The highest mountain not only in Bulgaria but also on the Balkan Peninsula, Rila range is a hiking paradise for all nature lovers. With its stunning glacial lakes, snowy-capped mountain summits and incredible flora and fauna, Rila Mountains promises to be a place worth exploring! It is also important to note that thanks to the unique landmarks and rich ecosystem, a vast majority of the mountain has been designated as a national park, covering a total of more than 200,000 acres.
Located in Southwestern Bulgaria, Rila mountain range is approximately 90 minutes away from the capital city Sofia. The type of transportation and precise distance varies depending on which landmark are you planning on visiting and how long of a hike are you looking for. On to the travel guide to Rila Mountains, let’s cover some of the most beautiful natural formations, which you can explore in Rila Mountains!
Seven Rila Lakes
The truly spectacular Seven Rila Lakes are among the most popular tourist attractions in Bulgaria. If you have already decided to add them to your travel itinerary, you would need to plan a full day to be able to fully experience their beauty!
Keep in mind that the Seven Rila Lakes are not as easily accessible and getting there might be a challenge. First off, the easiest way is definitely by car, as using the public transport from Sofia would mean changing multiple buses and the journey can be quite lengthy and time-consuming. The next thing to keep in mind is that the Seven Rila Lakes are located within the designated Rila National Park, which means that there are no roads which will take you directly there. Pionerska hut is the final destination you can reach by car, that is where the adventure begins!
The Cable Car
By far the easiest, fastest and most convenient way to reach the Seven Rila Lakes is by the cable car. It takes less than 30 minutes to reach the top and the return ticket is about 18 BGN per person. Keep in mind that the cable car closes precisely at 16:30 (4:30pm) and during the summer months lines can be quite long. During peak season it is advisable to be on the upper station of the cable car no later than 15:30 (3:30pm).
If you are an adventure seeker and love some adrenaline, the off-roading adventure with mountain jeeps might be the best option for you. There are numerous 4×4 cars located by the lower cable car station at Pionerksa hut and prices can often be negotiated on the spot depending on the size of your group, but prices tend to be around 15 – 20 BGN for the return trip. Unfortunately, this is not the most sustainable and Eco-friendly way to reach Seven Rila Lakes, as once again you have already stepped inside the Rila National Park.
As the actual hike around the Seven Rila Lakes starts once you reach the top and the Rilski Lake hut, hiking is only recommended if you are planning on staying overnight at the hut. There is a well-maintained marked trail that starts from Pionerska hut and reaches all the way up to Rislski Lake hut.
The Trail Around the Seven Rila Lakes
Once you have reached the Rilski Lakes Hut, this is where your actual hiking adventure in Rila Mountain begins. The entire trail to see all the lakes takes between 4 – 5 hours. While, the first part of the path is relatively flat and easy, there are parts of the trail, which can be seen as more strenuous and you definitely want to be well prepared and equipped for the hike.
It is up to you to decide if you have enough strength and abilities for the entire hike and you can complete just half of the trail and go back, however, you will miss the incredible views of the truly breathtaking Seven Rila Lakes from the top.
As a collection of 7 glacial lakes, they are located on an altitude between 2100 meters and 2500 meters. Each one of them has an extremely interesting form and they have been named after their shapes. The lowest lake is called “The Lower Lake”, followed by the “Fish Lake”, which is the shallowest with just 2.5 meters of depth. As you keep hiking along the way, you will reach “The Trefoil” and shortly after the largest lake “The Twin”. You can get a bit of a breather here, as you would need to keep hiking up to reach the most popular lake of all “The Kidney”, which is known by the steep shores surrounding it. This a good spot to stop for a quick snack, as a steep incline follows before you reach Bulgaria’s deepest cirque lake “The Eye”. Last but definitely not least, “The Tear” is located at 2,535 meters above the sea level and has the cleanest waters of all.
If you still have some strength left, you will definitely want to climb on top of “The Lake Peak”, which will reward you with the most breathtaking scenery you could imagine. The view of the valley in front of you includes almost all seven lakes with their crystal-clear blue waters, surrounded by the endless greenery of Rila Mountains and the snow-capped summit peaking in the distance.
After the hike there is a hotel and restaurant on the way back to the cable car. The food is fantastic and views are also lovely. The cafeteria style restaurant offers lots of vegetables and meat prepared in a variety of ways. We enjoyed their sausage bean stew and some potatoes.
Now that you have all the necessary information from my travel guide to Rila Mountains, are you ready to pack your bags and begin your journey to the Seven Rila Lakes?