The beautiful town of Bansko in the Pirin Mountains offers some of the best hiking in Europe.
While much less known than the Swiss or Austrian Alps, Bulgaria’s mountains are also spectacular and the hiking trails are a lot less crowded.
All of these 5 hikes near Bansko can be done in a day or you can extend them into multi-day hikes by staying at one of the alpine huts in Pirin National Park and Rila National Park where you can sleep in a dorm room for 10 euros a night and eat a good meal in their restaurants.
I recommend downloading the BG Huts app (for iPhone or Android) if you want to learn more about staying in Bulgaria’s alpine huts and if you want to plan out a route staying in different huts along the way.
1. The 5 Pirin Lakes
The easiest access to the high alpine near Bansko is from Vihren Hut, which you can reach by a daily shuttle bus that goes from different pickup locations in the town of Bansko.
Beginning at Vihren Hut (6398 ft / 1950 m), you can easily hike to 5 lakes in day. A short 10-minute walk from the Vihren is Okoto Lake and from there you can hike up to Lake Muratovo, Banderishko Lake, Frog Lake and Banderitsa Lake.
The trails here are relatively easy and well-marked and the alpine scenery is absolutely spectacular.
2. The 7 Rila Lakes
I’ve heard that the Rila Lakes is the most popular hike in Bulgaria and it’s no wonder, the scenery along this hike is absolutely awe-inspiring.
You start by taking a chairlift (25 leva) up into the high alpine and from there you can see most of the lakes in a day or stay over at the hut and make it a slower 2 day hike.
What I enjoyed most about this hike is the beautiful reflections on the sky and clouds on the crystal-clear blue lakes.
3. Bezbog Hut And Popovo Lake
The day hikes from Bezbog Hut offer views of some of the most spectacular peaks and alpine lakes found in Bulgaria’s Pirin National Park.
To get to the Bezbog Hut it’s a 30 minute drive from Bansko to Gotse Delchev hut near the town of Dobrinishte. From there, you take the old Soviet-era chairlift to the Bezbog Hut at 7336 ft (2236 m).
The first chairlift goes at 8:30 a.m. and the last chairlift down is at 4:45 p.m and it costs 25 leva.
From the Bezobg Hut, you can hike up into the alpine to Polezhan Peak and Popovo Lake, which can be done in a day.
4. The Abandoned Hotel
If you take the Vihren shuttle bus or the Ski Bansko gondola to the mid-station point, there is an excellent 2 hour hike (return) to an abandoned ski hotel.
The hotel is known as Upleto and it was built in Soviet-era but was abandoned after the full Ski Bansko resort was built in the early 2000s because of water issues since all the water available on the mountain was allocated for snow making.
The architecture is striking and the triangular-like structure makes it look almost like a ski jump.
5. Sitan Kale Fortress
A short hike north of the town of Bansko along the cascading river that flows through the middle of the town, you will find the ancient Byzantine fortress of Sitan Kale.
This fortress overlooks the town of Bansko and the Rezlog Valley. It was conquered and sacked when the Ottoman Empire took over Bulgaria and today all that remains is the ruins of the fortress walls.
It isn’t well-marked but if you follow the Glazne river to the Peshterite restaurant and turn right you will want to the gravel road that goes left up into the mountains at the large bend in the road and after 10 minute walk you will see a sign to Sitan Kale.