At the summit of Mount Musala 2925m, Bulgaria's highest peak

High Peaks of Bulgaria

8 days
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£979
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4.6 / 5 from 17 reviews >
Challenging
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Trip code: 
TVB
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Walking & Trekking Holidays
Min age:
18
Group size:
5–16

Ascend Bulgaria's two highest peaks

South-western Bulgaria is dominated by two dramatic mountain ranges, the Pirin and the equally imposing Rila.

We begin in the Pirin Mountains, trekking across glacial moraines and high passes and attempting an ascent of Mt Vihren. Moving on to the Rila Mountains, we visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then cross the mountain range, through ancient forests to the glacial lakes for which these mountains are famed. We conclude by summiting Musala, the highest peak in south-eastern Europe, before returning to Sofia.

Highlights

  • Ascend Bulgaria's two highest peaks
  • Enjoy the well-preserved flora and fauna of the 'Pirin' and 'Rila' National Parks, with varied birdlife, brown bear, wolves and a wealth of alpine flowers.
  • Visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Sample Bulgaria's tasty national cuisine and outstanding regional wines.
  • Trip can be combined with Bulgaria: Rodolpi Mountains (TDB)

Key information

  • 7 nights in comfortable tourist-class hotels offering twin rooms with private facilities 
  • 6 days walking 
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 18 yrs
  • Altitude maximum 2925m, average 2000m
  • Travel by private minibus

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 5 dinners included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfers for group flights

 

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visa's and Vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

5

Pace:

Approximately 5-8 hours walking per day

Terrain:

Low altitude; including steep, rocky terrain

Day by day breakdown
Day 115.0km/9.3miles
Day 28.0km/5.0miles
Day 34.0km/2.5miles
Day 422.0km/13.7miles
Day 512.0km/7.5miles
Day 612.0km/7.5miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Hike across the Todrina Porta pass (2500m) via Vasilashki and Bandersihki lakes.

    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. This evening dinner is not included, leaving you free to choose your own place to eat from the many traditional inns and restaurants in the town

    Walking Time: 5-6 hours; Distance: 15km. Total Ascent: +1,200m; Total Descent: -650m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 2

    Ascent of Mt. Vihren (2914m), the highest peak in the Pirin Mountains.

    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 directly beneath Vihren's towering 400 metre high north wall. Here, as well as enjoying breath-taking 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. Once again this evening's dinner is not included, leaving you free to choose your own place to eat.



    Walking Time: 5-6 hours; Distance: 8km. Total Ascent: +1,000m; Total Descent: -1,000m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 3

    Visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walk in the surrounding nature reserve.

    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. Our accommodation for this night will be a hotel conveniently located in the beautiful Rilska Reka valley, just a short drive from the Monastery

    Walking Time: 1½ hours; Distance: 4km. Total Ascent: +250m; Total Descent: -100m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Panoramic hike through the heart of the Rila Mountains.

    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 in the small village of Govedartsi, where we will be based for two nights.

    Walking Time: 8 hours; Distance: 22km. Total Ascent: +1,400m; Total Descent: -1,000m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Ascent of Mt Malyovitsa (2729m).

    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. We then return to our hotel in Govedartsi for a second night.

    Walking Time: 6-7 hours; Distance: 12km. Total Ascent: +1,000m; Total Descent: -1,000m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Ascent of Mt Musala (2925m); transfer to Sofia.

    Having checked out of our hotel, 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 a short 90 minute transfer to Sofia, where we will spend our final night.

    Walking Time: 6 hours; Distance: 12km. Total Ascent: +600m; Total Descent: -600m.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Fly to London.

    Fly back to London

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Bulgaria

Visas are not required for Bulgaria for British and other EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities.

Vaccinations

Bulgaria

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 5 dinners are included in this trip.

Breakfast will usually include tea or coffee, bread, jam, honey and cheese, yoghurt and traditional local specialities such as thick pancakes known as 'katmi' and a rice-based dish called 'rodopski klin'.

 Most days lunches will be packed. Consisting of bread, cheese, salami, hard boiled eggs, salads, fruit and biscuits. The evening meals will either be taken at the hotels or local restaurants and will consist of typical Bulgairan cuisine.

On two evenings whilst in Bansko, dinners have not been included to offer you the opportunity to choose your own place to eat from the many traditional inns and restaurants that are available in the town.

Vegetarians and Vegans: Bulgaria is famed for its fresh vegetables and fruit, so vegetarians are usually well catered for. However, it is extremely difficult for vegans, as dairy produce and eggs form the staple part of the diet in this region, and occur in the vast majority of meals. Therefore we recommend that you bring some supplementary items.

Weather

Summer days are usually warm and sunny, with a refreshing mountain breeze that moderates temperatures. But please note that changeable weather and cold temperatures can be encountered at any time, especially at high altitude. Occasionally during summer there are sudden short violent storms, which may force a minor amendment to the itinerary; however, these then often herald a prolonged period of settled weather.

Is this trip for you?

