Trekking the Ridges & Summits of Bulgaria

Trekking holiday in the Rila and Pirin mountains of Bulgaria




From $900 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Summit the big four - Vihren, Kotelo, Maliovitsa and Musala
  • Dramatic walking on the spectacular Marble Ridge
  • Trek via the Pirin Ridges to the atmospheric Dark Lake
  • Wander through Sofia and visit UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery

A rugged, dramatic and truly wild trekking holiday in the Rila and Pirin mountains of Bulgaria! Perfectly located at the cusp of Europe and Asia Minor, Bulgaria has some of the most breath taking and undiscovered mountain scenery in Europe, lying alongside a mix of Greek and Ottoman cultural influences.  Our exploration of this fascinating country manages to combine the finest trekking with the very best of local hospitality.  We start in true KE style with a superb ascent of the country's highest peak, Mount Musala (2925m) before traversing the extensive Rila Mountains via the Seven Lakes.  After bagging our second Rila peak, Mount Maliovitsa (2730m), we transfer through some spectacular scenery and pay a visit to the fantastically located and ornate Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  After leaving the Rila Mountains we head to the striking Pirin Mountains and take a cable car up to the Bezbog Hut to begin our exploration of the Pirin Range.  We follow ridge-top paths and traverse alpine meadows up to the shores of the atmospheric ‘Dark Lake.'  An unforgettable highlight of the trip is an overnight stay in a remote mountain refuge, surrounded by stunning rocky peaks.  However, we leave the best till last with the climax of this excellent adventure being our trek to the imposing peaks of Vihren (2917m) and Kotelo (2911m) by way of the famously airy Marble Ridge!  If you are looking for one of Europe’s greatest “off the beaten track” mountain journeys then look no further than Trekking the Ridges and Summits of Bulgaria!

Is this holiday for you?

This is a real mountain journey with significant amounts of ascent and descent on most days. The trails are predominantly good paths but you need to be prepared for sections of stony ground and boulders, which will be encountered on most days. Other than the Marble Ridge (which is optional) there is very little exposure on either the ridges or summits and any exposed sections are cable protected. For the Marble Ridge, via ferrata harnesses are provided for extra security. As with any mountain area the weather can be unpredictable but we would anticipate good conditions for each of our scheduled departures. You will walk for an average of 6 to 10 hours each day, with some significant climbs and descents. You should ensure you are physically prepared for the trek and able to walk for approximately 6 - 10 hours each day and for several days continuously. This walking and trekking holiday is suitable for regular, experienced hillwalkers, looking for an excellent week's mountain walking in a largely undiscovered part of the world.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Sofia. A single timed transfer from Sofia Airport is provided.
  • Transfer to Borovets. Spectacular ascent of Musala (2925m). Short transfer to Samokov.
  • Start our mountain Traverse of the Rila Mountains via the Seven Lakes and Green Ridge.
  • Ascent of Maliovitsa (2729m) in the Rila National Park. Transfer to Bansko.
  • Start of two day trek into the Pirin Mountains via the Hanging Valley and Dark Lake.
  • Fantastic day of ridge walking to the Vihren Hut. Transfer to Bankso
  • Memorable day on the airy Marble Ridge and the ascent of Vihren (2917m). Transfer to Bansko.
  • Departure Day. A single timed transfer to Sofia Airport is provided.
Sat 25 Jun - Sat 02 Jul Code BUL /01/16/ Adult$900 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sat 02 Jul - Sat 09 Jul Code BUL /02/16/ Adult$900 Status Available Book now
Sun 21 Aug - Sun 28 Aug Code BUL /03/16/ Adult$900 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sat 03 Sep - Sat 10 Sep Code BUL /04/16/ Adult$900 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sat 10 Sep - Sat 17 Sep Code BUL /05/16/ Adult$900 Status Guaranteed Book now
We sell this holiday on a Land Only basis and recommend that you book your flights to Sofia Airport. Please refer to the 'Joining arrangements and transfers' section of the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

