8 breathtaking places in the Pirin Mountains

8 breathtaking places in the Pirin Mountains

Pirin may only be Bulgaria’s second-highest mountain range, but it easily competes with the national champion Rila in terms of scenic Alpine summits, crystal-clear glacial lakes and unbelievable high-altitude hiking trails.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Bulgaria’s three national parks, Pirin’s highest marble and granite peaks reach over 2,900 metres in height in Bulgaria’s southwest corner. Its stunning landscapes, rich flora and fauna and diverse trails of any difficulty have consistently placed it among the Balkans’ most amazing hiking experiences.

From a super-narrow ridge that you cross at 2,800 metres above the abyss to Bulgaria’s oldest evergreen tree, kashkaval tourist presents 8 breathtaking places in the Pirin Mountains! 

1. Ridge so narrow you can ride it: Koncheto

Ridge so narrow you can ride it: Koncheto

Ridge so narrow you can ride it: Koncheto

Situated between Pirin’s second and third-highest peaks, Kutelo and Banski Suhodol, Koncheto is perhaps Bulgaria’s most notorious mountain ridge. And with good reason, as crossing it from side to side is a challenge for anyone with a fear of heights! At times just half a metre wide, Koncheto (Кончето, “The Foal“) has that name because reportedly, inexperienced tourists would rather cross it by riding it than walking on top of it.

Koncheto is about 400 metres long and it has an abyss on each side, dropping almost vertically towards the Banski Suhodol cirque and glacieret and at a 70° angle towards the Vlahina River valley. For the ultimate high-altitude experience and an amazing sunrise, you can spend the night at the tiny Koncheto shelter at the ridge’s northwestern end.

2. The split marble peak: Sinanitsa

The split marble peak: Sinanitsa

The split marble peak: Sinanitsa

Regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful summits, Sinanitsa (Синаница) lies in Pirin’s western parts, above a stunning little glacial lake and the cozy Sinanitsa Hut. Sinanitsa’s unique appearance owes much to its characteristic split shape and its vertical walls of pink-grey marble.

Ascending Sinanitsa is a challenging one-hour hike from the hut at its foot, but the breathtaking views of Vihren, Koncheto and Kamenitsa from the top and the sheer pleasure and pride of conquering this marble giant is worth all the effort!

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Centenary ice: Europe’s tiny southernmost glaciers are in Bulgaria

The Banski Suhodol Glacieret under Koncheto

The Banski Suhodol Glacieret under Koncheto

Did you have any idea you can see Europe’s most southern glacial formations in the alpine environment of Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains?

True, they may pale in comparison to mighty ice bodies like the Aletsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps or the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia, but they’re still the southernmost glacial masses you can find in Europe, at the latitude of Rome, Corsica and Barcelona!

Lying at altitudes above 2,600 and 2,400 metres respectively, the two small glaciers (scientifically called glacierets) are the Banski Suhodol Glacier and the Snezhnika Glacier. They’re located in Pirin’s highest reaches, in the Big Cauldron (Големия казан, Golemia kazan) cirque under the mountain’s tallest peak Vihren and at the foot of the breath-taking vertical Koncheto ridge.

The Snezhnika Glacieret and its surroundings are a favoured habitat for mountain goats

The Snezhnika Glacieret and its surroundings are a favoured habitat of mountain goats

Now, these two Bulgarian glaciers are not some random patches of snow that have happened to stay intact over a summer or two. Fed by avalanche snow, indications are that they’ve been in existence ever since the Little Ice Age! This means that they’re 500 years old, at least. And the hundred-year firn ice of Snezhnika has been measured to be at least 11 metres thick!

While access to the larger Banski Suhodol Glacieret may be quite hard, with its position under the inaccessible marble slopes of Koncheto, the Snezhnika ice formation can easily be visited via the main hiking trail from Banderitsa Hut up towards Vihren Peak (at 2914 metres). And you can very often see mountain goats scaling the centenary ice of Snezhnika and the nearby rocks, making for an unforgettable sight of Bulgaria’s mountain fauna!