Have you ever heard of Rila Mountain? In Bulgaria, we call it the "water mountain" due to the many lakes and rivers that make it a paradise for animals and biodiversity. Not only do the animals enjoy the beauty of it, but tourists also come from all over the world to see the beautiful turquoise waters, wild nature, green valleys, and the intimidating peaks of Rila.
The legend says that thousands of years ago when there were still no people on earth, two giants lived in the Rila mountains. Their home was so wonderful and magical, filled with love and passion. Their garden was full of trees and plants, making it a paradise for them and everybody around them. But the fairytale came to an end as the evil spirits became envious of their magical land and decided to destroy it. After a few days of big fights, the giant did everything to protect even the smallest tree branch and flower, but the evil spirits were stronger. After the giant died, there was not much left. Only his wife, filled with tears, sobbed after her love and home. Her tears filled the lakes with crystal clear water.
Nowadays, as you walk up, before you pass Babreka (The Kidney), in the direction of Salzata (The Teardrop), you can spot a stone, looking like a man and a woman. The legend says it’s the giants who will forever keep their home safe.
I am sure you already guessed that there are seven lakes.
Starting from bottom to top, they are: Dolnoto ezero ( The lower lake), Ribnoto (The fish lake), Trilistnika (The Shamrock), Bliznaka (The twin), Babreka (The Kidney),
Okoto (The Eye), Salzata (The Teardrop).
All of the lakes are glacial ponds, and they were formed by the last glaciation during the last glacial periglacial period about one million years ago. The concaves were formed from the pression, or at least that’s what I read. However, somehow I want to believe more in the story of the legend.
The Salzata (Eye Drop) is the uppest lake, and from it, through all the others, reaching to the lowest Dolnoto (the lower lake), a small stream goes. During the hike, after Babreka (The Kidney), there is a small bridge on which you can refill your water bottle with fresh, tasty, cold mountain water.
To see the uppest lake, you will have to go to the peak of the Rila Lakes, or as we call it, the lake peak.
Bliznaka is the largest lake.
Salzata is the cleanest one.
Okoto is the deepest one.
All of the lake's names are given after the shape they have.
The lakes and areas are protected and nobody should litter or bathe in them.
The lift and the way up
The easiest way to start the hike is to take a lift that will take you directly to the Rila Lakes lodge. From there to the lake peak and back, you won’t need more than 4-5 hours (including breaks and stops for pictures). The lift takes you on a journey of 16 minutes, revealing in front of your eyes stunning green views, spacious valleys, and high, interestingly formed peaks.
Round trip on the lift will cost you around 25 leva (13 euros) for adults and 15 leva (7.50 euros) for kids under 14 years old.
In case you decide to walk rather than take the lift, there are a few options. You can walk in the forest under the lift. For that walk, you might need to plan an hour or an hour and a half for the way up and no more than 40 minutes for the way down.
Another path you can take is from Skakavica waterfall. The path will take you directly to Babreka Lake.
There are many options to reach the lake peak, but some won’t guarantee a full path around the lakes.
My advice: take the lift or walk under it and start the hike from the Rila lodge.
The hike itself is relatively easy, well to be honest, I would even say very easy.
The first part up is a little bit steeper, but after that, there is no incline at all. Until you reach almost the end. From Babreka to the peak, the hike gets a little bit more difficult, but there is absolutely nothing to be worried about.
I have hiked this trail many times as this is one of my favorite spots. Before, the last part of the hike was more complicated, but now due to the many tourists and to preserve the stones and earth, there is a very easy path made. There is even a railing.
A small stone trail circles Babreka Lake and leads to it. Please try to walk in the designated area as it is there to preserve the natural environment around you. The earth is deformed as many people go up and walk everywhere. Please respect the natural process and the beauty of the place by walking on the designated paths.
I remember, a few years ago, the area around the lakes looked completely different. It wasn’t as made as it is now. The walk to the peak required good hiking shoes as stones were slipping down. Now with the new modification, the path is easier, but please do not go to the mountain in flip flops. Believe me, I have seen that as well.
So more about the hike: after you reach Babreka, the uphill part begins. It isn’t something super hard or exhausting, and it is a short trial. Before the peak, you will pass by Lake Okoto. There is a good place for a last break before heading to the peak itself.
After Okoto, only 10–20 minutes more and you are on top! Only from there you get to see the uppest lake - Salzata. The views are mesmerizing. The turquoise lakes lying in the green fields, surrounded by mountains, create a breathtaking scenario.
The other way to reach the peak or to go back to the lift is to walk next to the other lakes. To be honest, I think I have done that trial only once. There are many low spiky bushes and the path is more narrow than the one mentioned above. For me, the beauty of the place has a lot to do with the space as well. The walk on the ridge makes the experience astonishing.
I would always recommend going to the lakes on a weekday as it is less crowded. If you can’t, then go early, as if not, you might need to wait for a very long time in the queue.
For people that aren’t in a rush: take more breaks and go down last. Of course, be careful at what time the lift closes, but I am saying go back last because being alone in that area feels so magical and so special. There is something about staying there alone that I cannot describe in words.
Seven Rila Lakes Lodge
If you decide to spend more than one day around the lakes and you want to explore the numerous hiking trails around them, take a look at the lodge. It offers private rooms or shared ones, with private bathrooms or shared ones. For more information and the pricelist, CLICK here.