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Bulgaria is the Best Hiking Destination Not on Your Bucket List

The Rila Mountains. The Pirin Mountains. The Balkans. Three mountain ranges that inspire hikers all around the world. So, why haven’t you added Bulgaria to your big adventure bucket list? Despite many of our mountain ranges being well known (and well photographed), Bulgaria gets fewer visitors than our French, Swiss, and Italian neighbours. Europe has no shortage of incredible mountains to climb, but we’d like to inspire and enthrall you with the immense variety of climbs and hiking trails in Bulgaria. It’s the best hiking destination you haven’t been to, and we’d like to spend a few minutes explaining why!

Why Choose Bulgaria Over the French, Swiss, or Italian Alps

Firstly, we aren’t interested in telling avid hikers not to visit the Alps — they absolutely should. But we do think that some of Europe’s other great hiking locations perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve. For many, the main reason to choose Bulgaria’s incredible mountains over some of the better-known European options is that Bulgaria offers novelty. Perhaps you’ve been to a few of the more common hiking destinations and you’re looking for a fresh adventure.

Another reason to choose Bulgaria over other European mountains is the tranquillity and isolation on offer at some of our stunning national parks. Bulgaria takes very good care of our national parks, recognising them as our most valuable resource. While hiking is very popular in Bulgaria, it does not nearly complete with some of the other countries mentioned here; this means that you’re much less likely to bump into people on your hiking adventures. If you’re looking for a truly wild experience, then you may like to choose Bulgaria over the French, Swiss, or Italian Alps.

Hiking in Rila National Park

Hiking in Rila National Park
Hiking along the main ridge in Rila National Park

The Rila Mountain Range is roughly 65km from Sofia, making it especially easy to travel to. The views of the Rila Mountains are exquisite — especially of the Seven Rila Lakes high up in the mountain range. But the thing that pulls in visitors more than anything else is Musala Peak. At 2,925m above sea level, Musala Peak isn’t just the tallest mountain in Bulgaria; it’s the tallest mountain in the entire Balkan Peninsula. With almost 30 other separate peaks, all above 2,500m, Rila National Park is a hiker’s play park. If you want to visit Rila National Park but don’t have much time, you can opt for something like Excedo Travel’s 10-12 hour one-day hiking adventure of the 7 Rila Lakes. This will allow you to scratch Rila off your bucket list, giving you more time for the next two mountain ranges!

Hiking in the Pirin Mountains

Pirin National Park
Kamenitsa Peak in Pirin National Park

Many local hikers favour the Pirin Mountains over the other mountain ranges Bulgaria has to offer. Part of this is due to the Bansko Ski Resort situated there — which is the biggest resort in Bulgaria. Another reason for the Pirin Mountains’ popularity is that they have much less vegetation, which makes for easier climbing, and less obstructed views over the incredible mountainscape. The Pirin Mountains have some of the county’s most impressive lakes, and these lakes are easier to see and appreciate without trees and bushes getting in the way.

The highest peak in the Pirin Mountains is Vihren, which stands 2,914m high, only marginally smaller than Musala Peak in the Rila Mountains. If you’d like to visit the Pirin Mountains, you may like to consider our tailor-made tours of Bulgaria as we can create a hiking expedition for you, lasting as long as you like, exploring as much of the Pirin Mountains as you care to explore. That said, you can visit two mountain ranges on one trip — perhaps the Pirin Mountains and Rila Mountains, or the Pirin Mountains the famous Balkan Mountains running through the centre of Bulgaria.

Hiking in the Balkan Mountains

Hiking in Central Balkan National Park
Hiking through a Beech Forest in the Balkan Mountains

The Balkan Mountains were impressive enough that the entire peninsula was named after them. While the highest peak is Botev, at 2,376m, making it notably smaller than the Rila or Pirin Mountains, the entire area of the Balkan Mountains is breath-taking in its scale and beauty. The entire Balkan Mountain Range spans 557 km from the Bulgarian-Serbian border, all the way across the country, to the Black Sea. This area is so large that no single national park would cover it, so there is the Central Balkan National Park and a series of nature parks throughout other parts of the mountain range. There are over 80 shelters and huts spread throughout the Balkans, offering comfortable lodgings between long days spent hiking. Due to the rich variety of deciduous trees at lower levels and coniferous trees at higher levels, the Balkan Mountains can support a truly diverse array of animal life. If you decide to hike the Balkans, you may spot wolves, foxes, wild goats, and wild boars. There are also brown bears, which shouldn’t be a threat as long as you’re with an experienced hiking guide. 

That’s where Excedo Travel comes in, as we can create your dream Bulgaria hiking trip and provide you with an experienced guide to help you get the most out of your itinerary. Alternatively, we can simply provide one or two day tours in Bulgaria as you explore our country yourself, in your own time. 

Depending when you read this, you may not be able to travel to Bulgaria just yet. This is why we’d like to continue to inform and inspire you with our series of email guides about travelling through Bulgaria. Sign up here if you’d like to keep your dream Bulgaria trip in sight! And if you have any follow-up questions for us whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Your hiking adventure in Bulgaria starts here, in your imagination.

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