This trek has been specifically designed to provide a strenuous walking holiday in remote and largely untouched landscapes that offer broad vistas and immense scenic variety. The route is Grade 5 as the walking is rugged, frequently attains altitudes above 2500m and climbs some of the highest peaks on the Balkan Peninsula.

Many days are challenging, involving steep and often sustained ascents and descents, with between 5 to 8 hours walking. The terrain is typically rough and rocky, and frequently involves crossing moraines and boulders, with the occasional easy scramble.

The trip is ideally suited to those who relish the challenges and beauty of a wilderness environment, yet prefer to sleep in a comfortable hotel bed at night and experience the culture and cuisine of a fascinating area. Overnight stays will be in hotels at the foot of the mountains and on most days a short transfers in our own private bus will take us to the start and finish of the walks. 7 days walking with vehicle support; altitude maximum 2,925m; average 2,000m.

NB: Exodus also offers a lighter 8-day centre-based walking holiday in the Rodopi Mountains (Trip Code: TDB). On some dates it is possible to combine the two trips to make a fantastic 15-day itinerary. Ask a member of our sales team for details.

Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

You will spend 7 nights in comfortable tourist-class hotels offering twin rooms with private facilities. The hotels are 2 to 3 star in the Bulgarian system of classification, but rooms are fresh and clean.

Single accommodation not available.

Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed September 2017
    Phil McLean

    High Peaks of Bulgaria, August 2017

    This was my first group walking holiday and I am pleased to say it exceeded my expectations. The itinerary for the trip is excellent, including a couple of peaks I knew I wanted to visit (Vihren and Musala) and several other walks I would probably not have stumbled across and which were all really enjoyable. The walk up Malyovitsa was a particular highlight, and the preceding day crossing the Rila mountains was also stunning. Overall there was a nice variety of scenery and types of walking (forests, lakes, valleys, ridges, plateaux) and a nice 'flow' to the week's itinerary as we moved from one area to the next. I enjoyed not having to think about logistics and simply enjoy the walking and the company of the group. The hotels were all very pleasant and we were very lucky with some superb weather too!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's hard to pick one single highlight but the views from the summits of Vihren and Malyovitsa were superb.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vladimir was a truly excellent guide - unwaveringly enthusiastic, sociable, and knowledgeable!
  • Reviewed September 2016
    Richard Broughton

    Great walking holiday

    This was a great walking holiday in mountains that were not busy or developed in the same way of the alps. There was no technical climbing, but some scrambling and even rocky paths. The days were long, but with bus support we did not have to camp so could shower and relax in the evening.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The final ascent of Vihren was very impressive with a huge limestone summit that looked spectacular in the sun.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader was excellent both on and off the mountain.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Whilst all the paths can be walked, the rocks require concentration to not slip over. The days are long particularly the ridge walk which ends with an added forest walk to the nearest road.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Perhaps spend another day in Sofia, as the group flight was very early and I enjoyed the city.
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Martin Maley

    Amazing panoramas, head earned.

    A great week with long days rewarded with amazing vistas and sweeping panoramas.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Reaching the top after a 1400m ascent on a 22km day. Tough, but ooooh so rewarding!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Maria was excellent. Well organised, very safety conscious (counting her "ducklings" at regular intervals to make sure all was well) and aware Of the differing speeds and technical ability of the group. All one would wish for in a leader. Possibly would have benefitted from the presence of an assistant. Marshalling 15 people of varying abilities in such harsh terrain seemed a stretch to me.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are well prepared and fit. The advertised walking times were always exceeded by at least an hour and a half so prepare for long slow ascents and arguably over hasty descents to compensate for the time "lost."

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip summary on the website states six dinners are included (whilst the detailed notes say five) it is in fact five so you will have an extra dinner to pay for if you relied on the summary. Bulgaria however is inexpensive so this whilst irksome ( especially as it has gone unaddressed for several trips) is not a material calamity.
  • Reviewed September 2015
    Philip Hogsflesh

    Bulgarian National Parks

    One of the best weeks walking in mountains we have experienced. The scenery was breathtaking. The people were extremely friendly. The walking was challenging and very rewarding. We will remember the summit days of Mount Vihren, Mount Malyovitsa and Mount Musala for a long time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The summit days of Mount Vihren, Mount Malyovitsa and Mount Musala were exceptional walking days. They were challenging but very rewarding.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vladimir was an excellent group leader. He had a comprehensive knowledge of the mountains and was clearly very proud of his country.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you train for day after day of hill walking for this trip and that you have a high level of fitness for this holiday. We walk regularly walk in the Lakeland fells and we found the walking challenging, especially the summit days.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It would be really good if Exodus did a follow up week of other Bulgarian mountains and ridge walks. The mountain scenery is breathtaking and we would like to experience more of it.
  • Reviewed August 2015
    John Muir

    Bulgarian National Parks

    Great walking with a great group of people.Vlademir lead the group very well, keeping everyone involved. His extensive knowledge of local sights & customs kept us all informed throughout the holiday. Loved the traditional Bulgarian hotels. The movement from place to place was well organised & Vlademir ensured we kept to a tight schedule. We were also blessed with great weather apart from a couple of hours on the seven lakes walk when we were bombarded with hail & thunder.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Reaching the mountain summits Vihren & Musalla.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent . Could not have been better.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit enough before booking this holiday. My fellow group members were all walking enthusiasts so this kept us all together.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Superb holiday. Magical scenery.
  • Reviewed October 2014
    Anonymous

