Seven Rila Lakes (Hiking Route)

25.05.2012 § 2 Comments

The seven Rila lakes are a group of glacial lakes in northwestern Rila. At an altitude ranging from 2100 to 2500 m above sea level, they are the most visited mountain lakes in Bulgaria, and with good reason. Layered one above the other, they are wild, picturesque and clear, and the paths between them are rocky and steep. Buses from Sofia stop at the nearby town of Sapareva Banya, which is a day’s walk from the lakes. Two mountain lodges operate nearby: the old one (“Rila lakes” mountain lodge) and the new one (“Seven lakes” lodge). All lakes are located above the tree line, meaning that the vegetation around them consists mostly of grass and shrubs.

Every lake has a colourful name reminiscent of its shape. The seven lakes can all be visited in a three-hour hike from “Seven lakes” mountain lodge. From the highest point, just above “Sulzata” (“The Teardrop”), there’s a path leading to Vazov peak (2669 m) – the tallest peak in the area. The path continues along the ridge, winds through several other peaks and eventually reaches Rila monastery in another two-three days’ walking. Climbing up to Vazov peak and around after seeing the lakes adds about 2 hours to the hike, but the panorama from the top is worth it: you can see not only the lakes, but also a great rocky ridge reminiscent of the torches of Gondor in “Lord of the Rings”.

On the way down you can visit another excellent attraction: the 70-metre picturesque Skakavica waterfall, which is about 3 hours below “Seven lakes” lodge. “Skakavica” lodge, half an hour away from the falls, offers excellent sleeping arrangements in a thick coniferous forest.

For less experienced hikers, a recently built road and chair lift lead to the lakes. Unfortunately, these amenities have the unfortunate side effect of diminishing the sense of untouched natural beauty. “Seven lakes” lodge is now more of a hotel, and its parking lot is brimming with cars. Regardless, driving up is a good option for novice mountaineers, who’d still have the option to test their mettle in the 3-hour hike up to the lakes, while the more experienced hikers can still use the old paths that start in Sapareva Banya and spend the night at “Rila lakes” lodge, which offers a more authentic mountain atmosphere.

Sample route (3 days):

Day 1: Sapareve Banya – Panichishte – “Rila lakes” lodge
Day 2: “Rila lakes” lodge – Rila lakes – Vazov peak – “Seven lakes” lodge – “Skakavica” lodge – Skakavica waterfall
Day 3: “Skakavica” lodge – “Lovna” lodge – Panichishte – Sapareva Banya


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