Biking in Bulgaria: Bansko and Pirin

Biking in Bulgaria

In my previous posting I discussed (very briefly) the surprising lack of bicycles in Sofia.  Now lets continue with something more uplifting and interesting – going to Southwest Bulgaria – the town of Bansko, and the Pirin National Park.  Why go there – well in only a few words – beautiful scenery (as you will be able to tell from the photos below), great hiking, and of course the opportunity to actually do mountain biking.

Bansko is located approximately two and a half hour drive from the Sofia international airport.  You also have the option of taking a bus as well as a shuttle which could be organized by many of the hotels in town.  Here is a map of the region in Bulgaria – Sofia and Bansko – to give you a relative idea


I will skip all the intricacies of driving in Bulgaria – if you have not done it or do not want to gain that experience, your safe bet is the bus or shuttle services offered.   Not a bad idea overall…

Now, about the mountain biking in Bansko.   For that you have many options and things to consider.

  • Equipment:
    • Option 1: check with your hotel – do they offer bikes as part of the package and/or do they rent bikes.   In either way, you will need to find out also the options for helmets.   I have to assume you have planned ahead and brought your biking shorts :-), gloves, water bottle…
    • Yes !  Water bottle is important!  Why?   The climate in Bulgaria in the summer is hot and dry.   You will be in the mountains and having the water bottle will be very much essential – or you may have issues…
    • Option 2:  Rent the bike(s) from a local shop – there are plenty in the town.  I did not use that option — Option 1 above was our solution – so cannot recommend a rental place but I am sure your hotel can do that for you.
  • Places for biking:
    • There are certainly a lot of them in the area.  As a matter of fact – one option for those of you who may want to take it easy – is just to jump on the bike and explore Bansko – the town.  I will post on that in a separate article later.
    • Another simple option to consider is to use the gondola lift from the edge of town (southern tip of the town) to the area called Banderishki Poliani – that is the end of the Gondola Lift line and proceed from there on the asphalt road all the way back into Bansko.   A great and exhilarating trip!   All downhill, all at pretty fast speed…!
    • The one other option to consider is the trail from Banderishki Poliani to Banderica Challet.  Here is a collage of a map and some photos from that trail:


This is the trail we took and enjoyed.  Here are some more photos, the beauty of the place is a driver enough to consider exploring – no matter whether on foot or on a bike.   Enjoy!


Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria


Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria

Biking in Bulgaria: Sofia

Bulgaria-SofiaMy family and I traveled to Bulgaria recently.   I will be publishing additional piece on our experience in the Pirin mountain separately later over the weekend, but in the mean time wanted to share my views on cycling in the capital – Sofia as this is something that has been bothering me for several years.

Bulgaria is a member of the EU.  Having said that, your visions of a glitzy European capital, with posh boutique stores etc. is…well, misplaced.  The country and its capital is still very much in a stage of development, and the standard of living is not high at all.  Here are some stats on the country’s economic indicators and recent assessment.

That economic picture is then combined with some additional factors – like price of gasoline and/or diesel fuel, and you have a situation that should drive huge demand for bicycle usage.

Well, not so fast!  While the incomes and disposable funds across the population of the country and/or Sofia is not high, the usage of bicycles is abysmally low.

From the moment you get out of the airport and get on a taxi, metro, bus….you are thrown in the mess of cars and especially in rush hour – you start wondering – how come?

Given that congestion and overall general aggressiveness of drivers, I would strongly discourage you take on biking in the city.  At the same time, I wish there was a way to start a petition across the people living in the city – to drive the usage of bikes much higher….

I have been in many European cities and in most of them you see tons of bicycle usage and as a result incredible number of benefits – including MUCH safer streets from standpoint of overall pedestrian, bicycle, and overall traffic.

Let me know with your feedback and recommendations on how to address this big issue for this small country…!

Biking in Bulgaria – part 1 – Central Balkan Region

Over the previous 2 years I added summary write ups on biking trails and pleasant areas to bike in several corners of Bulgaria.  Today, having just returned from yet another trip to Bulgaria (and a brief London visit), it is time to add more to the list of potential areas for biking in this country.

