Hiking Bulgaria – The Best Bulgaria Hiking Spots

Hiking Bulgaria – The Best Bulgaria Hiking Spots

One of the most popular activities and the best thing to do in Bulgaria is to go hiking. The country has stunning beautiful nature to explore and outdoor activities, and hiking is among the most rewarding.

Hiking in Bulgaria encompasses discovering jaw-dropping scenarios, expansive landscapes, impressive mountains, and a solid network of hiking trails for all levels, some of them very famous, such as the hikes in the Rila National Park (Seven Rila Lakes and Musala Peak) as well as the beautiful Sinanishko Lake in Pirin.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast getting ready to discover the walking paths in Bulgaria, here, you will find detailed information to explore the most beautiful gems in the country. For organization purposes, the guide is divided according to the four remarkable mountains of Rila, Pirin, Vitosha, and Rhodope – choose your trail and enjoy!

Rila National Park

The largest national park in Bulgaria, and one of the most impressive natural scenarios in the country, the Rila National Park is in the Southwest part of Bulgaria and is one of the largest natural parks in Europe.

The highest peak of Rila is Musala (2925 m above sea level). As well as one of the most visited peaks in the region.

The National Park features impressive biodiversity with over a hundred local flora and endemic species. The fauna includes reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals.

The usual place to stay when visiting the Rila National Park is Borovets, a vital winter resort featuring alpine hotels and winter sports facilities. Since Borovets is not really far from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, the place tends to be crowded all year round, especially during the weekends.

Hiking The Musala Peak

Musala Peak, Rila Mountain Bulgaria

The Musala Peak is the highest peak in Bulgaria and the Balkans. At 2,925 meters, this peak is seven meters higher than Mount Olympus in Greece. However, it can be reasonably easy to climb, and it will reward travelers with fantastic views from the top. The area has impressive lakes, springs, and other minor peaks that add beauty to the awe-inspiring landscape.

The hiking trail is relatively flat, which is good news for those who are not super skilled hikers. The trail starts at hut Yastrebets which is reached by taking the cable car at Borovets.

From the start of the trail, hikers need to follow the red trail markings which lead to the Musala hut. It is advisable to stop over there and enjoy a cup of hot tea. Food or snacks are not served, so it is necessary to bring your own.

Enjoy the landscape surrounding this stop. After a while, you can then proceed up the slope. The intensity and difficulty will slowly increase in this road portion as the trail gets a bit more complicated.

The walk, which takes 1 to 2 hours, leads hikers to the so-called Everest shelter, which marks the beginning of the climb to the mountain’s peak. This is the most challenging part of the hike, but it’s worth the effort since once on top, you will be taking a look at the world from the highest mountain in Bulgaria.

DETAILS TO CONSIDER TO HIKE MT. MUSALA
  • Musala can be climbed on a day trip from the ski resort of Borovets if the first part of the climb is done on the Yastrebets lift.
  • The round trip from the top to Musala peak takes 5 to 6 hours, depending on fitness level and skills.
  • Those interested in climbing up the whole way from Borovets should consider an overnight stay at one of the mountain refuges.
  • Lifts (also known as gondolas) do not operate when the wind is strong.
  • The gondola works every day during ski season but remains closed Mon and Tue the rest of the year.
  • The gondola operates on Wed to Sun from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. Do not miss the last gondola down because it can turn out to be a really long and tiring walk back.
  • The more you ascend, the more challenging the terrain becomes, giving way to bigger rocks. Decent hiking footwear is a must!

Hiking The Seven Rila Lakes

Amazing panorama of The Seven Rila Lakes, Rila Mountain

The famous Seven Rila Lakes circuit is a 10-kilometer loop trail in the area of Sapareva Banya, Kyustendil, Bulgaria. It is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in the country that receives hundreds of enthusiasts every year eager to walk the trails in the area.

Getting there is possible if you drive your car, join an organized tour, or reach the area by bus from Sofia Central Bus Station (your stop is Dupnitsa, where you must catch a second bus to Sapareva Banya). The travel time should not be more than two hours unless you miss a bus connection and must wait for about 30 minutes for the next departure.

