Hiking Bulgaria: The Best Hiking Trails by a Local
Last updated: 14 November 2020 | Guides, Bulgaria
Hiking Bulgaria is one of the best things you can do on your next trip around the world. Why you ask? Well, Bulgaria has a jaw-droppingly beautiful nature that you can explore.
Bulgaria is often overlooked by travelers and tourists, as it is a small Balkan country almost nobody heard about. However, Bulgaria has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor activities. Hiking is one of them and is surely the best way to explore the country.
Thus, in this guide I have consolidated all of the hiking trails in the most famous Bulgarian mountains. We can also call this the four mountains circuit, which will go through the mountains of Vitosha, Pirin, Rila and Rhodope. Furthermore, I have added some useful local tips and trick while hiking in Bulgaria to make your trip hassle less 🌄
Hiking Bulgaria: Vitosha Nature Park Hiking
Vitosha mountain is probably the first mountain you will hike in Bulgaria. It is set in the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and is the most visited mountain in Bulgaria. Vitosha national park is the oldest nature park in the Balkan peninsula and is one of the oldest mountains in the region.
Hiking Vitosha mountain is not hard, as the mountain is not so steep and is considered to be perfect for beginners. It’s peak Cherni (Black) is rising to 2290 meters above sea level, which makes Vitosha the fourth highest mountain in Bulgaria. Although, Cherni vrah (Black peak) is the main attraction, there are lots of other nice mountain hiking trails.
Black Peak (Cherni vrah) Hiking
Cherni Vrah is probably the most hiked peak in Bulgaria. This is due to its closeness and the fact that the path to the peak is not so tough. In fact, this is one of the easiest trails in Vitosha mountain.
The best way to reach the top of Vitosha is by going to Aleko hut. This can be done either by public transport or by car. If you catch a taxi it will surely save you lots of time and hassles along the way with the transport system in Sofia.
The hiking trail starts from Aleko hut and climbs to the top of the mountain. The good thing about this trail is that it is well-maintained and it goes straight up to Cherni Vrah. The first part of the trail is the harder part, which takes around an hour of walking. Then, you will reach a destroyed shelter from where starts the second part and you will be able to see the peak of Vitosha. The path there is wider and flat, which makes it easier to climb. At some point, you will reach the moraines and after you pass them it will take you less than 15 minutes to climb to Cherni Vrah peak.
Golden Bridges Hike
Vitosha Nature park has lots of landmarks to offer and one of them are the Golden Bridges. Don’t imagine man-made golden bridges across the mountain. This is certainly not the case.
The Golden Bridges, known also as Moraines, are a kind of a stone river. The origin of their name is somewhat a mystery, but there are two stories. The name comes from the golden moss that covers the stones. Or the golden sand that has been covering the stones a long time ago. Whatever the truth is, one thing is for sure – the Golden Bridges are an incredibly beautiful place.
The best way to visit this landmark is either by public transport or by a car or taxi. It is also possible to opt for one of the hiking tours with an experienced local guides.
Hiking to Boyana Waterfall
Boyana waterfall is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Bulgaria. It is 15 meters tall and is made out of a couple small waterfalls. Boyana waterfall is a well-known tourist destination and is definitely worth visiting.
The trail to Boyana waterfalls starts at the end of Boyana parish in a narrow paved road in the beginning of a forest. Once you reach the entrance to the trail you will see the signs, which show the two hiking trails to the waterfalls.
The flatter trail on the left is known for its fascinating panoramic views over Sofia and the surrounding mountain massifs. It is for sure a great place to hike on if you love looking at beautiful views. Usually, this trail takes around an hour and a half before Boyana waterfall is reached.
The hiking trail on the right is following Boyana river, but is steeper and there are lots of tough terrains. However, if you love being surrounded by beautiful lush forest, this is certainly the trail for you. Unlike the trail on the left, this one takes 50 minutes of trekking.
Once at Boyana waterfall try to enjoy this beautiful gem hidden in the deep forests of Vitosha. Although, it is not a very high waterfall, it is quite powerful and you will feel that the closer you get to it.
From there you can continue to Boyana lake, which is an artificial lake created in the beginning of the 20th century. It takes around 40 minutes to get to the lake from Boyana waterfall by following the signs. Surely, it is a great way to unwind and have some rest after whole day of hiking.
Hiking to Dragalevtsi Monastery
If you like walking through beautiful lush forests, then you should try the trail to Dragalevtsi monastery. Dragalevsi monastery is a Bulgarian orthodox monastery, which is also known as the monastery of the Holy Mother of God. It is located up in the mountain above Dragalevtsi parish and is surrounded by lush forests.
