The last remaining Bulgarian narrow gauge railway runs between Dobrinishte and Septemvri Bulgaria and covers a total of 125 kilometers or 77 miles. Those 125 kilometers 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.
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Why Take the Rhodope Narrow Gauge AKA the Septemvri Dobrinishte railway
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 a 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.
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 kilometers along the track at Bulgaria’s largest ski resort, Bansko. In total there are 24 stops along the way.
You don’t have to go all the way on the train – many people take the train from Bansko as far as Velingrad and stay the night in one of the spa hotels here.
Stations and sights of note along the route include:
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.
- Read more about things to do in Bansko in Summer
- Want to know what you should eat in Bansko – and where?
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 visit them.
There is a brief stop at Avramovo, the highest train station in the Balkans at an altitude of 1267 meters above sea level. There’s nothing really to see here, just an altitude sign.
The 80 hot springs of Velingrad allegedly cure all kinds of ailments and since 2009 the town has been recognized 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 the 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.
Catering and Facilities on the Bansko to Septemvri Train
There is a cafe carriage on the train, it’s 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!
How to Book Tickets for the Bansko to Septemvri Train
If you’re buying the tickets in person simply show up at your station about 15 minutes before departure and buy your ticket. There is rarely, if ever a line, and I’ve never heard of anyone not being able to get on the train. This isn’t a busy route!
You can actually buy tickets at any train station in Bulgaria, it doesn’t have to be your departure 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.
The timetable for the train from Septemvri to Bansko and then Dobrinishte is as follows:
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). A single one-way ticket will cost 6.60 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 kilometers 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?
Where else to go in Bulgaria
- The best things to see and do in Sofia (Bulgaria’s Capital City)
- The best things to see and do in Plovdiv
- Veliko Tarnovo – Bulgaria’s Original Capital City
- Bulgaria’s Ski Capital, Bansko – in Summer
- The Annual Jazz Festival in Bansko
- The Ex-Dancing Bear Park at Belitsa
- Take a ride on the highest railway in the Balkans – from Bansko to Septemvri!
- Visit Bulgaria’s most beautiful building – UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery
Plan your Trip to Bulgaria
- Book the best tours and guides in Bulgaria on GetYourGuideand Civitatis
- Book fabulous Bulgarian foodie experiences with locals through Eatwith
- Save money in Bulgaria with a Wise debit card
- Book Buses in Bulgaria with Bookaway
- Rent a Car in Bulgaria with Discover Cars
- Find the right accommodation for you via Booking.com
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