If flying from the UK there are a number of low cost airlines offering flights to Sofia. These include Easyjet who have flights from London & Manchester, and Wizzair who have flights from London and Ryanair who have flights from Stansted. Click on the 'Flight information' link below for further information on booking low cost airlines. Alternatively if you would prefer to book a 'flight inclusive package' using scheduled airlines from the UK please contact our flights department for a quote. Whilst flight prices are likely to be more expensive you will benefit from full financial protection.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • peaks
  • trip direction
  • airport
  • trek
  • transfer

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Sofia. A single timed transfer from Sofia Airport is provided.

    Arrive in Sofia. KE Land Only package begins with a group transfer to our hotel in the city where we check in for our first overnight. The Hotel Sveta Sofia has a great central location and is within walking distance of the basilica and old town. Depending on your arrival time you may have time to explore the centre of Sofia taking in some of the sights that this interesting capital has to offer. A must see in Sofia is The Crypt Icon Museum in the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral which holds the largest
    collection of Orthodox icons in Europe, a total of 200 icons dating from the 13th to 19th Century. This impressive basilica, the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world, can hold up to 10,000 people and its showcase is a beautiful gold plated dome. Late afternoon we'll take a stroll through the streets of Sofia before enjoying dinner in a local restaurant.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals d

  • Transfer to Borovets. Spectacular ascent of Musala (2925m). Short transfer to Samokov.

    Our first trekking day and the opportunity to ascend the country's highest peak Mount Musala (2925m). After leaving the city, we head for the Rila Mountains by transferring (1.5hrs) to Borovets, Bulgaria’s most famous
    ski and alpine resort. In winter this is a bustling and increasingly popular ski resort, however in summer it is altogether quieter, with an as yet largely undeveloped summer season. We use the gondola lift from the centre of town to ascend approx. 1000m (up above the forest) to Jastrebec. After around 90 minutes of level walking we ascend steadily to reach our first mountain hut of the trip. The Musala Hut is typical of many we’ll come across during our trek and we’ll take a picnic lunch here. From here the terrain becomes rockier as we pass a number of small lakes and perhaps the odd snow patch especially in early season. After about an hour and a half we make the final ascent to the summit along the bouldery and cabled north ridge. Today's walking is challenging but a fantastic introduction to the 'Bulgarian Alps' – wild, remote and craggy with stunning mountain lakes dotted along the trails. On reaching the summit we’ll take time to admire the breath-taking panorama and take our first Bulgarian Summit Photos! At 2925m, Musala is the highest peak in Bulgaria and indeed the entire Balkan Peninsula and from here there are extensive views into the Rila range and of tomorrow’s trekking route. Our descent takes us back to the chair lift and down to the valley. A short transfer of 30mins takes us to our welcoming pension in Samokov.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 - 7 hrs trekking

  • Start our mountain Traverse of the Rila Mountains via the Seven Lakes and Green Ridge.

    Today starts with a short transfer to the Vada Hut (1465m) from where we begin our traverse of the Rila Mountains via the picturesque Seven Lakes. The footpaths are well graded as we trek upwards through a
    series of lakes to the open summit of Razdela (2620m), which offers splendid views over the Urdinite lakes and to the summit of Mt. Maliovitsa (2729 m), our goal for tomorrow. After taking in the panorama of the whole Maliovitsa region, we descend via the "Zeleni rid" (or Green ridge), initially on gentle grassy slopes before the trail descends steeply down into the valley of the Urdina river. Shortly after, we reach the start point of our walk, the Vada hut, for our short transfer (40 min) back to our hotel in Samokov.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 9 hrs trekking

  • Ascent of Maliovitsa (2729m) in the Rila National Park. Transfer to Bansko.

