Tour of Pirin
Time: 4 days
Start Point: Bansko
This is a fantastic multi-day trail in a beautiful setting of Pirin mountains with a beautiful nature.
How do I get there?
You need to get to Bansko. You can fly into Sofia - the capital of Bulgaria and from there you can take two trains to get to Bansko.
The connection from Sofia to Bansko:
Train Sofia > Asenovgrad
Train Asenovgrad > Bansko
Here's a map with the location of Bansko:
From Bansko you'll need to get to Kulata, where the red trail starts and leads to Yavorov mountain hut.
Here's the view towards Pirin mountains from the train (Bansko in foreground):
It's a long trek from Kulata to Yavorov mountain hut, about 5-6 hours. The trail goes slowly up the hill, giving you a good practise before heading into higher parts of the mountains. It goes through a dense forest slowly ascending gaining height (Yavorov mountain hut lies at about 1800m above sea level).
Here's the trail through the forest:
This is the map of the route of day 1 to the Yavorov mountain hut:
As you're slowly ascending through the forest, after a few hours, you get to the pass at around 2250m above sea level. That's your first serious height reaching above magical 2000m.
Just before you reach the pass though in front of you you're going to see Dautov vrch (2597m). Unfortunately we only saw it in the clouds as you can see below:
As you reach the pass you need to be very careful. There are hardly any signs on the trail. Sometimes there's no sign for hundreds of metres. And it's all just a bit of trees (quite low) and mostly high grass.
I tried to take pictures in all difficult spots to make it easier for you to find your way. I understand this is not a popular trail, everyone just heads straight from Bansko to mountain hut under Vihren. But I wouldn't do that. And we didn't do that. Imagine getting to Bansko and driving (or taking a mini van) 1000m up without any altitude acclimatisation. Not a good idea.
So here's a picture I took at the pass looking towards Yavorov hut (you can't see the hut from the pass yet). Can you spot where the trail leads? Probably not...
From the pass you start descending into the valley carefully searching for any trail marks (or paths). When you get to the bottom of the valley, there's a mountain stream in there with fresh delicious water.
After the stream in the valley it gets easier with more trail marks on the trees. As you get closer to the hut there are more trail marks. The forest gets dense again and the path is much more visible now.
After a long walk through dense forest path starts going slightly downhill towards Yavorov mountain hut. Once the path starts going downhill you'll know you're close to the hut. From there it's just a short walk and you'll be there.
Here's the view towards the hut from the path:
Day 2 starts at the hut.
The plan for day 2 is going from Yavorov hut to Sinanitza mountain hut. This is a very long trail that will take all day so make sure you're fit and ready and that you start early.
Here are my timings for the route. They include short few minutes breaks:
- Yavorov hut - Bunkera Shelter 1h 20min
- Bunkera Shelter - Suchododsko Lake 1h 20min
- Suchododsko Lake - Pass between Albutin and Razloshki Suchodol 1h
- Pass - Cross of yellow and brown trail by Ovcharnik 1h 50min
- Yellow/brown cross - Yellow/Brown cross by Mandrata 1h 50min
- Mandrata - Sinanitza hut 2h 40min
From Yavorov mountain hut take red and yellow trails (they run together to the pass) to Bunkera shelter. It's a nice not too demanding walk which takes less than an hour and a half.
Bunkera shelter is quite small but you could spend the night there (we actually spent the night there instead of staying at the mountain hut). It's got some wooden benches inside and you get a roof over your head, that's the most important. At its current condition (July 2017) 2 people can sleep on the benches comfortably, with a little bit more tidying up (we did tidy up a bit) and a few simple repairs I guess 4 people could sleep on these benches. Here's what it looks like inside:
And this is the bunker (I would probably say more shelter than a bunker) from the outside:
It's a good place for overnight stay if you like staying in unusual places, otherwise there's a mountain hut nearby...
The weather wasn't too good, a bit of rain here and there and temperatures below 20, so it wasn't a surprise that we only met one person on our route towards the shelter and then the pass above (keep in mind that this is the route you could take to get on the main ridge of the Pirin and cross famous Koncheto ridge). We met a very friendly Bulgarian hiker from Central Bulgaria - Pavel - who we actually met again later on the pass (we first met him as he was going down towards Yavorov hut the evening we arrived to stay at the shelter and then we met him again the next day at the pass).
From the shelter, it's a beautiful walk that takes you gradually higher and higher towards the path - not a bad height for a pass: about 2500m. It's quite a long walk, it took us 2 hours and 20min with a few breaks for some pictures and some food and water.
After about an hour and twenty minutes after you left the shelter you get to a small lake in the middle of the mountains, a beautiful setting for a meal or just a break and from there it's just an hour to the pass.
The views from the pass are amazing. In a good weather you can see the entire main Pirin ridge all the way to Vichren (just before Vihren you can see the famous Koncheto ridge):
We were going to do the main Pirin ridge but the mountains had different plan for us... As we reached the pass, from where we were going to take the red trail all the way to Vichren, we saw something that would change our minds... The weather... It was blowing very heavy winds and clouds were getting lower and lower towards the ridge. As we were about to start descending into the valley following the yellow trail (by that time we knew we were not going to do the main ridge and Koncheto) clouds starting covering Vichren and Koncheto...
