All tours on this holiday have now departed. Future departure dates will be confirmed in due course.
Pirin Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site
Rila Monastery in the heart of the Rila National Park
8,000 year old Plovdiv
Charming traditional villages and towns – little changed for centuries
Glorious mountain and lake scenery
Our first ever tour to Bulgaria operated back in 2019 to an ecstatic response from our discerning clients, one of whom proclaimed that “The holiday exceeded our expectations in every respect. Our tour manager Angela and our local guide, Vesala were both exceptional.” Our local agent did such a superb job in looking after our guests that when they suggested a walking tour to sit alongside our existing range of walking tours, we sat up, listened and said yes. A combination of charming towns and villages, superb, welcoming hospitality and glorious mountain and lake scenery seemed to us to be a winning formula. This delightful tour is the result, combining a smattering of cultural sightseeing with beautiful hikes in the spectacular countryside, all led by an experienced mountain guide – and offering remarkable value for money.
Day 1: Fly from London Heathrow to Sofia. On arrival, transfer by coach to Koprivshtitsa (approx. two hours) for a two-night stay. Koprivshtitsa (population: 2 400) is a charming, historic town, situated at an altitude of 1030 m. in the Sredna Gora Mountains. Welcome drink and dinner at the hotel.
Day 2: Koprivshtitsa
A morning walk in the vicinity of Koprivshtitsa will introduce you gently to the rigours of walking in this beautiful and hilly region with a climb of some 1071 metres in altitude over the course of this 7-mile walk. After free time for lunch, (not included) we will explore the town of Koprivshtitsa in the afternoon. It was one of the main centres of the heroic April 1876 Uprising against the Ottoman rule and renowned for its authentic Bulgarian National Revival architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. Collections of ethnographical treasures, old weapons, National Revival works of art, fine fretwork, household weaves and embroidery, national costumes and typical Bulgarian jewellery are displayed in several impressive house-museums. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 3: Koprivshtitsa – Starossel – Plovdiv
This morning we drive to the village of Starossel to walk in the gentle slopes of the Sredna Gora Mountain (approx. 6 miles with altitude gain of 350m). The area is known as the “Valley of the Thracian kings” because of the many relics of this unique ancient civilization that have been found here. After the walk and time for lunch (not included) we will visit the ancient Thracian Temple of Starossel, a beautiful and well-preserved example of Thracian architecture dating back to the 5th century BC, believed to have been the burial place of Sitalkes - a Thracian ruler. The temple sits on a lush green hill with views over the countryside for miles around. A wine tasting at a local winery will refresh us before continuing by coach to Plovdiv for an overnight stay with dinner.
Day 4: Plovdiv – Avramovo – Ortsevo – Bankso
A very full day today, starting this morning when we will explore Plovdiv. Bulgaria’s second largest city, arguably its prettiest and Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited, dating back to 7,000BC, the city’s status has been recognised with its appointment as European City of Culture in 2019. Its historic quarter boasts beautifully decorated period houses, ancient fortress walls, a Roman forum, theatre and stadium and magnificent churches. We then head south west by coach to the village of Avramovo (approx. 2 hours) in the Rhodope Mountains to commence today’s walk of approximately 6 miles (300m of altitude). We walk up to the village of Ortsevo and enjoy one of the most scenic villages in the Rhodopes with a breath taking view of the northern slopes of the Pirin Mountains. We then transfer to Bansko a famous historic town with an imposing church, a charming old quarter with many houses from the Bulgarian Revival period and narrow cobbled streets as well as several museums. It is also renowned for its numerous (over 120) traditional Bulgarian restaurants, called “mehana” where one can enjoy the delicious local cuisine and sample some excellent Bulgarian wines. It has recently developed as the largest ski resort in Bulgaria, thanks to its scenic location at the foot of the magnificent Pirin Mountains and the Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 5: Bansko – Gotse Delchev Hut – Bezbog Hut – Popovo Lake – Gotse Delchev Hut – Bansko
This morning we transfer to Gotse Delchev Hut (1412 m above sea level) and take the chair lift to Bezbog Hut (2236 m. above sea level) located close to the beautiful Bezbog Lake in the heart of the Pirin National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here we will enjoy a spectacularly scenice circular hike to Popovo Lake, the largest and deepest lake in the Pirin Mountains, with a charming island in the middle (approx. 4.5 miles with 200m altitude) . From here we return by chairlift down to Gotse Delchev Hut and back to Bansko for dinner and overnight.
