Bansko to Septemvri Train – The Rhodope Narrow Gauge Railway Bulgaria


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The last remaining Bulgarian narrow gauge railway runs between Dobrinishte and Septemvri Bulgaria and covers a total of 125 kilometres or 77 miles.    Those 125 kilometres are taken at an average speed of just 25 km (or 15 miles per hour) and the entire route from Dobrinishte to Septemvri takes around 5.5 hours.  Most passengers will take the train from Bansko to Velingrad to enjoy the spa town, but others will continue to the end of the line, to catch a fast train from Septemvri to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city.

The Rhodope narrow gauge (or Septemvri Dobrinishte railway) route crosses the Rila, Pirin and Rhodope mountains and is served by four trains a day in both directions, costing a bargain 6.10 leva per person.  The train runs every day of the year, with steam trains brought out on special occasions.    The track is 760 mm narrow gauge

The route beings in Dobrinishte – a small village a few miles from the Bansko train station, where most foreign passengers will join.  Make no mistake this isn’t a tourist train, you will be sharing your carriage (and there are usually 3) with locals heading to market or back.

Bulgarian train stationmasters

Points of Interest on the Dobrinishte to Septemvri Train

The route makes man stops, at manned and unmanned stations.  It begins in Dobrinishte and its first stop is 7 kilometres along the track at Bulgaria’s largest ski resort, Bansko.  In total there are 24 stops along the way.  Stations and sights of note along the route include:

Bansko

Bulgaria’s primary ski resort.   You’ll find many facilities here, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter, Bansko is an all-season resort, offering hiking, mountain biking and many other outdoor sports.  Bansko has hosted the free Jazz Festival for more than 20 years now in August of each year.

Belitsa

Famous for being home to the ex-Dancing bear’s sanctuary run by the Four Paws organization, the Belitsa station is quite some distance from the Dancing Bear park. Read more about the Dancing Bears and visiting them.

Aramovo

There is a brief stop at Avramovo, the highest train station in the Balkans at an altitude of 1267 metres above sea level.  There’s nothing really to see here, just an altitude sign.

Velingrad

The 80 hot springs of Velingrad allegedly cure all kinds of ailments and since 2009 the town has been recognised as the spa capital of Bulgaria!  It’s a great overnight stop if you’re planning a break from either Bansko or Plovdiv.

Carriages and Seats on the Narrow Gauge Rhodope Train

There are only second class carriages and seats on this train, but seats are padded and comfortable.  Some have tables.  There is heating, as this train runs throughout the year, no matter what the weather.   There are toilets in the carriages.

Bansko to Septemvri train carriageBansko to Septemvri train carriage

Catering and Facilities on the Bansko to Septemvri Train

There is a cafe carriage on the train, its possible to buy coffee, beer and some snacks.  This has been possible since 2018.   However, taking a picnic and a good bottle of Bulgarian wine is a fabulous way to spend the time on this glorious little train!

Narrow Gauge Bulgarian Train

How to Book Tickets for the Bansko to Septemvri Train

While you can find the timetables for this route online, it’s not possible to book online.  Simply show up at your station about 15 minutes before departure and buy your ticket.  There’s no need to buy the day before, if, that’s even possible!

You can actually buy tickets at any train station in Bulgaria, it doesn’t have to be your departure station.

Bansko train station

What Times does the Narrow Gauge Railway Run

The timetable for the Dobrinishte to Septemvri train is as follows.  The timetable is the same each day.

DobrinishteBanskoSeptemvri
05:3805:5610:30
10:2010:3815:02
14:1514:3219:21
17:5018:0822:45

The timetable for the train from Septemvri to Bansko and then Dobrinishte is as follows:

SeptemvriBanskoDobrinishte
02:2007:1707:40
08:4513:1913:31
12:2517:0117:20
16:2520:4821:10

Price of Tickets for the Bansko to Septemvri Train

Up to date pricing is available on the Bulgarian train’s website (even if online booking is not available).  In 2020, a single one-way ticket will cost 6.10 leva per person.

History of the Bulgarian Narrow Gauge Railway

The line first opened, at least between Septemvri and Velingrad in 1926 – this first 80 kilometres took 5 years to build.   The next part of the line – from Velingrad to Jakoruda opened in 1937.    The line was finally completed through to Dobrinishte in 1945.

It’s a great train ride to take!  Have you taken it?

Dobrinishte train to Septemvri

 

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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2 thoughts on “Bansko to Septemvri Train – The Rhodope Narrow Gauge Railway Bulgaria

  • Pauline Staples

    Hi Sarah, Wow what an amazing web site. I actually came across it as I have an apartment in Bansko centre. Well its an empty apartment as we are looking to have it refurbished. Can you recommend any companies? Keen to get out and explore Bankso in the summertime. Fab website will recommend. Regards Pauline