So off we went into the valley and the weather was beautiful in the valley, too. From the pass, we were going towards brown trail leading to Ovcharnik.
Just below the pass there's a beauitiful spot for a picnic with a lot of grass to relax and beautiful views surrounding you.
Once you descend into the valley the trail goes through a forest so there'll be less views but beautiful nature instead.
When you get to connection between the yellow and brown trail be very careful. First brown trail (there are two, one being much further down the valley and going around some mountain the other being closer and shorter) we could not find... There were no signs anywhere around the stream where they were supposed to meet. Luckily we met a local sheppard as we were wandering around (with a lot a lot of cattle surrounding us, not funny), who informed us that there were some very heavy winds and thunderstorms recently and a lot of trees were down. He also told us that even if we found and went on the first brown trail we wouldn't make it over the mountain as most trees were fallen and there were no paths any more.
So we followed him, he was very kind and offered to take us down towards the next brown trail. He was a very good man and it was pleasure to talk to him and spend time with him. And thankfully he showed us the way as there were hardly any trail marks and most of the time the trail was going through grass fields so it was very easy to get lost.
As you leave the point where the first brown route is supposed to be there is a new shelter built with money from the European Union. You can easily stay there:
When we were there there was nothing inside yet. No beds no tables.
After descending into the next valley we found the crossroads where we took the brown trail towards our destnation - Sinanitza hut.
We were actually planning to camp somewhere earlier because we were walking almost all day and we were very tired with our almost 20kg heavy backpacks. But we were about to change our minds about camping or we were forced to do so...
As you leave the crossroads between the trails, the brown trail takes you through a beautiful forest.
That's where we were planning to camp as we were exhausted by all day walking (it was about 7pm by that time) but something didn't let us camp or even stop.... No, it wasn't the views. Nor the cattle.... Midges. Everywhere . Even if you stopped for a minute they would get you. What was strange was that we were at about 2000m above sea level. We didn't expect midges at that height.
So whether we liked it or not we had to push going. And it was all ascending into the mountain hut. Almost 3 hours ascend surrounded by midges. You can imagine.
But it was all worth it because as we were getting higher we were being surrounded by beautiful views around:
From there, nothing but ascend all the time. And when you think the hut is close, just around the corner, as you go around the corner there's just more ascend and another corner. And it's like that for almost three hours from the bottom.
But after almost three hours ascend you get this amazing view of the mountain hut in a beautiful surrounding:
It's all worth it. And that's the end of day 2.
Sinanitza hut - Vihren hut. This day route is shorter. You can reach the mountain hut by Vihren in less than 5 hours.
- Sinanitza hut - Blue/Brown trail cross pass 50min
- Blue/Brown trail cross pass - pass 1h 40min
- pass - Vihren hut 1h 45min
Here's the route from the hut to the pass where Blue ands Brown trails cross and where you keep going using the Blue trail.
After you reach the pass it takes you across and you get these beautiful views of mountains everywhere and not a sign of civilisation... Just mountains and small lakes and quietness surrounding you...
From the pass (there's no mention of any name on the map we had) it's a relaxing walk. It's a great route after the previous day. No big ascends and no big descends, just a relaxing walk among the fields of grass and some rocks.
Here's the view from the blue trail after the pass:
As you're getting to the next pass you'll start seeing the gigantic mountain of Vihren. If time permits you can climb Vihren (2914m) one of the highest mountains in Pirin and Bulgaria and then descend into the Vihren hut (the red route to Vihren starts from the Vihren mountain hut)
This is the second pass, close to Vihren and Vihren hut, which you should reach after about 2h 30min from Sinanitza hut. There's a beautiful more "rocky" view from the pass and this pass is located much higher than the previous one at about 2500m.
This is us with a Bulgarian tourist we met at the pass (he was the only person we met all day, except people we met later by the hut):
From the pass it's a quite steep descent into the valley, which takes long time. As you leave the pass and start going downhill the route goes through rocky regions so be careful where you step.
It's almost three hours to the Vihren hut but it's a very picturesque walk and if the weather is nice you can take breaks and have a picnic along the route. It took us about 2 hours and 45 minutes to the hut with many short breaks for pictures or for a sip of water (it was a very warm day).
As you get closer to the hut, at about 10 minutes walk from the hut, you'll start seeing people. As it's close to the hut and one can get to the hut by a mini bus there are quite a lot of people there...
Day 4 is a leasurily walk from the hut back to Bansko.
Yes, you can take a mini bus to Bansko, from a place just down below the Vihren hut - about 20min walk from the hut. But it is a very nice walk down there although a very long one.
Here's a map of the are around Vihren hut (at the bottom) and the road which leads to Bansko:
Above the Vihren hut you can see another hut where you can take a mini bus to take you back to Bansko (or you can take a mini van from Bansko to here).
We walked down towards Bansko enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the majesty of the nature and then after about an hour from the last hut we hitch-hiked to Bansko as we were quite in a hurry to catch a train.