Stara Planina

Bulgaria
10-14 of May, 2015


Day 1: Kalofer - Byala reka

 

We took a morning train from Burgas to Kalofer. There were several nice old buildings around the central square in Kalofer, built in the Bulgarian national revival style.

 
 

A cool and impressive monument near the central square.

 
 

Already from the central square we could see our destination for tomorrow's hike: the Rai waterfall. The snowy peak behind the waterfall is Botev (2376 meters) which is the highest peak of Stara Planina.

 
 
Here we met Lalyu, a very friendly and helpful guy who runs the www.kalofer.com website. He had fixed a jeep taxi for us. The taxi drove us to a monastery, where Lalyu had booked a room for us to stay in. Thank you very much, Lalyu! :)
 
 
The courtyard of the monastery. Our room was on the upper floor of the building to the right.
 
 

View from our room towards the valley that we will walk tomorrow.
Outside the monastery we saw a very rare and beautiful bird, called Golden Oriole (Sommargylling in Swedish and Oriolus oriolus in Latin).

 
 

In the afternoon we walked the Byala Reka ecotrail, which is a circuit route into a wild canyon. The trail was beautiful, and we were impressed by all the bridges, ladders etc - it must have been hard work to construct this trail! It was very well maintained as well, and with nice information boards (though mostly in Bulgarian...).

 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

One of seven(!) fire salamanders that we saw on the ecotrail.

 
 

Restaurant near the entrance of the ecotrail

 
 

Playground on a meadow behind the restaurant.
You can camp here (the place is called Bivak Byala Reka).

 
 

Day 2: Byala Reka - Rai hut

 
 

Walking north along the green-marked trail.

 
 

The trail zigzagged up through the forest. It just rained a little bit, but the ground was
wet enough for the fire salamanders to appear. We saw five of them during this day.

 
 

When we reached the Paradzhika meadows the green trail markings were quite poor. We had to search for the trail a couple of times, but eventually found the correct route. Once we reached the blue-marked trail at the upper part of Paradzhika, the markings were good again.

 
 

A shepherd's dog joined us when we had lunch
(and when Finn did his after-dinner toilet visit)

 
 

It started to rain so we missed some of the views along this trail.
But on the other hand, the forest became very beautiful in the mist.

 
 
 
 
 

Arriving at the Rai hut.

 
 

Inside Rai hut.

 
 

The hut served us a nice dinner with bean soup,
cabbage salad, bread, coffee, tea and beer.

 
 

And now the rain stopped, revealing the beautiful surroundings.
A few hundred meters from the hut was the Rai waterfall.
It is 125 meters high, which makes it the highest waterfall in the country.

 
 
 
 
 

Finn had fun chasing the dogs...

 
 

...and feeding the horses

 
 

Day 3: Rai hut - Levski hut

 
 

This day was sunny, so we started out by
enjoying the magnificent views around the Rai hut.

 
 

The Ravnets massif in the background.

 
 

View from the Malkiya Kupen hill, a short walk from the hut.

 
 

We then walked west along the blue trail, and passed below the waterfall.

 
 

OK, this is the last photo of the waterfall, I promise :)

 
 

Sara crossing the stream with care - carrying
very valuable luggage (Finn and his toilet)

 
 

Last view of the hut. The Malkiya Kupen viewpoint is the one nearest to the hut.

 
 

Chamois (wild goat) among the rocks

 
 

Another nice waterfall

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

Plenty of nice waterfalls in this area!

 
 

Ingmar in front of the snow-covered Botev peak (2376 m)

 
 

Two more chamois (wild goats)

 
 

Crocus flowers

 
 

We had to cross some patches of snow on this part of the route.

 
 

Descending into the Stara Reka valley.

 
 

 

 
 

 

 
 

The Vasil Levski hut. A very nice hut. Clean bathrooms with hot showers, and nice lentil soup. Here we met other hikers, a group of three men from Plovdiv. They were the very first other people we met so far on the hike, except for the hut staff and a couple of shepherds. The next day we met one other hiker, and that was it...

 
 

Day 4: Vasil Levski hut - Karlovo

 
 

Holes in a tree made by a black woodpecker (spillkråka in Swedish)

 
 

We spent this hole day in nice forest along the Stara Reka river.
Very easy and enjoyable walking!

 
 

A picnic spot by the Balkanski Rozi hut.

 
 

Finn has found rocks that he want to throw into the river

 
 

Throwing rocks into the river - a game that never gets old :)

 
 

We then followed the river for another hour or so...

 
 

...until we reached the Hubavets hut, the last hut of the hike.
It's luxurious hiking when you can get a good meal followd by nice Turkish coffee...

 
 

...not to mention what could be the best yoghurt in the world!
Home-made, chunky and served with blueberries.

 
 

Finn chasing a bug

 
 

White-throated dipper (Strömstare in Swedish)

 
 

We then entered the mighty Stara Reka canyon.

 
 

Green lizard. This is the male, recognized by the turquoise-coloured head.

 
 

The first view of our goal of the hike: the town of Karlovo.

 
 

Having a good meal in our favorite restaruant in Karlovo: Mehana Vodopad.

 
 
 
 
 

Some nice old buildings on the Vasil Levski street,
which is a nice street to walk between the center and the railway station.