How to Explore Bulgaria's Stunning 'Seven Rila Lakes'

Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
Rila Lakes, Bulgaria | Photo by Anton Nikolov on Unsplash
Maria Angelova

The Seven Rila Lakes stand as Bulgaria’s most sought-after natural attraction. Drawing adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike, these pristine alpine lakes offer an experience that caters to both seasoned hikers and those seeking a more leisurely communion with nature. As you plan your journey to these stunning lakes, let us be your guide, providing you with all the essential information to make your trip an unforgettable exploration of Bulgaria’s natural beauty.

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Know their names

Each lake has a name according to its shape or characteristic. They are (in the order you will visit them): The Lower Lake, The Fish Lake, The Trefoil Lake, Twin Lake, The Kidney Lake, The Eye Lake and The Tear Lake. A mountain ridge above them called the Lake Mount offers the best panoramic view to all the lakes but one. You will need at least three hours to see them all (a round trip will take six hours), so plan to start early. It’s a good idea to spend the night at one of the chalets close to your starting point so you don’t have to rush.

Know their origin

The Seven Rila Lakes are all of glacial origin. Each lake is situated a little above the previous one; they sit at an altitude between 6890 ft. and 8200 ft. (2100 m—2500 m). All the lakes are connected by small streams.

Know where to spend the night

There are two mountain chalets by the lakes in which tourists can stay. There are many more accommodation options outside the national park but still close (the village Panichishte or town Sapareva Banya are good options in which to look for hotels and guesthouses).

View of two of the Seven Rila Lakes

Know when to go

The best time to visit the lakes is in July and August when it is sunny and storms are less likely. But it is good to keep in mind that on summer weekends the park can get overcrowded. Summer weekdays are the best option. Skiing and snowboarding are popular here in winter.

Know the paths

There is no public transport to the lakes so to get there rent a car or take a private shuttle from Sofia (US$20). Once you reach the foot of the mountain, there is a chairlift (18 BGN/US$10 return) which takes you to the Lower Lake. From the Lower Lake up to the Lake Mount the path is visible and usually crowded with people so you will not get lost. Food and beverages are available at the chalets by the lakes.

The Kidney Lake

The Paneurhythmy Dance

In mid-August, visitors to the Seven Rila Lakes can witness the beautiful Paneurhythmy dance. Hundreds of people from Bulgaria and all over the world, dress in white, dance and exercise in big circles close to the Kidney Lake. The dance was invented by the Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual teacher Beinsa Douno (Peter Deunov). It consists of a sequence of exercises performed to music carried out in order to achieve inner balance and harmonization. For three days every year, between August 19 and 21, a big festival dedicated to Beinsa Douno takes place in the park. Rila is a sacred mountain for the followers of Douno and it is here they come to welcome the rising sun.

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