Hiking from the Rhodopes to the Seven Rila Lakes

About

This week-long hiking trip takes you through some of the most beautiful areas in the Rhodope and Rila mountains. From Plovdiv, the 2019 European Capital of Culture, to centuries-old monasteries and historic villages, to spectacular natural landmarks, among which are the Seven Rila Lakes and the Marvelous Bridges, it allows you to experience a bit of everything Bulgaria has to offer.

Highlights

• Explore the oldest living city in Europe – Plovdiv

• Visit the two largest monasteries in Bulgaria – Bachkovo and Rila monasteries

• Experience Bulgarian history and culture at scenic rural villages like Gela, Shiroka Laka and Orehovo

• See natural landmarks such as the incredible Seven Rila Lakes and the Marvelous Bridges

• Delve into the stunningly beautiful Trigrad Gorge and the nearby Yagodina cave

Description

Day 1

After your arrival in Sofia you, will be transferred by a bus to one of the oldest European cities and second largest in the country – Plovdiv. Situated on 7 unique syenite hills, it is a cultural, historical and touristic centre.

We’ll go sightseeing in the Old Town architectural reserve, including the Ancient Amphitheater, as well as a walk through one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe that is lined with boutiques, restaurants and cafes. The night will end with a traditional dinner at a Bulgaria restaurant.

Day 2

The day begins with a short transfer (20 min) to Asenovgrad and Asen’s Fortress, overlooking the city from the picturesque cliffs above it.

From here, we’ll be entering the Rhodope mountains. Bachkovo Monastery is only 10 minutes way by bus. It is the second largest monastery in Bulgaria, founded 1000 years ago. It takes an hour to reach the Marvelous Bridges (1450 m) – two natural rock bridges unique in size and beauty and towering over the Aidar Dere river, 1450 m above sea level amidst a pine forest. The size of the upper bridge is particularly imposing – 96 m long, with an impressive 43 by 45 m opening. The lower bridge is impassable, akin to a canyon in a cave. This is where our fairytale walk in the woods begins. The terrain around Skalni Mostove lodge becomes steeper towards Mezargidik Pass (1950 m) and the preserved parts of the ancient, almost 2000-year-old road. We’ll be following this road through the centuries old forests on the way to Persenk lodge. After a short break by the lodge, we’ll continue our moderate ascent towards Orehovo village, where we’ll be spending the night.

Day 3

This day begins with a transfer to the Shiroka Laka architectural reserve. After exploring it, we’ll be transferred to Gela village (10 min), where the day’s hike begins. After leaving Gela, we’ll begin a light descent down a dirt road in a south-west direction towards the Kikezite area. A short, steep path followed by a nearly even forest path takes us to the beautiful area around Lednitsata lodge. From there we leave the forest path behind us and head through an old pine forest and gorgeous flower meadows. This moderately steep route leads us up the mountain’s crest to the entrance of a small scenic pass. From there, we’ll begin a descent down the spacious meadows covering the slopes of mount Karlak – the tallest and largest summit in the area, with a peak reaching 2188 m above sea level. We soon leave the main road and we begin a steep descent towards Mugla village, passing by a spring, a small forest-covered valley and a stream with about 10 small waterfalls, through fields and meadows. It is as if time has stopped here centuries ago. From Mugla’s ancient wooden minaret onward, the route suddenly begins to get steeper towards the mountain crest. Past the crest, the path goes down to open meadows surrounded by hills in all directions. A soft grassy path leads to the Chairi Lakes protected area. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Rhodopes – small lakes with bogged islands, on a plateau wreathed by hills, all possessing a sort of untouched beauty. It is worth spending more time here. On this day the bus will not stay with the group.

Day 4

After leaving the Chairi lakes via a forest path between the lakes and along a collapsed bridge, we reach the Pierced Rock – a short picturesque tunnel. The road slopes gracefully through the black pines of the gorge of Chairska river. There are 11 km to the beginning of the Trigrad Gorge. From here on, the river valley narrows significantly, the slope becomes steeper and the route enters the most picturesque part of the Trigrad Gorge. The vertical cliffs are 8-10 m from each other and the path is carved into the cliff itself. After several dizzying turns, in the most narrow and deep up to 400 m part of the gorge, we’ll go out to a small parking lot at the entrance of the Devil’s Throat cave. We’ll enter the cave’s enormous chamber and see the 60 m tall underground waterfall. 1 km away from the cave is the village of Trigrad, from where we’ll go on a nice walk (2 km) down the forest road. This is followed by a modest climb (1,3 km) up the left slope of the gorge and a 6 km descent through a beautiful spruce forest and spacious meadows in the direction of Yagodina village. The view towards the surrounding canyons is breathtaking. Shortly before the village we cross a karst area dotted with ponors and whirpools and we start climbing to Mount St. Elijah, famous for its panoramic view and the vertical 600-meter-tall wall. From there we descend to the village and the place of accommodation.

Day 5

The day begins with a walk to the Yagodina cave, which has, along with its fantastic stalactites and stalagmites, so called “pearls” formed out of the minerals contained within drops of water that fall on small rocks. The cave is well laid out and is to be explored with a tour guide in small groups. After exploring it, we’ll be transferred to the largest monastery in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery. We will tour the monastery and then we continue with a transfer to the highest mountain on the Balkan Peninsula – Rila Mountain. We’ll spend the night in a cozy hut near the lift that will take us to the Seven Rila Lakes in the morning.

Day 6

Our morning starts with a short ride on the lift to the area of the Seven Rila Lakes, all named after the shape they resemble.

From the upper lift station starts a moderately steep path to the Kidney lake, followed by the Eye and the Tear. Along the way, we’ll get to enjoy the stunning beauty of the surrounding landscapes. The terrain is entirely alpine. From there we will climb to the Razdela saddle and to the nearby Vazov / Damga peak (2670 m), where the beautiful panorama of Urdini lakes and their deep valley. We return to the lift past the other lakes, where a short transfer to Sofia awaits.

Day 7

On our last day, with the time we have left, we’ll go on a short sightseeing trip around Sofia, followed by a drop-off at the airport.

Inclusions/ exclusions

The price includes

• Professional guide

• Transfers along the route

• Accommodation on a full board in hotels and mountain lodges along the way

Notes

Single rooms - +10€

This hiking trip requires a group of 4-15 people.

Bookings must be made a minimum of 1 month before the start of the trip.

540 €

per person

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Hiking

Starting point - Rila, Bulgaria

7 days

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Live tour guide available in English

Maxiumum number of participants - 15 people

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