Let's be honest, a country as blessed as Bulgaria is, with 7 diverse mountain ranges is bound to have plenty to offer those who enjoy one of the oldest activities known to mankind: walking!
Of course, these days predominantly a leisure activity (the term leisure is applied loosely) Bulgaria has so much choice for those who want to take a walk in splendid nature and enjoy spectacular scenery. There is something for everyone, from gentle half day walks all the way through to strenous peak climbs and more. In fact, this is just a sampling of what's on offer and if this is your interest we suggest you engage directly with companies specialised in this type of tourism. Please remember to make all the necessary preparations appropriate for your route in accordance with your ability.
The Balkans Kom – EmineWithout a doubt the 'jewel in the crown' is the Trans Balkan route, from the Serbian border to the Black Sea, first walked all the way from peak Kom to cape Emine in 1933, an itinerary which was considerably harder then than it is today.
Time: Allow 3 weeks for average fitness
The route from Kom peak to Cape Emine along the ridge of the Balkans, consists of different itineraries; there is a wide choice of trails and forks, possibilities for visiting interesting sites, ascents, traverses and descents. For this reason the length of the route may vary between 600 to 700 km and can take between 2 – 3 weeks depending on fitness and preparation levels. The best time of year for this route is in July and there are plenty of specialised companies offering the route.
Here is an overview of what else awaits you in Bulgaria.
Vitosha MountainRight on the doorstep of the capital, Vitosha mountain offers over 300km of well marked mountain trails for walking, hiking and mountain biking. It is a popular destination for hikers during the summer and autumn with easy access by car (restricted access on weekends),bus or cable car from Sofia.
On 27th August 1895 Aleko Konstantinov together with two forest workers and nearly 300 enthusiasts went on a trek from Eagle's Bridge in Sofia to the peak of Vitosha Mountain. It is considered the start of organised tourism in Bulgaria.
Cherni Vruh (Black Peak)
Time: Half to Full day
These days there are many routes that take to the peak; you can take the cable car to the Aleko hut or follow the trail from the villages of Zhelesnitza, Bistritsa, Simeonovo, Boyana among others or take the chair lift from Dragalevtsi. In all cases the trails are clearly marked.
Panoramic Route (Panoramna Pateka)
Time: Half to Full Day
If you are not particulary fit the level path that circumnavigates the mountain, approx 100km in all, is ideal. You can walk from one village to another (e.g.Simeonovo to Zhelesnitza) or retrace your steps when you feel tired shaded by pine, birch and beech trees. Every year the popular Vitosha 100km competition for runners and cyclists takes place in June (19th - 20th June 2021) with thousands of competitors following the trail – so probably not the weekend to be planning a leisurely stroll.
Rila MountainsThe highest mountain range on the peninsula is home to the famous Rila Monastery, Bulgaria's oldest Ski Resort Borovets as well as boasting the highest peak, Musala at 2925 metres, on the Balkan Peninsula. Endless hiking opportunities, these are not only among the most popular but also with stunning views.
Time: ½ to full day
Probably top on everyone's must see and do. If you don't wish to hike too much,the best option is to take the chairlift from Panichishte, near Sapareva Banya. At the top there is a 10km scenic route around the 7 lakes, each named to reflect its shape. Hiking all the way up or down is also an option but we suggest spending the time saved soaking in one of the nearby mineral pools (Sapareva Banya or Belchin) If you do not have your own transport you may want to consider booking a trip that can be also combined with the Rila Monastery.
Time: Full Day
The first mass ascent to peak Mussala was organised nearly 100 years ago under the lead of Pavel Deliradev on 8th April 1923. These days it is a relatively easy hike from the top of the cabin lift in Borovets and it is a must do for every Bulgarian to have stood on the highest point of their country. Spectacular views across to the other mountain ranges are part of the reward. The best time to go is during the peak summer months once the snow has gone. It can get busy as the 'gondola' lift works Wednesday - Sunday in the summer. Last lift down to Borovets is at 17:30.
Pirin MountainsLocated to the southwest of Bulgaria, the Pirin range is home to the market town and resort of Bansko, which was developed dramatically at the beginning of this century. For hikes and trails in this region it is best to base yourself in Bansko, Razlog or Banya.
Time: Full day
At 2914m Vichren is the highest peak in the Pirin range and definitely one of the most impressive looking peaks in the country. The trail begins at the Vichren Hut 16km outside of Bansko. It can be reached by car or local bus. The climb from there is relentlessy steep, rocky and exposed. The distance to the peak is about 3.5km but because of the difficulty you will need to allow 6 hours for the round trip. The really hardened hiker can continue from the peak along the narrow ridge trail known as 'Koncheto' (little horse) down to Razlog.
Bezbog Hut - Polezhan Peak
Level: Moderate / Hard
Time: Full Day
This trek starts from the Bezbog Hut which is reached by the chairlift from Dobrinishte and starts with a gentle picturesque path around the lake. The path splits at one point, leading to eith the Bezbog peak (moderate) or Polezhan peak (2851m - hard). It is possible to do both peaks in one day depending on your fitness.
Rhodopi MountainsThe Rhodopi region is the largest mountain range on Bulgarian land and probably the most magical and mysterious with its Thracian legacy, spectacular caves and other stone formations not to mention the above average sunny weather and mild micro climate. This is the perfect destination for outdoor activities the year round for all the family and apart from staying in the resort of Pamporovo, there are many other towns and villages (Devin, Smolyan, Shiroka Luka, Chepelare and many more) that offer a variety of accomodation from where you can go on day trips visiting regional attractions.
These are among the most popular places to visit and can be combined with walking;
Yagodina (cave) - Orlovo Oko (Eagles Eye lookout) – Trigrad (Devil's throat) - Devil's Bridge Ardino
Devil's Trail – eco trail Borino
Interestingly the highest peak Golyam Perelik (2191m) is off bounds to hikers as it is home to a military base.
Botev Peak & Rai Waterfall
Time: 2 days (if coming from Sofia) 1 day if based in Kalofer
At 2376m, Botev Peak is the 3rd most popular peak in Bulgaria after Musala and Vichren. Start with a gentle climb to the Rai (Paradise) Hut from where you can walk to the Rai waterfall,with the biggest drop (124 m) in the Balkans, before continuing to the peak. Although the trail is not too demanding the weather (rain and fog) is the bigger challenge here.
Strandja MountainsThe Strandja (also written Strandzha) massive in the Southeastern region of Bulgaria and spreading into Turkey is a vast area of 10,000 sq.km of gentler hills below 1000m altitude. The Strandja Nature Park was established in 1995, the area had previously been a protected border zone and hence is an unspoilt wildlife sanctuary perfect for eco tourism offering plenty of cycling paths and hiking trails along with other leisure activities. The region is also home to the Nestinari – the 'fire walkers' who walk on burning embers. www.visitstrandja.com
Tour Strandja (From the River Tundja to the Black Sea)
Time: 9 – 10 days on foot, 3-4 days by bike
From Elhovo to the town of Ahtopol at the Black, Sea this marked out route of 180 km passes through 15 villages and 2 towns and gives the visitor the opportunity to discover the beauty and traditions of this region for themselves. Guided trails can be arranged, accomodation ideally needs to be booked in advance. For more details on this particular route www.tourstrandja.bg
In addition there are over 150 Eco Trails across Bulgaria....
but that's a seperate feature coming soon.
A special thank you to all our friends who helped put together such a variety of trails.
We must admit that we are not necessarily the most dedicated hikers,although we do have first hand experience of some of the trails, but we came across a couple of bloggers who give much more in depth descriptions of their experiences.
You might enjoy mountainlady and the purpleninja