Beli Iskar eco trail, named after the river it goes along, may be (I think) one of the most beautiful and underestimated nature trails close to Sofia. The weekend I visited it (in April) there were barely any people there, so I had the chance to enjoy the beauty of Bulgarian nature to the fullest!
How to get there?
Beli Iskar village is located at the foot of Rila mountain close to the town of Samokov, around 1 hour away from Sofia by car. The start of the eco trail is around 30 minutes walk away from the end of the village but you can also reach it by car. Keep in mind that the road is not so good, so my friends and I got out of the car at the end of the village and enjoyed a nice walk on the road (there were no cars). The start of the eco trail is also marked by Google Maps ("Ecological park Beli Iskar"), so you won’t get lost. At the start of the eco trail there is a small parking lot (it is not paid) as well as signs and maps so that you get familiar with the route.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to reach this place by train or bus, so rent-a-car is the best option.
Info and tips?
It is important to point out that the eco trail forms something like a circle. This means you go back to the same place where you started. To illustrate:
The eco trail passes eight bridges (there are signs numbering each one of them) over Beli Iskar river – so you go on one side of the river to the other. It is really nice to visit the place in spring when the river is wild and the view is really scenic. After you pass the last bridge, you should go right (along the main road, direction Beli Iskar village) and keep walking for a couple of minutes. Then you have to turn left (the path is again marked in blue), enter the forest and go up the hill for about 10 minutes. You will reach a lovely view point! After you spend some time at this great spot, you can continue further (no need to go back) and the path will take you again to the main road that goes to Beli Iskar village. So at the end you end up at the same place where you started!
Of course, if you are not fan of hiking or you are already tired, you can miss these 10-15 minutes (so don’t go left but just keep walking on the main road and you will reach the parking lot). Another thing you can do is after passing the 8th bridge, you can go left and walk for about 20 minutes on the main road. You will reach Orlovo gnezdo (Eagle’s Nest) – a nice hut where you can have lunch (in case it is open).
In general it took me about two to three hours to go along the whole eco trail – it was really pleasant and a perfect idea for a one-day trip close to Sofia!
The eco trail is marked in blue and is suitable for people who are not experienced in hiking - you can literally enjoy a picnic at every corner.
PS: You should bring water and food with you, just in case. Of course, wear sports shoes.