The Seven Rila Lakes trail is rated moderate but can be long and tiring when faced with the wrong equipment and inadequate hiking shoes. The trail is mainly suitable for hiking, but other outdoor activities popular in the circuit include trail running and backpacking.

The lakes have a glacial origin and are famous for the panoramic views and the crystal clear waters. They stand between 2100 and 2500 meters above the sea, making them the highest lakes in the country.

The seven lakes are named after their distinctive features, which makes it easy to spot and distinguish them. Although they stand as different bodies of water, all lakes are connected by streams and waterfalls.

THE SEVEN RILA LAKES
  • Lower Lake: the lowest
  • Fish Lake: the shallowest
  • Trefoil Lake: has the shape of a cloverleaf
  • Twin Lake: two connected lakes
  • Kidney Lake: has the shape of a kidney
  • Eye Lake: has the shape of an oval
  • Tear Lake: the clearest

The starting point of this hike is Pionerska hut, where it is possible to ascend via a cable car (about 30 minutes) to reach the hiking trails. Alternatively, you can also hike; the total walk is a bit more than 2 hours. The lift to the Seven Rila Lakes costs 18 LEV (€9), and the ride comes with fantastic views.

Once you are ready to begin exploring, you can either choose the lower or the higher paths, both relatively easy. The higher path offers a more panoramic view of the lakes. However, they both offer incredibly rewarding scenarios.

It is essential to pack the right shoes, abundant water, a hat, and a snack. Swimming is not allowed in any of the lakes since the area is a National Park, so don’t bother packing a swimming suit.

Hike To Rila Monastery

Monasteries In Bulgaria - Rila
Rila monastery in Bulgaria

One of the best alternative activities to add to the excursion is a visit to Rila Monastery, not on the same day as you visit the lakes, because the public transport hours do not really coincide to allow you to see both, but you can certainly stay on the next day. You can read more about this magnificent Bulgarian monastery in our guide to the most beautiful monasteries to see in the country.

Sapareva Banya

Sapareva Banya hosts some of the beautiful hot springs that make Rila Mountain famous, and they are definitely worth a visit when visiting the Seven Rila Lakes. The springs in Sapareva Banya are the hottest mineral springs in Europe; they have several healing characteristics and can be a great way to end a hiking day to treat sore muscles.

Pirin National Park

Valley and mountain slopes in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria.
Valley and mountain slopes in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

The Southwest area of Bulgaria hosts Pirin National Park on the Pirin Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Slightly lower than the Rila Mountain Range, the Pirin Mountains are among the highest mountains in Bulgaria and are not easy to walk for those without enough hiking experience. Mount Vihren is the highest peak in Pirin (2914 m), the second highest peak in Bulgaria, and the third in the Balkans.

Considered one of the best national parks in Bulgaria, the area includes a diverse mountainous terrain with hundreds of different herbs, over a thousand plant varieties, and more than 500 varieties of moss and algae. Many of the animals in the park are endangered species.

Hiking To Sinanishko Lake

Known as the most breathtaking lake in Pirin with its unique blue surface, Sinanishko Lake is among the most popular hikes in the Bulgarian Mountains. The start of the trail is at Vihren hut.

REACHING VIHREN HUT
  • Walking: it is possible to hike up, adding 20 km and 4-6 hours more to the whole circuit
  • Bus: the smartest option from February to September when the bus runs daily (the ticket is less than €4 & the trip is a bit less than an hour)
  • Car: a great idea if you’re renting a car to explore Bulgaria; there are parking areas near Vihren Hut and on the side of the road. The drive is not the easiest and is mostly very narrow and steep.
  • Taxi: best way to get to the hut and quite affordable too (less than €15)

The circuit takes you to the first stop, Tevno Lake, unfortunately underrated, where it is possible to sit for a while, rest, and admire the landscape. Once there, walkers must follow signs indicating the way to Sinanitsa hut and Lake Sinanishko. It is necessary to follow the blue mark of the trail along the way.

The next stop on the way will be Muratovo Lake, about an hour after Lake Tevno. The area is incredibly beautiful but also marks the end of the easier part of the experience. Right after this lake, the trail becomes tougher, marking the most challenging part of the trail with a huge wall of moraines known as the Bunderishka Gate, which can take anything from 30 minutes to an hour to climb, depending on your skills and fitness level.

Right after this portion of the trail, there is a more relaxing flat meadow, relatively easy to walk with a trail ending in the spectacular Sinanishko Gate. Visible in the area are Mount Sinanitsa, Sinanitsa hut, and — finally — Lake Sinanishko! Remember to be careful when descending because the joy of arrival can cause you to overlook the ground and fall right before you start to enjoy this unique natural area.

Hiking Mount Vihren

Balkan Itinerary - The Vihren peak reflected in the Banderitsa lake in the Pirin National Park
The Vihren peak.

Probably the most difficult peak to hike in the country, Mount Vihren is also a breathtaking mountain that, from the top, features some magnificent views of the region. From here, hikers follow the red marking along the way, as getting lost is not a rare event.

Along the way, the trail passes endless shrubs and bushes; therefore, it is crucial to wear the right kind of hiking shoe and high thick socks or long pants that protect your ankles. The terrain can at times be slippery, so do not disregard this aspect and travel with the right shoes.

The easiest way to hike the trail is following the King’s Way, which starts at a crossroads next to a river. The path to this trail begins to the left and is also marked in red.

The last part of the trail, which is the actual climb to the peak, is the most challenging part of the trail. Here the terrain gets rocky but quite crumbly and unstable, so be very careful and literally watch every step you take.

Hiking To Popovo Lake

One more stunning hike in the Pirin Mountains is the one that takes you to Popovo Lake, the biggest glacial lake in Pirin. The lake has crystal clear waters and is easily accessible from its starting point, Bezbog hut.

Hikers must follow the green marked hiking trail along a charming and easy-to-walk terrain, with postcard picture views of the region. After a bit less than 2 hours, at the crossroads, hikers need to take the trail to the left (downhill) and continue along the road for about one more hour to arrive at the beautiful Popovo Lake.

Vitosha Natural Park

Things to do in Sofia - Sofia and Vitosha mountain

If you are a fan of hiking, Vitosha is one of the most popular places in Bulgaria and definitely a place you’ve probably already heard about.

The mountain is easy to reach from Sofia, making it a popular tourist attraction and the most visited mountain in Bulgaria. Hiking Vitosha Mountain is not hard. It is a perfect experience for beginners since it does not present such steep terrain. The peak of Vitosha is Cherni Vrah or Black Peak (2290 m), the fourth highest mountain in Bulgaria.

Hiking The Cherni Vrah

This is the most popular and most hiked mountain in the country, featuring an easy hiking path to the peak and sitting at a comfortable short distance from Sofia.

To reach the peak, it is necessary to first get to Aleko hut by bus or taxi. You can also drive there if you rent a vehicle during your vacation.

Aleko hut is the start of the hiking trail that climbs to the top of the mountain. The trail is easy, well-maintained, and straightforward, so there is no risk of getting lost.

The first part of the way will be the hardest, taking about an hour to complete; right after, passing an old and abandoned mountain shelter starts the easiest part of the trail, a wide, flat path that takes you to the Cherni Vrah Moraines.

The moraines are quite easy to face, and right after, it can take you no more than 20 minutes to find yourself on top of Mount Cherni Vrah.

Hiking To Boyana Waterfall

A beautiful place to explore in the country is the Boyana Waterfall, with several small jumps and a 15-meter fall. Not a very high waterfall, but it is pretty powerful and noisy!

To reach the waterfalls, you must follow the trail starting at the end of Boyana Parish. Several signs indicate both the way and the trails; in fact, there are two hiking trails to the waterfalls.

