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The riddles of the Rila Mountains

Rila Mountains are considered as the best place for alpine hiking in Bulgaria as they offer a wide network and large variety of marked walking trails of different difficulty levels. Two major international tourist routes (E4 and E8) cross the mountains. Deriving its name from the Thracian expression of a “well-watered mountains”, Rila not only prides itself being home to the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula (Musala, 2925m) but also with the abundance of glacial lakes (numbering more than 200), deep river valleys, lush alpine meadows and diverse flora and fauna. Rila National Park is the biggest out of the three national parks in Bulgaria and also one of the largest across Europe. The beginning of the tour in Vitosha Mountains is just a prelude to the secrets Rila and some of the real alpine hikes which you will do there. Strenuous but rewarding walks and spectacular landscapes “above the clouds” will show you to some of the most famous hiking areas in Bulgaria.
This self-guided trek has been designed for hikers with previous experience in alpine hiking, where storms and fog could easily occur in summer and adequate reaction might be needed in such situations. The difficulty of the walks increases gradually during the program. Options, that would make a certain day easier or harder are also mentioned in the roadbook and could be considered by clients in case of bad weather conditions or if they wish to exert themselves with more hiking. The suggested itinerary allows the sequence of some of the days to be changed generally depending on the above conditions.
Daily excursion to Rila Monastery (probably the most famous tourist attraction in Bulgaria, UNESCO heritage listed) is a natural extension of this tour (with extra night in Sofia), which is normally appreciated by everyone (scroll down for details).

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS
- Rila Mountains are the sixth highest in Europe, coming after the Caucasus, the Alps, Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees and Mount Etna. The name Rila is allegedly of Thracian origin and is thought to mean "well-watered mountain", owing to Rila's abundance of glacial lakes (about 200) and hot springs in the faulty areas.
- Vitosha Mountains are the oldest Nature Park on the Balkan Peninsula and the most favourite place for hiking for thousands of inhabitants of the capital, exploring either the two nature reserves or ascending the highest peak Cherni Vryh (The Black Peak) – 2290 m a.s.l.
- Rila Monastery (for people who go for the extension) is one of the most remarkable monuments on the Balkan Peninsula equally for its size, natural surroundings, architecture, wall paintings and ancient history dating back to the 10th century.

Dates, Prices & Remarks

EXTENSIONS
>>> Extra day including visit to Rila Monastery
Stay one more day and visit one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery (UNESCO heritage site). Scroll down for prices.

Accommodation:
Days 1, 5, 6 and 7 – 3-star hotels with en-suite facilities. Days 2, 3 and 4 – family-run pension with en-suite facilities. Meal plan is based on half board (breakfast and dinner included) except for Day 1, Day 5-Day 7, when no dinner is provided Restaurants in Sofia and Borovets are abundant). Luggage is taken care of throughout the tour.

Best period: mid June – mid September

Price: 490 € (limited time offer)

Single room supplement: 90 €

Price for solo travellers (incl. single room supplement): 690 €


Extension to Rila Monastery: 90 € per person (in a group of min. 2 persons sharing dbl room; single room supplement: 25 €)
(included: pick up from Borovets Resort on Day 8, transfer to Rila Monastery, guided tour in the monastery (in English), entrance fees for the museum in the monastery, transfer to Sofia, overnight in 3-star centrally located hotel on BB, transfer to Sofia Airport on Day 9; not included: lunch and dinner on Day 8)

The price includes: a trip, fully inclusive of all ground transfers from airport to airport (pick up/drop off at Sofia Airport); detailed roadbook in English and maps; luggage transportation; accommodation and boarding as mentioned above; 24/7 emergency hotline; VAT and all local taxes.

The price does not include: other meals, lift tickets, tips, entrance fees, alcohol drinks and other personal expenses.

Program

  • Day 1: Sofia

    We meet you at Sofia Airport and transfer you to a city center hotel.

  • Day 2: Sofia – Mount Cherni Vrah – Golden Bridges – Govedartsi (4,30hrs; 14km; +555m/-980m)

    A panoramic walking route takes you across the crest of Mount Vitosha, including climbing the local high point of Cherni Vrah (2290m/7513ft) as a prelude to the arduous, yet more picturesque hiking treks across the Rila. Along the way, you cross the broad alpine meadows of the Torfeno Branishte Nature Reserve, dip into old spruce groves and follow a path to the stone rivers of the Zlatni Mostove (The Golden Bridges) natural feature. From here, you are transferred to the Rila Mountains and the village of Govedartsi for three overnight stays.

  • Day 3: Govedartsi circular trail (5,30-6hrs; 20km; +720m/-720m)

    A circular route through the low parts of the Rila above Govedartsi prepares you for more difficult hiking treks to come. Rambling along the path, you enjoy a fascinating kaleidoscope of changing landscapes and wonderful panoramas of rocky peaks and deep valleys in the Malyovitsa part of the mountain.

  • Day 4: Govedartsi – The Seven Rila Lakes – Govedartsi (6-7hrs; 16-18km; +1100-1300m/-1100-1300m)

    A shaded path through the Rila’s ancient spruce forests takes you up to the alpine parts of the mountain and the Cirque of the Seven Rila Lakes. Located at between 2100 and 2500 metres (6900 to 8200ft) above sea level, these famous glacier lakes will charm you with their magnificent scenery which you can survey from the edge of the highest one.

  • Day 5: Govedartsi – Malyovitsa – Scary Lake/Yonchevo Lake or Mount Malyovitsa – Malyovitsa – Govedartsi – Borovets (5,30-6hrs; 12-15km; +880-1040m/-880-1040m)

    Today’s route takes you to the beautiful Malyovitsa Valley and thence high over the alpine peaks sheltering the secretive Strashno Ezero (The Scary) Lake. More enthusiastic mountaineers may opt for an alternative hiking trek to the Malyovitsa summit which offers incredible views over the nearby crests and peaks of the Rila. At the end of the day, you are transferred for three overnight stays at the Borovets ski resort.

  • Day 6: Borovets – Black Rock – Maritsa Hut – Saragiol King’s Hunting Lodge – Borovets (several options: 2-8hrs; 8-29,50km; +20-1260m/-20-1260m)

    Today, you can opt between a brisk morning walk (combined with an afternoon visit at the King’s hunting residence in Borovets) and a rather longer (yet not steep) hiking trek to another less-visited part of the Rila. The route passes through ancient coniferous woods and continues along the Maritsa River valley, gently climbing to the Royal hunting lodge at Saragiol, from where you return to Borovets along a different route (or use the chairlift to cut the mileage down to 25km).

  • Day 7: Borovets – Mount Musala – Borovets (5,30hrs; 14,50km; +690m/-690m)

    The attempt on the Balkans’ highest summit Musala (2925m/9596ft) is left for the ultimate day. The hiking is not particularly arduous, yet is particularly panoramic, with the rocky face of Musala visible the whole time while you transit a number of Cirques, glacier lakes and mountain shelters. The view from the peak to surrounding uplands and peaks is head-turning.

  • Day 8: Borovets – Sofia

    Transfer from Borovets to Sofia Airport.