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Seven Rila Lakes: The Most Beautiful Hike in Bulgaria

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If you're looking for one of the most beloved places in Bulgaria, and the best day trip from Sofia, look no further than Seven Rila Lakes.

This group of seven lakes is tucked away in the mountains, and the hike offers panoramic views of all of the lakes at once.

In this guide we're going to explain everything you need to know for visiting Seven Rila Lakes, how long the hike takes, and the amenities that you can find. Let's start your adventure!

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Where are the Seven Rila Lakes?

Seven Rila Lakes are located in Western Bulgaria. The glacial lakes are scattered between the Rila Mountains, which are situated between 2,100 and 2,500 meters above sea level.

The capital of Bulgaria (Sofia) is just a little under 100 kilometers north of the lakes, which is why it's such a great day trip to get out of the city into nature.

where are seven Rila lakes in Bulgaria

Seven Rila Lakes are located south of Sofia.

How do I Get to Seven Rila Lakes?

When we first tried getting to Seven Rila Lakes there was a lot of misleading information. We got there around 4:30 pm and a local told us the chair lift would be closed (it wasn't). One person said the chair lift takes you to the top (it doesn't), and don't even get us started on Google Maps.

Chair lift at Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

The chair lift is the first part of getting to Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria.

Due to our frustration and spending an extra day of our time just to figure the logistics out, we decided we NEED to write a guide so that people don't have to go through the uncertainty that we did.

There are two main ways to visit Seven Rila Lakes- on a tour, and on your own.

Can You Drive to Rila Lakes?

Absolutely! We went on our own, as we had a car and were coming from Sofia but were not heading back that way. We are going to dive deeper in the drive there, parking, and the rest of the details further into the article.

Taking a Tour to Seven Rila Lakes

If you are staying in Sofia and don't want to rent a car, there are plenty of group trips that run. You can book one online, or directly from many different hostels or hotels.

Want to book an excursion in advance? Here are a few different options to choose from:

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How Long Do You Need to Visit Seven Rila Lakes?

First things first- it's important to know what you're in for. This is no "quick activity", nor does it have to take you the entire day. All in all we spent 6 hours between parking, the chair lift, hiking, and enjoying and taking pictures. You could definitely spend a full day here if you want, so the key is starting early.

Next we are going to explain the whole day step-by-step, so that you understand how much time to factor in, and how to choose the best way for you.

Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

You could easily spend a ,full day exploring the area of Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria.

The Chair Lift to Seven Rila Lakes

The chair lift does not take you to the top of Seven Rila Lakes. It takes you to the top of where the hike starts. You don't have to take the chair lift. Many people park in a separate lot and do the two hour hike to the point where the regular starting point is.

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In our opinion, tacking on 4 hours without rewarding views is simply not worth it, unless you have a true passion for getting that heart rate up, or you're on a VERY tight budget.

chair lift to Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

The chair lift will take to hours each way off your hike.

The chair lift is 25 BGN for a roundtrip ticket, and 15 for a one way. Children are 15 roundtrip and 10 for a one way ticket. It starts running at 8:30 am, and stops running at 6:30 pm. The ride takes about 20 minutes, and is not scary at all, despite what some reviewers on Google Maps say.

price of the hike to seven Rila lakes

The hike is free, but you have to pay if you want to take the chair lift up to the beginning of the hike.

Above you can see all of the hours and times posted on the ticket booth for Seven Rila Lakes.

chair lift, Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
chair lift Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

The chair lift also gives you great views of the nature around Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria.

Getting to the Chair Lift for Seven Rila Lakes

It's important to note that Google Maps will not lead you to the right location of where the chair lift is.

The location that Google sends people is actually not drivable, and the lot that is at the beginning of the road is in fact where you would park to start the two hour hike to where the chair lift brings you.

signs to seven Rila lakes

Make sure to stay to the left when you see these signs.

Check the photo below for the correct route of where to go to park in order to take the chair lift up the start of the Seven Rila Lakes Hike.

where the seven Rila lakes hike starts

Make sure to look up the spot in Google Maps that states "lift to 7 Rila Lakes".

The Hike to Seven Rila Lakes

After your chair lift you are officially ready to start your hike!

There is a restaurant, hotel, and bathrooms at the top, and you will see a ton of people hiking, so there isn't really any way to get lost. Now we're going to share everything you need to know abut the hike to the top of Seven Rila Lakes.

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Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria Pin
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria Pin
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria Pin

How Long Does it Take to Hike Rila Lakes?

Many people claim that it takes 5 hours, but it took us 2 to get up (stopping for many pictures), and just 40 minutes to get down (keep in mind we went faster than the normal pace coming back). Regardless, we don't know who the hell took 5 hours doing the hike, because we stopped a lot for photos, and could've probably done it roundtrip in 2 hours.

That being said, this place is stunning, and we do think you should do it at a leisurely pace. We stopped at most lakes, or at least at the view above them.

The main trail goes from the chair lift station and goes to the main viewpoint where you can be above all of the lakes. However, there are a ton of trails that go down to each lake, and around them. So you could easily factor in more time if you wanted to also explore the smaller trails.

Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

There are trails that all go to each of the lakes.

The Hike to Seven Rila Lakes: What to Expect

The hike starts off pretty intense, going up hill for the first 15-20 minutes. There is no shade, and it seems like the journey will take forever. Don't worry though- it's not like that the whole way!

walkway Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
trail to Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

For at least half of the way the trail is pretty flat.

Once we started to see the first lake, there were a bunch of great spots to stop to take in the views. The path also flattens out for quite a bit, letting you really enjoy the scenery around you.

views Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
viewpoint Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
viewpoints of Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

There are a few great areas to stop for photos once you start seeing the lakes.

