Rila Mountains

  • Rila - © Flickr user Borislav Dimitrov
  • Rila Lakes - © Flickr user Mladen Jablanovic
  • Rila Mountains - © Flickr user Samfk
  • Twin Lakes in Rila Mountains - © flickr user Fillips Stoyanov
  • Six out of Seven Rila Lakes - © flickr user Klearchos Kapoutsis
  • Borovets Rila Mountains - © Flickr user Samfk
  • © Flickr user Mladen Jablanovic
  • © Flickr user Mladen Jablanovic
  • Rila Lakes - © Flickr user Emil Manolov
  • Rila Mountains - © flickr user Stella
  • Rila Seven Lakes - © Flickr user Fillips Stoyanov

Key information: Rila Mountains

    The highest mountains in Bulgaria (29 peaks over 2,500m), a relatively compact range in the country's south-west.

    Some magnificent walking in classic glaciated landscape of cirques, sharp peaks, huge cliffs, lakes, deep valleys and moraine fields.

    A remote(ish) area, the range is rich in animal and plant life.

    This can be tough walk in high, remote mountains. Come prepared.

     

    ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating85
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest5
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating85

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,925m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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© Flickr user Mladen Jablanovic

WALK SUMMARY

The highest mountains in Bulgaria (29 peaks over 2,500m and Musala, at 2,925m, is the highest between the Alps and the Caucusus), a relatively compact range which lies at the north-western end of the chain running along the country's southern border-areas, which includes the Pirin  and the Rhodope (Rodopi) which it links with, so you can create extensive walking tours.  Its core is now a World Heritage Site.

The range is mainly old igneous/metamorphic rock, and was high enough to be under ice-age icecaps, which have shaped its classic glaciated landscape of cirques, sharp peaks, huge cliffs, high pastures,exquisite and dramatic lakes, deep valleys and moraine fields. The high Musala ridge area is in the east, while the best lakes are in the centre and north-east.

As a remote(ish) and protected area, the range is rich in animal and plant life (some of it endemic): it is famed for its conifer forests in particular, and is home to bears, wolves deer and chamois, as well as many bird species.

The range has some magnificent walking, often on good paths, including:

  •  Sections of the E4 international route cross the Rila and Pirin ranges, then run south into Greece. And E8 also passes through.
  •  You can create all sorts of circuits or muti-dayers to suit your taste, as there are refuges and huts scattered around the massif. Classics include traversing the north-western group via the Seven Lakes; and a 4 day horseshoe talking in Musala and he Seven Lakes.
  •   You can climb Musala in a long day.

  • The lakes make for  marvellous day walks (as well as a focus for multi-dayers), especially the Seven Rila Lakes in the north-east, a series of glacial scoops descending a hillside in the approach to the huge and very dramatic cirque below Otovishki.

Have a look at the dreaded TripAdvisor . You should get good, current views on this area.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by recommending your best walks/making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps


Find these and other books on Amazon, using our handy search box:

Books on this walk     

Cicerone, Walking in Bulgaria's National Parks - Julian Perry


Other books


Chapter in Trek! The Best Trekking in the World – Claes Grundsten].

Maps


Maps can be bought from www.bulguides.com  

Stanfords: A good online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks). Also try Maps Worldwide and www.trektools.com.


Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

With surprisingly long snow cover, May to October (July to September for the high range).

Weather

Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Flights to Sofia.  Buses or car to Bansko.

Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need; otherwise try Lastminute.com, or look at what’s available on Tripadvisor.

Mountain train from Septemvri to Bansko.

Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

No permits are needed to do these walks.

Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.

 

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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·         Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.

·         Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.

·         Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.

·         Harmful animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Bears are a potential problem: come prepared to deal with an encounter Take all appropriate precautions.

·         This is remote country: food and other supplies will not be readily available and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.

·         Health risks: you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill.  Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.

·         Beware of sheep dogs: throw stones and brandish sticks if they threaten, keep well clear.

 

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do most  of these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.

Guided/supported

Some people hire guides or form or join organised/supported expeditions, and guides are advisable in the remote country unless you are pretty experienced. Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital.

If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!

Expedition organisers include: 

Walks Worldwide

Exodus

www.lonelyplanet.com  

Have a look at Infohub to see if they have any good deals for this expedition.

Check Tripadvisor for some reviews of this walk and walk organisers which may prove helpful.

 

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.

 

Accommodation

Refuges/huts or camping are the only options in the high country camping requirements?

The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation.

There are various relevent accommodation websites.

See what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.

A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com.

If you’re on a budget, Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation; or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com.

 

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Other information and tips

 

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us. 

·           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirin As usual, a good starting place.

·          Have a look at Tripadvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this.

·         http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bulgaria/pirin-mountains/tours/hiking-trekking/bulgaria-foot/item-w-BOF-id

 

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Bulgaria has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be.

Other activities

Endless

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Rila Mountains - © flickr user Stella

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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© Flickr user Mladen Jablanovic...
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