Cover photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/jk78
Cover photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/jk78

Exploring the hidden gems of Rila: The Seven Lakes

4 minutes to read

If you like stories about hidden treasures and gems, and have an adventurous spirit, you should definitely take time to explore The Seven Rila Lakes (Седемте Рилски Езера in Bulgarian). They are some of the most famous natural attractions in the country. Located in the northern part of the Rila mountain range and being formed as a result of ice-melting processes about a million years ago, today, the lakes are a huge magnet for tourists as well as for locals, who seek to reconnect with nature. This is why this area is part of a national nature reserve and is protected by law.

How to find them?

The chair lift, which takes you up to the beginning of the Seven Rila Lakes route, is on a 90km distance from the Rila monastery.  It is also on a 55-km distance from the nearest mountain resort Borovets and 9 kilometers from the nearest village – Panichishte. After you pass the village, the narrow mountain road will lead you directly to a parking lot, where you can leave your car. At the end of the chair lift, there is a hut called “Rilski ezera” (Bulgarian for "Rila lakes"), which marks the beginning of the route. Another option for reaching this initial point of your adventure is by car (jeep), which you can rent.

Chair lift "Rila Lakes" ("Rilski ezera")
Chair lift "Rila Lakes" ("Rilski ezera")
2650 Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.org/Edal Anton Lefterov
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.org/Edal Anton Lefterov

The routes

When you reach the top station of the chair lift, you could go into the hut for some tea or a snack, and after that, you have to choose between two possible routes. The first one starts on the right side of the hut and the other one from its left side. Most visitors choose the left one and return back to the hut through the right one because the right one is covered with bushes and stones mostly.

The lakes

If you choose the path on the left, in the beginning, it may seem difficult because the first hill is a bit steep. But after overcoming that first obstacle, it gets easier to walk forward. The first lake you will see from up-close is called “the Kidney”, due to its form. While walking to the Kidney, you can see the Lower Lake, the Fish Lake and the Trefoil from above. "The Lower Lake” is, as obvious from its name, the lowest of all Seven Rila Lakes, which means that it collects water from them, via numerous river streams and waterfalls.

The Lower Rila Lake
The Lower Rila Lake
Долното езеро, 2650, Bulgaria
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.org/Vance_95
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.org/Vance_95

The Fish Lake, the next one you will see from above on this route, comes to sight around 15 minutes after you see the Lower Lake. The Fish Lake is the shallowest of all seven lakes. It is only three meters deep. Another hut is built near it – “Sedemte rilski ezera” (which in Bulgarian stands for "The Seven Rila Lakes"), not to be confused with the one at the beginning of the route - “Rilski ezera”. The name of the lake comes from the fact that a lot of fish live in it, but fishing is strictly forbidden.

The Fish Lake in Rila
The Fish Lake in Rila
Рибното езеро, 2650, Bulgaria
Photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/Stanislava Karagyozova
Photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/Stanislava Karagyozova

The Trefoil Lake reminds of an ash-tree-leaf, hence the name. From October to June, this lake is covered by thick ice. It is the most interesting one because of its irregular its form, unlike the other six lakes.

The Trefoil Rila Lake
The Trefoil Rila Lake
Трилистника, 2650, Bulgaria

The next lake is called the Twin. It is located on a higher hill as compared to the Trefoil Lake and composes of two interconnected ones, and therefore becoming the biggest one in the area. In the summer, the link between the two lakes disappears, and two smaller ones appear instead.

The Twin Rila Lake
The Twin Rila Lake
Близнака, 2650, Bulgaria
Photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/sjhaytov
Photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/sjhaytov

The Kidney Lake has the steepest shores, but overcoming that obstacle is worth the view which opens in front of you after that. This lake is very popular, partialy because of its name, partialy because the two possible routes around the lakes meet here. So therefore, by reaching this point of your walk, you are facing a dilemma – to make a small turn, continue walking and return back to the chair lift, or overcome another obstacle and get rewarded for your bravery.

The Kidney Rila Lake
The Kidney Rila Lake
Бъбрека, 2650, Bulgaria
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.com/Hristina Bumbarova
Photo © credits to commons.wikimedia.com/Hristina Bumbarova

If you choose the second option, you are indeed worthy of the price. The obstacle is another steep track, which ends at "The Lake`s Peak", or “Ezernia vrah”. As soon as you reach the top, you will immediately be rewarded with the opportunity to see the last two of the Seven Rila Lakesthe Eye and the Tear.

The Eye Lake in Rila
The Eye Lake in Rila
Окото, 2650, Bulgaria
The Tear Lake in Rila
The Tear Lake in Rila
Сълзата, 2650, Bulgaria

The Eye, also known as the Heart, is the deepest lake of all seven. Often, even in the summer, snow can be seen around it. The Tear, on the other hand, is not as famous, perhaps because not everybody has the courage to climb the steep hill the two lakes are guarded by, but it is called “the Tear” because it has the cleanest waters.

Photo © credits to commons.wikipedia.org/Valeriq Deneva
Photo © credits to commons.wikipedia.org/Valeriq Deneva

On the way back, you just have to return to the Kidney, and then take the second path. You will pass by the Twin, see the Trefoil from up-close, and after you pass by the Fish Lake and the "Seven lakes” hut, you can go back to the “Rila lakes” hut, and from there take the chair lift to the parking lot.

The Seven Rila Lakes are worth visiting because they offer an opportunity to experience this small piece of heaven. They are the very well hidden gems of the Rila mountain range, they are like treasures, kept in secret from public. Only the ones who are brave enough to walk the whole route are allowed to see the lakes. The fact that those gems have existed for thousands of years proves that nature is powerful and has a lot to teach us!


The author

Maria Belcheva

Maria Belcheva

My name is Maria, and I am a Bulgarian living in Vienna, Austria. I want to take you on a journey around all the amazing places and things worth visiting and experiencing in my homeland - Bulgaria.

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