14,50km; +690m/-690m)
Today, we climb the Balkans’ highest summit: Musala (2925m). A cable car takes us from the Borovets Resort to the setting-off point for the trek (We reach Borovets resort after a 30min transfer from Govedartsi). The serrated wall of Musala never leaves our sight as we ascend through stone rivers and past glacier lakes and alpine huts. The genuinely impressive view from the peak to the surrounding mountains offers a deserving end to the whole adventure. As we celebrate with a cup of fragrant herbal tea, we can enjoy the summits of all major mountain ranges in Bulgaria – Balkan, Sredna Gora, Vitosha, Rhodopes, Pirin and of course – Rila. Descend and transfer back to Govedartsi.
Day 8: Govedartsi – Sofia
Transfer from Govedartsi to Sofia Airport (appr. 1,30hrs).

Hiking time: hiking time only is mentioned on each day (not including stops for pictures, picnics, breaks etc.!); these are based on an average hiker’s speed of 4-5km/hr on flat terrain, additional 30min for each 300m elevation gain, and a backpack weighing not more than 10-15% of your body weight. Still, this varies a lot on the terrain, the group size and the hiking experience of each client within the group.

SCHEDULED DEPARTURE DATES FOR 2022*: 18/6, 25/6, 02/7, 09/7, 16/7, 23/7, 30/7, 06/8, 20/8, 27/8, 03/9, 10/9
* If none of these dates suits you, you may consider booking our self-guided trek in the Rila and Pirin, covering almost the same trails (details HERE)
** private groups can be accommodated on any other date during the season; 6 or more should book as a group to take advantage of the above price

Limited time offer:
Price: 635 € per person in twin/dbl room
(Already saw a tour with similar program and price? Give us a chance to convince you why our offer is much better!)
Single room supplement: 
90 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Rent of hiking poles:
15 €/person
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers in the itinerary; accommodation and catering according to the itinerary; English-speaking mountain guide; cable car tickets, and all local taxes.
Price does not include: museum entrance fees; extra food and drink; mountain maps; travel/medical insurance.
Accommodation: three-star (Bansko), tourist class/basic hotel (Panichishte) and family hotels (Govedartsi); double/twin rooms with en-suite facilities everywhere; breakfast and supper included.
Best period: mid-June – mid-September

SUBMIT A REVIEW ABOUT THIS TOUR


far from good

3.0 rating
September 1, 2014

I will start my review with the few positive things I found on this tour but believe me the list with the bad experience will be long. Overall, nature is wonderful, really something that makes you feel alive and enchants you! The company response time is short and they have answered all of the questions I got before and even after booking. Well, that’s all. 
Let start with the fact that the group was from 9 persons, I expected 5-6, not more. All of them from different countries, everyone traveling solo (only me and my husband were a couple). Some of them had really bad English and was almost impossible to communicate. The hotel in Bansko was nice, but our room was in awful pink color with a view towards the street which we did not like very much. Moreover, we were the only ones on the last floor and it took us an eternity to reach the ground floor for breakfast for example. The breakfast itself was served very early each morning for the days in Bansko because “we had to start the day early or the road to the hut will be closed”. I did not understand why so rush! The walking time is not more than 6-7 hrs (total, whit stops and so on) and we had to start each day around 8 am because we were transferred to some huts from where the actual hike starts. Bansko is a boring city. Probably it is nice during winter because it is a ski resort, but in summer there is nothing to do besides dying from the sweltering heat! The rest day when we were moving from the Pirin to the Rila was devoted to a Monastery which was too grandiose and pompous. I expect from the monasteries to be simple and small. It was also too crowded. Because it was more than 35 degrees that day, I was with a shirt and shorts and guess what, I was not allowed to enter unless I cover my shoulders and knees. So in this heat I had to wear long pants and a scarf. Awful! On top of everything were the barking dogs near the house we slept in the Rila. If you need a calm tour, avoid this! 

Wang Xiu Ying, USA

Enjoyable walks

5.0 rating
August 24, 2014

The walk was quite long and tiring for me, but extremely panoramic and beautiful. I am happy that I managed to cope and see the mountains in Bulgaria. Amazing views from the peaks. The weather was very nice and I was able to enjoy the walk. I recommend you try.

Marco Jovanni, Italy

Magic

5.0 rating
August 8, 2014

Pirin and Rila mountains are the best you can visit in Bulgaria. I’ve booked the hike online as a surprise for my fiance. Really appreciated it. Thank you, team, for the perfect organisation. All the best from Anna and Harry.

Harold Spencer, England

Great expirience

5.0 rating
August 8, 2014

We travelled as a couple. This was absolutely amazing trip for both of us. The organisation and the guide were superb. Both of the mountains are so beautiful, we take a lot of pictures of the lovely views. The relaxing day in the middle was so nice as well. Thank you, team, for the presents on the arrival.

Sam Neilson, Scotland

Amazing mountains

5.0 rating
July 2, 2014

The two mountains are beautiful and deserve extra time and attention. I had a wonderful trip, very well organized and guided by our guide. I recommend to everyone who wants to enjoy nature, beauty and purity in Bulgaria. See you again for more adventures. Greetings.

Matt Wilson, Australia

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