The trail to Dragalevtsi monastery starts from the center of the parish and goes up following the paved path. Once at the beginning of the forest, simply follow the trail that is going up. Then, at some point you will encounter a small bridge, which you have to cross. After you cross it, follow the path that will lead you to the entrance of this magical monastery in the middle of the forest.
The path to Dragalevtsi monastery is a very strategic one as it is leading to many other landmarks in Vitosha. Among them are Boyana, Goli vrah, Aleko hut and Cherni vrah.
Hiking Bulgaria: Pirin National Park Hiking
Pirin National Park is situated in Pirin mountain, located in the southwest part of Bulgaria. The national park was found in 1962 and as of 1983 is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Pirin mountains are one of the highest mountains in Bulgaria and probably the toughest to hike. The highest peak in Pirin is Vihren peak, which is 2914 meters high above sea level. Vihren peak is the highest peak of Pirin, second highest peak in Bulgaria and third highest in the Balkans.
Although, it is considered to be one of the toughest to hike on, Pirin is one of the most beautiful national parks in Bulgaria. It is known for its diverse mountainous terrain that is home to more than 200 types of herbs, 1000 plants, 300 mosses and 200 algae. Pirin is also home to many animals among which are some endangered species.
If you have Pirin on your list, you surely do have Bansko on your mind as well. Bansko is a small town located on the edges of Pirin mountain. It is a famous ski resort in the winter and is a great place to go for a vacation. While in Bansko, you can check the Tourist information center, where you will find valuable information about the park and its trails.
Hiking to Vihren Peak
Pirin mountain reveals the beauty and magnificence of the Bulgarian mountains in a unique way and Vihren peak is a true example of that. Set at 2914 meters above sea level, Vihren peak is the toughest peak to hike in Bulgaria. However, it is also the one of the most picturesque peaks and offers breathtaking views of the region.
The starting point to Vihren peak is at Vihren hut, which is located at 1950 meters above sea level. You will have to follow the red marking along the way. This way there is little chance you will get lost. The hiking trail is going through moraines and lots of shrubs and bushes. Once you reach the river you will reach a crossroad. Follow the marked red path on the left side that goes straight up. This is known as King’s Way and is the “easiest” way to reach Vihren peak.
While walking up to Vihren peak you will be able to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of Bansko, Hvoinati peak and Vlahini lakes. In the end of the climb to the peak is the toughest part of the hiking trail. Due to its crumbly and rocky terrain, the climb to the peak can be quite slippery. Thus, climb it with extra caution and always test a rock before stepping on it.
Disclaimer: If you want to hike the Koncheto ridge, you can continue straight down from peak Vihren. Make sure to use the metal rope and be very careful when going down, as this path is quite tough. Follow the path between Pirin’s highest peaks Vihren and Kutelo, from where you will have to go straight to Kutelo peak. Following the marked trail you will be at Koncheto ridge in 30 minutes from Kutelo. However, while climbing this ridge be very careful, as this is a very tough terrain to climb on it is quite dangerous.
Hiking to Popovo lake
Popovo lake is the biggest and deepest of all the glacial lakes in Pirin mountain. Its crystal clear waters attract many visitors each year and the fact that it is easily accessible makes it a major tourist attraction.
The starting point of the hiking trail that leads to Popovo lake is from Bezbog hut. From there, follow the green marked hiking trail that will lead you through a pleasant terrain. During the hike, enjoy the beautiful views over the region and the serenity of this place. However, once you reach the cross-road stick to the road on the left, which is leading you to a downhill.
After an hour and a half of trekking on a very pleasant road, without breaking a lot of sweat, you will be at Popovo lake. The most beautiful lake of Pirin mountain and a very peaceful place to enjoy some me time.
Hiking to Sinanishko Lake
Have you heard about Sinanishko Lake?! The bluest, most beautiful, breathtaking and absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful lake in Pirin? This is probably the one of the most beautiful places in Pirin and is a true natural masterpiece.
The hiking trail to Sinanishko lake and hut, starts at Vihren hut and follow the signs that show the way to Sinanitsa hut. Following the blue mark of the trail you will first get to the Tevno lake. Another beautiful place in Pirin where you can get some rest.
