Sultans Trail in Bulgaria
Beautiful hiking trail in Bulgaria. The map below
shows the route of the Sultans Trail in Bulgaria.
The Sultans Trail in Bulgaria runs from the border at Dimigrovegrad via Sofia to Edirne and is 550 km in length. It runs predominantly through the mountains of southern Bulgaria, with three distinct landscapes. First, starting at the outskirts of Sofia, the Rila mountains, with alpine conditions. Next, between Velingrad and Kardzhali the heavily forested Western Rhodopes and finally between Kardzhali and Edirne the Eastern Rhodopes.
In the Rila mountains, the trail gains height, at first at Cherni Vrah (2290 m) in the Vitosha Mountains and next at mount Mechit (2572 m). The Rhodope mountains are less high.
The trail starts in Sofia, at the foot of Cherni Vrah (Black Mountain) and continues uphill until its very summit. From there it passes through the Samokov Valley until at Samokov it meets the Iskra river, which is followed upstream for a while to prepare for the cross-over of the Rila range following parts of the prestigious King Ferdinand Road to the eponymous Rila Monastery. From the monastery the trail crosses the Rila national park until the spa-resort Velingrad, gradually losing height.
The Rhodope mountains extend into Greece and were part of the historical region Thrace. The region is particularly notable for its karst areas with their deep river gorges, large caves and specific sculptured forms. The Western Rhodopes are rich in lakes and are famous for the largest coniferous woods in the Balkans, its rolling hills and lush vegetation.
The Eastern part is significantly lower and houses almost every species of European birds of prey including the rare Black vulture and Egyptian vulture.
Near the mining town of Rudozem in the Western Rhodopes, the Trail touches upon the river Arda which runs all the way through the Rhodopes until it confluences with the Maritza river near Edirne. This river will be the Sultans Trail hiker’s companion until Edirne.
The trail briefly passes through Northern Greece, before it crosses the Turkish border.
Visitors to Turkey may need a visa which can be obtained online, here.
Recently, Turkey reached an agreement with the EU by which a visa is no longer needed for European citizens.
The starting point of the Sultans Trail is the Stephans Dom, in the centre of the ancient city.
How to get there
Sofia Airport (IATA code: SOF) is located 5 km east of the city centre. The airport has two terminals, connected by a free shuttle bus.
Next to Terminal 2 is the final stop of Metro Line 1 a fast connection to the city centre. Travel time ca. 18 minutes. Price 1.60 LEV, tickets from the ticket machine at the station.
Two bus lines, 84 and 184, also connect both terminals to Sofia University at the east side of the city centre. Travel time 35-45 minutes. Price 1.60 LEV, tickets from the ticket machine on the bus. See www.sofia-airport.bg
For city-transport see www.eway.bg or download the EasyWay public transport App
Sofia-Velingrad, bus from Sofia Avtogari, (3 times a day, duration 2h, price 4€-7€), see www.avtogari.info
Sofia-Kardzhali, bus from central station Sofia to Kardzhali, (3-4 times a day, duration 4h 20m, price 9€-€14€).
Sofia-Plovdiv, multiple bus operators from Sofia Avtogari, (1-2 per hour, duration 2h 40m, price 4€-28€).
Train (every hour, duration 2h 30m, price 4€-6€). See www.bdz.bg
Sofia-Ivaylovgrad, train to Svilengrad (3 times a day, 5h, 18€-22€), taxi to Ivaylovgrad, (42m, 11€-14€). See www.bdz.bg
Plovdiv Krumovo Airport (IATA code: PDV) is located 12km south-east of the city centre. It has a limited number of connections. See www.plovdivairport.com.
The airport has a train connection with Plovdiv (leaving every hour from station Mavrudovo, duration 14min, price €1-€2) see www.bdz.bg
Edirne has no airport but does have a bus connection to Istanbul Esenler Otogari (leaving every 2 hours, duration 3h 55m, costs 5€-11€).
From Esenler Otogari into Istanbul use Metro M1 (leaving every 5 min, duration 22 min, price 1€). See Metro Istanbul.
