Musala (2925m) is the highest peak in Bulgaria and the entire Balkan Peninsula. But it's not a demanding hike, if the gondola is in operation.
During a beautiful sunrise we continued our journey by rental car from the border of Serbia towards Borovets in Bulgaria. We skirted the ring road outside of Sofia, and the GPS plotted out a route going south. After a while I became suspecious that my GPS was bringing us to the wrong place. It turns out that there are several towns in Bulgaria named Borovets or Borovec. Yes, we were going to the wrong town, too far west. Fortunately we found a smaller road heading east, hence there was no need to drive back to the busy ring road. I calculated that our mistake only caused us 20-30 km of extra driving, not a big deal at all. The mistake might even be a smart option, since we almost entirely avoided the ring road around Sofia, which seemed to be very busy in the morning rush hour.
We eventually arrived at the ski resort Borovets (the correct one!) and we were relieved to see that the Yastrebets Gondola was in operation, despite the very modest number of visitors. The summer season and school holidays were long gone, hence there was not many tourists left in Borovets. We found a restaurant next to the gondola where we got ourselves a good breakfast. Then we bought tickets for the gondola, fairly cheap at 5 Euros each (return-ticket). The gondola conveniently saved us 1000 meters gain of elevation, no wonder we were happy.
From the top station of the Yastrebets Gondola we could see Musala Peak 5-6 km ahead of us in linear distance. Since we now were at 2369 m.a.s.l, it would require less than 600 meters gain of elevation on foot. From Yastrebets we followed the trail (more like a dirtroad) in even terrain until the first hut (Musala Hut), where Lars almost stepped on a venomous snake. Then we hiked in a furious pace up a fairly steep trail to the second hut (shelter Everest). After a short break at the shelter, drinking some water and listening to pop music from a speaker on the wall, we headed almost directly up the ridge that leads to the summit of Musala. It had taken us only 1 hour and 40 minutes from the gondola to the summit, while a moderate pace probably would mean around 3 hours or so. It was cloudy and a fairly cold wind at the summit, so we were not tempted to stay for long.
We descended the same route and it was not a pleasant experience to look around and see how this mountain and the surrounding terrain had been littered and destroyed by installations meant for alpine skiing. We took the gondola back down to Borovets, then we started to drive towards the border of Macedonia. We were hoping to reach Skopje and a little further before nightfall, so we would be in good position to hike Mt Korab the following day.
Musala at EveryTrail