What connects Tsarska Bistritsa and the Mount Musala Peak? Well, have you ever thought of spending your vacation on a mountain resort enjoying all sorts of activities, exploring the surrounding flora and fauna and marveling at the beauty of nature and nearby landmarks. Only then to book a hiking trip to a nearby mountain peak that will steal your breath away and show you a different perspective of things as you contemplate at the top?
Tsarska Bistritsa is one of many historical buildings above the Borovets Mountain resort and is only 7 kilometers away from the highest mountain peak of the Rila mountain; the Musala Peak. All the previous are located in the Rila region. You can book a few days at a Borovets resort hotel and dedicate one of them to a hiking trip to enjoy nature of the Rila National Park as you climb up to the top of Mount Musala.
In this article we will learn more about Tsarska Bistritsa as one of the places you have to add as you plan your trip, the history of the building and what you can expect to see there. Then we will book a hiking trip to the Rila Mountain Range’s highest peak; Mount Musala Peak, where you can enjoy wafts of the freshest air to renew your soul and clear your mind!
Borovets town and ski resort is located on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, about 70 kilometers away from the Bulgarian capital; Sofia. This popular Bulgarian resort dates back to 1896 making it the oldest Bulgarian winter resort and the entire Balkans. It was known as Chamkoria; a Turkish word which means a pine forest until the middle of the 20th century.
In 1896 Kniaz Ferdinand had his summer residence and a hunting lodge built in the area, now known as Tsarska Bistritsa. Bulgarian aristocrats and elite followed the lead of their monarch and built their summer cottages and chalets in Borovets. The area was once known as the hunting place for Bulgarian kings.
In 1942, the resort’s name changed from Chamkoria to Borovets which is a literal translation of the Turkish word. During the 60s and the 70s, the resort was developed greatly with the addition of new ski drags and lifts, wider ski slopes and the building of alpine-style hotels. All these changes made Borovets the largest winter sports center in the Balkans.
Borovets has cemented its place as the destination for winter sports in Bulgaria. Developments of the resort has provided a whole range of winter sports on the Rila mountain slopes. The rounds of the World Cup Alpine Skiing were held in 1981 and 1984. The resort also hosted 12 European cups as well as several FIS Alpine ski races. The latest European Cup race was held in Borovets in 2016; the giant slalom for women.
Borovets is now a modern four-seasons resort with an excellent network of ski slopes and lifts, the resort engulfs a variety of alpine hotels with restaurants and entertainment outlets. The resort offers a variety of both summer and winter activities. Ski and Snowboarding School, Ski Doo and Ski Touring are some of the winter activities offered. While Hiking and Mountaineering Tours and Outdoor Adventures are some of the activities available during the summer season.
How to get to Borovets and where to stay?
Getting to Borovets
Borovets isn’t very far from major Bulgarian cities, only 90 kilometers from the capital Sofia, 110 kilometers from Plovdiv and a mere 10 kilometers from Samokov.
1. Bus from Sofia:
The bus leaves from the bus stop at the Sofia Alexander Nevski Cathedral 6 times a week. The hour and a half bus ride to get you to Borovets Bus Stop will cost 23 Euros. Or if you take the route through Samokov and change buses there, the entire trip will cost about 5 Euros for the longer trip time of 3 hours.
2. Bus from Plovdiv:
Since Plovdiv is farther, bus services run only once a day from Plovdiv to Borovets. The two-hour ten-minutes ride is about 10 Euros. A slightly longer route if you choose to go through Samokov, the trip cost won’t differ much, just the trip will be over 5 hours long.
3. Bus from Samokov:
A bus leaves to Borovets every hour from Samokov. The city is just 35 minutes away from the resort. The bus ticket costs 2 Euros.
Staying at Borovets
The Borovets resort is full of cozy alpine hotels with a variety of services offered by each one. You can check the resort’s official website to determine which hotel better suits your budget and needs. Here are some of these hotels for you to check out.
1. Moura Boutique Hotel by Asteri Hotels:
This cozy hotel in the middle of Borovets and right by the cabin lift. The hotel offers a variety of great services and even has their own outdoor swimming pool except that it’s closed during the winter season. A double or twin bedroom is 56 Euros a night.