From Esenler Otogari to Istanbul Havalimani Airport (IATA code: IST), Havaist bus IST-3, departure every 30 minutes (between 05:00 and 01:30), duration approximately 75 min., depending on traffic, price 16 TL. See IETT
The train from Edirne Şehir to Istanbul Halkali leaves once a day and takes 3h 45m, price 3€-4€. See Seat61
Austria is an EU member and part of the Schengen zone.
The currency in Austria is Euro. Credit cards and bank cards are readily accepted.
The main language is German. English is well understood.
The Prolog runs down the sloops of the Wienerwald, bordering Vienna to the north, through the many wineries.
The main route passes through the fields using country roads and field tracks. The Leitha river is bordered by woods, providing sun shelter in the summer.
The landscape contains many wind-turbine.
When the Danube curves around two large hills, the Hundesheimer Berg and the Braunsberg, the trail runs close to the river. In springtime, the track can be flooded. When it does, a short detour is recommended.
From the Danube bent the trail follows the Danube on a towpath (Treppelweg) until Bratislava.
The Danubian wetlands (Donau Auen) between Vienna and Hainburg are an National Park.
The Leitha river is a Natura 200 site and makes good fishing. It is home to several bever families. In summer, the area is also rich in musquitos.
The Braunsberg and Hundesheimer Berg are rich of game.
In the area around Vienna, some good wineries are found.
The shores of shallow Neusiedlersee are cover by reeds, making it an ideal habitat for wildlife. The lake itself is a vital resting place for migrating birds.
Lower Austria produces some outstanding wines. A typical drink is Most (grape juice) and Heurige (young wine).
Burgenland is known for its cereals, especially spelt, used in bread, cakes and even beer, and fish from the lake, like Zander, Eel, Pikes and Carp.
Typical food of Lower Austria is: a potato dumpling called Mohnnudels, the Wachau apricot dumpling and Mohnzelten, according to the Taste Atlas.
The wineries around Rauchenwarth take turns in offering Heuriger (or Buschenschank) where this young wine is served together with a limited selection of food in a very simple and sociable setting. Ask locals for the calendar.
Bad Deutsch-Altenburg is a popular Spa resort with iodine-sulphur springs.
People have lived in this area since 8.000 BC. Around 400 BC, Celtic tribes settled here, and from 15 BC, the Romans dominated the region. German tribes took over in the mid-500s, and around 800, Charlemagne, king of the Franks, ruled.
In the middle ages, the Babenberg family possessed the lands and later the Habsburg family.
In 1529 the Ottoman arrived at the gates of Vienna. During the next 150 years, they would fight with the Habsburgs for control over the area. Eventually, they lost, and Austria entered the lush Baroque era, challenged only briefly by Napoleon in the early 19th century.
The Rhodope mountains have been populated since prehistoric times. The first known people are the Thracians who built many temples, cities and fortresses. The most famous town in the area is the sacred city of Perperikon located 15 km northeast of Kardzhali.
The spectacular 18th-century Ottoman bridge over the Arda river, in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains
Since Roman times it has been an important mining area (lead, zinc, gold, chromite), crisscrossed by trading routes. Mining continued in Ottoman times resulting in many beautiful bridges, where trading routes had to cross a river, such as in Trigrad, Smolyan, Edirne and most impressive of all, Dyavolski Most.
Rila Monastery (10th), hidden deeply in the valley of the Rilska river, is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important spiritual, cultural, historical and architectural monuments.
The population of southern Bulgaria has been ethnically and religiously diverse for centuries. The mountains are home to a number of Muslim communities, including Pomak (converted Bulgarians) and Bulgarian Turks.
The Sv. Nedelya church in Batak bears witness to atrocities that took place during the struggle for independence in 1876.
At Belitsa, in the Rila Mountains, the French actress Brigitte Bardot helped to finance a bear sanctuary, which the trail passes.
In the Arda valley, the trail passes the vulture centre in Madzharovo.
Near Ivaylovgrad the remains of a Roman villa have been preserved.
Finally, Edirne, once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, before the capture of Istanbul, still preserves architecture from that ‘golden age’ of the Ottoman Empire, many of which were designed by its most renowned architect Sinan (1490-1588).