Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria by the most popular route

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I have made this trekking twice in July and both times the weather was variable – from sunny, through slightly cloudy to dark and stormy. This time the rain did not catch us but the clouds had taken over everything around us, making a fog above the green meadows near the lakes. Maria and Anna were walking hand by hand and I was carrying little Adriana (1y 8ms) on my back. We were trekking by one of the most popular tourist routes in Bulgaria – the tour around Seven Rila Lakes.

Seven Rila Lakes won't make you indifferent to the views
Seven Rila Lakes won’t leave you indifferent to the views

The Seven Rila Lakes are one of the natural treasures of Bulgaria with their endless beauty. The whole area around them is amazing and their amazing location, one above the other, is stunning. And even though the trail around the lakes is extremely popular and sometimes even crowded, the feeling of reverence to the nature does not disappear.

Again to the Seven Rila Lakes

My story with the Seven Rila Lakes dates back in time, maybe 10 years back. At those times we were not a family and we didn’t even know each other. Andrey often used to go out in bad weather and did not have to carry any kids on his back. Then he loved going to the Rila mountain (he still loves but he rarely has the opportunity).

Andrey, Anna and Adriana on the path to Seven Rila Lakes
Andrey, Anna and Adriana on the path to Seven Rila Lakes

Through the first years of our family life we never made it to the Seven Rila Lakes for one reason or another. But there is time for everything. And here we are in July 2020, with two children, climbing the path, answer all the questions Anna is asking and thinks of the magnificence of the mountain and our own powers.

Maria and the kids in the Rila mountain
Maria and the kids in the Rila mountain

What are the Seven Rila Lakes?

The names of the Seven Rila Lakes are: Dolnoto (The lower lake), Ribnoto (The fish lake), Trilistnika (The Trefoil), Bliznaka (The twin), Babreka (The kidney), Okoto (The eye) and Salzata (The Tear).

When you see the lakes, you cannot mistake their names. Okoto (The eye) is the deepest one. Babreka (The Kidney) has the shape of a kidney. The Trefoil and The Twin are alike their shapes, too. The Lower Lake is the lowest one at 2095 m altitude. The seven lakes flow one into each other and start the Djerman river.

Four of the Seven Rila Lakes - the Twin, the Trefoil, the Fish lake and the Lower lake
Four of the Seven Rila Lakes – the Twin, the Trefoil, the Fish lake and the Lower lake

You could find numerous legends about this place, involving giants, love and mysteries. There are always legends around the beautiful places. But our story is not legendary at all. It could even be a bit trivial. But it is a true family story with a scent of old memories of mountain escapes.

Andrey during one of his mountain escapes years ago
Andrey during one of his mountain escapes years ago

To the Seven Rila Lakes, step by step

We got up in the morning in wonderful mood, greeted the mountain sun, put several layers of clothes on us, packed the backpacks with water, snacks and photo equipment and headed to the cable car. Until the last minute we did not know whether we were going up to the lakes because the weather was variable with likely rains. But no one knew when it would rain, the morning was sunny and we hopped on the cable car that would take us in the mountain.

The cable car is the most popular transport to the Seven Rila Lakes. It is an open 2-seat cable car. The lower station is near the Panichishte resort and the upper one is the Rila Lakes Lodge. The trip takes around 20 minutes. In July 2020 the two-way ticked costed 20 BGN (10 EUR) per adult. The working time was up to 19.30 but for the most recent information check their website. If you have time and enthusiasm to hike yourself, you could take the hiking trail passing just under the cable car.

The cable car to the Seven Rila Lakes
The cable car to the Seven Rila Lakes

Our main worry about going to the Seven Rila Lakes was about how the kids will find the cable car trip. Especially little Adriana, who was 1y 8 months old. She is a very curious and active kid with own opinion and during the 20-minute trip she was curious to go down. Anna (5y) from the other side, was scared and cried a bit. Anyway, we managed to survive the journey and the cable car which quickly lifted us from 1585 m to 2100 m altitude. Then we kept hiking.

