Bulgaria

High Peaks of Bulgaria Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
Destinations:
Bulgaria
Programmes:
Walking & Trekking
Trip Code:
TVB
Activity Rating - Challenging
Challenging

You have a good level of fitness and are looking for a physically challenging holiday.  Previous experience is essential for activity based trips.

8 Days Flight Inclusive
8 Days Land only
Ages: 18+

Trip Overview

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 (2914m). Moving on to the Rila Mountains, we visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then cross the mountain range, through ancient forests to the glacial lakes for which these mountains are famed. We conclude by summiting Musala (2925m), the highest peak in south-eastern Europe, before returning to Sofia.

At a Glance

  • 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
  • Trip can be combined with Bulgaria: Rodopi Mountains (TDB)

Trip 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

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 Activity Level 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. 6 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. 

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Adult min age:
18
Min group size:
6
Max group size:
16

Itinerary

Map TVB

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Bansko

    For those not on the group flight, we recommend that you time your arrival to join the group transfer from Sofia Airport, as the journey time is 2.5hrs and a private transfer will be costly. 

    In the evening our guide will hold a welcome briefing and discuss the week ahead and answer any questions. 

    Molerite Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Dinner
  • Day 2

    Hike 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.

    Molerite Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 15 km / 9.3 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    1200
    Total descent (m):
    650
    Activity (hours):
    6
  • Day 3

    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.

    Molerite Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 8 km / 5 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    1000
    Total descent (m):
    1000
    Activity (hours):
    5
  • Day 4

    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.

    Hotel Gorski Kut or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 4 km / 2.5 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    250
    Total descent (m):
    100
    Activity (hours):
    1.5
  • Day 5

    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.

    Family Hotel Djambazki or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 22 km / 13.7 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    1400
    Total descent (m):
    1000
    Activity (hours):
    8
  • Day 6

    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. 

    Family Hotel Djambazki or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 12 km / 7.5 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    1000
    Total descent (m):
    1000
    Activity (hours):
    6
  • Day 7

    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.

    Boutique Hotel Crystal Palace or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 12 km / 7.5 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    600
    Total descent (m):
    600
    Activity (hours):
    6
  • Day 8

    End Sofia

    Our tour ends after breakfast.

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

All ascents, descents and distances listed above have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders. Please note that different GPS measuring devices can give differing results dependent on the barometric pressures at the time. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter.

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 clean and comfortable. Single accommodation is not available on this trip.

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single will only guarantee a room for single use. It does not necessarily mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Please note that a member of the group may be allocated a single room by default if the make-up of the group means there isn’t anyone for them to share with. Paying the supplement in advance is the only way to guarantee a single room.

Single supplements cannot be refunded retrospectively.

Single supplement from £200.00

Food & Transport

Eating & 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 Bulgarian 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.

Please note, special gluten-free products are not available, so those clients with wheat/gluten intolerance should, if needed, bring with them something to replace the local bread and pastries that make up the breakfasts and picnic lunches

Transportation

A private minibus will be used for all transport throughout the week. The roads in this area are typically small and winding mountain lanes, occasionally with rough surfaces. Journey's aren't too long and take in wonderful mountain vistas.

Weather & Seasonality

Weather Information

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.

Weather Charts

Joining Instructions

Travelling flight inclusive from London: 8 days

We normally use the scheduled services of Bulgaria Air (depending on availability). As flight timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed
until approximately two weeks before departure.

There are alternative flight options from regional airports (Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester…) Please ask our Sales team for more information. 

Travelling land only: 8 days starting and ending at Sofia Airport

The start point for this trip is difficult to reach on your own, as our hotel is approximately 2hrs 45mins drive from the airport and is difficult to reach by public transport. The best option would be to order a taxi to Hotel Molerite from the 'O.K. Supertrabs' taxi booking stand in the airport arrivals hall. A taxi will cost approx £120. The hotel is situated in the centre of the town, please make staff aware that you are part of the Exodus group on arrival. With this in mind we strongly advise you to join the group
at the airport in Sofia, please note that this must be arranged with our office in advance.
Group flights are with Bulgarian Air, they and BA fly into Terminal 2. Low cost airlines fly into Terminal 1, if you fly with one of these carriers you will have to transfer to the other Terminal to join the group.

