Bulgaria

Visiting Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

When visiting Bulgaria, one of the most stunning places you’ll see pictures of is Seven Rila Lakes. It’s an absolutely jaw-dropping place to go, and it’s an easy day trip from Sofia. Before heading up to the mountains, here’s what you should know to plan your trip.

Amanda Plewes at Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Getting To Seven Rila Lakes

There is no real public transit option to get to Seven Rila Lakes. (Technically, you can get there by bus but it’s highly inefficient.) Most people take their own cars – but beware! Especially in the high season of the summer months, parking can be an absolute nightmare. If you drive, either go super early in the morning, or expect to have to park half a mile or more away from the lift!

The best option is to have someone drive you. Most of the hostels in Sofia organize day trips, and they’ll have someone drive you and bring you back. That way, you can enjoy the day without having to worry about parking! (Or directions).

Expect the drive to take about two hours each way. It’s an amazing day, but it is a long day trip! Through a hostel, you can expect to pay 40 – 50 Lev for them to take you. That comes to about $25 – $30 US.

A rock cairn at Seven Rila Lakes

The Lift At Seven Rila Lakes

The ski lift at Seven Rila Lakes is not like the kind you’re used to if you go skiing in the US. It’s incredibly slow, so the lift line can take two hours or more on busy summer days! It costs 10 Lev (about $6) each way for the lift.

One other option is there are a number of people who are near the base of the lift and have Jeeps or other heavy-duty four-wheel-drive vehicles that can take you up to the base of the climbing. This is another great reason to go with a hostel-organized tour. Whoever your driver is will know somebody up there with a Jeep and be able to organize your trip up.

Beware – it is a bumpy experience and they pack people into the car! But it’s something you won’t experience many other places.

You can take the Jeep or the lift both up and down – my group opted to take a Jeep up to the hiking and the lift back down to the car.

Finally, you could hike up rather than take the lift or Jeep. (But this is not really recommended – save your legs for hiking once you get up there!)

Amanda Plewes at a waterfall at Seven Rila Lakes

Hiking At Seven Rila Lakes

Luckily, once you get up there, the hiking is incredibly straightforward. There aren’t too many paths, so it’s easy to find where you’re going and hard to get lost. The hiking trails are well-maintained.

The trail to see all seven lakes is the hardest. If you’re not a big hiker, you can have an easy and manageable day if you stay slightly lower and just see the five main lakes.

There is a ski lodge up at the top, where they have bathrooms and food and drink. It’s a good idea to pack food and water with you. The food is expensive, not that good, and you’re going to have to wait quite a while for it.

The names of the seven lakes are all somewhat straightforward – you have the Tear, the Kidney, the Eye, the Trefoil, the Twin, the Lower Lake, and Fish Lake. You won’t need to know the names of the lakes, because truthfully, it’s hard to get lost. And they’re all so gorgeous it almost doesn’t matter which one you’re looking at!

Many Bulgarians will camp around the lakes, so there are areas where you’ll see large numbers of tents set up.

Amanda Plewes at Seven Rila Lakes

What to Take Hiking at Seven Rila Lakes

You’ll want to bring a sturdy daypack with you, and fill it with food, a water bottle, and sunscreen. Because of the elevation, you’ll also want to bring a hat, sunglasses, or both.

Because you’ll be up in the mountains, even in the summer, it can get nippy – I appreciated having my pullover. Check the forecast. The mountains can be somewhat susceptible to rain showers during the day, so you might need to pack a rain jacket.

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Planning a day trip to Seven Rila Lakes

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