    Bulgarian National Parks

    I have been on plenty of holidays like this one and this was one of the best. I was on the same trip as Beth and Penny who have also posted reviews and I echo what they have said. We were blessed with good weather, a group that worked well together and an excellent leader.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    This is a trip with plenty of highlights.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valdimir has quiet, calm, professionalism about him and that makes him one of the best leaders I have come across. Taking a group of 16 people with ages ranging from mid-20's to mid-60's into the mountains can be tricky. He set a pace which kept us moving but equally kept us together as a single group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be well prepared! The trip is marked as grade 5, Challenging and that is a fair grading. Each day had separate challenges, and mountain weather can be variable at the best of times. Make sure you take plenty of food up the mountain as there are some long days when it's necessary to keep the energy levels up. Always carry extra clothing and waterproofs.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Having read the review posted in July 2013 which comments about the lack of time in Sofia, I arranged to stay in Sofia an extra night and fly home independently (with easyJet) the next day. As well as saving myself a 4am alarm call it meant I was able join a Walking Tour of the city. This was a great way to see and find out about the city.
  • Reviewed September 2014
    Beth Barnes

    Fantastic hiking

    This was an excellent Exodus trip. Each hike was beautiful and challenging. It was interesting to hike two different mountain ranges; though unique, they both had stunning scenery and good trails. The Bulgarian food was good, and Vladimir our leader was superb. If you’re reasonably fit and love to hike, you can’t go wrong with this choice. This was our 4th Exodus trip and we had a wonderful time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Wednesday was the toughest day, 22km with 1400m elevation gain. It was long and steady - totally manageable. Getting to the high point of the ridge that day after almost 4 hours of ascent was very rewarding. And it was awesomely beautiful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vladimir was the best leader we've ever had. He was fun, knowledgeable, caring and organized. He managed the group so well, keeping the perfect pace for everyone.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We had participants from the ages of mid-20s to mid-60s. Everyone was fit and all were fine with the challenge. The trip was great because no one was falling behind. Be ready for a challenging week.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Bulgaria is a beautiful country and this trip was fantastic.
  • Reviewed August 2014
    Penny Daffarn

    Bulgarian National Parks

    A weeks hard core walking in the beautiful Bulgarian mountains, bagging peaks and soaking up amazing views.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    This week was full of highlights and it would be crazy to try to single out only one. Every peak conquered was a huge achievement and every view spectacular!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Over the years of Exodus travel we always expect the leaders to be exceptional and Vladimir is up there with the best. He loves his country and is knowledgable and keen to share all aspects of it with the group. He was very patient, never stressed or anxious and always happy to 'go the extra mile' with any request or problem. A really nice guy he has a story about every lake and mountain top, almost every one involved a beautiful girl from Bansko!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is not a walk in the park! Make sure you are really fit. The days are long and the walks are usually steady steep climbs, some scrambling, boulder bouncing and some narrow edges. And of course what goes up must come down, so if you've got dodgy knees......! But it is all doable and the rewards are there, fabulous views and a huge sense of achievement!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    As usual in the mountains, be prepared for hot and cold and wet, you will need the full range of kit, waterproofs, hat and gloves, sun cream, etc. It's a fabulous holiday, go for it!
  • Reviewed July 2013
    Anonymous

    BULGARIAN NATIONAL PARKS

    It has been three years since my last Exodus trip and this one reminded me of what I had missed. Great accomodation, lots of quality chunky walks, pleasant group and outstanding leader. Able to relax in evenings. Holiday as well as a challenge. Met friendly people everywhere.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Enjoyed the penultimate walk especially winding up through several lakes over snow to peak. Surprised by good quality of hotels. Also managed to see the final set of Wimbledon after walk(avoiding the stress of the first two sets!) in hotel restaurant. The Bulgarians were accomodating of our enthusiasm.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Competent,organised ,charismatic and likeable. Introduced us to Bulgarian culture in imaginative way. Won`t spoil it for others by telling his stories!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I was anticipating searing hot temperatures but the mountain walks were reasonably cool(some snow about) which was a blessing for ascent. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Only reservation was missing a quick tour of Sofia at the end due to half the group being on early flight. The final hotel was upmarket but unfortunately some of us didn`t get to enjoy it as we left 4am.
  • Reviewed October 2012
    Anonymous

    BULGARIAN NATIONAL PARKS

    Great leader. Very tough walking but accomadation great, so would recommend separate gradeing of walking and accomadation.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    5 mountain tops in 7 days!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be aware that walking is long days in hot conditions. Accomadation and food great but good level of fitness required.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Enjoy trip with great group. Our leader was brilliant and great fun with good local knowledge. Our driver was allways on time and drove very carefully. Accomadation was good with plenty of nice local food. Local food and drink also resonable priced.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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