Meeting at Sofia or Plovdiv airport (pick up at Plovdiv city/Plovdiv Airport – against a small fee). 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 1,30hrs from Plovdiv and up to 3 hrs from Sofia.
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra night in Lyaskovo village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
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 Yagodina 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 Yagodina Cave or head straight for Trigrad village.
*Those who chose the shorter option, can extend their hike with a visit to the Trigrad Gorge (with its 350m high vertical cliffs) and the The Devil’s Throat Cave (housing the highest underground waterfall on the Balkans, 42m high), 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.
Your self-guided walking trip will take you today to a more lively Rhodopean village where the population is busy with traditional livestock, agriculture, and wood processing. The pristine nature will completely enchant you. Herds of tranquil grazing sheep and goats will complete the pastoral ambience. No matter how charming they look, do not get very close, as their fluffy guardians are not so welcoming to newcomers.
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.
This day will be devoted to the exploration of Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage and so you can save your energy for the upcoming challenges in Rila. Leaving Trigrad in the morning, you will head off towards Shiroka Laka village proclaimed as an architectural reserve. Lying on both banks of a river, the village represents the typical Rhodope and architectural style form the Revival Period and also keeps and spreads the rich folklore traditions of the region. The journey continues towards the second-largest monastery complex – Bachkovo Monastery. In the main temple is kept the most treasured item – a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary dated back to the 14th century. After the visit of the monastery, you will travel to Plovdiv – the oldest still inhabited city in Europe, second largest in Bulgaria and also famous with numerous remains from the Roman period. there is uniquely preserved Old Town along whose cobbled streets you may stroll around and spend the afternoon. Arriving in Govedartsi, a charming village located in the foothills of the majestic Rila Mountains, you will be welcomed with a tasty dish and enjoy the well-deserved rest in a cozy family guest house.
Today you will encounter the pearls of Rila Mountains – the world-known Seven Rila Lakes. It is a group of glacier lakes, each with an unusual shape, resembling a body feature or telling a story with its name. During summer weekends this place is very busy so your circular trek will be off the beaten path for a while and you are not going to use the chairlift, where the big crowds are gathering. Hiking upon terraces, bit by bit the stunning beauty of Rila will reveal itself and when you look down from the highest lake you will be rewarded with a divine panorama of the Lakes below. The lowest located one is at 2,100m and the highest one at 2,500m.
You start the day with a short transfer to the Central Mountain School at Malyovitsa Valley (20 mins driving time). From there you follow uphill Malyovishka River, running through giant fir trees and surrounded by mighty rocky peaks. Soon your trail will elevate above the tree line and the trekking will end up by the crystal-clear waters of The Scary Lake (2465m). Jagged peaks are reflecting in the waters and fulfil the eyes. For the adventurous hikers, there would be an option to climb Malyovitsa Peak (2729m) the cradle of the Bulgarian rock-climbing and mountaineering. From the top, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Rila Monastery, nestled in the warm embrace of a green forest.
The last day of this independent walking tour will let you climb on the “rooftop of the Balkans” – the highest summit in Rila and the whole Peninsula – Musala (2925m). A short car transfer will take you to ski resort Borovets (25 mins driving time) from where you board the cabin lift. The path will pass by some mountain huts, the cold waters of glacier lakes and a shelter where you can stop for a short break before the last ascend. Despite being the highest summit the trek is not difficult except this last stage of the trail. Your efforts will be compensated by jaw-dropping scenery of the sea of mighty peaks. In clear weather, you would be able to admire the crest of Rhodope mountain from where you started your trekking adventure, as well as the ridges of Rila, Pirin and Balkan mountains.
* There is an option to extend the tour with extra nights in Govedartsi village, incl. a circular trek along the nearby mountain ridges.
Transfer back to Sofia from Govedartsi (1 hr and 30 mins approx.).