The Seven Rila Lakes – Bulgaria’s Most Popular Nature Attraction

At the end of the last ice age as the climate had been warming up, the huge glaciers on Rila mountain started to melt, carving their way down the mountain’s slope and forming valleys and more than 100 glacial lakes. With no doubt, among these 100 lakes, the Seven Rila Lakes are stealing the spotlight. One of Bulgaria’s most cherished natural treasures, they bring together hundreds of thousands of nature lovers from around the world each year and most certainly deserve to be included in your journey of Bulgaria’s exploration.

With awe-inspiring views of the vast Rila Mountain, crystal clear waters of the glacial lakes, and wonderful nature all around you, experiencing the special energy of this place will leave you enchanted. The Seven Rila Lakes have long been considered one of the strongest spiritual centres in the world – they have been an inspiration for myths, legends and even spiritual practices – and if you decide to visit it, you will soon understand why.

How to get tо the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia

Make your life easier and use the services of Traventuria to get to the Seven Rila Lakes. Depending on your preference, you may choose a guided tour with an experienced mountain guide who will accompany you or simply book a self-guided tour for a transfer to and from the lakes.

Unlike public transportation, Traventuria’s bus will take you directly to the Lower Lift Station of the chairlift near Panichishte, which you will need to take in order to get to the beginning of the trail.

Using the Lift

Normally, the working hours of the lift are from 9:30 to 16:30, so make sure you are at the Upper Lift Station at 16:00 at the latest. Do bring cash with you, as the POS terminal machine often experiences issues. It is always a good idea to check in advance whether the lift operates on the day that you are planning to visit the Seven Rila Lakes. During the months of October, November, April, and May the lift may not be operating due to poor weather, maintenance and other reasons. Additionally, the lift starts operating later on Mondays due to routine upkeep. For information on working hours and prices visit the the official website of the Rila Lakes Chalet here.

When to Visit

The best time to visit the Seven Rila Lakes is between May and October when it is warmer and the tracks are snow-free.

Being one of the most popular spots for leisure in Bulgaria, you can expect to see many fellow-hikers when visiting the lakes. If you’re seeking a quieter mountain experience without the bustle of tourists, we recommend avoiding hiking on weekends and official holidays.

The weather at high altitudes can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to cover a significant portion of the trail before noon.

Between 19-21 of August, the esoteric Christian movement called the White Brotherhood performs the annual Paneurhythmy Dance (cosmic rhythm dance) – a ritual in celebration of the Divine New Year. The core tenets of the White Brotherhood revolve around love, tolerance, spiritual self-improvement, and living harmoniously with nature. You can see hundreds of the brotherhood’s followers dressed in white robes accompanied by gentle music dancing in circles at the Seven Rila Lakes. If you are keen to observe this ritual, you may visit the lakes during this period.

What to Wear

Never underestimate the power of the natural forces! Even on sunny days during the summer, the weather at such high altitudes can be dynamic. Always be prepared with warm clothes and a raincoat in your backpack. The terrain can be slippery and steep and if you want to see all the seven lakes you may expect to walk around 4-5 hours, depending on your speed. Therefore, make sure to wear comfortable footwear and bring enough food and water with you for an enjoyable day in nature. For all the spontaneous adventurers, do not worry if you did not have in mind a hike when visiting Bulgaria – the Traventuria team has got you covered. Upon your request, you can rent from us trekking poles, jackets, and other gear that you might need.

Which Trail to Choose

Once you have arrived at the bottom lift station, you can buy a return ticket to the Upper Station. And the journey begins – getting a bird’s-eye view while passing right above the centuries-old pristine fir and pine forests with the chair lift, you can almost feel the needles of the tree-tops touching your feet. After approximately 25 minutes you will have arrived at the upper lift station and will see the Rila Lakes Chalet where the trail begins.
At this point, if you follow the trail with white-red-white waymarks, it will lead you directly to the fifth lake – the Kidney Lake (Babreka). This trail is the commonly preferred one, since it allows you to advance significantly faster due to the slope of the route. Accordingly, the trail is challenging and packed with tourists.

If you are the type of person who would enjoy a more tranquil hiking experience, Traventuria advises you to take the alternative old path which reveals the beauty of the lakes one by one. It starts at the western side of the lodge and continues southwest – it is marked with white-yellow-white waymarks. If you follow this route, you will soon reach the Fish Lake (Ribnoto ezero), passing by the Lower Lake (Dolnoto ezero), where you will get the chance to buy refreshments, use the restroom, or take a break if needed at the Seven Rila Lakes Chalet.

Following are the Trefoil Lake (Trilistnika) and the Twin Lake (Bliznaka), which consists of two almost identical parts connected by a narrow stream of water. With the size of 12 football pitches, the Twin Lake is the largest of the lakes in terms of surface. When reaching the Kidney, consider whether you have the energy to continue to the last two lakes and the viewtop, which would take you around 2 hours more, or go north – back to the starting point. If you decide to go on, you will see the Eye Lake (Okoto) – the deepest mountain lake in Bulgaria with a depth of 37,5 metres, equivalent to the height of an 8-storey building.

And finally, you will reach the last lake situated at an altitude of 2535 metres above sea level – the Teardrop Lake (Salzata). Only a few metres above the Teardrop is a peak worth climbing – the so-called Peak of the Lakes (Ezeren vrah) with a breathtaking view of all the Seven Rila Lakes.

Protected Area

While walking you will find yourself surrounded by the vibrant colours of the primrose, the spotted gentian, and alpine avens; the gentle reflection of the sun on the crystal surface of the lakes; and the melodious songs of the horned lark, alpine accentor, and the alpine chough – a truly moving experience. If you look around at the rocky peaks, it is very likely that you will spot the emblematic balkan chamois with its hooked horns and two black stripes along its light-coloured face. And if you are especially lucky, you might even come across golden eagles circling high above the lakes. To experience Bulgaria’s wildlife up close, you may choose to join us on a birdwatching adventure. You may book a one-day or multiple day birdwatching tour here.

As tempting as it may seem, especially in the hot summer days, swimming in the lakes is strictly forbidden. The Seven Rila lakes are a protected area and home to many endemic species, however, due to their popularity, the harmful human impacts can already be seen. Please, respect the wildlife and follow the rules and regulations of the Rila National Park.

The Rila mountain is a marvelous place to explore – you can visit the 2 most visited tourist sites in Bulgaria in a single day by booking a combined day tour to the Seven Rila Lakes and the Rila monastery with Traventuria here.

Other one-day hiking tours from Sofia you may book here and for all the one-day culture trips click this link.

Written by Nina Nikolova; edited by Svetoslav Velkov and Nora Dobrinska.
Copyright: Traventuria Team