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Why Hike in Bulgaria’s National Parks?

The view at Sinanitsa hut
It’s impossible to take a bad photo in Pirin National Park

Bulgaria is one of the best places in the world for hikers and mountaineers. In fact, hiking is usually at the top of most visitors’ Bulgarian Bucketlists and we don’t blame them. Excedo’s love of all-things-outdoors and our extensive mountaineering experience allows us to create Tailor-made Guided Tours of Bulgaria with as much or as little hiking as you want. This blog will hopefully whet your appetite, showing off some of Bulgaria’s best hikes in our incredible national parks. 

What are the Best Hiking Routes in Bulgaria’s National Parks?

This is a question we get asked a lot, so it’s important to address it first. The quick answer: it totally depends on your hiking experience and what kinds of views you prefer. The long answer would be a huge, 100-page travel guide with all about the different hiking routes through Bulgaria’s three national parks. It would consist of a lot of maps and descriptions that would be hard to follow. Instead, we’re going to look at hiking in general in Bulgaria’s three amazing national parks, hopefully filling in a few blanks for budding hikers considering a trip to Bulgaria in the near future.

Hiking in Rila National Park

Excedo 7 Rila Lakes Hiking 11-min

Rila National Park — and the Seven Rila Lakes contained there — is arguably the most famous spot in all of Bulgaria for tourists. For many, the Seven Rila Lakes is the only part of our beautiful country other than Sofia that they’ve heard of. Well, it turns out that this fame is well deserved as this really is one of the most impressive mountainscapes you’ll ever see!

Imagine seven uniquely shaped lakes, all at different altitudes above 2,000m. Imagine climbing up Rila Mountain to visit the serene glacial lakes there… Finding it difficult to imagine? That’s because there’s nowhere else in the world like Rila National Park. Here is an inside tip for you: avoid visiting the 7 Rila Lakes in high summer over the weekend. The traditional trail becomes quite crowded. We have a great 7 Rila Lakes Hike for experienced mountaineers that takes an alternative route off the beaten track. It runs between June and October. The entire hiking tour takes between 10 and 12 hours and we leave from Sofia at 7:00 AM. If you’re visiting Bulgaria and want to fit as much of Rila National Park into one action-packed day, then this tour is perfect for you.

Rila Mountains is also home to the highest point on the Balkan Peninsula – Musala Peak. The traditional hiking trail to Musala peak is pretty accessible to most and only a 1.5 hours drive from Sofia. It’s a good option for a one-day escape from the busy city. Wouldn’t it be great to say you’ve climbed the highest peak on the Balkans?

Hiking in Pirin National Park

One of the main ridges of Pirin Mountain
Tevno Lake to Vihren Hut trail in Pirin National Park

Pirin National Park is found in southwest Bulgaria and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. While Rila is best known for its glacial lakes, Pirin National Park is famous for its main marble ridge and unique biodiversity … Needless to say, you can’t see all that makes this mountain so special in just one visit, but any good mountain guide will be able to design a trail that shows off the best this incredible national park has to offer.

One of the best things about Pirin National Park is that there are lots of different hiking trails for people of different abilities and preferences. If you only fancy a short walk — perhaps because you don’t have much time — there are several one-hour or 90-minute trails that are perfect for this purpose. The Bezbog Hut to Popovo Lake trail takes 90 minutes one direction and it’s best to start from the town of Dobrinishte, a famous wellness hub. You can drive all the way into a car park near Gotze Delchev Hut and take the cable car up to Bezbog Hut.

Another pleasant and relaxed half-day option is a hike from Vihren Hut to Banderishki Lakes. On your way driving up to Vihren Hut, make sure to stop at the 1300-year old Baykushev’s pinetree.

You could, of course, spend a month hiking in Pirin National Park and never step in the same place twice; it’s really up to you!

Hiking in Central Balkan National Park

Balkan Mountains and its highest point is Botev Peak at 2376 m
View towards Botev Peak

You can find the Central Balkan National Park right in the heart of Bulgaria, to the northeast of Sofia. The National Park is a section of Bulgaria’s world-famous Balkan Mountains and its highest point is Botev Peak at 2376 m. Spanning 716.69 km², Central Balkan National Park is a huge playground for hikers. 

There are many easier routes for hobbyists or people who aren’t serious hikers. In fact, the huge national park offers over 400 kilometres of tourist-friendly hiking routes. But for those looking for a challenge, there are many more difficult routes. None of its peaks are exceptionally high, but some of the routes are nevertheless considered pretty challenging — especially Botev Peak.

Also, don’t underestimate this mountain. Its range works as a climatic barrier, which makes weather conditions quite unpredictable and often severe. 

That’s all we have time for today. Needless to say, we’ve only scratched the surface of the incredible hiking routes contained in Bulgaria’s three epic national parks. We hope we’ve convinced one or two readers to finally book that hiking trip in Bulgaria you’ve been fantasising about. If you want the best trip possible, take advantage of the local knowledge and expertise at Excedo with our custom Bulgaria tours and self-guided packages. You tell us what you want and we create your dream hiking trip through one, two, or all three of Bulgaria’s national parks. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!