    Today we set our sights on our second peak - Mount Maliovitsa. A national mountain so well respected, that its North Face is the symbol of the Bulgarian Alpine Association. A short drive (30min) takes us to the
    small alpine ski resort of Maliovitsa, where during the times of Communist Bulgaria, the country's only mountain leader school was situated. The area surrounding Mount Maliovitsa is known as “Bulgaria’s Chamonix” and also as the Rila National Park. The first part of our walk starts gently as we follow the valley to the Maliovitsa hut (1960m). From here the real ascent begins as we initially zig-zag our way up to Elenino Lake (2470m). On reaching the lake we continue ascending up onto the main ridge and a further 10min takes us onto the summit of Mount Maliovitsa (2729m). The view from the summit is well worth the effort as we gaze across the Rila Mountain Range. We re-trace our steps for the descent back down to Maliovitsa where we pick up our transport and drive to UNESCO Rila Monastery. This UNESCO World Heritage site is situated at 1147m and one of Bulgaria’s most celebrated. Looking more like a fortress with magnificent 24m stone walls in the shape of a pentagon, the monastery has provided shelter and security to countless pilgrims who have visited the site since the 14th Century. After time to view the magnificent murals and architecture, we'll transfer to Bansko (927m).

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 - 7 hrs trekking

  • Start of two day trek into the Pirin Mountains via the Hanging Valley and Dark Lake.

    The jagged and rocky peaks of the Pirin Mountains present an altogether more rugged environment than our previous days of trekking. After breakfast we take a short transfer to the Doze Delchev Hut to begin our 2
    day trek deep into the Pirin Range. We can leave the bulk of our belongings at our hotel but will need to pack a couple of extras into our day sacks, as tonight will be spent in a remote, high mountain hut. From Doze Delchev we take advantage of the chairlift up to the hut at Lake Bezbog before beginning our walk to the largest of the Pirin lakes – Popova. Local legend tells of a bishop that fell into the lake, leaving just his hat on view. The ‘hat’ can still be seen today, as an island in the
    middle of the lake. Ascending through dramatic high valleys with rocky ridges and late-lying snow patches, we eventually arrive at the hanging valley of Tevno Ezero, or “Dark Lake”. Our overnight accommodation is
    a pine built mountain hut (c.2500m) in an idyllic setting beside the Tevno Ezero Lake, looking across to the beautiful peak of Kamenitza. The hut offers very basic, but clean and comfortable accommodation. There is a
    large attic with approximately 30 bed spaces. Each bed space has a mattress and three good blankets. Tonight the hut guardian will prepare our dinner which will be a simple but hearty and tasty meal for hungry trekkers. The home-made hooch is for the brave only!

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 - 5 hrs trekking

  • Fantastic day of ridge walking to the Vihren Hut. Transfer to Bankso

    Today is all about ridges, and we leave the comforts of the hut behind and walk through a high col, the Mozgoviska Porta. From this point we follow an undulating, sinuous ridge with seriously spectacular views. The terrain varies from alpine meadow to rough and rocky ground. We trek through a beautiful mountain landscape of peaks, sparkling streams and lakes. Finally we arrive at the Vihren hut, from where we transfer to our accommodation in Bansko.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 - 7 hrs trekking

  • Memorable day on the airy Marble Ridge and the ascent of Vihren (2917m). Transfer to Bansko.

