Walking from Kalofer to Karlovo, along the Byala Reka river via Rai hut and the Stara Reka reserve.
10/5, day 1: KALOFER – BYALA REKA
We took a morning train from Burgas to Kalofer. There were several nice old buildings around the central square in Kalofer.
A cool and impressive monument near the central square of Kalofer.
Already from the central square we could see our destination for tomorrow’s hike: the Rai waterfall. The snowy peak behind the waterfall is Botev (2376 meters) which is the highest peak of Stara Planina.
Here we met Lalyu, a very friendly and helpful guy who runs thewww.kalofer.com website. He had fixed a jeep taxi for us. The taxi drove us to a monastery, where Lalyu had booked a room for us to stay in. Thank you very much, Lalyu!
The courtyard of the monastery. Our room was on the upper floor of the building to the right.
View from our room towards the valley that we will walk tomorrow.
Outside the monastery we saw a very rare and beautiful bird, called Golden Oriole (Sommargylling in Swedish and Oriolus oriolus in Latin).
In the afternoon we walked the Byala Reka ecotrail, which is a circuit route into a wild canyon. The trail was beautiful, and we were impressed by all the bridges, ladders etc – it must have been hard work to construct this trail! It was very well maintained as well, and with nice information boards (though mostly in Bulgarian).
One of seven(!) fire salamanders that we saw on the ecotrail.
Restaurant near the entrance of the ecotrail. I was surprised to see this, since you can’t really drive here with a normal car. The road really requires a jeep…
Playground on a meadow behind the restaurant. You can camp here too (the place is called Bivak Byala Reka).
11/5, DAY 2: BYALA REKA – RAI HUT
Walking north along the green-marked trail.
The trail zigzagged up through the forest. It just rained a little bit, but the ground was wet enough for the fire salamanders to appear. We saw five of them during this day.
When we reached the Paradzhika meadows the green trail markings were quite poor. We had to search for the trail a couple of times, but eventually found the correct route. Once we reached the blue-marked trail at the upper part of Paradzhika, the markings were good again.
It started to rain so we missed some of the views along this trail. But on the other hand, the forest became very beautiful in the mist.
The Rai hut
Inside the Rai hut
And now the rain stopped, revealing the beautiful surroundings. A few hundred meters from the hut is the Rai waterfall. It is 125 meters high, one of the highest in the Balkans.
12/5, DAY 3: RAI HUT – LEVSKI HUT
This day was sunny, so we started out by enjoying the magnificent views around the Rai hut.
View from the Malkiya Kupen hill, a short walk from the hut.
We followed the blue trail, passing below the waterfall again.
Last view of the waterfall…
Last view of the hut. The Malkiya Kupen viewpoint is the one nearest to the hut.
The snow-covered peak Botev (2376 m) in the background.
Entering Stara Reka valley
The Vasil Levski hut. A very nice hut. Clean bathrooms with hot showers, and nice lentil soup. Here we met other hikers, a group of three men from Plovdiv. They were the very first other people we met so far on the hike, except for the hut staff and a couple of shepherds. The next day we met one other hiker, and that was it… We watched the news in the hut on TV. It showed that armed people had entered Macedonia from Kosovo, and they discussed how this would affect Bulgaria, and if it could lead to a war involving Bulgaria. The event is known as the Kumanovo clashes.
13/5, DAY 4: LEVSKI HUT – KARLOVO
We spent this hole day in nice forest along the Stara Reka river. Very easy and enjoyable walking!
A break at the Balkanski Rozi hut
Trowing rocks in the river – a game that never gets old
We stopped at the Hubavets hut for a nice meal.
Bulgarian yoghurt with blueberries
White-throated dipper (Strömstare in Swedish)
Stara Reka canyon
Karlovo in the distance
Having a superb meal in our favorite restaruant in Karlovo: Mehana Vodopad
Vasil Levski street in Karlovo, between the center and the railway station.