A look towards Rila Lakes hut
A look towards Rila Lakes hut

The hike from Rila Lakes lodge to the lakes

The path to the Seven Rila Lakes starts with a hike by a steep path. It would take you between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on how fit you are and whether you are carrying kids. It was a joy to make a few steps up, then some rest and up again. Meanwhile, we were explaining to Anna where we were so she could tell her friends in the kindergarten.

Rila mountain in July with a bit of snow
Rila mountain in July with a bit of snow
Maria and Anna hiking in Rila mountains
Maria and Anna hiking in Rila mountains

The day was cloudy and wet but it was not raining. During our breaks, we were releasing Adriana for a few steps, before we put in in the carrier again. When we approached the ridge, we started seeing the Lower lake and the Fish lake with the old Seven Lakes hut beneath us. After them is the Trefoil lake.

Within seconds the clouds took over the view. A bit later, between the fluffy curtains, the clear turquoise lakes appeared again.

A foggy view towards the Trefoil lake
A foggy view towards the Trefoil lake – Trilistnika

Routes around the Seven Rila Lakes

The most popular and relatively easy route around the lakes takes around 5 hours. It starts at the Rila Lakes hut with an ascent to the Dry Ridge (Suhia Rid), from where you reach Babreka (The Kidney) lake. From the Dry Ridge you can witness marvellous views to four of the lakes. From Babreka starts the steepest part of the route – the ascent to Okoto (The Eye) and then Salzata (The Tear). You are almost at the Lake Peak (Ezeren Vrah). Here the view is stunnning and you can see all 7 lakes. Then you return by the Okoto and Babreka to Bliznaka (The Twin), Ribnoto and Dolnoto lakes, passing by the old Seven Lakes hut. The route is easy to navigate and you won’t get lost. There is summer and winter marking and you don’t need any special skills, besides will and energy to pass it.

Maria and Anna, pointing to the Fish lake
Maria and Anna, pointing to the Fish lake

Our walk to Babreka and back

The walk to Babreka lake is the most popular and lively route around the Seven Rila Lakes. In the first part we witness the view to the lower lakes and then the path goes through a wide meadow, surrounded by the greenish-white slopes of Rila mountain at this time of the year. The kids run around and Anna makes friends with other hikers, who seem to be impressed by us taking the baby to the mountain. In a while, we are in front of the Kidney lake.

Babreka lake (The Kidney lake) from above, just before the fog took over the view - Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria
Babreka lake (The Kidney lake) from above, just before the fog took over the view – Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria
Little Adriana near Babreka lake
Little Adriana near Babreka lake

The meadows around The Kidney lake are a popular place for picnic. Bathing in the lakes is forbidden and luckily all the tourists obey the rules. We had a quick lunch and while packing our stuff, a thick layer of fog covered the area around us.

A part of The Kidney lake beneath the clouds - Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria
A part of The Kidney lake beneath the clouds

The meadows around Babreka lake are a popular spiritual place in Bulgaria. There the followers of Spiritual Master Beinsa Douno – Petar Deunov gather in August to celebrate the spiritual New Year and dance PanEuRhythmy – a system of musical physical exercises performed in the morning in the open. 

Okoto lake (left) and Babreka - Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria
Okoto lake (left) and Babreka – Seven Rila Lakes Bulgaria

For the enthusiasts – the full path

Our walk around the Seven Rila lakes with kids ended near the Babreka lake and then we returned to Rilski Ezera Lodge and the cable car. But actually, Babreka is only half the way of the full trekking path. From there the path continues uphills to Okoto, Salzata and Bliznaka. Here our story continues with Andrey’s memories from his earlier trips and is full of useful tips for a calm trekking around the lakes, aside from the popular path.