2. Breza Hotel:
Located between two ski slopes for children and just a two-minute walk away from the Gondola Lift. With a featured kids’ room, it is suitable if you’re traveling with kids as well. Services such as sauna and hammam are also available. For a room with two single beds and a night’s stay, you’ll only pay 51 Euros.
3. Borovets Apartments, Iglika 2:
Featuring beautiful garden views to compliment the homey feel of the room, you can book a one-bedroom apartment in this complex for 53 Euros a night. Another bonus is free private parking is available.
Now that you’ve arrived in Borovets, we’ll get to know the nearby landmarks you can check out during your stay before you set on your hiking day to the Musala Mount Peak.
History of Tsarska Bistritsa
There are many historical buildings in Borovets which you can explore during your stay in one of the hotels in the resort. The most notable of the buildings is Tsarska Bistritsa which is a former royal house in southwestern Bulgaria. It is located above the resort of Borovets, on the Rila mountains and near the banks of the Bistritsa river.
The palace built between 1898 and 1914 was the hunting lodge of the rulers of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom; Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria and his son Boris III. The palace’s architectural design is very unique, along with the spirit of Romanticism, it displays elements of authentic Bulgarian National Revival and other European architectural style. By the time the palace was built, there was a complex of royal buildings and a beautiful park going through the Bistritsa Musalenska River.
Tsarska Bistritsa, Third Bulgarian Kingdom – Connolly Cover
Beauty of Tsarska Bistritsa
The first wing of the palace is known as the Old Palace where a cabin from the transatlantic ship New America, on board which Ferdinand traveled to Brazil, exists. How the cabin came to be housed in the palace is unknown. Some say it was a gift from captain Jan-Louise Morris, others say Ferdinand won it in a poker game.
One of the most beautiful decorations in the palace are the flower decorations on the stoves, which were made and delivered from Austria. There are over 50 of flower shapes but no two of them have the same shape or color. The prettiest of the flower were installed in the rooms of princesses Eudoxia and Nadezhda. These beautiful chambers have been preserved with the old wallpapers of silk and cotton which are stretched over the walls rather than being glued to them.
Another unique feature of the palace is the carved wooden ceiling of the living room, the beautiful carvings were made by carpenters from Samokov, Tryavna and Koprivshtitsa. The fireplace is decorated with marble tiles that were originally the decoration of the famous Samokov fountain and were a gift from the mayor of Samokov. A gift from the Bulgarian Jewish community; a menorah stands in one of the niches in the piano.
The hunting lodge of the Tsarska Bistritsa is home to a wide collection of hunting trophies, gathered over the course of half a century. Many of the animals were hunted by Boris III but some of them were gifts from prince Kyril and princess Nadezhda. The authentic atmosphere of the hunting lodge was projected during the filming of the movie “King and General”.
The palace has its own power supply; a small hydroelectric plant “Siemens” that was installed in 1912 and is still in operation today. Other installments of the area include a stable, a chapel, a garage, a sentry box and fountains.
After the change of the regime in Bulgaria, the palace was nationalized in 1945. The palace was restituted after the democratic changes in 1989. Today, the palace is open to visitors from Thursday to Sunday from 9 am and 5 pm. Entry cost to the Tsarska Bistritsa is 47 Euros per person.
Mount Musala Peak
About Mount Musala Peak
Musala is the highest peak in the Rila mountain range, you can see all the other major mountain ranges from the top. It stands at a height of 2,925 meters which also makes it the highest peak in the entire Balkans. Musala is part of the Rila National Park which is rich in flora and fauna.
Best time to visit Mount Musala Peak – Mount Musala Peak Webcam
Musala is the coldest place in Bulgaria and the Balkans with average annual temperature of -2 degrees Celsius. Temperatures usually stay below 0 degrees Celsius for about 8 months every year. Snow lasts in the area for over 8 months every year. The best time to visit Musala is from mid-June to mind-September. You can also check the Mount Musala Peak webcam to see live feed from around the area which will give you a sense of what to expect.
About The Hike Its Cost
Even though a visit to Tsarska Bistritsa doesn’t require an entire day, it’s always best to start your journey to and through the Mount Musala early in the day. The hike is divided into several parts where you’ll start at Borovets then take a gondola lift to Yastrebets Peak. From there is another journey to get to Musala Hut then to get to Icy Lake Hut and from there you’ll hike to the peak.