    The distinctive peak of Vihren is an obvious objective for today and many find Vihren more rewarding than Musala. To ascend Vihren we return by road to the Vihren hut. From here we ascend steeply at first through
    forest opening out into meadow affording us fine views of Vihren’s towering west face. From here the well-marked trail ascends steadily, before we make a short, steep scree scramble, followed by a steady
    climb to a col. Here we make the exciting, optional return traverse of the Koncheto, Marble Ridge. The Koncheto is a genuine knife edge ridge. A traverse across the ridge to the summit of Kotelo (2911m) is an exposed and airy undertaking, although aided by a fixed wire cable for support and solid rock underfoot. Via ferrata harnesses giving extra security are provided locally (and must be carried on this day). For those not wishing to make the 2 hour round trip traverse of the Koncheto it is possible to wait at the col and enjoy the extensive views. Back at the col, Vihren's summit is achieved by way of a 30 minute steep, but straightforward
    rocky ascent. From the summit, on a clear day, we will be rewarded with
    a magnificent 360º panorama of not only the Pirin and Rila Mountains,
    but also the lesser known Rhodopi Mountains and on occasion even into
    Greece and Macedonia. We descend by way of a scenic path to meet up
    with our transport at the Vihren hut and return by vehicle to Bansko. There’s plenty of time to take a shower and relax at the hotel before our last dinner together. We will surely toast our trek with a Zagorka beer or a glass of the excellent locally produced Melnik wine.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 8 - 8 hrs trekking

  • Departure Day. A single timed transfer to Sofia Airport is provided.

    Transfer to Sofia.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • An experienced professional English-speaking Bulgarian Mountain Guide
  • A single timed Sofia Airport transfers on days 1 and 8
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • All meals
  • Vehicle support throughout the trek (except Day 6)

  • Travel insurance
  • Airport transfers (other than the single timed group transfers)
  • Tips for local staff
  • Miscellaneous personal expenses

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

A single timed group transfer will be provided in the middle of the afternoon on day 1 of the trip itinerary from Sofia Airport to the group hotel in the centre. On the final day of the trip itinerary a single timed group transfer will be provided, departing from Bankso to Sofia Airport early in the morning and is due to arrive at the airport mid-morning. Hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with your booking confirmation.

A support vehicle will transport the group’s personal equipment to our next overnight stop. During the day’s walk, we will carry a daysack which is large enough to pack a light weight fleece, towel and swimwear, water bottle, packed lunch and other extras such as cameras, binoculars etc. We usually make a fairly early start (breakfast at around 7.30 a.m.) and make the best of the clear morning air. We will walk for between 5 and 10 hours each day, stopping off en-route for a picnic lunch. On arrival at our hotel, there will always be plenty of time to rest, shower and enjoy a drink, before we sit down to a full 3 course evening meal.

During this trip the group will spend 6 nights in pensions. In Samokov and Bankso accommodation will be based on twin room sharing. In the Tevno Ezero mountain hut only dormitory accommodation is available. Sleeping bags are not required at the hut, as blankets are supplied, however you may wish to carry a sheet sleeping bag for this night. NB. Although the Rila and Pirin mountains have an extensive range of mountain huts we have deliberately chosen to use only one of these. The great majority of huts in Bulgaria offer only basic standards of accommodation, with washing and toilet facilities being particularly rudimentary, however the atmospheric location of the Tezno Ezero hut more than compensates for this. For 6 of the nights, single rooms are available for a supplementary cost (single rooms are not available at Tevno Ezero). Additional hotel nights in Sofia are also available. For Hotel prices and single supplement costs please refer to the dates and prices page of the trip on our website.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

Breakfasts are generally continental in style with a mixture of muesli, yoghurt, jams, honey, bread, cheese and ham, with occasional eggs, cucumber, tomato, tea and coffee.  Lunches will be a simple, but filling picnic lunch carried by the guide or shared amongst the group to carry each day.  They will usually consist of ham, cheese or tuna sandwiches with fruit and a cereal bar.  In the evening we will enjoy a three course meal which generally starts with a mixed salad followed by pork, chicken, beef with potatoes and vegetables cooked Bulgarian style.  Desserts may be ice cream, baklava, local cakes etc.  Vegetarian and other special diets can be catered for, although choices are usually limited but adequate.  All meals are included in the trip price but you may wish to buy additional snacks for the trekking day.  On most days we will come across a mountain hut where we can buy a hot or cold drink and light snacks.

