VII.  NICE ROUTES IN MOUTAINS



PIRIN Mountain


      Maybe the most scenery mountain in Bulgaria is Pirin Mountain. Most of the mountain area is a national park. More information about the it can be seen here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirin

      http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/parks/pirin-bulgaria/

       

      The mountain is rocky, especially its higher part and it is not so appropriate for bicycling. The next map is the south - western corner of the country, on it are pointed roads surrounding Pirin Mountain as well as places, which are worth to be explored:

      - The region near Razlog, Bansko and Dobriniste (Predela Pass)  (sector VII. 1);

      - Sandanski and the region near it (sector VII. 2);

      - Melnik and Rozhenski Monastery (sector VII. 2);

      - Gotse Delchev and the region near it (Popova Laka Pass) (sector VII. 3).


Approaches to Pirin Mountain

 

      1. From Sofia to Blagoevgrad to Simitli to Bansko

      A very detail information about this route is available in:  

Chapter II. Routes: A. Routes in the North - West Region of the Country 

 

      2. From Pazardzhik (Varvara) to Velingrad to Banya to Bansko to Dobriniste to Gotse Delchev

(I recommend this route to approach Pirin Mountain).

         A very detail information about this route is available in: If you approach

Chapter III. Crossing Bulgaria from north to south (from Romania to Turkey & Greece)C. South - Central Region


3. Predela Pass

(sector VII. 1)

      If you approach Pirin Mountain starting from Sofia toward Blagoevgrad and Bansko, as well as from some of the south border checkpoints, you have to climb Predela Pass.

      As I have described routes to Simitli, here I will write only for the road 19 starting from Simitli. It is little town, accommodation in it is possible. Some information about it:

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/blagoevgrad/simitli/simitli

      The climbing of Predela Pass starts from Simitli. It is long - 27 - 28 kilometers, but not hard. The last time I pedalled this distance was 2021, usually I avoid it because the traffic here is relatively intensive especially weekends, when people love to visit Bansko and Pirin Mountain. Never mind, I think it is not dangerous to pedal this route.

      Food is available in Gradevo and a kilometer - two further a little restaurant and drinkable water is available.

      Reaching Predela Pass, you will find a lot of little restaurants, souvenir shops, there is a hotel , or hut for overnight accommodation. Information for the Pass:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predel_(Bulgaria)

      In the region here is located Razlog (you can miss it and pedal toward Bansko). Information for Razlog can be seen here:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/razlog/razlog.html

      The last time just before to enter in it my speed shifter broke, fortunately in the centre of the town there was a bike shop, so I changed it without any problems. Several photos from Razlog.


4. Bansko and the highest pick Vihren

(sector VII. 1)

      Bansko is a winter resort, each winter thousands of tourists (most of them are coming from GB) spend their vacancy in it; as a skiing resort, COVID'19 came just from here February '20 and spread all over the country. More information about Bansko can be seen here:

       http://www.bulgariaski.com/bansko/

         http://www.banskoski.com/en

       https://bulgariatravel.org/en/bansko/

      Summer time the resort is not over crowded by tourists (except of several days on August, when there is several day jazz festival, I think they change dates each year) there are a lot of hotels you can stay for a night, I can say that here people are masters of cooking of meat meals. Have in mind, that this place is more expensive than the next one I will describe further (Dobriniste: 7 – 8 kilometers east from Bansko).

      The view toward mountain in the night when the moon is thick is amazing, it must be seen. Next several photos are taken in the old part of Bansko.

      For the possibilities to explore Pirin Mountain from Bansko, please look in: Chapter VII.  Routes in Mountains, 2. Routes in Pirin mountain.

       Bansko can be used as an initial point to visit the highest pick of the Mountain – Vihren, or the amassing place - "Koncheto", I think a visit to the 2 places for only one day would be too difficult.

      There is an asphalt road from Bansko to Vihren Hut, but as it can be seen from the next map and road profile the difference of both altitudes is considerable, I do not think that the pedaling up the mountain here would be a wise decision. I think it would be nice to take on a taxi up to Vihren Hut – be there no late than 8 am, the best situation would be, if you tell to the taxi driver to come at 5 – 5.30 pm again and take you back to Bansko.

