Southwest WildernessOne colourful ride
aDate: on request
Best travel time: April – June, September – November
Location: Pirin, Belasica, Slavyanka, Rhodopes
Distance: 285 km, ↑ 7900 m, ↓ 10750 m
Physical fitness: ★★★☆☆
Riding skills: ★★★☆☆
Duration: 9 days
Services: 7 guided biking days, 9 HB in hotels and guesthouses (★★★) , shuttle and luggage transport
Price: on request
The summer is dedicated to the “giants” Rila, Pirin and the Balkan mountains, whose cool heights create an ideal biking climate. By contrast, autumn is the best time for all the lower mountains in the country or the foothills of the “giants”. An intensive bike week awaits us in the autumnal wilderness of Bulgaria’s south-west and in the border triangle of Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece. Charged with the summer heat, the mountains glow in magical colors from September to the mid November. In ancient chestnut and oak forests meandering paths, covered with colorful foliage meander. There are only a few small, quaint villages and a few inhabitants who use the mountain trails for their animals. There are many possibilities and combinations to ride in these hills and we choose the best for this biking week. We stay in authentic architectural preserves villages, the Bulgarian Tuscany region famous with its sand pyramids and wines. We don`t miss the hot mineral springs where we can immerse ourselves again and again.
Day 1. Arriving at the foothills of Pirin
Transfer from Sofia airport to Stara Kresna village. We check in at a small hotel complex, at the foot of the highest peaks of the Pirin Mountains. Having done the bike-check, we can ride to the mineral bath near the village. In the evening we make the tour discussion and have dinner with view of the peaks, lit by the setting sun.
Day 2. The trails above Kresna
40 km, ↑ 1100 m, ↓ 1600 m
We start the riding for the day from the guest house. Gradually, following small forest roads and paths, climbing across abandoned neighborhoods and hamlets, we reach the locality of Nivcha (1660 m). We enjoy the view to the marble peaks of Pirin. From Nivcha starts our trail to Vlahi village. The village is famous for some historical issues – the oldest church in the area, dtd the year 1757, 500-year-old plane tree and the farm for conservation of old, local breeds of animals. We continue our descent along the famous for the Bulgarian bikers trail to the town of Kresna (160 m), where we end up our riding for the day. A short transfer takes us to the village of Rozhen (520 m), located in the so-called “Bulgarian Tuscany”. Near the village is the Rozhen Monastery, one of the most picturesque in Bulgaria.
Day 3. Higher and deeper in the Pirin Mountains
49 km, ↑ 1350 m, ↓ 1600 m
Today we take a circular route again in the lower parts of Pirin. Long and smooth ascent along a dirt road takes us to the Gorno Lopovo locality (1700 m). We make a picnic with splendid view to the high snowy peaks. Then come the playful descent – an 8.5 km trail back to Rozhen. We continue our day with another beautiful and panoramic descent trail to Melnik (370 m). It is the smallest town in our country, tucked away between large sand pyramids. The town is famous for its wineries and beautiful architecture. We either return back to the hotel by the van, or pedal 250 vertical meters more.
Day 4. Belasica Mountain Ride
26 km, ↑ 1100 m, ↓ 1700 m
Today we head to the Mount Belasica. It rises as a wall above 2000 meters on the border between Bulgaria and Greece. We take the van for about an hour to reach 850 meters in height. Then we continue up the forest road up to the ridge of the mountain. Our goal is Congur Peak (1951 m), located right on the border. We have a look at Lake Kerkini, which is very important for bird migration across the Balkan Peninsula. Our descent is 11 km on an epic trail, diverse and challenging at times, favourite of many Bulgarian mountain bikers. We end our ride into the town of Petrich (230 m). From there, we shuttle back to the hotel.
Day 5. Slavyanka Mountain crossing
50 km, ↑ 1300 m, ↓ 1200 m
This day we move to another valley. In the beginning we pass quickly and unnoticed through several villages and reach the village of Kalimantsi. We continue our gentle ascent along an old caravan route, which lead us to the rebellious village of Goleshevo (750 m). It looks as if it is the ‘end of the world’, tucked away in a small valley at the foot of the high and steep Pirin and Slavyanka mountains. Our route continues east along the old, border road, which brings us to the saddle Paril (1170 м). Till the end of the day we have a nice descent along forest roads and trails to the village of Teshovo and bit further, where is our small, boutique hotel (650 m).
Day 6. To the Rhodopes Mountains
38 km, ↑ 1300 m, ↓ 1400 m
From the door of our hotel we start on the next day of adventures. Dirt roads will lead us through the dark and silent forests of South Pirin to the saddle of Popovi livadi (1400 m). After a short break, we begin the descent along a fast dirt road and a sandy path, leading us to the village of Delchevo (1020 m). It reserved the appearance of Renaissance Bulgaria from 18-19 century and literally hangs “in the sky” over the valley and the town of Gotse Delchev (540 m). The last means – the next interesting trail with lots of adrenaline. From the town of Gotse Delchev, with a short transfer, we will reach the place of our next stay overnight – the picturesque, Rhodope village of Kovachevitsa (1000 m). It is declared an architectural and historical reserve. The old three-storey houses surrounded by stone walls, twisted cobblestone streets, the church dtd the year 1847 are often used as authentic film decor in many Bulgarian movie productions.
Day 7. Rolling to Bansko
52 km, ↑ 1250 hm, ↓ 1750 hm
Our tour will start with a descent down the old caravan road, through the valley of the Kanina River to the village of Ognyanovo (550 m), famous with its hot mineral springs. After a short transfer we will return to Pirin Mountain, where our ride will continue on a gravel road overlooking the Rhodope Mountains. Reaching the Gotse Delchev mountain hut (1480 m) we will enter the higher parts of Pirin and following dirt roads and fast flow trails we will descent to the town of Bansko (900 m) – a famous winter resort, one of the regular hosts of FIS World Cup events. In the last years Bansko develops as a mountain biking destination, where endure and downhill races take place.
Day 8. The trails of Bansko
max. 30 km, ↑ 500 hm, ↓ 1500 hm
Our last day is dedicated to the trails over the town. There is variety of different trails, and we choose these which suits to our group. Depend on the snow conditions we could even do a descent from 2000 m to the valley. At our last dinner we share emotions of the past week.
Day 9. Departure
Travel to Sofia and departure. Transfer time: 2:30 h
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.).