High Mountain CrossSharpen your senses, explore the highest mountains of Bulgaria.
Best travel time: June-August
Location: Balkan Mountains, Rila, Vitosha
Distance: 210 km, ↑ 8000 m , ↓ 10700 m
Physical fitness: ★★★★☆
Riding skills: ★★★★☆
Duration: 9 Days
Services: 7 guided biking days, 8 nights in family hotels (4 B&B, 4 half board), 1 day in hot springs, shuttle and luggage transport
Price: on request
Everyone is responsible to organize the trip to Bulgaria. We pick you up from the airport. When all participants arrive, we transfer to the first stop – in the heart of the Balkan Mountains. Our accommodation is a century-old inn. We make bike check together, learn about each other, discuss the tour details and have a traditional welcome dinner.
21 km, ↑ 1100 m, ↓ 1100 m
We have an easy going warm-up day. After a short shuttle by bus, the first tour starts at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. Along a beautiful dirt road in the countryside, we boost the first six kilometers, and hardly notice the increasing height. Warm up for the next part: A challenging ramp shoots us up above the tree line, close to the most impressive peaks of the longest mountain range. The Central Balkan rises majestically with its 25 over 2000 m high peaks. We come only to the edge in contact with the alpine landscape. A trail along the contour line brings us through typical high mountain bushes of wild blueberry and cranberry, ending to a picnic break in a mountain hut. We start descending just behind the hut. It is a racy downhill, first on a playful forest trail, then always following the edge – steep and technical. At the end of the day we visit the pottery workshop of a good friend and have dinner in a traditional restaurant.
40 km, ↑ 1650 m, ↓ 1650 m
An early-bird ascent to higher mountains often has many advantages – first, as the weather is much more stable in the earlier hours of the day, and second, as we can leave the higher temperatures at lower elevations behind us. We start our trip early in the morning with a bus shuttle to the foot of the mountain, at the picturesque village Ribaritza. The mountain ridge of Stara planina (Balkan mountains) blesses us with a wonderful rendezvous with nature but in the same time requires solid physical fitness and endurance. For the descent, we follow the main mountain ridge to an epic all-mountain ride full of breathtaking moments. You can experience fast and technical downhill, unridable slopes and our first encounters with juniper. Being a wild plant, juniper is just as trail-hungry as we are and sometimes tends to grow over the single trails. At the end of the day you can enjoy a 3 km long switchbacks madness.
49 km, ↑ 2050 m , ↓ 2050 m
Today is the queen stage – for endurance freaks. Some meters and kilometers are on the elevation profile and that’s not all. Breathtaking views, narrow trails and some technical climbs and descents make this tour an unforgettable nature experience. 35 km moderate climb along a wide gravel road with spectacular landscapes in the warming sun, we reach the highest peak of Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains), Botev (2,376 m). We stay in the mountain, which is known as the cloudiest, foggiest and coldest place in Bulgaria. For this reason the tour is heavily dependent on the weather. From the summit we follow a sensational descent. We stop off at the “Botev” shelter and refill with energy for the second half of the day. Below this mountain massif, along the breathtaking rock chain “Raiski skali”, we pass the highest waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula. An incredible forest trail finally brings us back on the way to the hotel.
Next four days we spend in Rila Mountain.
Transfer to Rila mountain and time for some relaxation and reflection on the past days’ impressions and experiences. Our day off at this typical Bulgarian spa town not only lets us recover in the beauty of mineral hot springs, but also gives us enough time to soak up traditional Bulgarian food and culture without breaking a sweat.
34 km, ↑ 650 m, ↓ 2500 m
The tour starts in Borovets – one of the oldest tourist resorts in Bulgaria, at the starting point to the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula – “Musala” (2925m). Here is the first professional bike park in Bulgaria, with a DH track and many other trails in different degrees of difficulty. We will have a look at the area outside of the bike park first. Then, we will enjoy the first 1000 hm in the gondola. From the “Musala” hut we have to climb 500 m with the bike on the back. A versatile trail experience comes to us. In high alpine terrain of the Rila Mountains, we’ll find out a technically challenging terrain, over stone slabs and rubble fields in the middle of a tunnel of mountain pines. We go directly to one of the best trails in the bike park. Numerous lines on wooden ramps and bridges, natural and soft forest floor or root fields offer 100 % fun. Finally, we’ll visit the best restaurant in the area.
20 km, ↑ 1750 m , ↓ 350 m
We head out to the highest hut “Ivan Vazov” (2300 hm), where we’ll spend the night. Climbing to that magic place is about 17 km long pulse-pounding ramp . We pass the highest dam Kalin, next to both brothers rocky giants Kalini. From a mountain saddle we can see the hut. Deliveries are made with horses only. The way to go is also very difficult for them. So we occasionally push the bike over large stones or many small streams. The atmosphere in the lodge and feeling of freedom on this place is unique.
14 km, ↑ 250 m, ↓ 1500 m
With the first rays of the sun in a cloudless sky, we can welcome the new day. A short hike up to the ridge and we have a wonderful view of the famous Seven Rila glacial lakes. Breakfast, bike check, take leave and set out for amazing ride. Today we descent to the Rila Monastery, the largest one in Bulgaria. The path leads through a fairytale landscape. Half wild horses grazing in the higher mountain areas. There are sheep herds below. We ride over rolling stones, steep slopes and pristine meadows, where the path in the tall grass seems to disappear. We arrive at the monastery entrance. This should be seen. Featured frescoes of religious scenes and numerous icons adorn the monastery church and attract tourists from all over the world. We stop for delicious grilled trout, specialty in this mountain valley. In the afternoon we take our shuttle bus to Sofia, where we stay in a comfortable hotel, at the foot of the Vitosha mountain and fifteen minutes from the center.
23 km, ↑ 500 m , ↓ 1550 m
The day tour is a popular route, by which we usually finish our tour program. Depending on your mood, we can boost the entire distance or shuttle the largest part of the climb. From the highest mountain “Black Summit” (2290 m), which rises over Sofia, we enjoy the last day trail pleasure: a 17 km long single trail down to the capital city of Sofia. We’ll have final dinner in a traditional restaurant.
In this packing list you will find what you should definitely have.
We recommend for this tour a 120-160 mm full suspension Bike and tires with good puncture protection.
We expect from each participant a solid preparation and a good workout as well as mastering the basics of mountain biking (central position, braking, turning, small obstacles, etc.).