     

 

      There is also gondola type lift, you can use it to enter in the Mountain.

 

 

      A link in English concerning this lift.

      http://www.planinite.info/V_pomosht_na_turista/Liftove_ENGL/Lifts-Pirin_ENGL.htm

      Next road profile chart is for enthusiasts loving the hard mountain pedaling.

      Three photos of the great downhill from Vihren Hut to Bansko. If I must be true, we used a van to travel up the mountain. Next links show information for Huts in Pirin mountain:

      http://visit-bansko.bg/en/pirin/item/4033-huts-and-shelters-in-pirin

      http://www.planinite.info/V_pomosht_na_turista/Hiji_i_zasloni_ENGL/Pirin_ENGL.htm

 The walk from Vihren Hut to Vihren Pick is approx. 3,5 hours slowly walking, you can be back to Vihren Hut from the other side of the Pick - Wilderness Shelter (Hut) "Kazana" (again 3,5 hours).

      The walk to the pick and back is relatively not so easy, it would be nice if you are in a nice sport form, have comfortable shoes (and nice jacket), and do it only if the weather forecast is nice. Have in mind that the entire region is a Karst zone and there is not any water, so bring food and water with you. July and August are appropriate to visit Vihren Pick. Some nice September days are appropriate as well.

      "Koncheto" ("The Horst") is a sharp ridge placed between the Picks Kutela II and Banski Suhodol) and a walk to it is longer, it needs at least 4,5 hours in each direction. You can walk via Kutela I and Kutela II Picks, or to use the track surrounding these 2 picks - tracks are labeled well. I think August is nice to visit this place. A walk to "Koncheto" and back can be done from Banderitsa Hut as well.

       Down are several photos of one of my visits to Vihren Pick - Vihren Hut - Vichren Pick - Shelter "Kazana" and back to Vihren Hut. A walk in this direction is easier according to me rather than the one in the back direction.

Vihren Pick can be seen above - high in left.

 

The middle photo shows the place where the track is parted in 2 - toward Vihren Pick - left  and Wilderness Shelter (Hut) "Kazana" - right.

 

 
 Toward "Koncheto" (the Horst"). if you decide to climb all this area, bring with you a nice winter equipment.

5. Dobriniste and Bezbog Pick in Pirin

(sector VII. 1)

 

      I love this place. Several are the reasons for it: there is very nice swimming pool of thermal water (I have never missed to stay there for an afternoon), there is a chair type lift to the higher part of Pirin Mountain, there are very nice local type restaurants offering very tasty meet meals (look for "Makedonska Krachma" - its place is well labeled), the overnight accommodation is not a problem at acceptable price, so I do not miss to stay here for a day or two I am touring.

       All that I am spiking about can be recognized in the photos below.

      Dobriniste is 6 kilometers east from Bansko, again it is overcrowded by tourists winter time.

      http://www.bulgariaski.com/otherresorts/dobrinishte.shtml

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/414

 

      Dobriniste  can be used as an initial point to visit so called “Bezbog” – a place in Pirin Mountain, where there is a hotel (hut) near nice lake.

 

       Up to the first chair lift station the distance is a little more than 10 km. and the enthusiasts can bike up there. Lazier bicyclists can take on a taxi to the lift station. 3 - 4 hours walk above the Hut and Bezbog Lake would be very nice.

    Next 2 photos show the approach toward Bansko and Dobriniste from Banya.

The path profile chart shows the elevation from Dobriniste to the both lower and upper chair lift station in Pirin Mountain

      Dobriniste is 6 kilometers east from Bansko, again it is overcrowded by tourists winter time. My suggestion is to choose this place - comparing with Bansko it is much more inexpensive, especially restaurants, people here also are masters of preparing meal food.

      https://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/dobrinishte/dobrinishte.html

      https://bulgariatravel.org/en/dobrinishte/

      I love this place. Several are the reasons for it: there is very nice swimming pool of thermal water (I have never missed to stay there for an afternoon), there is a chair type lift to the higher part of Pirin Mountain, there are very nice local type restaurants offering very tasty meet meals (look for "Makedonska Krachma" - its place is well labeled), the overnight accommodation is not a problem at acceptable price, so I do not miss to stay here for a day or two I am touring.