Then, you can continue to Muratovo lake, which takes around an hour of trekking. However, after that comes one of the toughest parts of the hiking trail – Bunderishka Gate. If you are wondering whether you should climb this huge wall made of moraines – yes, you will have to. Don’t worry, it is not that scary once you get on it and it does not take much time to climb it. In the end, you will end up at a flat meadow where you can rest.
Finally, after walking on a very pleasant trail for a while, you will end up at Sinanishka Gate. From there you will be able to see Sinanitsa peak, hut and the lake itself. Probably, you will feel a bit like a character from Lord of the rings. That is totally fine, because this place is truly magical!
Once at the gate, descend down cautiously and enjoy the peacefulness and incredibly beautiful place Mother Nature has gifted us with!
Hiking Bulgaria: Rila National Park Hiking
Rila National Park is located in the southwest part of Bulgaria and is the largest national park in the country. In 1992 it was classified as a national park and has been recognized as one of the largest natural parks in Europe.
The highest peak in Rila is Musala, which is standing at 2925 meters above sea level. Musala is the highest peak in Bulgaria and in the Balkans. This makes it one of the most visited peaks in the region and a hikers’ heaven.
Rila National Park is known as one of the most biodiverse parks in Bulgaria. There are more than 1000 plants to observe, among which are relicts and endemic species. In addition to that, there are lots of animals that inhabit the area like various reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.
If you are planning to visit Rila National Park, you will most probably stay in Borovets. This winter resort has been founded back in the 19th century where the most distinguished Bulgarians were spending their summers there. However, later it was expanded and alpine-style hotels and winter sports facilities were built to satisfy the needs of the tourists. Borovets is very close to the capital of Bulgaria, which makes it the most visited winter resort in the country.
Hiking to Musala Peak
Musala Peak, the highest peak in Bulgaria and the Balkans, is a relatively easy peak to climb. Once on top of it, one would be stunned by the beautiful views around. Musala peak is surrounded by springs, lakes and other peaks alike. Some say that if the day is clear one could see peak Mitikas in Greece 😲
Hiking to the top of Rila is not tough, despite many think it might be. The hiking trail to Musala peak is a nice one and quite flat, so it does not require you to be a pro hiker. The starting point of the hiking trail is at Yastrebets hut to which you can get by catching the cable car from Borovets. Then, following the red marking of the trail you will get to Musala hut. There you can stop to get a nice tea or something to eat.
From there go up the slope, which is getting bigger with every step. Be prepared, as this part of the trail is getting a bit harder. After walking for an hour or 2 you will get to Everest shelter from where starts the real climbing to the peak. Surely, it will get harder with every step you make, but this should not make you stop. Keep going and once up you will be grateful you have climbed to the top of Bulgaria!
Hiking to Seven Rila Lakes
Undoubtedly the most famous natural landmark – Seven Rila Lakes, is attracting many enthusiasts each year. These beautiful glacial lakes are known for their crystal clear waters and incredible views they provide. The Seven Rila lakes are situated between 2,100 and 2,500 meters above sea level and this makes them the highest located lakes in the country.
Each of the Seven lakes is named after its most characteristic feature. The Lower lake is the lowest, the Fish lake is known as the shallowest lake, the Trefoil reminds of a three-leafed clover. Furthermore, the Twin is known of having two connected lakes, the Kidney looks like a kidney, the Eye has the most perfect oval form and the Tear has the clearest waters.
The hike around the Seven Rila lakes usually starts at Pionerska hut, where you can catch the cable car. After 30 minutes of ascending, you will get to the Seven vitosha hiking trails
lakes hut. From there you can pick either the lower path or the higher one. Both hiking trails are relatively easy to hike on and do not require lots of effort. If you go through the lower path, you will see the lakes from below and if you get the right one – you will enjoy a view over the lakes.
Whichever path you decide to take on you will surely enjoy the views that will soon be revealed to you. Once you get to the last lake, the Tear, you will have the most mesmerizing view in front of you. All of the lakes can be observed from there even Musala peak to the east.
While you are exloring Rila National Park you will for sure stop by Rila monastery. Located high up in Rila mountain, where the trees touch the sky and the prayers are the most powerful. As the legend goes, the founder of the monastery Ivan Rilski has come to these land to seek peace in the 10th century. Back in the days, he lived in a cave like chapel where he also died. After his death, his followers helped building a monastery, which nowadays we know as the Rila monastery.
During the ages, the monastery has changed its appearance quite a lot. Back in the days, Bulgaria was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and people were trying to protect their religion at all cost. That is why, huge walls were built around Rila monastery to protect it from any attacks. An interesting fact is that the appearance of the monastery has not changed since the 14th century, which is quite fascinating.
