Fly to Sofia. On arrival in the late afternoon we transfer 2 hours 45 minutes to our hotel in Bansko, an atmospheric mountain town at the gateway to the Pirin Mountains, which will be our base for the next few days.
Having hiked up the Demyanitsa Valley, we start a long steady climb which takes us first past the Vasilashki lakes, then two more small but beautifully formed lakes known as the 'Eyes of Todorka'. Eventually we cross over the high pass Todorina Porta (2,500m), an outstanding viewpoint, before descending steeply via the Bunderishki lakes to the Vihren hut where we will be picked up and driven on down to our base. Walking Time: 5-6 hours; Total Ascent: +1,200m; Total Descent: -650m.
Today we will attempt an ascent of Mt. Vihren (2,914m), the highest peak in the 'Pirin' National Park and the second highest in Bulgaria. Beginning from the Vihren hut, our walk takes us steadily up into the dramatic Golyam Kazan cirque which lies tucked in directly beneath Vihren's towering 400 metre high north wall. Here, as well as enjoying breathtaking mountain scenery, we can also find several beautiful endemic alpine flowers such as the delicate yellow 'Pirin Poppy'. From the cirque, a long exciting scramble takes us up white marble rocks to the summit, which on a clear day offers a wonderful panorama over the entire Pirin range. There follows a steep descent back down to our bus for the return to Bansko. Walking Time: 4-5 hours; Total Ascent: +1,000m; Total Descent: -1,000m.
Leaving Bansko, we transfer to the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as visiting the monastery itself, we will also have a pleasant walk in the surrounding forests which have been designated a nature park. During our walk we will have the chance to visit a couple of isolated chapels and a cave which are closely associated with the intriguing life story of St. Ivan Rilski, a local hermit who was to become the patron saint of Bulgaria. Walking Time: 1.5 hours; Total Ascent: +250m; Total Descent: -100m.
Whilst our luggage is transferred round the mountains by road, we make a long demanding trek through the heart of the Rila National Park. Our route leads us up and over one of the highest and most imposing ridges in the Rila Mountains. Finally rejoining our bus on the other side of the range, we transfer to our hotel. Walking Time: 7 hours; Total Ascent: +1,400m; Total Descent: -1,000m.
Today we explore the region at the head of the Malyovitsa Valley, and attempt an ascent of Mt. Malyovitsa (2,729m), one of the highest and most imposing peaks in this part of the Rila Mountains. The whole walk offers stunning views, as well as an opportunity to observe an interesting variety of typical alpine birds. Walking Time: 5-6 hours; Total Ascent: +1,000m; Total Descent: -1,000m.
Our goal for today is Mt. Musala (2,925m), the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula. To accomplish the ascent as a day walk, we will use the cabin-lift from Borovets which will take us up to a starting altitude of about 2,300m. The route to the summit is well-graded, winding up past a succession of sparkling glacial lakes around the shores of which one can find blooming the endemic 'Rila Primrose'. We then end the day with short 1 hour 30 minutes transfer to Sofia, where we will spend our final night. Walking Time: 5 hours; Total Ascent: +600m; Total Descent: -600m.
Fly back to London