Central Balkan

8-12 of May, 2010

My second visit to this amazing national park, in the heart of the Stara Planina mountains (also known as "the Balkan Range"). We walked from Cherni Osam - Rai - Botev - Karlovo and only met other hikers once in five days!

Day 1: Steneto

We started by taking the bus from Sofia to Troyan.
There we took a taxi via Cherni Osam towards the Steneto reserve.
The driver dropped us off shortly after Smesite.


We walked to the end of the road where Sara took a swim in the clear water before we ascended on the small path.


The first viewpoint.


The Steneto valley is said to be home to one
of the densest bear populations in Bulgaria.
It really felt like a wild place, far from civilisation.


Flowers covered the ground in the beech forest


Flowers as far as we could see in all directions.
It took us 20 minutes to walk through it.


Impressive rocks


Another nice viewpoint looking to the north...


...and to the south


We finally reached the Dermenka hut at the ridge. The photo shows the view from the hut towards the east - the direction we would walk the next day.

After not meeting any people on the trail we suddenly found ourselves at a huge party. It was a saturday and the national holidays, so the hut was packed with local Bulgarians that were there for celebrations. It didn't take many seconds before someone sat us down at their table and filled our glasses with beer, home-made rakya and food on our plates. Great party with fun people!

Watch a film clip from the party

Day 2: Dermenka - Dobrila

We followed the ridge above the Steneto reserve.
This day was foggy and a bit rainy, which was OK
since the trail manly passed through nice forests.




We took a wrong turn and walked towards the Troyan pass. When we reached the fork to Karnare we realised our mistake and turned back.


Near Dermenka hut we saw this lizard.


Very nice beech forests


A quick view of the Dermenka hut before the mist swallowed it again.
Below in the valley is the Steneto reserve.


We took the opportunity to have lunch when the weather cleared up. Below us is the "valley of Roses" and in the background the Sredna Gora mountains.

Closer to Dobrila hut we passed throug dark pine forests.

Day 3: Dobrila - Levski - Rai

This day was too long... but extremely nice!


From Dobrila hut we took the blue trail that runs below the main ridge.


This would have been a perfect place to camp :)


The trail ran just above the forest with new views after each turn.


Crossing several streams with waterfalls


Crocus flowers were common


Horses walk freely on the meadows. But the life without fences has its disadvantages, as we would soon find out...


Looking back. Dobrila is in the middle, just behind the tree-less hill on the ridge.


Lunch at a viewpoint.
Plenty of ground-squirrels ran around in the grass here.


I managed to capture a ground squirrel on this photo,
but unfortunately without proper zoom...


The upper part of the Stara Reka reserve.
The small clearing in the forest at the bottom of the upper valley is the Vasil Levski hut.


A horse that was mutilated with bones spread in a large area. It must have been the work of one (or more likely several) large carnivores - probably a pack of wolves.


The remains after a wolf's dinner.


We entered the forest again and reached the Vasil Levski hut. Next, we continued up to the alpine meadows again.


View above the Stara Reka forest.


A sheppered had used a "Tuborg" board as a wall in his hut :)


Another lizard


In a large field of purple crocus, there was some times one or two white ones...


View of Botev, the highest peak in Stara Planina (2375 m)


The path passed a lot of vertical cliffs with numerous waterfalls


We saw a couple of chamoise on the rocks

Day 4: Rai - Botev


Breakfast by the Rai hut with a view of waterfall.
A horse tried to steal our food.


We took a day-pack and walked back to the place where we had seen chamous the previous evening. On the way we stumbled upon another horse skeleton. This was also ripped to peases and spread out, so it could be another wolf victim.


Looking down into the deep valley


We sat down, had a cup of hot chocolate and watched a couple of chamoise among the cliffs.


We walked up to the Rai waterfall.
This waterfall is 125 meters high, and the highest (with water all year) not only in Bulgaria but on the entire Balkan peninsula.


Standing under the waterfall makes you realise how powerful the flow of the water is.


Another view of the amazing waterfall...


...and another view :)


We picked up our backpacks at the Rai hut and started to climb Botev by using "the Tarzan path" that winds its way up along the vertical cliffs. A very nice path of easy scrambling with great views.


View of Rai hut from the Tarzan path.


The ridge to the east.


After climbing Botev peak we descended to the Botev shelter where we spent the night.

Day 5: Botev - Ravnets - Karlovo


Crocus world record around the Botev shelter :)


The path was surprisingly beautiful with a very alpine feel.


A pack of wolves had walked here before us.


Click here to view panorama


On our way up Ravnets, we had lunch with a view of Botev peak.


The Ambaritsa (a.k.a. Levski) peak seen from Ravnets.


Descending through nice pine forest


Another wolf victim perhaps?


The branches of the pine trees here grew all the way down to the ground. Strange...


Coffee and beer at the cosy Ravnets hut


Reaching the town Karlovo


Like in a movie from the 50s :)


The view from Karlovo town to the entrance of the Stara Reka reserve