Regional Flights

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Airport transfers are included for those on the group flights. Please note that transfers are not included for clients arriving on any other flight, even if Exodus has booked it. Those arriving from London on non‐group flights should read the Travelling Land Only section above for information on reaching the start point. Please check with the Exodus office.

Location start:
Sofia Airport
Location end:
Sofia Airport

What to Take

Essential Equipment

  • Day rucksack 
  • Comfortable walking boots (leather or synthetic as long as they are waterproof and have good ankle support and soles)
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Warm jacket/jumper
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Large water bottle
  • Swimming costume (one of the hotels has a pool)

Optional Equipment

  • Trekking poles - optional but recommended
  • Gaiters

Water sources in the Bulgarian mountains are generally good, and the choice of whether or not to purify drinking water is left to the clients' discretion. Those who wish to purify their water should bring their own supply of purification tablets.

Plastic sandwich boxes are useful for picnic lunches and are much more environmentally responsible than simply putting food into new plastic bags every day.

Please note, bathrooms in Bulgaria are typically 'wet rooms' without shower cabins and their floors often remain damp; it is therefore very useful to take a pair of flip-flops with you.

We believe in reducing our negative environmental impacts wherever possible, this goes for when you need to spend a penny in the great outdoors! If no facilities are available there may come a time when you need to go to the loo behind a tree/bush/rock. To avoid leaving toilet paper behind we recommend taking biodegradable dog poo/sandwich bags with you. Once you have done your business you can pop the used toilet roll in here and take it off the mountain or trail at the end of the day and dispose of it when there are appropriate facilities available. 

Practical Information

Passport

Bulgaria

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Visa

Bulgaria

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

There are no specific health risks on this trip.

Ticks are known to be present in this region and can carry Lyme disease, Tick-Borne Encephalitis and other diseases. Please take care to protect yourself. You can read more about ticks here.

Vaccination

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.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

As we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

UK-issued European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) are still valid and offer the same cover as GHICs in the EU. This gives you medical care at a reduced cost, and in some cases for free, in many European countries, but should not be considered a substitute for adequate insurance. Once your EHIC has expired, you’ll be able to replace it with a GHIC.

Local Time

Bulgaria's Timezone:
Europe/Sofia EEST (GMT +03:00)

Electricity

Bulgaria's Electricity:

European plug ‐ 2 round pins. 230 Volts AC.

Standard European adapter required.

Money

Bulgaria's Currency

The national currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN), with an exchange rate at the time of publication (August 2017) of approximately 2.2 to the GBP,  1.7 to the USD, 1.3 to the CAD, 1.9 to the EUR, 1.3 to the AUD and 1.2 to the NZD.

 

ATM Availability

With little or no opportunity to use credit cards and traveller’s cheques on this trip, it is recommended you obtain local Bulgarian currency for all purchases and expenditures. There are ATM machines available in the arrivals hall at Sofia Airport, and also in Bansko. If you decide to obtain Bulgarian currency in your home country before departure, it is advisable to request as small denomination notes as possible. Shops and restaurant in Bulgaria rarely have much in the way of small change and often refuse to accept larger denomination notes.

Euros will not be accepted.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Typical extra expenses are likely to be the free evening meal in Bansko, additional snacks and drinks, postcards, souvenirs and maps. The equivalent of about £100 (approx. US$160) changed into local Bulgarian currency should be sufficient to cover all these extras.

Tipping

If you receive good service it is customary to tip staff in Bulgaria in appreciation of their help and friendliness, although this is in no way compulsory and is entirely at your own discretion. If you do wish to leave a tip for the driver and leader at the end of the trip, then for the driver we recommend you budget about 10 EUR per person for the week, and for your leader a tip of around 30 EUR per person for the week is suggested.

The Todrina Pass, Rodopi Mountains

Responsible Tourism

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… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

 

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE – STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.