When I was researching what to do in Sofia, I came across day trips from Sofia, and one that was highly recommended was the Seven Rila Lakes. I decided that sounded perfect – I have seen many temples, many churches, and many museums – it’s a good change to get out into nature!
Seven Rila Lakes is about an hour and a half drive from Sofia, and I used a tour organized by my hostel to get there. In my car, there were three others – Hailey, an Australian girl, and a pair of French friends – Eric and Genevieve.
Generally, you take the lift up to the hiking points of the Lakes – they’re quite high up, and the lift cuts off about two to three hours of hiking. Well, the Seven Rila Lakes are getting incredibly popular (they’re popular with both tourists and locals, which might be the ultimate death trap), so the lift lines were over two hours long. (Side note: they really need a bigger, higher-speed lift.)
Our driver suggested that we instead take the gyp, and we all looked at each other and could not for the life of us figure out what a gyp was in terms of transportation.
And then I realized… “JEEP. You mean take a Jeep?” and the driver said “Yes, a gyp.” It made me laugh!
So we decided to take a Jeep. Holy Jeep ride of all Jeep rides. The drivers are these burly Russian guys and the cars aren’t Jeeps – I didn’t see a single Jeep as a matter of fact. These are Land Cruisers, Land Rovers, and a few others I didn’t recognize, and they’re all kitted out to work for going up the mountain.
They had us all pile in – luckily, the four of us got the seats – they had four more people squeeze in the trunk space! (Don’t worry, it was one of the open ones in an SUV, but alas, nothing to hold onto.)
It was so bumpy on the way up – there were times were were driving what felt like almost vertical, and we were driving over these giant (and sharp-seeming) rocks!
But finally, we survived the Jeep ride (about 20-30 minutes), and started making our way up to climb.
The Seven Rila Lakes have two main trails – one circuit where you see five of them, and one circuit where you see all seven. The trail is remarkably hard for a trail that’s that worn with so many people. And there are virtually no facilities up there. I’m sure an enterprising person will soon open a water stand!
There are really no words for how breathtaking it is. It’s like the Rockies, only different… you have the majesty of the mountains, but there were more open spaces and meadows here. There were also tons of lookouts where you could see different lakes. It was amazing!
I might call it “breathtaking” too many times – there are just not words to describe how incredible it is. And… it’s also quite literally breath taking in that I was huffing and puffing climbing up the steep hills covered in sharp rocks!
I made it about halfway up the trail to see all seven lakes (as I had seen five successfully), but the trail was so clogged with people it was miserable. It was hard to keep your balance and your path because the trail is so rocky, but then you’re constantly stopping for other people.
I noticed a path going up the mountain directly next to the one that was clogged with people, and noticed no people on it! So I went down and did that trail instead of the main seven lakes. I also had noticed it seemed less rocky, which made me happy – I could not imagine what I would have done to get down had I twisted an ankle up there.
So I only got to see five lakes, but what a view it was! I was almost alone at the top, and I could look out and see all five lakes in their full majesty. And not having a ton of people around was the best! There was a meadow right along the top, and I may or may not have had a Sound of Music moment in the meadow in the mountains. There may or may not be pictures. But not here… muwahahaha.
It was quite a day and quite a hike (I think it was about 10km over quite hilly and rocky terrain), and we decided to take the ski lift down. It is general for people to take either a Jeep or the lift down, so we weren’t just deciding to take it easy! The lift line down was so long! We waited about an hour, but the lift ride was gorgeous.
It was not like any Colorado lift I’ve been on – this was a slow two-person lift and there didn’t seem to be the stabilization I’m now realizing the Colorado ones have! But it was slow and gave plenty of time to enjoy the views and the scenery, and felt like a short ride!
I was so tired and sore at the end of the day. It’s been such a long time since I’ve hiked or had a workout like this, and I knew I would also wake up quite sore in the morning. But it was worth it. The lakes were amazing, and it felt so good to exercise so much!