Once you get to the Kidney Lake (I think the 5th one), the hike starts to incline again for another 20-30 minutes.

You'll see a few small waterfalls, and you can also fill up your water bottle from the natural fountain on the right of the trail! Once you pass the Eye Lake, keep going up about 5-10 more minutes and you'll make it to the top!

hiking at Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
waterfalls Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Eye Lake, Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
water fountain Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Once you get to the Kidney Lake you'll find waterfalls and a fountain.

The Viewpoint of Seven Rila Lakes

Once you've made it to the top you'll see plenty of people relaxing and having a picnic or a drink. From here you can take photos of 6 of the lakes in one shot, as there is one behind the viewpoint that you can see if you turn around, but the camera wouldn't be able to capture of course.

You can actually continue walking to get further views if you'd like, but truthfully this spot is the highlight of the area. We spent around 20-30 minutes taking photos and just taking in the different angles that you can enjoy here. We definitely wish we would've brought a beer as well!

Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgari Viewpoint

From the viewpoint you can see all 7 lakes, 6 within a picture capture.

Amenities at Seven Rila Lakes

Along the hike there isn't any food or drinks to be purchased, just the free water from the small fountain that you'll pass.

The only spot for food and bathrooms is at the start of the hike, and near the parking lot before the chair lift begins. At the restaurant there is a bathroom that is 1 BGN (a normal bathroom) and there are porta potties for free before the start of the chair lift.

Restaurant at Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

The start of the the hike has a restaurant, hotel, and bathrooms.

There is a restaurant before the chair lift, as well as some quick snacks on the side like grilled corn. Our suggestion? Pack a lunch so you can enjoy it with the views when you're at the top, and make sure to use the bathroom before starting the hike.

Despite being out in the outdoors, everything is open. There are also a ton of people, so there aren't high chances you'll be able to hide somewhere and go if nature calls.

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Souvenirs at Seven Rila Lakes

Normally we're not ones to flock to the souvenir stands, but there are a ton lined up outside the parking lot of the chair lift station, and they actually have some super interesting things to take home!

Bulgaria is home to some weirdly wonderful health hacks, so you can find special healing creams, liquids, and drops to naturally increase your health and wellbeing. They also have tons of delicious homemade jams and honeys, some that you wouldn't find elsewhere.

A lot of the shops sell the same things, or similar. The good thing is that prices are pretty cheap, and don't really vary. Bargaining isn't a huge thing, but you can definitely get a deal if you buy a few products.

souvenirs at seven Rila lakes

There are some great souvenirs worth checking out after finishing your hike.

Where to Stay to Visit Seven Rila Lakes

If you want to start early, chances are you won't want to start with the hour and a half drive from Sofia. Luckily, there are plenty of options for places to stay near Seven Rila Lakes.

Where to Stay at Seven Rila Lakes: The Cheapest Option

We stayed in a nearby town called Razlog, which is about 20 minutes away. The reason we  chose this area was because it had the most budget friendly options (about 50 BGN a night).

Where to stay Seven Rila Lakes

We were able to stay at a really nice home for just 50 BGG.

Look for a place to stay in Razlog:

Where to Stay at Seven Rila Lakes: The Nicest Option

If you're willing to spend a bit more, you can stay at one of the resorts that are just down the road from the chair lift. There are quite a few options that are right in the area.

Where to Stay at Seven Rila Lakes: The Closest Option

If you'd like to be there first thing in the morning, you can actually stay in the hotel that is at the top of the chair lift. Keep in mind you'll have to get there before 6:30 pm the afternoon before, unless you want to do the 2 hour hike.

Rooms start at 30 BGG a person, and go up to 200 BGG for a premium apartment. Check the photo below for a full list of the prices.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Seven Rila Lakes

Now you know almost all there is to known about the hike to Seven Rila Lakes! There are a few other things to know though.

Weather & What to Wear to Seven Rila Lakes

Being up in the mountains, it is significantly chillier up in this area. We visited in the dead of summer (July) and even had to wear a sweater at times. We even found patches of ice along the way! Also, despite being chilly, the sun can also be quite strong, which is something to keep in mind, as there isn't really any shade along the way.

The Best Time to Visit Seven Rila Lakes

In our opinion, Seven Rila Lakes is a must in the summertime. Winter wouldn't even be possible from all the snow, and fall and spring would be significantly colder and windier, making the hike not nearly as enjoyable.

How to Pack for a Trip to Seven Rila Lakes

Seven Rila Lakes can be a full day activity, so it's important to be prepared for your hike. The obvious seems to be to bring sneakers. I'm a total flip flop pyscho and live in my flip flops. While many hikes I admit I need sneakers, I had no problem doing this one in flip flops. However, if you want to keep your feet clean, then sneakers are probably not a bad option.

A refillable water bottle is a must! The water is ice cold and super fresh from the mountain, so not filling up would just be a sin. Beers and snacks are also something we suggest as it is such an inviting atmosphere for them.

Finally- layers! There were times where we wanted to bundle up, and others when we wanted to strip down. It's good to layer up so that you can take off and add when needed. Wanting to swim? Well, you can actually ditch the swimsuit unfortunately, as swimming is not allowed in the lakes. We suggest bringing a blanket though to sit down and relax along the lakes, or at the viewpoint.

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The hike to Seven Rila Lakes was definitely one of our favorite things to do in Bulgaria, and is the perfect day trip for those that want to escape the city vibes of Sofia. Just make sure to plan well, start early, and be prepared for a long day out in nature.

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