Do you want to hike to the Seven Rila Lakes? From how to get there to where to sleep, this is everything you need to know about hiking to the Rila Lakes

From where I was standing I had the beauty of the Rila Lakes before me.

I could clearly see all seven lakes of the ‘Seven Rila Lakes’ trek, and all the hard work and effort was worth it. After all, this was what we came for, but it was the four girls behind me taking ‘ultimate selfies’ that made it such a memorable and worthwhile experience. This was what travelling is all about; this truly was travelling at its best.

Rewind about 18 hours and I was chatting to a girl, American Kate, over breakfast in Sofia. We had your usual breakfast conversation over Nutella on European bread before we were some onto familiar territory – where have you been and where are you going next.

Kate’s eyes lit up as she quickly told me all about her plans to go trekking to the Seven Rila Lakes, stay overnight in a hut in the middle of nowhere, and continue onto Rila Monastery, which admittedly was something I was thinking about seeing myself.

Once she had finished, Kate looked at me and said: “You should come too. It’ll be a lot of fun.” Almost nonchalantly, I replied I might just do that.

Hiking to the Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
Hiking to the Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Planning a trip to the Rila Lakes

Later that evening I saw Kate again. It was obvious at breakfast we would be hiking together – sometimes these things don’t need to be talked about, they are just assumed – and we were soon planning our trek to the Seven Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery. When I say “we” were planning, I was listening to Kate tell me all about it as she had already done the research; all I had to do was turn up in the morning.

Also involved in the conversation was another girl, British Kate. She had planned to go onto another city that night, but after hearing Kate and I talk about our trek, it wasn’t long before we convinced her to join us. This was travelling, and two quickly became three.

British Kate and American Kate together

Getting to the Rila Lakes

The next morning saw our little group head off together at 6am.

We caught a lift to the bus station we needed, a good hour outside of Sofia, with a local Bulgarian guy who American Kate had been Couchsurfing with.

Even though he couldn’t speak the best English, he still managed to show three complete strangers (well, two complete strangers) a little Bulgarian hospitality by buying us breakfast of banitsa (a puff pastry stuffed with white cheese and spinach) and ayran (a drinkable yogurt). It was exactly what we needed for a full day or hiking ahead of us.

The thing about travellers is you can spot them a mile off, and at the bus station we started speaking to two girls, Ceci and Malin, who also were hiking to the Seven Rila Lakes. This was travelling, and three quickly became five.

It wasn't long before we were all laughing together

Luckily for us, Ceci was Bulgarian, so our job of getting to the Seven Rila Lakes became that much easier and we all deferred to her.

Once we got to Dupnitsa, we took a bus to Separeeva Banja (2 lev, approximately €1) and a taxi to Pionerska (4 lev, approximately €2 per person), which was at the bottom of the mountains. To get to the top of one of the peaks we took the ski lift (10 lev, approximately €5 for a one-way ticket).

I had never been on a ski lift before, and I have to admit, being rocked back and forth with the girls chatting behind me, I knew I was in for a day to remember. All around me was the deep, dense forest that has come to define Bulgaria, and as I slowly ascended to the top, the mountains became clearer and clearer, some of which were still snow-capped.

The ski lift to the top of the peak was the perfect way to start the Seven Lakes trek

Hiking to the Rila Lakes

The Seven Rila Lakes is one of the most popular treks in all of Bulgaria, and with reason.

As you can probably guess, they are seven lakes all in close proximity of each other high up in the mountains. In winter, they are frozen over and covered in snow; in summer, once melted, they are a clear emerald green, and each one is very beautiful.

The trek to the top of the Seven Rila Lakes took about five hours, but we were walking slowly, getting to know each other a little better while walking on the trail.

The trek to the top of the Seven Lakes took about five hours, but we were walking slowly, getting to know each other a little better while walking on the trail

Once we got to the top of the Seven Rila Lakes trek, we all had the beauty of Bulgaria before us. The views were simply stunning, and we all took it in; that’s before we started taking selfies that is.

After seeing the Seven Rila Lakes, the five of us summited the highest peak in the area (about 2,800 metres above sea level). While at the top, Ceci decided it was the perfect place to practice some acrobatic yoga and it wasn’t long before she was up in the clouds.

Ceci wanted to practice some acrobatic yoga while on the summit

Sleeping at the Rila Lakes

With time pushing on, we picked up our pace and carried on hiking. We were staying in this little hut in the heart of the mountains, the only place around for hours.

By the time we arrived, we had been hiking for seven hours, so it’s safe to say we were all pretty tired but we were so happy too.

Walking to the hut in the middle of the nowhere provide some of the best views of the hike

It’s hard to describe the hut, but it has obviously become its own little commune with an assortment of people living there. With no hot water and limited electricity, it really is cut away from society. It is just you and the mountains; nothing more, nothing less.

That night we sat around drinking rakia wrapped up in warm woollen blankets. Not before long, one of the guys living there produced a pair of Bulgarian bag pipes. As we followed him outside, there was already someone else playing a set, the dulcet drone drifting over the moors towards the mountains.

Perched against the wall, we were all treated to a performance of Bulgarian folk music. After 10 minutes, someone started singing, illuminated by the full moon overhead.

The five of us looked at each other and smiled. We didn’t need to say a word. After all, this was what travelling was all about; this truly was travelling at its best.

Photos of the Rila Lakes

Are you looking at hiking to the Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery? Are you going to stay in the little hikers hut? Let me know what your plans are in the comment box below!

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Hiking Rila Lakes



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Hiking to Rila Monastery - An Adventurous WorldThe Site No One Goes to in Varna - An Adventurous WorldOlga RaboMacca SherifiLyuben Recent comment authors
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Hiking to Rila Monastery - An Adventurous World

[…] know if it was because it was early in the morning or if we were revelling in the magical moment of listening to an impromptu session of Bulgarian folk music the night before, but once we were walking again hardly spoke a word to each other. By that point […]

The Site No One Goes to in Varna - An Adventurous World

[…] and along the sea front, I randomly bumped into Ceci and Malin, two of the girls I hiked to the Seven Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery […]

Olga Rabo
Olga Rabo

Oh — and did you guys actually stayed overnight at the Seven Lakes? Could you mb recommend a place? Would be awesome 🙂

Olga Rabo
Olga Rabo

This is great! I’m going to Bulgaria this Friday already and just started doing my research! Really wanna go to the Seven Lakes, but found it to be SO hard to find out about HOW to actually get there! It seems like I’ll have to do many bus changes… Thanks for the useful info!


What’s going on at the area of the Seven Lakes for the last years and some tips on the best way to visit them: