The Balkan Mountains offer keen walkers a series of trails through a diverse landscape that is dotted with tiny villages that brim with traditional hospitality. It's a land where time stands still, evidenced by the old water mills that are still in operation and the use of centuries old methods to produce local specialties such as rakia (brandy), wild berry jams and Balkan brine cheese. Surrounding the villages are immense beech forests, alpine meadows carpeted with flowers, high ridges with endless views and lush river valleys. During this week long self guided walk there is ample opportunity to experience these highlights while on foot, while at night you'll soak up the warm welcome in specially chosen hotels and guesthouses.
The walking is moderate (3) grade with daily guided walks of around 3-5 hours, with a maximum ascent and descent of 810 metres/2657 feet. There are some stages during the walk with where you will encounter steep uphills, descents, and many sections of the trail which require care. The accent is on keeping a steady pace to with time to stop and take photos (subject to weather conditions). You will need a good level of fitness to participate fully in this adventure. It is considered suitable for experienced walkers only.
Early in the season (April, May or June) you may encounter snow on the passes which may be quite deep and alter the grading of the trip to challenging. At any time during summer, weather conditions may be variable and you should be prepared for all conditions including snow, ice, strong sun and extreme winds.
On arrival at Sofia Airport you will be transferred to your guesthouse in the city centre. The remainder of the day is free to explore Bulgaria's capital.
This morning you are transferred to Saeva Dupka (1.5 hours), considered one of the most beautiful caves in Bulgaria. Visit the caves before a further transfer takes you to the village of Glozhene. From here a short trek through beech woods leads you to Glozhene Monastery, with its 1000-year-old icon of St George. From the monastery you will come across a dirt road leading to the pass between Goliam Izvor village and Teteven, and then following the quiet road, you will reach Goliam Izvor. Stay overnight in Goliam Izvor village (450m/1476ft).
Uphill: 400m/1312ft; downhill: 350m/1148ft
Today you will start walking directly from your guest house in the village center, pass through plum tree orchards and pine forests. After a gentle ascent to Mt Orlyak you will follow a dirt road to the small village of Brusen. In the afternoon you will be transferred to the Etropole Monastery and a nearby waterfall.
Uphill: 600m/1969ft; downhill: 350m/1148ft
Today's trek is a wonderful introduction to the region's picturesque landscapes of vast meadows dotted with lots of old apple tree gardens and grazing sheep. The path will take you up hill and then along a ridge, before descending to Cherni Vit village, renowned for its great dancers and traditional singers.
Uphill: 450m/1476ft; downhill: 300m/984ft
This morning, after a short transfer to Kordela hut, you embark on arguably the most adventurous part of the trip. The track passes through century-old beech forests in the Boatin Reserve (at 825m/2707ft), reaching a high point at 1080m/3543ft after an hour of gentle ascent. From there, the path descends the other side of the hill, reaching a forestry road that leads to the region of Kostina, where the Bulgarian revolutionary and national hero, Georgi Benkovski, was killed by the Ottomans. This is a good spot for lunch. From this point you walk 3km/1.9mi along a peaceful asphalt road amongst gardens, meadows, villas and houses, to the village of Ribaritsa, where you stay overnight (at 545m/1788ft).
Uphill: 250m/820ft; downhill: 530m/1739ft
Today you walk a circuit route, along the Debeli Dial ridge surrounding Ribaritsa and climb to its peak (1150m/3773ft) for fine views of the Central Balkan Mountains. The path descends along the Osenovia Rat ridge towards the Vasiliov Hut. On the way back to your hotel, you can observe the local way of life and enjoy the atmosphere of a typical Balkan mountain village.
Uphill: 400m/1312ft; downhill: 400m/1312ft
Today's walk is on the other side of Teteven, and the river. You'll follow a rocky but easy path through a beautiful forest with unusually shaped trees. Continue to Opasniya Zab ('The Dangerous Fang') Shelter for a panoramic view to Teteven and the surrounding area (1179m/3868ft). Next you'll ascend to Petrahilya Peak, which is the highest mountain in the surrounding area. After you've climbed the peak, you descend to Teteven via a different route, heading to southeast. Overnight in Teteven.
Uphill: 810m/2657ft; downhill: 810m/2657ft
After breakfast, transfer to Sofia airport (1.5 hrs drive) where the trip concludes.
A good and enjoyable week of varied self guided walks in pleasant scenery in the Central Bulgarian mountains. We are experienced walkers who with the help of the walking notes provided were able to get from A to B without undue difficulty and enjoyed the challenge of sometimes having to tease out where to go next. In rural parts, learning some Bulgarian phrases and some knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is very helpful. Mikhael our driver for the week was a gem - very careful to make sure we knew what we were about, where we would meet him after each walk and how to get in touch with him - and very attentive to our needs and wishes.
T. Stone, UK
Per Person, Twin Share