Hiking The Stunning Seven Rila Lakes In Summer

Nestled in less than 2-hours drive away from Sofia, Rila is the highest mountain range in Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula. During winter season, skiers can look forward to 78-kilometres of slopes served by 24 ski lifts from various resorts. During the summer, there are lots of hiking trails to explore, with mountain huts providing accommodation and facilities to hikers. Comparing to the 7-lakes trek I had done in Tajikistan, this is a fairly easy hike for a spectacular view.

Getting to Seven Rila Lakes

By Public Transport

This option is relatively easy, cheap but time consuming. Start from Sofia Central Bus Station to catch a bus to Dupnitsa (Дупница). These buses depart hourly, about a 1.5-hours journey and cost 6lv (€3). From here, take another bus to Sapareva Banya (Сапарева баня) which is a 30-minutes journey costing 1.5lv (€0.80). There is a shuttle bus from Sapareva Banya to Panichiste resort where the chairlift located, however it appears to be unreliable. Alternatively, a taxi will cost you 16lv (€8) to bring you to the foot of Rila Mountains.

By Day Tour

Considering spending about 6-hours on public transport for a day hike does not sound worthwhile, you might want to sign up with a tour instead. The journey takes about 1.5 hours each way and drops right off at the chairlift. Tours usually depart early at 7am from Sofia and back to the city before evening. If you’re travelling solo, this can be a good option to make new friends! I booked a tour with Traventuria, a local tour operator, that cost €40 which includes return transportation and an experienced guide. If you do not have much time in Sofia, I would suggest taking a tour with both Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery on the same day.

Upon arriving at Panichishte Resort, you have 2 options: take the chairlift or hike all the way up to Rilski Ezera hut (Rila Lakes Hut) at 2,100-metres. The chairlift is a slow 20-minutes scenic ride costing 25lv (€13) for a return ticket. If you want to save a few bucks, opt for hiking a two-hour steep but manageable trail. In my own opinion, taking the chairlift is pretty much worth it for the view from above and saving energy for a longer hike later. Do note that the operating time during Summer is 9am to 4:30pm.

What to Expect

Greeted by shades of emerald green and sapphire blue, the Seven Rila Lakes are formed thousands of years ago from the melting glaciers. Situated at between 2,100 and 2,500-metres above sea level, these lakes are usually covered with a blanket of snow much of the year. I did the hike in early July and there were still some snow left!

As this area is incredibly popular, it is not so easy to get lost. The paths are pretty well-marked along the way at major viewpoints so you can choose to walk to the highest point and back. Having a guide means we got to explore a less visited pathway and a closer view of two other lakes which is away from the other five. The whole hike took us slightly more than 4-hours with a short snack break and lotsa photo-time.

The Seven Rila Lakes are as follows:

  • Salzata “The Tear” – The highest lake
  • Okoto “The Eye” – An oval-shaped lake
  • Babreka “The Kidney” – Named after its crescent shape
  • Bliznaka “The Twin” – The largest as it is two connected lakes
  • Trilistnika “The Trefoil” – A irregular shaped that looks like 3-leafed clover
  • Ribnoto Ezero “The Fish Lake” – The shallowest lake
  • Dolnoto Ezero “The Lower Lake” – The lake located at lowest altitude

Things to Take Note


The weather on the Rila Mountains can be very unpredictable, so always bring a jacket just in case. We were lucky when we visited as it was clear skies and about 25°C. I wore short-sleeved, shorts and a pair of hiking shoes. You may consider bringing hat, sunglasses and sunscreen during the Summer months.


There is a snack shop at Rila Lakes Chalet when you get off from the chair lift. The best way is to pack your own food and have a picnic at one of the lakes. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you as well, unless you wouldn’t mind refilling your bottle from the stream. There is no trash bin in the area so please be responsible to take care of your own rubbish.


Cash is king in Bulgaria! Keep in mind to have small change for public transport and enough cash to pay for the chair lift ride.


The only toilets on the mountain are the ones by the parking lot and the ones at Rila Lake Chalet. The mountain is an open countryside so there’s nowhere to hide for a pee. However, there are some small pine trees and a few abandoned small huts which you may try!


YES! There are actually huts and chalet around the national park. However, little information can be found online especially for the smaller huts. You can either walk-in on the day to see if there is anyone around, or have local tour operator to book your lodging.

Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!

Pin this post for your future trip to Rila Seven Lakes!

Aloha! I'm Bunzy, a curious dreamer who is passionate about roaming around the world getting lost, experiencing new cultures and meeting the locals. My superpower is to be able to sleep anywhere, anyhow!

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