RURAL BULGARIA - BALKAN, RHODOPES, PIRIN & RILA
“Rural Bulgaria” is the best choice you can make to escape in the countryside from the concrete jungle and the stress of the modern city. Our easy to moderate hiking treks are nicely combined with overnight stays in traditional villages and guesthouses, set in rolling landscapes. Enjoy the stunning panoramas and walking trails of the Balkan, the Rhodopes (Rodopi), Pirin and Rila mountains, exploring them on foot during daytime. While in the evenings you will feel the spirit of a century-old life and sincere hospitality, combined with delicious local cuisine, based on organic food and home-made drinks (wine and fruit brandy among them).
Although the Bulgarian villages are attractive all year round with each season having its own charm, we still have to comply with the hiking possibilities in the mountains, thus defining the period June-September as being the best one. If you wish to come in May or October we might still be able to confirm the tour but with slight changes affecting some of the hikes. The hiking programme is easy to moderately difficult and leaves enough time to savour the life in each of the villages we stay in along the route.
Day 1: We meet you at Sofia Airport and transfer you to Koprivshtitsa at the foot of Sredna Gora Mountains. Koprivshtitsa is a museum town unique with its cobblestone alleys, houses painted in bright colors with expansive verandahs and picturesque eaves.
Day 2: During the Ottoman rule, Koprivshtitsa withstood many attacks, it was burned down to ashes several times, its inhabitants were frequently robbed and driven away. Many Bulgarians who laid down their lives for the liberation of their motherland had been born here and today we will visit some of their museum-houses to learn more about the local history. Later we continue towards the second biggest Bulgarian town - Plovdiv. Within 2-3 hours of walking along the city we will discover history and culture behind a 7000-year old settlement, written by the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Bulgarian civilizations. You can enjoy sightseeing in the Old Town with its museums, historical monuments, revival period houses, lined with souvenir shops cobbled streets or get impressed by the rich Ethnographical Museum and the ancient Roman Theater. In the afternoon we continue further to Bachkovo Monastery, which is also the second biggest monastery in the country. Our day ends in the village of Kosovo, famous for its old stone houses (we stay overnight in one of them, fully restored and cozy).
Day 3: After delicious breakfast at the terrace of your house, overlooking the whole village, we transfer further deep to the heart of the Rhodopes. Our next stop is Shiroka Laka village – architectural reserve, presenting some of the best examples of the local mountain houses. After a short walk along the cobblestone streets we will continue further to the famous SPA resort Devin. An adventurous eco-path, weaving on wooden bridges over Devinska River, awaits us here as we make our way along the wild valley, crowned with steep rocks where Balkan Chamois (wild goats) may be seen resting. Later in the afternoon we stop for overnight at Lyaskovo village – rustic and fairly typical mountain village, which you can explore on your own before dinner. (1,30-2 hrs of walking, climbing and descending 50m/170ft.)
Day 4: In the morning we continue to the stunning Trigrad Gorge and the village of Trigrad, which will be our base for the next night. Today, you enjoy a particularly pleasant walking trek to the village of Zhrebevo. A circular trail takes us up panoramic crests, through pine forests dotted with green meadows and smallholdings, sheltered valleys, and traditional stone houses. At dinner time we will try domestic delicacies made of potatoes and will of course taste fresh grilled Rainbow Trout (5-5,30 hrs of walking, climbing 700m/2300ft. and descending 350m/1200ft.)
Day 5: The day we dedicate to the Karst highlights of the Rhodopes. First in the list is the Trigrad Gorge, fenced by 250m high vertical cliffs, and its main attraction – The Devil’s Throat Cave (which, time permitting, may be visited also the previous afternoon). The sinister interior of the cave houses the highest underground waterfall on the Balkans (42m/140ft high). From here we take a path following the upper edge of the gorge in the direction of Yagodina village, encircled by lands cultivated in a traditional way. Very near is Yagodina Cave, which is one of the longest in Bulgaria (more than 10km/6miles) and for sure one of the most beautiful. After a cave tour here we board the bus towards Pirin Mountains, with short stop on the way at the museum village of Dolen. We stay overnight in a house in one of the villages, located in the hollow, surrounded by Pirin, Rila and the Rhodopes. (4 hrs of walking, climbing 100m/330ft. and descending 650m/2100ft.)
Day 6: Today, we visit one of the most picturesque parts of the Pirin: the Banderishki Lakes Cirque. Depending on your fitness we can choose among a variety of trekking options of different difficulty and duration. If you are very fit we can even attempt the marble pyramid of the local giant – Mount Vihren (2914m/9700ft.), which offers remarkable panorama to a sea of summits and ridges above 2500m/8325ft. (4-7 hrs of walking, climbing and descending 400-900m/1330-3000ft.). Dinner will be organized in a traditional tavern (“mehana”), where we can try some of the local delicacies and home-made spirits.
Day 7: Quite busy yet another stunning day expects us as we head towards Rila Mountains. First we transfer to the impressive Rila Monastery – UNESCO heritage listed site and one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bulgaria. This is also the largest and most significant Bulgarian Orthodox Church establishment. Next we continue to another renowned place – the Cirque of The Seven Rila Lakes, which we reach by chairlift. These glacier lakes are set between 2100 and 2500m/6800 and 8200ft above sea level, with names fitting their shapes, like Babreka (the Kidney), Okoto (the Eye), and Salzata (the Teardrop). Scenic walk here will put the end of the active part of the holiday. We base for the evening and enjoy our gala dinner in the charming village of Govedartsi. (4-5 hrs of walking, climbing and descending 400 m/1330ft.)
Day 8: Transfer from Govedartsi to Sofia Airport.
Notes: you may book additional nights in Sofia before or after the tour, extend the itinerary by itself, or book day trips with us to culture centres like Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Melnik etc.
Accommodation: family hotels and guesthouses; rooms with en-suite facilities; breakfast and supper.
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.
Dates, Prices & Remarks
Best period: May/June-September/October (changes in the hikes might occur for departures in May and October).
Price includes: transfers to and from Sofia Airport (on first/last tour date only) and all other transfers in the itinerary; accommodation and catering as in the itinerary; English-speaking guide; chairlift tickets, entry charges to caves and museums and all local taxes.
Price does not include: extra food and drink; mountain maps; medical insurance; personal expenses.
Group size: The tour is organized on private basis only and the price below is based on at least 4 persons traveling together; smaller groups or individuals - please contact us for a price offer;
Price: 680 €
Single room supplement: 95 € (obligatory for all individual clients)