Mountain Biking in Bulgaria: 2-day cross country trip in Western Rhodopes
A longer mountain bike trip has been on my to-do list for the last few months. And, thankfully, we were able to spare a weekend in September and did our first cross country biking trip in the Bulgarian mountains.
If you decide to go mountain biking, you should know that Bulgaria offers great opportunities for such adventures. With lots of mountains, great nature and picturesque countryside, your choice will be worth it. The proximity of many mountains to the capital – Sofia, makes it easier to do a biking day trips every once in a while.
Our 2-day mountain biking adventure was more challenging than I expected but absolutely memorable and good for beginners. We did a cross country biking trip in the Western Rhodopes with amazing views to Pirin. Our experienced guide Lyubo from Hiking Guide Bulgaria was super helpful planning our trip and explaining every detail.
The preparation included:
- rented bikes and helmets from Bansko ~20 BGN per bike (10 Euro);
- small backpack with some snacks, personal first aid kit, headlamp, some warm clothes;
- sunscreen and sunglasses;
- comfortable shoes;
- water bottle;
- mountain insurance;
- experienced mountain guide;
- tons of good mood.
The 2-day itinerary included a train ride from Bansko to Avramovo, cross country biking from Avramovo to Ortsevo, a night in Ortsevo – the highest village in Bulgaria, downhill and cross country from Ortsevo to Banya. At the end we enjoyed the warm mineral waters in Banya, then we went back to Bansko and Sofia.
Day 1: Bansko – Avramovo – Ortsevo
The ride from Sofia to Bansko is a little more than 2 hours. So we took that a day before and decided to spend the night in Bansko – a famous ski resort in Bulgaria. There are plenty of accommodation options in Bansko for good prices (~15-20 BGN per night).
In the morning, we rented our bikes from the local bike shop and headed to the train station. Our destination was Avramovo – the highest train station on the Balkans. We took the only active narrow-gauge train in Bulgaria, famous with the scenic road passing through the Western Rhodopes.
After a 2-hour picturesque train ride, the cross country biking was on. We started around noon and cycled on a panoramic asphalt road around 2 hours with little to no cars at all. We experienced some amazing views to Rila, Pirin, Rhodopes and rode around several small and unspoiled villages around.
For a complete beginner and not very regular biker, this part was absolutely okay. I was amazed by the scenery so I stopped pretty often to take photos, to enjoy the moments and probably to annoy my fellow bikers. Sorry, guys, but with these views, would you blame me?
After a short lunch break with some cows and dogs, we were headed to the most challenging part of the tour – an hour of uphill ride on a dirt road from Vranentsi to Ortsevo – our destination for the day.
Now, this was a lot harder than I expected. Riding uphill was not my cup of tea but I managed to reach the village my way – with more hiking and lots of rests ha ha…
After this quite tiring part of our Rhodopian journey, we reached our home for the night – Ortsevo. Hard to reach, unspoiled village in Velijski Rhodopes with one guest house, one small shop and scenic views to whole Rhodopes and even nearby Pirin mountain.
Bonding with a local man (and a great storyteller) over the most delicious dinner you can possibly have after a day of biking was the best end of the day. On top of that, the sunset from our terrasse was stunning…
Day 2: Ortsevo – Zlataritsa – Eleshnitsa – Banya – Bansko
We got up early in the morning and all ready to head off. The good news were that this time there was going to be more downhills to ride on, exactly what I was waiting for. But first things first – the delicious breakfast – home made cheese, yoghurt, banitsa and mekitsi, coffee, some tea and saying our goodbyes…
This time we had the chance to make some pretty good action shots… The long downhill ride on a the dirt road all over from Ortsevo to Eleshnitsa was one of the highlights of the trip…
Again, this part of the journey included lots and lots of scenic landscape views. We stopped at Zlataritsa to enjoy more of them and then in Eleshnitsa for a deserved lunch.
The view from Zlataritsa…
From Eleshnitsa we had another 5 km on an asphalt road with some traffic. But our destination – Banya, was waiting with some delicious food and hot mineral pool – a deserved end of the 2-day mountain bike tour in this part of Bulgaria. We reached Banya around 1 pm, enjoyed a fresh salad and head back to Bansko with cars.
All in all, this mountain biking trip was one of the best adventures I’ve had in Bulgaria. This unspoiled part of Rhodopes was so beautiful and serene. You will have a great time if you decide to explore the Bulgarian countryside and visit the mountains.
- The biking is around 25-30 km a day.
- Suitable for for people in good physical condition and minimum experience in mountain biking.
- This part of the Rhodopes is not touristy at all so I recommend you get in touch with an experienced mountain guide. Ours was Lyubo from Hiking Guide Bulgaria who can help you with customized hiking and biking tours in Bulgaria, as well as ski tours and classes in Bansko or other areas during winter. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and www.bulguides.com.
- This trip is a great opportunity for a biking day trip from Bansko. You can also check other sample itineraries for mountain biking in Bulgaria.
Have you ever been on a mountain bike trip for more than a day?
What is your experience?