Plovdiv is a must-go place for every tourist visiting Bulgaria. It is the most beautiful city we have and the oldest one in Europe. Its location in the middle of Bulgaria is a perfect starting point for many other destinations. I and my partner in crime decided to go to Rayskoto Praskalo and Botev peak next.
It was three days trip, sleeping one night in Plovdiv and one night in the hut close to the waterfall. We used trains and hitchhiking to reach the places. Trekking to the waterfall and to the peak and back combined is no more than 12 hours. We started early in the morning from Sofia. There are plenty of trains and buses going every hour or so. The train will take you to Plovdiv for about two hours and a half. You can check the timetable of the trains here. There are three main hills left from the original seven that the city had in the past. They are all worth climbing as they will offer a different view of the city. You can go to the one with the statue first as it will be close to you after exiting the train station. The clock tower hill will give you a very good view of the Ancient Theatre and a sign of Plovdiv. Go to the one with the Ancient Theatre 2-3 hours before sunset. Wander on the small streets and take a drink before you go to the ruins there to enjoy the sunset. To reach the ruins try searching for a restaurant called “Rahat Tepe” or just ask the locals for the same. After you pass the restaurant you will see the ruins. Find an empty spot, sit and enjoy the view of the city plus the other 3 hills. If the skies are clear you will be able to see Rhodopi Mountain on the South and Old Mountain (Stara Planina), where we will be going on the next day. Afterwards, you can go back to the main street and don’t forget to visit the garden at the end of it. It has beautiful fountains (Singing fountains) where you can enjoy another beer. We slept in Plovdiv – try Couchsurfing there. The following morning we went to the train station and caught the train to Kalofer. The trek starts 7km outside of the town, so try hitchhiking, although if it is not during the weekend it can be hard to find a car, or you should be extremely lucky like me. The other option is to go with a taxi, which costs less than 10lv (5 euros). Ask the locals for a taxi and they will help you arrange it.
Rayskoto Praskalo is the highest waterfall on the Balkans. Although it is better to visit it in spring, because there will be more water, I really like it during autumn. To get to the starting point in Panitsite, walk until the end of the road, the river should be on your right side and you will pass by a small chapel. On your left side there will be plenty of houses that served as a shelter, but now most of them are unfortunately abandoned. When you reach the end of the road, on your left you will see small steps. The path is starting from there. You will be able to see the trail marks the whole way up. It takes about 4 hours to get to the hut. It is relatively easy way up, except the last hour where you will be mostly walking up. Take your time and don’t hurry because after you climb the hill you will arrive at your destination. The waterfall becomes visible ones you are at the hut. Another 30-40 minutes will get you to it. So, lose your backpack, eat a fast soup and go to see it. The view is spectacular even if there is not so much water. The rocks are amazing and you will enjoy it in every season. The hut, named “Ray” (Heaven), really deserves its name as the location couldn’t be better. It gets pretty crowded during weekends, so make sure you make a reservation here. Search for the world “Телефон” – the phone number that you need to call. We spend the night in the hut. It was nice and hot as there is heating system going from the common room to the dormitories. So, as long as the stove in on, you know it will be nice and warm. There is no shower in the hut, so prepare to be dirty one night.
In the morning wake up early if you want to go to Botev peak. We came back the same way, so we left our backpacks at the hut. Take some sweets, water, and jacket with you. In my opinion, the path to the peak is more interesting than the peak itself. Going up you will pass by the waterfall and continue to Tarzan’s trail, where you can enjoy climbing on rocks. There are ropes and it’s not so steep, so don’t worry – no special equipment or skills are required. In the end of the path, you will be able to see the peak, but it takes another 45 minutes to reach it, although it looks very close. In total – you can reach the top for 3 hours. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and go back. Plan another 5 hours going down. We reached Panitsite at 2 pm and found a nice restaurant, where we ate delicious soup. Local boys gave us a ride to Kalofer. The train station is located 3km away from the town. There was a train at 6:20 and they have a public transportation bus which leaves at 6 the town to the train station. While wondering whether to wait for the train, we decided to try our chances hitchhiking. A nice local man helped us to make a sign saying that we want to go to Sofia. Less than three hours later we reached my home in Sofia.