Rila mountain is known for its hot springs, which have proven healing powers. Thus, if Rila is on your list, make sure to stop by Sapareva Banya and dip in its hot springs.
Sapareva Banya is primarily known for its hot springs, which in fact are the hottest mineral springs in Europe. The mineral waters are clear, colorless and are of course smelly :D. However, it is good to know that their healing characteristics are many. They help with healing the peripheral nervous system, gynecological illnesses, dermic diseases etc.
Coming to the hot springs of Sapareva Banya is recommended after whole day of hiking in the mountain. Once you dip in the hot waters, your muscles will feel relaxed and you will be as fresh as a cucumber 😃
Hiking Bulgaria: Rhodope Mountains Hiking
The Rhodope Mountains are home to some of the most breathtaking and picturesque places in Bulgaria. They are known for their lush meadows, dark forests, steep cliffs and canyons. Due to its beautiful terrain, the Rhodope Mountains have been called Orpheus’ home. Indeed, back in the days, that was a fact. Orpheus was born and lived in the Rhodope mountains where he was singing and playing music to the locals. In fact, most of the landmarks in the Rhodope mountains are named after him.
The Rhodope mountains are spread on a vast territory occupying most of Central South Bulgaria. Due to its vastness, the Rhodope mountains are divided into Western and Eastern Rhodope.
The western part of the Rhodope mountains is higher and higher peaks of the mountain are located here, as well as lots of gorges and caves. The Eastern Rhodope are lower and are known for their beautiful meadows, river canyons and lots of ancient sites.
If you are planning to have a hassle less and laid back type of vacation, then you should definitely head to the Rhodope Mountains. They offer lots of places for rest and are surely a must-see.
Hiking to Golyam Perelik
Golyam Perelik is the highest peak in the Rhodope mountains, which is standing 2191 above sea level. Peak Golyam Perelik is the easiest peak to hike on and the terrain is quite flat. So it is more like walking to it, instead of climbing.
The starting point of the hiking trail is at Perelik hut, which is easily accessible. From there you will have to follow the red mark that is going through the road and then connects to the hiking trail. Then, once you reach the rocky pathway continue straight up. At some point you will reach a huge meadow and after crossing it, Golyam Perelik will show up. However, there is a military base at the top of Golyam Perelik, so hiking to it, is not really possible. You can get as closer as you want to the gate, but that will be it. Well, you can continue on the red marked pathway to Lednitsata hut and enjoy the beauty of the Rhodope hills…
The Devil’s Path Hiking Trail
This ecopath is one of the most extreme hikes in Bulgaria. The hiking trail is known for its narrow stairways and staggering cliffs that surround a part of it.
The starting point of the hiking trail is at the end of the parish of Borino – Katrandjiinitsata. There are lots of signs, so it is unlikely that you will miss it. In the beginning the trail is pleasant and then comes the harder part. Its wooden narrow stairways that are going through a little gorge can be quite scary. However, they are very-well maintained and are secured with handrails.
Eventually, at the end of the hiking trail you will reach the Devil’s bridge. The Devil’s bridge is a natural landmark created millions of years ago by the river that goes by. After it, you can continue further on the trail until you reach its very end.
🧐 Earthosea Tip: Stop by the beautiful village of Shiroka Laka and get something to eat. The village is known for its delicious cuisine and beautiful architecture. So, it is definitely a must-see.
Orpheus’ Hills Hiking Trail
If you want to feel the spirit of Orpheus and enjoy Rhodope Mountains beautiful landscape, then Orpheus’ Hills are the right trail for you. The starting point of the trail is just below Snezhanka peak and is following a well-marked pathway. The hiking trail is quite flat and there is not so much climbing, so it is perfect for a little guided walking.
In no time, you will be at Orpheus’ Hills, which are known as the place where Orpheus used to come and get inspiration for his songs. The locals still tell stories where Orpheus would play his music exactly on those hills, so that all of the people around could hear him.
Trigrad’s Gorge is probably the most dangerous roadway in Bulgaria. It is a 7 kilometer defile, surrounded by towering cliffs, which were cut millions of years ago by Trigrad’s river. Trigrad gorge has been declared a protected area in 1963 for its nature significance.
However, there is no hiking trail that goes through Trigrad Gorge. The only way to visit it is by car and you will have to be careful when driving. The path can be very narrow and it is sometimes hard for 2 cars to go at the same time.
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