Climbing Musala Peak in Rila (Best Guide 2023)

A complete guide on how to climb Musala peak in Rila mountain, Bulgaria (+ the best climbing route, huts where you can stay overnight and helpful tips).

musala peak

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 a place for prayer. It was named in that way during the period when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Climbing 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.

Climbing Musala peak on your own is easy, 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.

The most convenient place to stay in Borovets is the Lodge Hotel. It has a fantastic location, right next to the gondola lift, where the hike to Musala peak begins. Plus, the hotel boasts a great Spa centre with an indoor swimming pool.

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.

Rila mountain

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 lake

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.

rila icy lake

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.

Musala peak view
Musala peak
Musala summit

Musala huts

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!

Yastrebets hut

The second one is Musala hut (2389m). It offers some basic accommodation and food (see more info here). 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).

Rila National Park

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 one direction.

rila lake

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)

Have you climbed Musala peak?
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About the author
AvatarMilena Yordanova
I’m a full-time travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I love to travel and to discover new places, cultures and food. I’m an expert in travel planning and I am here to help you plan your dream vacation.

22 Replies to “Climbing Musala Peak in Rila (Best Guide 2023)”

  1. Hello Milena,

    We are going to climb the Musala peak next week. Wanted to ask about the huts. What do we need to stay there? Many thanks!
    Kindest regards,

    1. Hi Dace,

      I haven’t stayed there, but you can contact Musala hut via the phone or the contact form on this website. Unfortunately the website is in Bulgarian only, but you can use google translate.

  2. Hi Milena, we are taking a holiday in Borovets at the end of May for a week, it is our first visit to Bulgaria. Although we are retired we are fit and intend to take the gondola and walk to Musala Hut.
    Fresh air and scenery is of prime importance and also wildlife which I like to photograph.
    We are looking forward to our visit and would appreciate any tips on clothing for such a trip up the mountain. Kind regards John Ball

    1. Hi John,

      The temperatures in Rila mountain in May are about 10-20 °C (50-68 °F). A thin waterproof jacket is a must and maybe a t-shirt and a sweater (it depends on the weather of the day). It’s better if you have hiking shoes. Yet, any sports shoes are also ok, as it’s a very easy hike to Musala Hut.

      Have a great time in Bulgaria!

  3. Hello,
    I would like to know if you can walk this trek with kids? Is it very steep?

    1. Hi Yael,

      Only the first path of the hiking trail (to Musala hut) is easy. For the rest – it depends on the kids (and how often they hike). There are some steep paths in the second part of the hiking trail (to Icy lake hut). From there to the summit is very steep and difficult.

  4. Hi Milena,
    I heared that the national park is open only in July-August, is it true? I can’t find any reliable source to confirm it. I would like to climb Musala in September.
    have a good day,

    1. Hi Adam,
      The national park is open all year around. 🙂 However, the gondola lift to Yastrebets peak closes for maintenance usually after 20 September till the winter season. And if you don’t use the lift, it won’t be possible to climb Musala Peak in one day.

      1. Hi milena,
        I can’t connect the Musala hut on it’s website or by phone. Do you have any other ideas for me? 😊

        1. Hi Eran,
          Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure if the hut is already open (there were some legal issues + covid delaying its opening). It’s best to ask for more info at the hotel where you’ll stay in Borovets. I hope they will be able to help you.

  5. Hi! I really like how you explained the treck. I got only one quesiton. Am i alowed to camp in my tent next to any of the huts?

    1. Hi Victor,

      In general you can, but unfortunately, I can’t tell you for sure. It’s best to ask directly at the place, or at the accommodation where you’re staying before the hike to Musala.

  6. Hello,
    is it allowed to camp near the summit hut?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Laurent,

      Legally you can camp only near Musala hut.

  7. Hi Milena,

    Thank you so much for such a nice and clear description as well as photos This post certainly made me want to try the hike myself.
    I also have a question. Not sure when your blog post was posted but I visited the website of Musala Hut just now (= July 2022) as I wanted to check if it’s possible to stay there overnight. But from what I understood (I don’t speak Bulgarian, hence google translate), they are not open yet. Do you by any chance happen to know if it’s indeed so or could it be just an outdated website?

    many thanks in advance for your reply,

    1. Hi Ieva,
      Musala hut had to open in 2020, but the opening was delayed because of the covid pandemic. As far as I know, there were some legal issues, too. Unfortunately, I don’t know if everything is resolved now. It’s best to ask for more info at the hotel where you’ll stay in Borovets.

  8. Hello, could you tell me where you got the idea that Mus Allah means mountain of Allah in Arabic. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Alex,
      I guess I’ve read it somewhere on the internet, can’t remember the exact website. Even then I found this roughly translated in many variations. As I am looking at this again, probably the most correct translation is – “a place for prayer”, so I’ll fix it.

      1. Thank you for your answer, but what you now refer to is yet another fiction (this one invented by Ivan Vazov). As you can read among others in the statements from the office of the President of Bulgaria, the origin of the name is UNKNOWN for now. I happen to be writing an article on all the pseudo-etymologies of the name, and that’s how I came across yours too. There is a whole cottage industry of pseudo-scientific claims about Bulgarian history and linguistics, as you may know. There is not one mountain in the world called ‘place for prayer’, and the word musalla in Ottoman Turkish is anyway not ANY place for prayer, but for prayer over a dead body usually. Who would call a mountain this? And anyway there is no reason whatever to think the name is Islamic or Turkish. This is all fantasy.

        1. Thank you for all these details, Alex. I’d love to read your article when it’s done, please send me a link. 🙂

  9. Hey 🙂

    Beautiful article!

    Is it possible to do this hike in March? Or April?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ezra,

      It is impossible to do the hike in one day on your own in March or April, you’ll have to camp near any of the huts. There is still snow, the hike will be much slower and the working hours of the gondola lift are shorter, so there is a big chance to miss the last ride. Also, the gondola lift is usually closed for maintenance every spring (after the winter season), so there could be a chance for the lift not to work at all during your visit.

      Things could be different if you’re planning to do the hike with a guide, but for this option please ask for more information at the hotel in Borovets where you’ll stay.

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