THE SEVEN RILA LAKES
The Seven Rila Lakes are a group of lakes located in the Rila mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria. They are glacial lakes located at 2100-2500 meters above sea level. Some of the longest and deepest rivers in the Balkans have their sources in Rila, such as Marica, Iskyr and Mesta.
Dolnoto Ezero (The Lower Lake):
The first lake that will greet us is Dolnoto Ezero. It collects water from all the other lakes to form the Dzherman River. Dolnoto Ezero was named the Lower Lake because of its location. The lake is set at an elevation of 2,095 meters and its depth is 11 meters.
2. Ribnoto Ezero (The Fish Lake):
Fish Lake is the shallowest of the lakes, its depth is only 2.5 meters. The lake lies at an elevation of 2,184 meters above sea level. Near the lake is the Chalet Seven Lakes, where you can rest before continuing your hike.
3. Trilistnika (The Trefoil):
The Trefoil, or Tri-leaf Lake, is distinguished by its irregular shape and lower shores than the other lakes. Trilistnika is at an elevation of 2,216 meters and is 6.5 meters deep.
- Bliznaka (The Twin):
Twin Lake is considered the largest of the lakes as it has an area of 9.1 hectares. It is located at an elevation of 2243 meters and is 27.5 meters deep. The Twin Lake is wide on the shores and narrow in the middle, which gives it an hourglass shape. During the dry season, the lake divides into two smaller lakes, from which it takes its name.
- Babreka (The Kidney):
Located at an elevation of 2,282 meters above sea level, The Kidney Lake has the steepest shores of all the lakes. The lake gets its name from its shape, which upfront resembles the shape of a kidney. The lake is 28 meters deep.
- Okoto (The Eye):
The lake was named The Eye because of its oval shape, which resembles an eye. It is the deepest circus lake in Bulgaria with a depth of 37.5 meters. It is located at an altitude of 2,440 meters.
- Salzata (The Tear):
The Tear Lake, about the smallest surface, owes its name to the clearest water of all the lakes. It is the highest lake at 2,535 meters above sea level and 4.5 meters deep. The water in Salzata is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake.
FAUNA AND FLORA OF THE LAKES
The cold and frosty environment of lakes is not suitable for habitation. The reason is the low water temperature(by rain-fed and snowmelt). Some lakes are home to minnows and trout.
WHEN TO GO TO THE RILA LAKES
The busiest and most frequent time to visit the lakes is summer season, specifically July and August. This is an ideal solution because temperatures then exceed 10 degrees Celsius and there is less risk of storms.
On the other hand, if we want to avoid crowds we can go in the spring or autumn. In these seasons the average temperature is between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. However, there is a greater chance that the weather during our hike may break. In extreme cases, you’ll have to abandon the expedition.
For more experienced people, an interesting option can be going to Rila Lakes in winter (average temperatures are around -5 to -10 degrees Celsius). Of course, you have to be very careful on the trails, because the weather in winter is even less predictable (you should also take some hiking gaiters or crampons with you).
Lakes freeze usually in October and do not melt before June. The ice cover at this time can be up to 2 meters thick.
HOW TO REACH
Rila National Park is located 2 hours south of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. Near the cable car there is a parking, where you can leave your car. From the parking you can go to the trail that leads to Rila Lakes or you can use the cable car. Prices are as follows (2022).
One way: 12 BGN (Bulgarian lev)
Two way: 20 BGN
For children and seniors:
One-way: 8 BGN
Two-way: 12 BGN
Lift opening hours:
Monday to Sunday: 9:00 to 16:30
(Current price list and opening hours you can be found here on the official website)
ACCOMMODATION IN THE AREA OF RILA LAKES
If we would like to stay longer and explore the area, a good idea is to stay overnight in one of the mountain huts. In the area of seven lakes there are two mountain huts where we can stay overnight.
There are also several guesthouses in the village of Panichishte, which is outlying less than 9 km.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
- General equipment.
Going for a hike on the Rila Lakes, which will last (according to the maps) about 10 hours (if we choose the option without the cable car, and the option with the lift in both ways, it is about 6 hours), worth to take: lotion to protect against the sun, warm clothes, sunglasses, raincoat, hat, something to sit on the ground and comfortable shoes with good support for ankle.
- Own food and drinks.
As a last resort, if we run out of something, we can buy something at the mountain hut. However, you should keep in mind that not everything can be bought there.
- Good shoes are a basis.
Remember that terrain can be wet and slippery due to snow. Therefore, shoes with a good grip/sole are essential.
- Appropriate clothing.
While the weather may be warm and sunny in the region, the weather in the mountains can be changeable. Therefore, it is always a good idea to take an extra layer of waterproof clothing with you. However, you should wear under your jacket an extra sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirts. Even in summer, some lakes remain covered snow.
AND WHAT DOES THE LEGEND SAY?
According to legend, thousands of years ago, when the planet was not yet inhabited by humans, in the mountains of Rila lived a pair of giants. They loved each other very much and valued the beauty and comfort of their home. It was so beautiful, warm and cozy that every living creature was enchanted by it. And the love the giants was celebrated by every creature.
Unfortunately, one day evil forces passed by the giants’ home. As soon as they saw this beautiful place, they became angry because they envied the giants’ happiness and love. They decided to destroy them the house and love. They sent dark clouds, destructive winds, and earthquakes. The giant husband stoutly defended every blade of grass, every little stream and flower. He protected his beloved wife and after some time defeated the evil powers. This however, only increased their anger, and their cruelty to carry out your’s wicked plans. In the hard fight, the young giant was killed. Satisfied with their accomplishment, the evil powers disappeared, leaving behind broken rocks, devastated valleys, and a grief-stricken woman.
The anguish of the young widow was so great that her tears gushed an endless stream that flowed down to the valleys. Her tears were collected into clear lakes of pristine clarity.
Before reaching at Lake Babreka (The Kidney), mountain guides show travelers a huge stone located toward Lake Salzata (The Tear). It “shows” a man and a woman of huge size. According to legend, these are the figures of two giants in love with each other. They will remain there forever in order that “protect” their beautiful home.
Paneurhythmy Dance – In mid-August, visitors The Seven Lakes of Rila can be witness the Paneurhythmy dance. Hundreds of people from Bulgaria and around the world, dressed in white, dance and practice in large circles near the Kidney Lake. This dance was invented by Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual teacher Beins Douno (Peter Deunov). It consists of a sequence of exercises performed to music to achieve inner balance and harmony. Every year for three days (between August 19 and 21) held in the park, a big festival dedicated to Beinsa Douno. Rila is a sacred mountain for the followers of Douno and they over here that come to welcome the rising sun.
The construction of the cable car caused a lot of controversy among environmentalists and people who appreciate the beauty of wild nature. The reason was the construction of the cable car on the territory of the reserve, and the authorities of the park were apparently accused of bribery (in Bulgaria, unfortunately, this is not uncommon).
About 500,000 tourists from all over the world, arrive in The Seven Rila Lakes every year.
The Seven Rila Lakes is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places not only in Bulgaria but also in the Balkans. It attracts nearly half a million tourists, so they can to enjoy the beautiful views and breathe in the fresh air. It is worth remembering that when going to the Rila National Park, it is good to have although small experience in hikes. This will give us more confidence that we can easily reach all the Rila Lakes.
Yuliyan Grozdev, source Unsplash.
Liam Martens, source Unsplash.
George Ivanov, source Unsplash.
Ivan Nedelchev, source Unsplash.