The last remaining Bulgarian narrow-gauge train runs between Dobrinishte and Septemvri 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 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 Bansko, 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 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:
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 visiting them.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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). In 2019, 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?
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