A complete guide on how to climb Musala peak in Rila mountain, Bulgaria (including the best climbing route and helpful tips).
Musala is located in Rila National Park, famous for its beautiful lakes, rich flora and fauna. You can see species such as Macedonian Pine and Bulgarian Fir, as well as many wallcreepers.
Standing at 2,925m, Musala is not only the highest peak in Bulgaria but also on the entire Balkan Peninsula. In fact, it’s just 7 meters higher than Mytikas in Mount Olympus, Greece.
The name of the peak comes from the Arabic word Mus Allah, which means the mountain of Allah. It was named in that way during the period when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire.
How to climb Musala peak
The hike to Musala peak and back will take you about 10-12 hours, including the rest time. Thus, you can easily climb it in a day if you start early enough. I’ve done it twice and I’m not even a hiker. You just have to be in relatively good physical shape.
Yet, if you prefer, you can split the hike into two days and stay overnight at Musala hut. The hut offers only basic accommodation, but there is a beautiful lake in front of it. Also, it’s a great location to set up your tent for the night.
You can climb Musala peak on your own, there is no need to book a guide or a tour. Continue reading to find out how to do it and don’t miss the helpful tips at the end of the guide.
How to climb Musala peak
- Borovets – the starting point of the hike
- take the gondola lift to Yastrebets peak (30min ride)
- Yastrebets peak to Musala hut (3,60km, 1 hour)
- Musala hut to Icy lake hut (2,40km, 1h30-2h)
- Icy lake hut to Musala summit (900m, 40min)
Borovets – the starting point of Musala hike
Borovets is the starting point of the hike. It’s a popular winter resort, only 70km away from the capital city, Sofia.
I’d recommend you spend a night in Borovets beforehand and start the hike early in the morning. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and all kinds of activities such as horse riding, mountain biking and many more.
You can find more options to stay in my guide to the best hotels in Borovets, Bulgaria (including how to get to Borovets from Sofia by public transport).
Borovets to Yastrebets peak
The easiest way to reach Yastrebets peak (2369m) is by taking the gondola lift, located in front of Hotel Samokov. This option will allow you to climb Musala peak in just one day. The ride is about a 30min scenic journey with beautiful views of Rila mountain.
The working time of the gondola lift Yastrebets is from 08:30 AM to 06:00 PM. Note that the lift is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Also, in September the lift closes for maintenance till the beginning of the winter season in December. Thus, always check in advance the working hours here.
If you’re going to hike during the weekend, go early (no later than 08:20), as the queue is often long. Also, keep in mind that there is a separate queue to buy tickets.
If the gondola lift is closed, you have one possibility left – to hike from Borovets to Yastrebets peak (about 2-3 hours hike). The walking path starts from Tsarska Bistritsa. If you go with this option, you’ll have to stay overnight in Musala hut or Yastrebets hut.
Yastrebets peak to Musala hut
This is the beginning of the hike. The hike from Yastrebets peak to Musala hut is easy with gorgeous views over the surrounding valleys. The distance is 3,60km and you need about an hour to reach the hut.
The path to Musala hut is well marked, you just have to follow the signs. Moreover, as this is the most popular hiking route, you’ll see a lot of people.
Musala hut is located on 2389m, near one of the Musalenski Lakes. Basic accommodation is available, but you can also set up your tent near the hut.
Musala hut to Icy lake hut
This part of the route (2,40km) is rocky and steep. It will take you between 1h30-2h to get to Icy lake hut (2709m). The hut offers basic food and accommodation (limited spaces available).
The hut is located on the shore of the Icy lake. The lake is covered with ice most of the year, hence the name. This is your last stop before reaching Musala peak, so gather all of your strength for the last part.
Icy lake hut to Musala summit
The last part of the hiking route to Musala peak is the toughest one. You can choose between two routes – the summer or the winter trail. The winter trail is a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs, secured with metal ropes, that you need to use. The summer trail is also steep, but much easier than the winter route.
Regardless of which route you take, you’ll reach the peak in no more than 40min. The views from the top are breathing. You can see all major mountain ranges of Bulgaria, including Vitosha, Sredna Gora, Rhodope Mountains and Pirin.
There are a weather station and a hut at the summit. However, no accommodation, food, or running water is available.
There are four huts along the hiking route to Musala peak – Yastrebets, Musala, Icy lake and Musala summit.
Yastrebets hut (2369m) is located right next to the gondola lift. It offers snacks and accommodation. If you have enough time before the last lift on your way back, sit for a beer and enjoy the view!
The second one is Musala hut (2389m). It offers some basic accommodation and food. It’s possible to camp next to the hut. This is the best option if you’re planning an overnight stay in the mountain.
The third hut is Icy lake (2709m). There is no running water, only basic food and accommodation (limited capacity).
The last hut on the top of Musala peak offers no accommodation or food (only tea available).
Best time to climb Musala peak
Musala is one of the coldest places in Bulgaria with an average annual temperature of -2°C (28°F). There is snow almost the whole year.
The best time to climb Musala peak is from June to the beginning of September. From the end of September, the gondola lift closes for maintenance. This means that you’ll have to hike from Borovets to Yastrebets peak, lengthening the route by 2-3 hours in the one direction.
Tips for climbing Musala peak
Tips for climbing Musala peak
- the route is steep with a few rocky areas, so be prepared and bring along comfortable hiking boots
- the temperature on the summit is freezing even on a hot summer day, so dress in layers and always bring a raincoat
- sunscreen is a must, otherwise, you’ll get sunburned
- bring your own food and water (you can buy food from the huts along the route, but the choices are very limited)
- avoid the weekends if possible (longer queues for the gondola lift)