As stated, previously I provided write ups and photos on:

This time around I want to add commentary and photos on a few more locations, starting with the area known as the Valley of the Thracian Kings (around Kazanlak), high up in the Central Balkan mountains between the peaks where Shipka and Buzludzha are — then in a follow up installment I will cover areas in North-east Bulgaria around Kavarna, Balchik and the Zlatni Piasaci (Golden Sands) resort.

So about the area around small towns (more like villages) outside of Kazanlak there are plenty of dirt roads for you to explore between Kran, Enina, Shipka — you can see on this map:

And these photos:

near-Kazanlak    near-Kazanlak  BikingDirtRoadOutsideKran-1   

And next a few photos from the road from Shipka to Buzludha (a near by peak of the Balkan mountain range) — the road itself is not heavily traveled and allows for a good bike ride of about 6-8km and if you continue back down to the valley you will come out on the main road that links Shipka, Kran and Kazanlak.

near-Buzludzha biking-Buzludzha

If you get a chance you should definitely consider biking in this region.  Then of course sample some of the great food and see the historic Thracian Tombs.

Bike Ride: Veliko Tqrnovo – Arbanasi

Earlier in the Summer, I was in Bulgaria and was able to go over yet another interesting bike ride option — for all of you who enjoy mountain climbs and leafy roads — this is the one!  The track is approximately 8-km long but certainly can put you to a good exercise given the climbs you will have to do on the way to Arbanasi.

Here is a map of the road between the to points of interest:

Why would I recommend this particular ride?  Because you will get to experience some great sites as well as of course get some good exercise.   Take a look at the photos here (below) from Veliko Tarnovo (Tsarevets) and from Arbanasi:

Veliko Tarnovo  tzarevetz

winding road to Arbanasi



Bicycling in Bulgaria – Explore Etara, Sokolski Manastir Area

Mountain Biking – Etara, Gabrovo, Near by Balkan mountains

Well folks I am sure you would like to get information on yet another beautiful site in Bulgaria where you can test your skills and physical endurance.  Which is this area / place?  Well it is on the north of the Balkan range (on the north side of the Shipka Mountain pass) and South of the town of Gabrovo.  The map below shows the location I am describing.  

By biking here you can have a great experience both where exercise is concerned as well as experiencing the history, art and culture of 18-19th century Bulgaria.   

Here is a set of images to give you an idea as to what you would experience.  First a quick view of the open air museum of Etara

Beautiful Architecture in Etara  Etara near Gabrovo

Here is a link to the official Web site of the Etara museum –  you can use it to to get a list of the various activities and exhibitions you can see while visiting.

Etara Crafts




Bansko Mountain Biking

Bansko Mountain Biking – an Excellent Location

The summer is here!  The temperatures are rising…the sun is getting really hot…so what do you do?  Well, one option is to head into the mountains and getting both the great biking as well as experiencing a cooler weather.  If you can make it to Eastern Europe this summer – then here is another recommendation for a great mountain biking location.   Check out the town of Bansko, Bulgaria and the Pirin mountain! Bansko mountain biking is great and a must do!

Mountain Biking in the Pirin mountain  Mountain biking and views

Bansko is located in the Southwest corner of Bulgaria – about two and a half hours south of Sofia.  

There are many things to do in Bansko – you can enjoy several days of biking around different trails in the near by Pirin mountain park, you can use the chair lift and get high in the mountain and get a rush from a downhill ride or you can just ride up into the mountain and enjoy the natural beauty of the forest, fields and views;

Accomodations-wise, the Kempinski hotel in Bansko is top notch — here is a photo – judge for yourself. I doubt you can find many as spectacular locations and views:

The pool at the Kempinski Bansko  View of Kempinski Bansko

Here are some of the places in the near by Pirin mountain you will likely experience:

Pirin mountain biking trails  Biking in the Pirin mountain, Bulgaria



Another Interesting Destination – a Small Town in Sredna Gora, Bulgaria – Koprivshtitsa


In my previous posting I covered some new and really off the beaten track places in Bulgaria – where you can find good opportunities for true mountain biking — after all the Balkan range offers great nature views and pretty challenging or mellow roads for your biking adventures.  