       All that I am spiking about can be recognized in the photos below.

Up in the mountain toward Bezbog Hut by the chair type lift
Two hours walk around the lake is beautiful

       Up to the first chair lift station the distance is a little more than 10 km. and the enthusiasts can bike up there. There were 3 such enthusiast from Germany summer 2014. fortunately I followed them by ny little car ...

If you have more free time, you can stay in the hut for the night and walk upper in the mountain. There are several nice lakes in the mountain.

6. Sandanski

(sector VII. 2)

      Sandanki is placed next to international road E79 BG/Greece. It is the south-western corner of the country. Because it is close to Mediterranean, the climate here is mild, in the winter almost there is not any snow, it is maybe the sunniest place in the country. Springs of thermal water are available here, so Sandanski is a resort and spa center, there are a lot of hotels, overnight accommodation in it is not a problem.

      More information for Sandanski can be seen here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandanski

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/sandanski/sandanski.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/299

      There is a nice park  in the north part of the town, I like it even in the winter time.
But ... the view it seems is better in the autumn  ...
North from the town (up in Pirin Mountain) there is a road to a place called "Turichka Cherkva" .

7. Melnik

 (sector VII. 2)

      Now I will increase a little the scale of the map shown in the previous point. Melnik is one of the places in Bulgaria, which is worth to be seen. it is incredibly scenic place. There are a lot of small private homes offering rooms and nice local type restaurants. The local type of red and white wines have to be mentioned as well. as Melnik is a tourists destination, in Internet is available a lot of information for it:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/melnik/melnik.html

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/38

      http://www.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/blagoevgrad/sandanski/melnik

      http://visit.guide-bulgaria.com/SW/Blagoevgrad/Sandanski/Melnik

     

      Depending on where are coming from, there are 2 routes to pedal toward Melnik:

      Route a (if you are coming from Sofia):

      From Ribnik to Spatovo to Hotovo to Lozenitsa to Melnik

 

      Just on the crossroad of roads N 1082 and N106 (Ribnik there is a little nice restaurant (the first photo below). Be careful 2 kilometers further, traffic here is relatively intensive.

      The climbing from Hotovo to Lozenitsa is relatively hard. The view form the highest point to Lozenitsa and Melnik is extremely exciting - the last photo below.

      Route b (if you are coming from Gotse Delchev):

      from Vranya to Harsovo to Vinogradi to Melnik

      The climbing here is a little more comparing with route a, the area again is extremely scenic. On the map above I point Vinary Chateay, If my memory serves overnight accommodation in it is not possible, I am not sure 100%. But I am sure there you can try some local types of wine typical only for this region.

And several photos from Melnik.

      My suggestion is to stay for an afternoon in Melnik. Overnight accommodation here is not a problem, there are a lot of local type restaurants offering perfect meals & local type wines.

      Leave the bicycle in Melnik and walk up to Rozhenski Monastery along the road (1h 50min - 2 hours very slowly walking):

        from Melnik to Karlanovo  to Pozhen to Rozhenski Monastery.

      In Rozhen is available very nice local type restaurant as well.

      Next several photos are the road toward Rozhen, Karlanovo and the sand pyramids above it, Rozhen and the  Monastery.

Some information for Rozhenski Monastery can be seen here:

http://www.bulgariamonasteries.com/en/rozhen_monastery.html

      My suggestion is after visiting the monastery, to move a little up above the monastery along a narrow track (10 minutes walk) – a marvelous view over all this place of sand pyramids will be revealed in front of you.

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/23

       Go back to Melnik along the narrow track between the sand pyramids (50 - 60 minutes walk). You will be not disappointed !!!  No possible to pedal there.

      Another place to visit is the area with remains of mediaeval monasteries just above the town in east direction. After walk of 30 minutes up the sand pyramids you will see Malnik from another point of view.