Even though guided tours are available to book to hike to the Mount Musala Peak, the trail is clear enough that you can hike it on your own. Guided tours somehow make you more at ease. If you’re booking a trip to the mountain from Sofia, it will cost around 80 Euros. If you’ve spent the night at one of the hotels in the Borovets resort, the cost of the hiking trip will be 40 Euros only.
Mount Musala Peak, Rila Mountain – Connolly Cove
Hiking the Mount Musala Peak
The hike is divided into four parts, taking a gondola lift to Yastrebets Peak, Yastrebets Peak to Musala Hut, from Musala Hut to Icy Lake Hut and then from the Icy Lake Hut to Musala Peak.
1. Gondola lift to Yastrebets Peak:
The gondola lift operates from 8:30 am to 6 pm and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Taking a gondola lift will enable you to hike to the Musala Peak in just one day as it saves a lot of time. A two-way ticket costs around 10 Euros and will take you to the Yastrebets Peak in just 30 minutes. The Yastrebets Peak stands at an altitude of 2,369.
If the gondola lift is closed for maintenance which usually happens from late September to the winter season in December, you can either choose to schedule the hike for another visit or you can choose to hike from Borovets to the Yastrebets Peak. This hike, which starts from Tsarska Bistritsa will take from 2 to 3 hours.
2. Yastrebets Peak to Musala Hut:
This is where the real hiking begins, provided you took a gondola lift from Borovets to the Yastrebets Peak. The almost 4 kilometers route can be hiked in about an hour to reach the altitude of 2,389 meters. The route is also well marked with set-up signs so there’s no need to worry if you’ve opted out of booking a guided hike. Basic accommodation is available at the Musala Hut but you can also set your tent up near it where you can marvel at the beauty of the Musalenski Lakes.
3. Musala Hut to Icy Lake Hut:
You will resume your journey through this almost 3 kilometers rocky and steep part of the journey. The Icy Lake hut stands at an elevation of 2,709 meters and the hike there will take from about an hour and a half to two hours. The hut is located on the shore of the Icy Lake and is covered with snow for most of the year. You can set your tent up for some time to rest or you can enjoy basic food and accommodation at the hut.
4. From Icy Lake Hut to Musala Peak:
This is what you came for! You have two trails that you can choose from, the winter trail or the summer one. The winter trail is steep and narrow and is secured with metal ropes that you’d want to use for security. While the summer trail though also steep but much easier.
You will reach the altitude of 2,925 meters in no more than 40 minutes. I promise you the views from the top are breathtaking and you can see all mountain ranges of Bulgaria including Vitosha, Sredna Gora, Rhodope Mountains and Pirin. There’s a hut at the peak which only offers you a good cup of tea to enjoy with the views.
Mount Musala Peak Tips
As with any hike, there are essentials you should put into consideration. Even though some of the huts along the hike offer accommodation and food, you would need to bring something to eat with you along the way, beverages are also a must along the way.
1. Your Essentials:
Don’t forget to bring sun protection lotion, sunglasses, a hat and warm clothes as the weather can be chilly as you go higher. You cannot also forget to bring your camera. Even though seemingly difficult, you can even share the hike with your loved ones using your webcam.
2. Good hiking boots:
Parts of the hiking trail are steep and rocky so good hiking boots with good ankle support are a must. You can also bring sports’ snickers as long as they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
While it isn’t a must but being in good health will definitely make the hike more enjoyable. The entire hiking time can be 6 hours so you need to be able to handle it. The hike is not recommended for travelers with back issues, pregnant travelers, travelers with heart problems or any other serious illness.
4. Proper Clothing:
The Musala Peak is the coldest place in Bulgaria so even during the seemingly warm summer days, you will get a chill from the cold air during the hike. Be sure to bring a warm jacket, not necessarily waterproof as most of the precipitation at the peak is snow due to the low temperatures. You can always check the Mount Musala Peak report for updated weather information.
You will need money to begin the hike at the gondola lift if the fee isn’t included in the cost of the tour you booked. You will also need money if you’ve decided to stay at one of the huts along the way or enjoy a bowl of hot soup.
After a day up on that mountain top, the highest in the whole area, I promise you won’t feel the same again. Somehow being up there, the burdens of life seem so trivial as you look down on them from the peak. You’ve gotten this far way up, don’t you think you’ve got it all under control?
Come over, Musala awaits!
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