The Seven Rila Lakes are the most spectacular group of lakes in Bulgaria. The lakes are located in the Rila Mountain range which is in the southwest of Bulgaria and forms part of the Rila-Rhodope Massif. Some of the Balkans’ longest and deepest rivers originate from Rila such as the Maritsa, Iskar and Mesta rivers.
In this article we’ll get acquainted with the Rila Mountain Range, the Seven Rila Lakes and their Names, how to get to the lakes and how much that will cost you, the hiking trip, whether or not you can swim in the lakes. Then I’ll give you some of the tips to make sure you have the best time preparing for and enjoy the hike.
The Rila Mountain Range
The Rila Mountain range is divided into four parts, each part has its own set of peaks, characteristics and lakes. East Rila also known as Musala Rila is the largest and highest subdivision and is located between the valleys of the rivers Beli Iskar and Belishka. Central Rila which is known as Skakavitsa Rila is the smallest part of the range but has the most Alpine character and the highest average altitude. Skakavitsa Rila stretches between the valleys of the rivers Beli Iskar, Cherni Iskar, Levi Iskar, lliyna and Rilska.
Northwest Rila is known as Malyovitsa Rila and is situated between the valleys of Rilska to the south, Levi Iskar to the east, Samokov to the northeast and Dupnitsa to the west. This subdivision is famous for its rugged peaks and picturesque lakes in the Alpine zone, these including the Seven Rila Lakes.
The last section is the southwest Rila between the valleys of the Rilska, lliyna and Belishka to the north, the Predel Saddle separating it from Pirin to the south, and Simitli and Blagoevgrad valleys to the west. This section has the lowest elevation in the Rila Mountain Range. Also southwest Rila doesn’t have the same Alpine character of the other three subdivisions.
The Seven Rila Lakes – their Names and best time to visit
The Seven Rila Lakes are a group of glacial lakes in the northwest Rila section of the Rila Mountain Range. They are located at the foot of a massive cirque that includes three mountain peaks; Suhi Chal (Dry Peak), Otovishki and Haramiya. The lakes are all located one above the other with small streams that form tiny waterfalls and cascades connecting them.
Each of the lakes is named after its shape and characteristic. The highest lake is The Tear which earned its name from its crystal-clear waters and is right beneath the Otovishki Peak. The oval-shaped Eye Lake follows in altitude with its intense deep blue color and good weather. The Eye was explored by divers once to gain better information about it.
After that comes the kidney-shaped Kidney Lake with the steepest shores of all lakes. The Twin Lake follows as it was named due to the fact it splits into two smaller lakes during the dry seasons; hence the name. The Trefoil, the Fish Lake and the Lower Lake follow after that.
Generally, the cold and frigid environment of the lakes isn’t suitable for marine life. Minnows and trout live in some of the lakes but these high-mountain lakes fed by rain and snowmelt don’t house much marine life.
The busiest and most common time to visit the lakes is during the summer season, namely during the months of July and August. This is ideal since the temperatures then can be above the coldness of 10 degrees Celsius and with a lower risk of storms. The lakes usually freeze in October and don’t melt before June, the ice cover can reach up to 2 meters with severe weather during the cold months.
The Seven Rila Lakes are the most visited group of lakes in Bulgaria and they also host one important local celebration. Every year, on the 19th of August near the Kidney Lake the White Brotherhood or Danovites gather to celebrate their new year. The celebration is a ritual unison dancing in a large circle. For the Danovites, the Rila Mountains are a holy place where devotees gather every year to celebrate their new dawn.
Book a day-trip to the Seven Rila Lakes couldn’t be easier. Several travel agencies offer day trips from Sofia to the lakes for a mere 25 Euros. This basic trip is all about hiking the trails up to the mountain peak and enjoying the unique scenery from atop the Rila mountain. A cable-car will take you up the mountain before you set on foot to explore the way all through to the lakes.
A trip to the Seven Rila Lakes and the Rila Monastery will be 97 Euros except that the price varies depending on the group size. The Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. The monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A trip with the inclusion of dinner at a traditional restaurant or resort on the way will be 45 Euros per adult. Private day trips are also available for booking to the Seven Rila Lakes except it can be a bit pricy, at 105 Euro per adult. The trip is offered with a professional driver-guide, hotel pickup and drop-off though it doesn’t include the cable-car fee or the lakes’ entry fee.
Whichever trip you choose to book, there are many trips you can choose from, the hiking trip will start the same. You will get up to the mountain hut through a 30 minute cable-car ride – about 10 Euros per person – where you will get to enjoy the mesmerizing scenery along the way. When you get to the top, the group will gather around for all of you to set on foot down the trek to explore the lakes.
The Hiking through the Seven Rila Lakes
All booked trips offer hotel pickup and drop off but be sure to check while viewing the itinerary. When you get from the hotel to the Rila Mountain Range, most trips stop at the Panichishte ski resort before setting out for the hike.
With your map in hand and your guide leading the way, one of the most exciting trips you’ll take is about to start. No need to rush, you can stroll at your own pace through the hiking trails. You will get the opportunity to stop along the way to take photos and breathe in the clean air of the mountain while resting your legs as well.