8. Rupite

(sector VII. 2)

      Next opportunity is purposed for more adventurer explorers.

 

      Close to Ribnik is a place named Rupite (signed well along the road), it is formed like a park, there is a church there. A part of her life there spent one well known and popular Bulgarian clairvoyant, in fact she built the church.

      According to the geologist the place itself presents remains of ancient volcano crater. The only thing remembering this volcano is a hot 75 deg of C thermal spring. It forms a lot of pools of water & mud and people (me too) love to wallow in it for hours.

      You can choose a pool having appropriate temperature for you - as further from the spring, as cooler. Have only in mind there are leeches in cooler pools - I saw several. I can say they did not pay any attention on me maybe because of too much food for them in the pools, or they are addicted to rhesus factor & blood group of natives.

     A lot of interesting information about Rupite can be found out in the next cites:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupite

      http://www.twoheads.info/rupite/

      https://bulgariatravel.org/en/rupite/

      According other specialists the place is special, it is an energy place.  After wallowing in the pool I camped next to this place. Really in the morning I felt recharged, I only am not sure if it was because of the special place, or because of my little bottle of whiskey I took before sleeping.

      But my idea is another. If you move a little further toward train line (just behind me next to the hill) you will see a line bridge. Cross the river below it - it is easy and go further along the off road next to the train line.

      After go up to the train line, there is the second bridge over Struma River. There is a track for walkers, use it to cross the river. After 1/4 mile along the railway, you will be in General Todorov.

      Pedaling ahead, you will be on the Motor road toward Border Checkpoint Kulata very soon. Pedaling straight on, you will go to Melnik.

      From Gen. Todorov to Dolno Konomladi to Kapatovo to Kromidovo to Harsovo to Vinogradi to Melnik.


9. Popova Laka Pass

Gotse Delchev and the region near it

 (sector VII. 3)

      Maybe the hardest for climbing Pass (from west to east) in Bulgaria is Popova Laka Pass (you will see another names of the Pass: Popovi Livadi Pass, Papaz Chair Pass). The hard climbing starts from Gorno Spanchevo. To the top of the pass it is permanent and constant.

      I have traveled this pass only by car, so I am not sure if there are springs of drinkable water between Gorno Spanchevo and Gotse Delchev. But I know, on the Pass there is a hotel, restaurant and water. Unfortunately I can not find available information for it. The road is in very nice conditions.

      Several photos from Popova Laka.

      From Popova Laka Pass toward Gotse Delchev follows a very nice descending. A beautiful view toward Rodopi Mountain will be revealed in front of you.

      Overnight accommodation is possible in Gotse Delchev too. Information about Gotse Delchev:

      http://www.visitbulgaria.net/en/gotse_delchev/gotse_delchev.html

 

      OGNYANOVO

      Ognyanovo is a Place next to Gotse Delchev, I think it is worth to visit, of you explore this area. Because of the thermal springs in the region, it is very nice spa center perfect for relax, which is still not overcrowded by tourists.

     A lot of places for overnight accommodation in Ognyanovo are available:

      http://www.bulgariatravel.org/article/details/412

 

      

 

      Just before entering in Garmen are remains of the ancient fortress Nikopolis ad Nestrum.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicopolis_ad_Nestum

      As I have said above, a lot of places for overnight accommodation in Ognyanovo are available. I would recommend one very nice place to stay for a night here is hotel Elegance: the relation "price/quality" here is very nice. The hotel consists two buildings - a new and older one, both are in very good conditions (unfortunately the Site is in Bulgarian):

       http://www.comunicatorbg.com/elegance.html

      I will not write about it, fortunately the hotel Home page is written in English – you can see information concerning prices, rooms, restaurant, swimming pool, SPA procedures and so on.

 

      It is very easy to find out this spot. Simply look for signs on the street poles:

      - coming from North, the hotel is in the opposite end of the village;

      - coming from South, the hotel is to right, immediately after the bridge entering in Ognyanovo.

      I will mention only that it is a clean place having a nice restaurant and a swimming pool of beautiful thermal water. Guiding bicyclists, I always recommend them to stay here for a night, and they have never been disappointed.



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