This post is about one of those improvised adventures that commonly find my way. To go Hiking in Lakatnik was not on my plans while backpacking in Bulgaria simply because a couple of hours before going there I didn’t even know of this place!
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After a couple of days exploring the beautiful capital city of Sofia and waking up with not a set plan for the day, while having breakfast at the hostel and chatting with a fellow backpacker I found out about Lakatnik and didn’t need more than a minute to decide to go there after seeing a couple of pictures!
This was for sure one of my favourite spots on my short trip to Bulgaria, it was very close to Sofia so it’s a perfect one-day or even half-day activity if you’re pushed on time and you time the trains well.
The total hike is about 5.5 Km and some 350m of vertical climb. Expect to do it in 2-3 hours depending on your pace. Plus any distance and time you do inside the caves. Keep reading for more details! 🙂
Where to stay in Sofia
I stayed at two different hostels in Sofia, both low cost and fantastic value, first I stayed at Hostel 123 which was very nice and included a good breakfast.
At the end of my trip I stayed at Hostel Mostel which has one of the best common areas I’ve ever been on a 19th century building, it also includes one of the best hostel breakfast I ever had and also dinner + beer! this is a perfect place to meet other backpackers no matter your age.
How to go to Lakatnik
The best way to go Hiking in Lakatnik from Sofia is by train. It’s only an hour away and the return trip costs less than 5 BGN (about €2). Make sure to buy a ticket to “Gara Lakatnik” station.
The train station in Sofia is just a 15-25 min walk from the hostels I stayed, you can also reach it with the underground if you’re staying farther away.
Check the train times in advance as they run every hour or so. If you need wifi when in the train station, you can walk to the bus station across the road where there’s free wifi available.
What to take to go Hiking in Lakatnik
This is not a seriously technical hike, having said that, I left an incredibly sunny day in Sofia to arrive on a rainy cold day in Lakatnik, so check the weather forecast in case you need warm clothes and if you have hiking boots take them with you as I found some slippery places.
Otherwise, you will find some steepish areas but nothing too hard. On a dry day you can easily do this hike on sneakers.
Try to get a torchlight as there are a few caves to explore! your phone lantern will work, but it’s much better to keep your hands free.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Hiking in Lakatnik
Once you make your way to the little town of Lakatnik after a short but very scenic train ride, the views of the surrounding mountains will be the instant confirmation that you made the right choice in going there, and that’s just the beginning!
Right by the train station exit you will see a sign mentioning the hiking routes. I also recommend downloading maps.me as it includes most of the trails and caves. Below you can see 3 screenshots of the approximate route I took, I couldn’t compile it in one single screenshot but hopefully you will get the gist. I’ll use this images to explain some bits later on.
Leaving the train station by the exit that takes you downhill towards the Iskar River crossing, take a left turn after you enjoy the views and you cross the bridge.
You will walk just a couple of minutes by the road, but there’s not a lot of traffic so it’s pretty safe. At this point is important to keep your eyes sharp as the trail is a bit hidden by low bushes. If you use maps.me you will see that further ahead there are other trails, so you may be able to combine a longer route if you have the time.
Once you’re on the narrow uphill trail you will start ascending over the beautiful valley and in no time you will find some incredible rock formations, not in vain this is one of the most popular spots for rock climbing in Bulgaria!
The first intersection you will find is in one area that has an old abandoned shelter, to find the trail going up you need to go around the structure and the trail continues right behind it.
Soon after, there will be some areas that could work out pretty well as a camping spot.
Very quickly you will be approaching the September 1923 monument on top of the mountain, but just a couple hundred meters before there’s a great viewpoint on a short diversion towards a large cross. Since leaving the train it took me 45 minutes to get here.
By the monument is the only place I saw other people as they can get there by car. Perhaps on summertime the trails may be a bit busier.
From the monument, I lost the trail and kept going uphill for about 5-10 minutes through a forest until it was not possible to keep going, it was at this point that I decided to check the map and saw that I left the trail behind just right by the monument so I had to turn back a little bit.
The trail that will take you downhill is located on the cliff side of the monument, there you will find some stairs and in just a few minutes you will have a short but slippery (if wet) and sharp climb towards the cave shown on the left side of the screenshots above.
This cave is the biggest I saw that day. There I found a group of climbers who were going to spend the night there. As in the other two caves that I found later, you can go inside for quite a long distance! that’s where the head torch will come super handy.
Once you explore the cave is time to continue. If you check again the route screenshots above, this will be the middle image. As you go down the cave, turn right and the trail will take you through an arch carved directly from the mountain rock.
This path will eventually bring you back to the abandoned shelter (far right image on the screenshots), where you will turn left to avoid going back on the same path that took you up, and then you will start mostly going downhill towards a couple more caves.
This section of the hike offered great views as well, and it will take you to some of the longest caves in Bulgaria. They’re about 500m long with some narrow stretches that are not apt for claustrophobic people.
The first cave, called Zidanka, has an unassuming small entrance, but don’t be fooled by this, it’s pretty long!
The second cave you find at the end of the trail has a larger entrance, this is the most famous one. Called Temnata Dupka, inside is a bit of a labyrinth although well marked, just make sure to pay attention to the turns you take so you don’t have hard time walking in circles.
After exploring the two caves for quite a bit (three caves in total), the end of the trail is by the Gitoliub Spring which is one of the largest karst springs in the country and it’s the result of two underground rivers ending 8 meters above the Iskar River.
Right next to the spring there’s a restaurant and a minute after a food truck which are great spots for lunch. I had mine at the food truck and even that the lovely lady didn’t speak any English whatsoever, I managed to get a delicious and super cheap traditional bbq!
To go Hiking in Lakatnik was one of my favourite things to do on my quick trip to Bulgaria and a perfect getaway idea when looking for things to do in Sofia!
Feel free to drop any questions or comments below if you’re planning to do some hiking in Bulgaria!
Check out the rest of my hiking adventures around the world for more ideas on your next trip!
Happy adventures! 🙂