The Sultans Trail offers a relatively easy hiking trail through south-eastern Europe. It follows the traditional routes: the rivers. The beautiful valleys of the Danube, the Morava in Serbia, and the Maritza and Arda in Bulgaria provide the landscape through which the Sultans Trail finds its course between Vienna to Istanbul.
The Sultans Trail is a 2.500km hiking trail, divided into 115 stages of approximately 20-30km each. No special skills are required, nor any special gear. Lodging is generally available, the food is good and the weather agreeable, when you avoid the summer and deep winter.
Thank you so much for this wonderful ‘cultural adventure’ throughout half of Europe! Amazing!
I have only been in Bratislava, Budapest and Istanbul, but the countryside certainly looks like a challenge to be met!
Ευχαριστώ πολύ για αυτή την υπέροχη ‘πολιτιστική περιπέτεια’ που διατρέχει τη μισή Ευρώπη! Υπέροχη! Έχω επισκεφτεί τη Μπρατισλάβα, τη Βουδαπέστη, την Κωνσταντινούπολη, αλλά η εξοχή σίγουρα φαντάζει μία πρόκληση που σίγουρα κάποιος πρέπει να ζήσει! Γεωργία Αγγελοπούλου, Ελλάδα.
It is a cultural adventure into the Balkans. Stretching from Vienna to Istanbul is passes through a wide variety of landscapes and cultures. The trail brings you to villages not yet discovered by mass-tourism, introducing you to the hospitality for which the region is famous.
The trail uses mostly country roads, from village to village and town to town, through pleasant countryside.
Along the Danube we find marshland and flood plains but also fertile arable land. In Serbia, the trail turns south, gradually sloping up the Morava valley, where the hills slowly close in on the trail, until it crosses over the watershed at the Bulgarian border. Beyond Sofia, the trail splits into two branches, one continuing through the Maritza valley, the other one crossing the Rila mountains and the unspoiled hills of the Rhodope. In Turkey, the trail passes through the flat fertile Thracian valley.
All along the trail, we find special protected natural areas. From the “Neusiedler See”, to the preserved Danuban wetlands in Slovakia and Hungary, the Pilis hills, to the extensive floodplains of Gemenc National park in Hungary and the Danube-Sava nature reserve at the borders of Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia, the Fruska Gora and the Suva Planina in Serbia and rare Karst marshes in Bulgaria to the unspoiled last remaining wildlands in the Rhodope area.
pThe cuisine offers a rich blend of traditional dishes and oriental influences. The culinary experience in this region includes influences from many surrounding cultures, including the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and even historical influences from periods such as the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. You will be able to taste the well-known Hungarian goulash as well as turkish delight, but also ajvar, Ćevapčići, dolma, and the omnipresent shopska salad. For breakfast burek with ayran and for desert palachinka. These dishes are served in traditional restaurants, all along the trail.
The favourite pastime drink is Slivovitz, or Rakia, which you may be offered at any time of the day, but be careful if you want to be able to continue your hike that day.
In former days, one’s trade and social position was expressed by one’s clothing. The multi-ethnic society showed its colours abundantly. Nowadays it is not so manifest, but this variety still exists. The Balkan region is notorious for its migrations, leading to a wide variety of cultures, living next to each other. This was not different in the past, so the same applies for historic periods and its legacies; Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Slavic, Ottoman. A Walhalla for anyone with an eye for it.
The history of the region is characterised by migration and colliding empires. After the split of the Roman empire, the remaining Byzantine empire had to defend itself again and again against invading tribes from the east and the west, including Hungarian and Slavic people who even managed to establish their own kingdoms, until it was conquered by the Ottoman. Traces of history can be found all over the place, even traces of the communist recent past and the Nazi occupation during WW II.
The historical background of places can be found in the village history and local museums.
Next to the monumental cities like Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Sofia, Plovdiv, Edirne and Istanbul, the trail passes by several exquisite UNESCO heritage sites. But just as interesting are the many local historical sites and history museums.
Music and dance
Traditional music is known for its many complex rhythms, using all kinds of instruments, like drums, bagpipes, tarambka, bells, string instruments, flutes, etc.
Gypsy bands are traditionally invited for wedding parties.
Hearing well-performed church chants can be a chilling and goosebump causing experience. Folk dancing is still hot in the region and can be witnessed on various occasions.