The lower rout to the Seven Rila Lakes and Rila Lakes hut in the distance
The lower route to the Seven Rila Lakes and Rila Lakes hut in the distance

From Babreka lake we head towards Okoto and the traffic eases. Okoto (The Eye) is the deepest lake not only among the Seven Rila Lakes but among all mountain lakes in Bulgaria – 37.7 m. Have you heard people saying that one’s eyes are deep? Well, this is where its name comes from.

Okoto (The Eye lake), one of the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Okoto (The Eye lake), one of the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Okoto is maybe my favourite lake, calm and reflecting the clouds. The beauty of this place is a motivation to keep hiking and reach the highest lake, named The Tear.

Salzata lake - The Tear
Salzata lake – The Tear

The Tear is enchanting. It is the highest of the Seven Rila Lakes at 2535 m altitude. Above it is the Lake Peak at 2657 m. From here you have great panorama to all the other lakes – Okoto, Babreka, Bliznaka, Trilistnika, Ribno and Dolno lakes.

The panorama to the Seven Rila Lakes
The panorama to the Seven Rila Lakes

From here there is a trekking path to Ivan Vazov Lodge and Malyovitsa Lodge.

When to visit the Seven Rila Lakes?

Even though we love adventures, for beginner tourists with young children the best time to see the Seven Rila Lakes is the summer. From June to September it is really busy but is much more convenient and safe. If you want to bypass the crowds, you can try to make the trip on a weekday or on a day with worse weather forecast (but this is risky).

The clouds sometimes contribute to the better photo but sometimes they could hide the view at all - Seven Rila Lakes
The clouds sometimes contribute to the better photo but sometimes they could hide the view at all

During our family trip the likeliness of rain was about 50 %. As you can see from the photos, there were lots of clouds but we avoided the rain. It started raining just when we were preparing for our descent. Well, if you go to the lakes on a rainy day, there will definitely be less people, but the rain and the storm in the mountain could be dangerous.

Andrey above one of the Seven Rila Lakes
Andrey above one of the Seven Rila Lakes

Another thing that would help for a calmer walk would be the early get-up. If you are among the first on a cable car at 8,30 am, the crowd will certainly be smaller.

An interesting period to visit the Seven Rila Lakes is the time between the first snow and the beginning of the skiing season. You will probably see no one on the path, but you may not see the lakes either. But if you are lucky to witness the first snow, which is usually in September, the landscape is extremely beautiful.

The area around Rila Lakes Lodge in the snow
The area around Rila Lakes Lodge in the snow
Rila mountains in the winter
Rila mountains in the winter

How to reach the Seven Rila Lakes?

You could make a day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia or dedicate a weekend and spend a night in the area. During our family trip, we stayed in the nearby resort Panichishte. Panichishte is a serene place with clean air and beautiful nature and is quite close to the cable car. So we had enough sleep, quickly packed our bags and in 10 minutes we were on the cable car.

The kids after the trip to the lakes
The kids after the trip to the lakes

From Sofia to the cable car it takes about 1.30h driving, from Plovdiv it is about 3h. Another option for a stay is the town of Sapareva Banya, some 10 km from Panichishte, where you can also enjoy hot mineral pools. We truly love this experience.

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The day after the walk to Seven Rila Lakes - Anna and Adriana enjoying the pools
The day after the walk to Seven Rila Lakes – Anna and Adriana enjoying the pools

Public transport to Seven Rila Lakes

If you do not have a car and wonder how to reach the Seven Rila Lakes, there are tour agencies offering shuttles or organized trips to the lakes. We can recommend you the services of Rila Shuttle and Traventuria, which you could book with 5 % discount because we are partners. Here are the options:

Use promo code ANDT18 for 5 % discount at Traventuria – here is a link to their Day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes.

Use promo code AndreevTravel on reservation to receive 5 % discount from all services of Rila Shuttle.

We have received good reviews for both companies so you can choose which one to use depending on which schedule is better for you. I don’t know about any other public transport to Panichishte.

See the full list of discounts for trips across Bulgaria here.

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