The left trail is the flatter one, with fantastic panoramic sights over the capital, taking about 2 hours to reach the waterfalls.
The trail on the right follows the Boyana River. It is steep, and the terrain not so easy; the views are not those of Sofia but a lovely, lush forest. Although it can be more demanding, it is much shorter (a bit less than an hour).

After the waterfall, it is possible to follow the hike and reach the artificial Boyana Lake (about 40 minutes) by following the signs.

Hiking To Dragalevtsi Monastery

Monasteries In Bulgaria - Dragalevtsi Monastery of the Holy Mother of God of Vitosha, Bulgaria.

Finally, when exploring Vitosha Park, it is possible to reach one more amazing monastery, the Dragalevtsi Monastery. Take the trail from the Dragalevtsi parish – it gains height following a paved path.

If you keep going, you will get to the beginning of a forest and follow the path that takes you further. After you cross the bridge, the course takes you directly to the monastery’s gates.

Rhodope Mountains

Hiking Bulgaria - Amazing autumn view with horses on a meadow in the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria
Amazing autumn view with horses on a meadow in the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

Spread on a vast territory in Central Bulgaria, the Rhodope Mountains take a vast terrain and are subdivided into the western and eastern Rhodope.

Western Rhodope Mountains: Higher terrain and higher peaks, several gorges and caves to explore.
Eastern Rhodope Mountains: Lower and less harsh, home to meadows, rivers, and ancient sites to visit.

Hiking Golyam Perelik

The highest peak in the Rhodope Mountains is Golyam Perelik, at 2191 meters above sea level. The peak is easy to hike as the terrain is relatively flat, shortening the climbing portions of the terrain and being more of a pleasant walk overall.

The trail begins at Perelik hut, and trekkers follow the red mark connecting to the actual hiking trail, a rocky pathway that takes you straight up until reaching a fairly big meadow that hikers need to cross.

Once the meadow is over, it is possible to admire Golyam Perelik. You can reach as far as the gate of a military base at the top of the peak, but access is not allowed after that.

Hiking Orpheus’ Hills

This is an easy and relaxing hiking trail, perfect for enjoying the landscape and the natural area of the mountains without stressing about getting lost or not being skilled. It is a good trail for beginners.

You don’t really need a lot of walking to reach Orpheus’ Hills, a dreamy place with a fairy tale atmosphere, considered the spot where Orpheus used to get inspiration for his songs. The trail starts just below Snezhanka Peak, following a well-marked path that is relatively flat and does not involve much climbing. Romantic and inspiring, this is a fantastic place to take a relaxing break from Sofia.

Devil’s Path Hiking Trail And Trigrad Gorge

Although the Rhodope Mountains seem to host the most accessible trails in the country, they are is also home to the two most dangerous trails and only recommended to very skilled and advanced adventurers. Either on foot or by car, we do not recommend you take these paths with a light spirit – be prepared for a serious experience.

Devil’s Path Hiking Trail

This is considered among the country’s most dangerous hikes, an extreme hiking trail with very narrow and hazardous stairways and high and impressive cliffs. The trail begins at the end of the parish of Borino–Katrandjiinitsata.

The trail can give you the wrong impression at the beginning, as it is soft and pleasant, but it soon turns into a challenging trail once you reach the scary wooden stairways, with steep and narrow steps going through a small gorge. Fortunately, there are safe handrails that make the trail a bit easier.

The so-called Devil’s Bridge marks the end of the trail. This is a natural formation created by the river millions of years ago.

Trigrad Gorge

Considered the most dangerous roadway in Bulgaria, the gorge is a 7 km ravine with massive towering cliffs. The narrow passage was shaped by the River Trigrad millions of years ago.

This is a magnificent and deep gorge, awe-inspiring, that can only be crossed by car, as there is no hiking trail.

However, the driving path tends to be very narrow in some areas, and extra careful driving is needed, especially at the bendiest parts or when it is time for two cars to face the same portion of the road, as sometimes there is not enough space, and one of the cars needs to back up.

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