Day 6: Bansko – Rila Monastery – Separeva Banya
This morning we transfer by coach to Rila Monastery - Bulgaria’s largest and most beautiful monastery and one of the oldest in Europe, set in the picturesque Rila Mountains. The cloister is a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited place by both foreign and local tourists in the country. Behind its 20-metre-high walls, giving it the impression of a fortress, lie impressive monastic buildings, a church and a chapel with remarkable wall paintings. It was founded in the 10th century by John of Rila (Ivan Rilski), a hermit and mystic who was canonized as a saint after his death. Destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it was built in its present form by Bulgarian master builders between 1816 and 1847, creating an exquisite architectural ensemble with stunning decoration with its size and skilful combination of stone and wood. Its frescoes are breath taking and the decoration of the exterior ceilings is incredibly well preserved and highly detailed. After visiting the monastery, we walk to the grave of St John of Rila (approx. 2 miles) before continuing by coach to Separeva Banya with a brief stop en-route to walk to the sandstone Stob Pyramids. Dinner and overnight in the Separeva area.
Day 7: Separeva – Rila Lakes – Sofia
This moring we transfer to Pionerska Hut (1520m), to take the chair lift to the Rila Lakes hut (2135 m.). From here a circular walk of 6 miles (400m of climbing) will take in the seven glacial lakes set amidst towering peaks. From “the Tear,” the highest lake at an altitude of 2,535m, there are stunning panoramic views over all the lakes, Mount Vitosha and the Balkans in the distance. Returning by chairlift to Pionerska Hut, we continue by bus to Sofia for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Sofia
Before flying home, we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, with a population of 1.3 million people and a history that stretches over seven millennia. It is one of the most ancient cities in Europe, but with continuous additions and amendments including the Soviet era that define its current appearance - “Ever growing never aging” is the city’s motto. Sights include the Roman Serdika Fortifications (Sofia oldest preserved building), 4th century St. George’s Rotunda, famous for its original structure and unique frescoes, Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, The National Assembly and Church of St. Sophia. It enjoys a vibrant outdoor life too, with open-air cafés, busy markets and attractive parks and gardens. Finally we transfer to the airport for the return flight to London Heathrow.
PLEASE NOTE: Exact order of days and walk content may vary according to local weather and conditions. As this tour is in mountainous terrain, please note that appropriate footwear and walking poles are recommended.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 15 passengers.
NB. Your Guide - A specialist mountain guide will accompany the group throughout the tour – from arrival at Sofia to drop off on the last day. All arrangements are made in conjunction with specialist local agency, Rila Travel, whose motto “Routes designed with Love” sums up their exceptional approach to customer care.
Accommodation throughout will be at small family 3-star hotels on dinner, bed and breakfast basis. All have a restaurant and lounge with comfortable bedrooms with private facilities, and, most importantly, a very warm welcome. In rural areas, expect cosy and comfortable rather than sleek and stylish! Hotels confirmed as follows (or similar):
Koprivshtitsa – Hotel Panorama - 2 nights
Cosy family-run hotel in the centre of town
Plovdiv – Hotel Dafi - 1 night
Modern, small three-star hotel in the centre of the city, very close to the old town
Bansko - Hotel Chichin - 2 nights
Traditional family-run hotel in the centre of the resort with hot tub and small indoor pool.
Separeva Banya/Panichishte – Hotel Emaly - 1 night
Traditional family-run hotel in the centre of the resort with hot tub and small indoor pool.
Sofia – Family hotel Zdravets – 1 night
Small, family hotel in the Simeonovo district
Included 3 course lunch was nice but unnecessary as we had a 3 course dinner in the evening. Would have been nice to spend a bit more time in Plovdiv. On occasions the tour seemed rather rushed.
Review by Anonymous who travelled 19-June-2022
3 nights from £899View
7 nights from £1425View
6 nights from £1299View
6 nights from £1450View