All meals are included from Dinner on Day 1 to Breakfast on Day 8.

Approximately £75 - £100 (or equivalent in euros or dollars) should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses. We recommend that you carry your travel money in the form of currency rather than travellers cheques, since you will exchange the majority of this on the day of your arrival in Bulgaria. If you are intending to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly (credit cards can be useful in this respect). There are ATM’s at Sofia Airport, Samokov and Bansko. Note that the local currency is the Bulgarian Lev.

Professional, English speaking qualified Bulgarian Mountain Guide

Tipping is the accepted way of saying ‘thank you’ to your leader and local team. Tipping is entirely voluntary and should be dependent on good service. We advise you to tip as a group.

Baggage will be transported between overnight stops (except on Day 6) by the support vehicle.  A 35 litre rucksack should be adequate for the two day trek into the Pirin Mountains.  There is no weight restriction other than that imposed by your international carrier but we do ask you to limit your luggage to one piece plus your day pack.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday involves going to moderately high altitude. During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 2500 metres. Most people will have no difficulty with this level of altitude but before coming on the holiday, we recommend you read the advice on trekking at altitude on our website which can be viewed via the link below. You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude.

A passport with 3 months remaining validity is required. Passport holders from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any EU countries do not require a visa. Other nationalities should check with the respective consulate in their own country.

Whilst we keep our information up to date, you should be advised that visa requirements can change. It is recommended that you contact the relevant commission in case of recent amendments.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

You must bring the following items:

  • Hiking boots
  • Socks
  • Trekking trousers
  • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers
  • Underwear
  • Baselayer shirts
  • T-shirts and/or casual shirts
  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
  • Windproof/waterproof jacket
  • Warm jacket (down)
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Sunhat or cap
  • Eyewear-Sunglasses
  • Warm Hat
  • Daypack c.30 litres
  • Headtorch with batteries
  • Sun protection (including for lips)
  • Water bottles x2 1 Litre
  • Sleeping bag liner (for the night in the hut)
  • Washbag and toiletries
  • Small Towel
  • Antibacterial hand wash
  • Small padlock (to lock the trek bag)
  • Basic First Aid Kit including: Antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium) painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent (DEET), and re-hydration salts (Dioralite). Glucose tablets and multi-vitamin tablets are a good idea

The following items are optional:

  • Trekking poles
  • Gaiters
  • Training shoes / sneakers to travel in and for huts
  • Spare laces
  • Long johns (thermal underwear)
  • Shorts
  • Earplugs (Especially if you are not the one snoring)
  • Insect repellant – (DEET)
  • Camera, media, batteries
  • Travel clothes
  • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
  • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
  • NB. A via ferrata harness will be provided locally to all clients who wish to take part in the Marble Ridge traverse. This will be provided on the day of the walk to Marble Ridge (day 7) and will need to be carried in your own daypack for that day only. It will not take up much space, and will weigh a max 1.5kgs.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking or climbing trip getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. We would suggest that you adopt a weekly exercise regime leading up to your trip. Running, swimming and cycling are good for developing better stamina. Before departure, we suggest that you try to fit in a number of long walks in hilly country.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

From July to September the weather is generally very good. We can expect daytime, valley temperatures of between 18ºC and 28ºC in August, dropping to 12ºC to15ºC overnight. September and July temperatures can be a few degrees cooler. Temperatures will also be cooler at altitude, but usually very pleasant for mountain trekking. For our night at the Tevno Ezero hut, outside temperatures can be close to freezing. As with any mountain area there is the risk of some poor weather, with rain and wind. There is always the possibility of encountering occasional late lying snow in gullies, particularly in July. But we should encounter mainly clear and sunny days even in September. This area usually enjoys a very pleasant and stable climate in summer.

The Rough Guide to Bulgaria. Lonely Planet. Bulgaria. The Mountains of Bulgaria. Julian Perry (Limited descriptions of our route).

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