|DURATION: 9 days
PRICE: € 740
|DIFFICULTY: 2/3 (of 4)
BEST PERIOD: June-September
TOUR TYPE: Self-guided
This walking tour, a combination of our classic unguided treks in the Rhodopes and the Rila, takes in the best of the two as regards routes, natural phenomena, and interaction with local people. Beginning with the lower, rounded crests of the mountain of Orpheus, you will gradually move across to the arduous steep slopes and rocky outcrops of the Rila. You will have the opportunity of visiting natural and cultural sites such as the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave (considered one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful), the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge with its 350m sheer walls, Dyavolskoto Gyrlo (The Devil’s Throat) Cave (housing the highest underground waterfall on the Balkans, 42m high), the Eagle’s Eye observation platform, the Shiroka Laka architectural reserve, Bulgaria’s second-largest monastery at Bachkovo, the Old Town of Plovdiv (an architectural and historical reserve), visit The Seven Rila Lakes, climb Mt. Musala (the highest on the Balkans) and many others.
You walk every day with just a daypack. The rest/unnecessary luggage either remains inside the transfer vehicle, or in your accommodation.
/The tour program can be shortened or extended. Check details with us. The order of the walks in Rila Mountains can be changed for logistical reasons./
Day 1: Sofia – Lyaskovo
Meeting at Sofia or Plovdiv airport (pick ups from Plovdiv/Plovdiv Airport against extra fee of 40 EUR; landing time: at 15:00 at latest). Transfer to the Rhodopean village of Lyaskovo. Your friendly hosts will make you feel like home! Depending on where you land, the transfer could last 1 hr 30 mins from Plovdiv and up to 3 hrs (from Sofia). Single timed transfer from Sofia will be organized in case of overlapping bookings (departing Sofia at 15:30 at latest).
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra night in Lyaskovo village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
Day 2: Lyaskovo – Yagodina Cave – Trigrad Gorge – Trigrad (3-5,30-6,45hrs; 9,50-16-21km)
Today you can choose between two main treks (incl. options to extend them additionally):
Shorter (9,50km; +565m/-355m): A 40min transfer takes you to the entry of the Yagodinska Peshtera Cave: one of Bulgaria’s longest caves, which you can opt to view. Once finished with the cave tour, proceed for Trigrad village through a colorful kaleidoscope of landscapes that immerse you in the idyll of rolling crests, forests, and valleys.
Longer (16km (+1070m/-750m) or 21km (+1385m/-1065m): A 30min transfer takes you to the trailhead where a moderate but nice ascent through gardens and woods brings you up at the crest of the mountain. Enjoy the breath-taking views from the famous Eagles’ Eye observation platform. Then you descend down to Yagodina village, from where you can make a detour to visit Yagodinska Peshtera Cave or head straight for Trigrad village.
*Those who chose the shorter option, can extend their hike with a visit to the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge and The Devil’s Throat Cave, both near Trigrad. Visiting these sights is a must, and can be done also in the afternoon of Day 3 or Day 4 by those, who opted for the longer treks on Day 2.
Day 3: Trigrad – Zhrebevo – Trigrad (5,30hrs; 18,50km; +700m/-700m)
Magnetic sights follow each other on a circular hiking tour around Trigrad, with the authentic village of Zhrebevo at its distant end. Legend has it, the village was named after a stallion which shielded it from trouble and strife. Along the route, you observe the entry to the Trigradsko Zhdrelo Gorge and enjoy the wonderful panorama to surrounding parts.
Day 4: Trigrad – Kesten/Vodni Pad – Trigrad (5,30hrs; 17km; +670m/-760m)
Today, starting with a 10min transfer to the trailhead, you enjoy a particularly pleasant walking trek to the bordering with Greece villages of Kesten and Vodni Pad (until recently within a closely guarded strip proscribed even for those living down the road; you will see remains of the barbed wire border fences, meant to prevent people from escaping to Greece in the years during the 45yrs long communist rule in Bulgaria after WWII). A circular trail takes you up panoramic crests, through pine and beech forests dotted with green meadows and smallholdings, sheltered valleys, and traditional stone houses. The valley of the Trigradska River takes you back to Trigrad.
Day 5: Trigrad – Shiroka Laka – Bachkovo Monastery – Plovdiv – Govedartsi
Time to leave the Rhodopes for the Rila. Today is intended to relax you, with many stops at heritage sights, beginning with a walk along the cobbled streets past the stone houses of Shiroka Laka. You then stop at the Bachkovo Monastery with its miracle-working icon of Virgin Mary, while the afternoon you spend in the Old Town of Plovdiv. You reach the village of Govedartsi in the early evening. It will be your base for the next four overnight stays in the Rila.
Days 6-8: (final details with the order of the walks from Govedartsi village will be available inside your tour program, which will be emailed to you prior to your arrival in Bulgaria)
Walk A: Govedartsi – The Seven Rila Lakes – Govedartsi (6-6,30hrs; 17-19km; +1200-1310m/-1200-1310m)
A path winding through ancient thick spruce forests takes you beyond the upper edge of the forest to the magical Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes. In the alpine zone at between 2100 and 2500m above sea level, this group of glacier lakes charms you with the magnificent views that open from the edge of the highest one.
Walk B: Govedartsi – Malyovitsa – Scary Lake/Yonchevo Lake or Mount Malyovitsa – Govedartsi (5,30-7hrs; 12-14km; +880-1040m/-880-1040m)
Following the Malyovishka River valley, you again rise above rocky peaks to reach the secretive Cirque sheltering the Strashno Ezero (The Scary) Lake. Fitter trekkers may opt to climb the Malyovitsa summit which offers incredible panoramas over surrounding crests and outcrops.
Walk C: Govedartsi – Borovets – Mount Musala – Borovets – Govedartsi (6hrs; 14,50km; +690m/-690m)
Today, you will attempt to climb the Balkans’ highest summit of Musala (2925m). A brief cable car climb and a three-hour trek take you past a number of Cirques, glacier lakes and mountain shelters on your way up. The views from the Musala over surrounding summits and crests are definitely something that will stay with you forever.
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra night in Govedartsi village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
Day 9: 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 and hiking experience of each client.
Price: 740 € per person in twin/dbl room
Single room supplement: 125 € (obligatory for all individual clients)
Solo travelers supplement: 520 € (incl. also sgl room supplement)
(Traveling solo? Ask us to join you to an existing reservation in order to reduce the above price)
Rent of hiking poles: 20 €/person
Extension to Rila Monastery (UNESCO): 95 € per person (in a group of 2 persons or more sharing a double room; single room supplement: 30 €) (included: pick-up from Govedartsi on Day 9, transfer to Rila Monastery, 1,30-2hrs free time to explore the monastery, transfer to Sofia, overnight in 3-star centrally located hotel (incl. breakfast); not included: lunch and dinner on Day 9, airport transfer on Day 10, guiding services).
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers according to the itinerary; en-suite accommodation in family hotels/pensions; breakfast and dinner; luggage transfers (pre-defined/fixed schedule of the daily transfers, which you need to follow); detailed route descriptions in English; tourist maps of the Rhodopes and Rila; GPS tracks; emergency hotline, and all local taxes.
Price does not include: cable car tickets; cave entry charges; extra food and drink; travel/medical insurance; personal expenses.
Best period: this tour can start every day during the period mid-June – mid-September; October is also possible with a change of the program of Day 8; (advance booking is required as some accommodations are small and get fully booked months in advance)
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