Blog WHS Visits
WHS #745: Pirin National Park
With a 2.63 score, Pirin National Park only comes sixth among Bulgaria’s ten WHS, which in itself already aren’t known for receiving high praise (except for the excellent Rila monastery). Most of the reviewers agreed on it being “unremarkable”, wondered about a ski resort in the buffer zone and contemplated that they could see this scenery everywhere in the Alps. All seem to have explored Pirin from the town of Bansko and its nearby Vihren hut. For my visit in late June 2021, I tried another location to see whether this would improve the experience. I choose to start at Bezbog hut, with access to Bezbog Lake and the trail to Popovo Lake.
For Bezbog, you have to take the chairlift from Gotse Delchev hut (be warned that there is also a town called Gotse Delchev, but that lies 30km away). The hut is reached via a paved mountain road some 10km outside of Dobrinishte, the neighbour town of Bansko. The chairlift is operational 365 days a year from 8.30 am to 4 pm. A return ticket costs 20 Lev (10 EUR). To reach Bezbog hut at 2227m altitude, you have to change to another chairlift halfway. The journey takes half an hour in total and you climb 742m. Leaving the chairlift at the two higher stations requires a small jump, but fortunately they employ strong Bulgarian men who catch the clumsy tourists and beforehand explain with hand signals what you have to do. I don’t think females work here – I noticed that the control room of the middle station is plastered with pin-ups of naked women!
The Bezbog hut is located on Lake Bezbog, one of the many glacial lakes of Pirin. It is a pretty and clear lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Several hiking trails start from here. I had planned to do the yellow route, to Popovo Lake. This should take 1 hour and 20 minutes one way. Along the way, the many colorful flowers stand out. I enjoyed the bright blue gentian and purple-yellow crocuses.
Another thing you can't overlook is the snow. Other reviewers already mentioned that in April, May and early June there still is snow around. Now, in the third week of June, things are fine directly around the lake. But the higher you get on the path, the harder it gets. Streams of meltwater run down from the slopes and turn the soil soggy. Patches of snow need to be evaded.
It may be a short hike, but it is certainly not easy under these circumstances. I at least wanted to reach the ridge above Bezbog Lake; as it supposedly has good views on other glacial lakes in the area. On the last stretch, however, I encountered a significant obstacle: a rim of snow, about 15 meters wide over the entire length of the ridge. I doubted for a while whether I should cross it, but the curiosity about what lies on the other side was too strong. I clambered through the snow on all fours. I was happy with my sturdy new hiking boots, but I could have used gloves here too!
A sandy walking path on the top of the ridge lead me to the lookout point towards Popovo Lake. It lies in a spectacular cirque (#newconnection!) and I found it unbelievable how much snow was still present. I could see the hiking trail meandering towards it: not a long way, but I’d have to cross at least one more snowfield. As it would require quite some energy to get back down in one piece, I turned around after enjoying the rugged mountain landscape here for a while. But not before checking out some moving beings in the snow in the distance to my right. First one, then three, then five wild goats walked across.
Eventually I made my way back to the start without physical damage. The double chairlift ride dropped me at the Gotse Delchev hut, where I had started the day and parked the car. Next to it lies a restaurant where they serve tasty fresh trout and that’s where I ended my satisfying visit. As I did not go to the Vihren area, I cannot directly compare the two. But I suspect Bezbog is the more pristine of the two, at least you’re not distracted by damage done by ski slopes. I even think that a visit to Bezbog hut and lake alone are worthwhile for those who cannot do one of the hikes.
Els - 27 June 2021
Esteban Cervantes Jiménez (vantcj1) 1 July 2021
It is always great to see that a visit to a different place inside a WHS renders a completely different experience, in this case richer and more natural. I personally -as an avid hiker- love that kind of experiences of solitude, serenity and vastness.
Els Slots 28 June 2021
Yes you can stay overnight in the Bezbog hut.
Regarding the conclusion - as I said in my interview I did not go to the Bansko/Vihren side so cannot really compare it. But I suspect this Bezbog-Popovo area is more pristine. I enjoyed it, but I always like mountains.
Astraftis 27 June 2021
Is there a possibility for accomodation once you are up there?
Nan 27 June 2021
@Els... So, what is your conclusion? Is the park better if you don't go the Banska route?
In any case, Bulgaria is a country I have little love for WHS wise.