In this posting I will bring you — via some photos — to the town (or may be village — it is a very small town) of Koprivshtitsa — in the Sredna Gora (Middle Forrest – literal translation) mountain near the Balkan range as well.  The town was founded a few years after Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman empire rule – as the legend goes by rebelious Bulgarians who determined that its location will give them some level of minimal independence.  

The local folks continued to strive for independence and became strong supporters of a movement to start a rebelion which culminated in the Aprilsko Vqstanie (April Rebelion) of April 1876 which started in Koprivshtitsa and continued in a number of towns in South / Central B ulgaria.  The uprising was put down severely which in turn gave the impetus for the Russian – Turkish war of 1877-1878 which ultimately brought to the independence of Bulgaria.

Koprivshtitsa with its tradition of wealth and independence managed to maintain a nice mix of old Bulgarian architecture.  Thus a visit to the town can  both allow you to do some nice bicycling in the hills around the town as well as visit many old / traditional houses and learn more about the architecture.

Here are some photos from our trip there earlier in August this year:

Koprivshtitsa A Nice Small Town in Sredna Gora   Koprivshtitsa Koprivshtitsa – worth visiting

Bridge in Koprivshtitsa Old Bridge in Koprivshtitsa     Street in град Копривщица град Копривщица    

Church Sv. Nikolai град Копривщица – Church   Old Church град Копривщица – old Church

yard of the old church град Копривщица – Church  Bridge in the town град Копривщица


 If you come here in the summer, just a bike ride through the cobbled streets of the town will be enough of an exercise — I would think…. Next time we are doing that !

A quick map courtesy of Google Maps:

View Larger Map


Enjoy the trip!


Another new mountain bike location — in Bulgaria — in the Balkan mountains, near Maglizh and Kazanlak

In the spirit of constantly adding new places where we can enjoy mountain biking, here is another location also in Bulgaria.  Earlier (several months ago) I did a quick write up and published photos from Sinemoretz and now lets take a look at two little villages in Central Bulgaria in the foothills and in the mountains of the Balkan range.

I will start with the one which is further high up in the mountains — the village of Selce.  In Bulgarian it means little village — and it certainly is.  I could not even find it on Google Maps.  Selce is located about 16 km northwest of the village of Maglizh.  To find Maglizh itself you head out of Kazanlak or Stara Zagora and drive towards the Sofia – Burgas highway that passes below (South of) in the foothills of the Balkan range.  Once you are in Maglizh, keep going North exiting the village and start climbing a narrow paved road.    The altitude in Selce is 810 meters – so you get a bit milder weather — vs lets say the weather in near by Kazanlak. The permanent population is roughly 28 people — but I wonder how permanent that is — I would expect many are migratiing back and forth between the village and Stara Zagora or Kazanlak.

Az you get into Selce — keep going North and you will eventually hit some country dirt roads — you can see on the photos below – they are very nice for biking:

In the Balkan mountains Nice road for mountain biking – Selce, Bulgaria  Another mountain bike road Mountain biking near Selce – high gradient road

Nice scenary outside of Selce, Bulgaria You can enjoy biking and the nice surroundings  Roadside water fountain The water is freezing cold and great tasting – near Selce Bulgaria



More on Sinemorets (Синеморец)

Well folks, my previous posting on Sinemorets was very well accepted — I think most people found the images from the area very appealing or interesting, so I decided to post a few more. Enjoy! You can see the nice trails for bikes on some of the photos….

Sinemorets in the evening You can see the trails on the photo…   And another Sinemorets view More views of the trails in Sinemorets  And now a view of the coast line Sinemorets coast   Sinemorets Night (Синеморец) Sinemorets at night

More photos to come later….See you soon!