1. Dolnoto Ezero (The Lower Lake)
The first lake; the impressive lower lake which will greet you is Dolnoto Ezero which is the gathering place of the water that flows from all the other lakes to form the Dzherman River. Dolnoto Ezero is named the lower lake due to its location at the lowest altitude of all lakes; 2,095 meters and it is 11 meters deep.
2. Ribnoto Ezero (Fish Lake):
Being the shallowest of the lakes, the Fish Lake is only 2.5 meters deep. The lake stands at an altitude of 2,184 meters. Tourist accommodation in the form of the Seven Lakes Shelter is available close to the lake where you can take a rest from the hike and recharge before completing the trip.
3. Trilistnika (The Trefoil):
The Trefoil or the three-leafed lake will have you stop at it for some time. You would marvel at its irregular shape and the lower shores than the rest of the lakes. The Trefoil is situated at an altitude of 2,216 meters and is only 6.5 meters deep.
4. Bliznaka (The Twin):
The Twin Lake is considered the largest one of the lakes due to its staggering 8.9030.8 square meters space. The Twin Lake stands at 2,243 meters of an altitude and is 27.5 meters deep. The Twin Lake is wide at the edges and narrow in the middle, giving it the shape of an hourglass. The dry season splits the lake into two smaller lakes which is where the lake got its name from.
5. Babreka (The Kidney):
At an altitude of 2,282 meters, the Kidney has the steepest shores of all the lakes. The lake derives its name from the shape it takes, you will notice from above that it truly looks like a kidney. The Kidney is also 28 meters deep.
6. Okoto (The Eye):
Named The Eye due to its oval shape; resembling an eye. Okoto is the deepest cirque lake in Bulgaria with its 37.5 meters deep waters. The Eye stands at an altitude of 2,440 meters.
7. Salzata (The Tear):
With the smallest of area space, The Tear earned its name from having the clearest water of all the lakes. It is also the highest lake at an altitude of 2,535 meters and a depth of 4.5 meters. The waters of Salzata are so clear you can peer into the lake’s bottom.
Can you swim in the Seven Rila Lakes?
This is one of the most asked questions on the internet and the simple answer is no! This is due to the fact that the Seven Rila Lakes are actually a part of the Rila National Park which is a nature reserve. So, you can just sit back and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the lakes while helping preserve them.
Tips to enjoy your Seven Rila Lakes’ Trip
A hiking trip has one basic requirement after which everything else is complimentary. You not only have to love nature, but also be in love with hiking. The Seven Rila Lakes hiking trips are definitely one to test your endurance and capabilities and in return offer you some of the most breathtaking scenes you’ll enjoy during your life. Here are the best tips to enjoy your hiking trip and what to be aware of.
1. Your Essentials:
Yes, you must bring your travel essentials with you. Namely, your sun protection lotion, warm clothes, sunglasses, a warm coat, a hat, something to sit on the ground and comfortable shoes with good ankle support. The hike is also dog-friendly so you can bring your pet best friend along as well to enjoy the terrain.
2. Bring your own food:
While some travel agencies offer you a light dinner for a little extra money than the usual hiking trip, most agencies don’t and many tourists don’t opt for it since it can be pricy. This is why it’s always best to bring your own food and drinks on the day trip since you’ll certainly need them during the 5-hour hike.
3. Good hiking boots:
A hiking trip is made easier when you’re all set up with the best hiking boots. So you’ll want to come during your visit to Bulgaria prepared with hiking boots that offer you good ankle support and are also comfortable to wear for long stretches of time. Bare in mind that the terrain can be wet and slippery with snow here or there, so boots with a good grip are essential.
4. Proper clothing:
While the weather might be warm and sunny in the region, the weather by the terrain and lakes can be fluctuating. So you’ll always want to bring an extra layer of waterproof clothes while wearing an additional layer beneath your jacket. Even during the summer season, parts of some lakes remain covered in snow which give an even chiller vibe.
Since the hike is demanding; stretching over a length of five hours in time with wild terrain, a certain level of fitness is required. This is for your own health and safety so the hike is not recommended for pregnant women and is not allowed for children under 9 years of age. The hike is suitable for tourists with no health issues relating to the legs, heart or other diseases relating to sun exposure and long hikes.
While you might not need that much money on you during your hike; there are no shops or restaurants in the area. You will need 10 Euros for the ticket of the chairlift. The fee you pay while booking your trip with the travel agency includes the fee for entering the Seven Rila Lakes so no worries about that.
Keep in contact with the agency with which you booked your hiking trip. Since the weather can be unpredictable in that area, the trips can get cancelled. Another reason the trip might get cancelled is whether or not the chairlift is operational or not. All agencies offer you the option of setting another date for the trip or a total refund if the trip got cancelled for any reason, so there’s nothing to worry about in that regard.
As you are dropped off back at your hotel at the end of the day, your legs might be sore but your soul will surely be filled with so much calmness and beauty. Hiking to the Seven Rila Lakes is a new way of spending your vacation, off the beaten track and away from the buzzing of city life. The trip to the lakes is becoming increasingly popular among European tourists especially from Russia.
The day hiking trip has been featured in several online tourist sites and blogs run by the neighboring Russians. One of the best Russian comments about the hike was by Olga Rabo who runs and writes The Russian Abroad blog. She’d described the Seven Rila Lakes as the most notable natural attraction both in Bulgaria and the Balkans entirely.