Strap on your snowshoes and make your way through two Bulgarian national parks full of independent massifs separated by deep gorges and mountain passes. This tour winds through southwestern Bulgaria for a truly authentic experience of snowy wilderness, traditional cuisine, and local hospitality.

Highlights

  • Snowshoe in two national parks
  • Hike the Seven Rila Lakes area – a natural symbol of Bulgaria
  • Visit the UNESCO-certified Rila Monastery Orthodox Sanctuary
  • Enjoy a folklore performance by Doburski Babi
  • Indulge in traditional, homemade cuisine
  • Stay in family-run accommodations

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Bulgaria! Sofia
Day 2 Vitosha: the home mountains of Sofia Govedartsi
Day 3 Rila Mountains: the valley of the Bulgarian Matterhorn Govedartsi
Day 4 Rila Mountains: the Seven Rila Lakes and spa Govedartsi
Day 5 Rila Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) Gorno Draglishte
Day 6 Pirin Mountains: Bezbog & Popovo Glacial Lakes Gorno Draglishte
Day 7 Pirin Mountains: Mt. Vihren & the oldest tree in Bulgaria Gorno Draglishte
Day 8 Transfer to Sofia   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Bulgaria!

Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski in Sofia

Welcome to the Balkans! When you arrive in Sofia - Bulgaria's capital city - head to your three-star hotel to settle in. If you arrive early enough in the day, start your Bulgarian adventure with a walking tour of Sofia's city center with its numerous cathedrals, churches, and rotundas. Enjoy dinner in one of Sofia's many traditional restaurants, serving up dishes like banitsa (traditional pastries filled with feta-esque cheeses and veggies), kebapche grilled sausages, or the very simple, very local shopska salata salad.

Day 2: Vitosha - Sofia's home mountains

Edit caption

Strap on your snowshoes and head into the Vitosha Mountains to explore the higher parts of the massif and the open plateau above Aleko - one of two reserve areas of the mountain. Expect sweeping, wide open views of Sofia, Stara Planina to the north, and the Rila Mountains to the south. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous? Hike to Vitosha's highest peak - Mt. Cheni Vruh - over 7500 feet (2290m) above sea level. When you're done hiking, board your transfer vehicle and head to the village of Govedartsi in the northern foothills of the Rila Mountains.

Snowshoeing time: 4 - 5 hours

Day 3: Rila Mountains - the valley of the Bulgarian Matterhorn

Edit caption

Start today's hike in the valley of the Malyovitsa River, where the rocky peak of the region's most famous mountain rises jagged into the air. They call it Bulgaria's Matterhorn for good reason, so don't forget your camera. Depending on the day's weather conditions, you can choose your own adventure: make your way to the mountain hut Malyovitsa and then descend to Dears Lake, or head to Rujdavitsa Ridge and Yonchevo Glacial Lake.

Snowshoeing time: 3 - 6 hours

Day 4: Rila Mountains - the Seven Rila Lakes (and a spa)

Rila National Park

Spend your fourth day in Bulgaria exploring the region of the Seven Rila Lakes and Skakavitsa Waterfalls, a roaring waterfall in summer and famous climbing area in winter. Start with a ride on a chairlift from the Panichishte area high into the mountains (at an altitude of 6,890 feet or 2,100 meters). From there, take the circular trail to the Seven Rila Lakes. At the fifth lake (Kidney Lake), take a detour to the Skakavitsa Waterfalls and a nearby mountain hut where hot drinks and snacks await.

Circle back to Panichishte and transfer to the nearby town of Separeva Banya - famous for its hot mineral springs. The only geyser in continental Europe is located here. Take some time to relax at the spa and wellness facilities before enjoying another traditional dinner and transferring back to Govedartsi.

Snowshoeing time: 3 - 6 hours

Day 5: Rila Monastery (UNESCO) & traditional folklore

Edit caption

In the morning, make your way to the Rila Monastery - the largest and most important Christian Orthodox Monastery in Bulgaria. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex consists of a main church, Medieval stone tower, bakery, and several museums. Explore the complex, then head into the forest above the monastery for a short walk to a cave where the monastery's founder - St. John from Rila, also known as Ivan Rilski - lived in seclusion for seven years. In the afternoon, transfer to the village of Gorno Draglishte - located between the Rila and Pirin Mountains - your home base for the next three nights. Enjoy a folklore show with traditional songs and dances, as well as an exceptional dinner prepared by a chef who is a member of the slow food movement.

Snowshoeing time: 1.5 - 3 hours

Day 6: Pirin Mountains: Bezbog & Popovo Glacial Lakes

Edit caption

Welcome to the Pirin Mountains! Start your day with a visit to a Medieval church famous for its frescoes and a transfer to Gotse Delchev above the village of Dobrinishte, where you'll find a chairlift waiting to take you high into the mountains. Begin today's snowshoe hike at the Bezbog Glacial Lake and make your way south to another glacial lake along the Popovoezeren Glacial Lakes Circuit. Your final destination is a small, scenic valley surrounded by Alpine peaks that tower above 8,500 feet (2,600m). Or, if you're feeling adventurous and the weather conditions are favorable, you can extend your hike to the top of Mt. Bezbog. In the afternoon, make your way to Dobrinishte where hot spring mineral baths and a traditional Bulgarian dinner offer the perfect ending to an active day.

Snowshoeing time: 4 - 6 hours

Day 7: Pirin Mountains: Mt. Vihren & the oldest tree in Bulgaria

Edit caption

Start today's snowy amble through the mountains in the Bunderitsa area and make your way to a 1,300-year-old pine tree - one of the oldest trees on the Balkan Peninsula. Continue further into the valley to snowshoe around the glacial lakes of Ribno Banderishko, Jabeshko, and Dulgo - all surrounded by snow-capped, jagged peaks. For something more challenging, weather permitting, head higher into the mountains, ascending the highest peak in Pirin: Mt. Vihren. Finally, circle back to the trailhead, transfer to Bansko town, stop for a short walking tour in the old town, and head back to Gorno Draglishte for a farewell dinner.

Snowshoeing time: 4 - 6 hours

Day 8: Transfer to Sofia and head home

Wave goodbye to the snow-capped peaks of Bulgaria's mountains and head back to Sofia to catch your flight. If you have some time to kill, a walking tour of Sofia's old town is a nice way to spend it.