How To Enjoy The Seven Rila Lakes

Jul 25, 2009 8 Comments by
Seven Rila Lakes

Babreka ("The Kidney"): Number 5 Of The Seven Rila Lakes

Waking up in Sapareva Banya on Saturday, the forecast was 36 degrees and looking up at the clear blue sunny skies and smelling the clear air and slight mist clinging to the mountain slope.  This sensation confirmed my view from a visit last year, that this is a very special area and required an assault on the Seven Rila Lakes. Sapareva Banya is found on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountain Range – the ones that you see shining pink in the evening when viewed from Bansko. High above we find the stunning 7 Rila Lakes – a place I was felt sure would yield up its magic to me.

Access To The Lakes

If you are driving by car take the main E79 south of Sofia take the turning at Dupnitsa from there follow the signs to Sapareva Banya. This journey will take just over an hour and all the roads are fast and in excellent condition.

If you take the bus. Its straightforward. At the Ovcha Kupal bus station there are hourly (modern) buses to Dupnitsa (10 leva return). To here expect an hour from the station. From Dupnitsa there are buses through the villages to Sapareva Banya. From there you can grab a taxi (or take a taxi fom Dupnitsa). Taxis are cheap for foreigners at, typically, around 0.59 leva per kilometre.

If you wish to stay in Sapareva Banya then there are serveral options: go to for more details. But the recently renovated Germanea hotel (with swimming pool) is a good option.

Alternatively, check out a travel agent and take a day trip coach tour from Sofia. Try for tours here and elsewhere.

Its well worth check out the spring geyser here. Its the hottest in continental Europe and, with a very high suphur content, is renowned for its curative powers. There is a pleasant restaurant by the geyser and its well worth spending some time here.

A few more modern apartments and hotels and bars are opening up soon in the general Sapareva Banya area. But overal place is quiet and unspoilt. Many houses are now refurbished and bedecked with terrace and patio flower arrangements.

Sapareva Banya 103 C Mineral Geyser

Sapareva Banya Geyser

I found this Bulgarian “translation” into Latin transliteration rather amusing close to the geyser above.

Sapareva Banya Hot Geyser Info SignWith the picnic packed, and boots at the ready, the 20 minute drive up the new road to the base of the new Pionerska chair lift in Panichishte was a feast for the eyes.

The video below is on the way down the lift, as with over an hour’s queue we decided we would stick to our plan to walk up.

Pionerska Chair Lift

Pionerska Chair Lift

Pionerska Chair Lift, Panichishte

But before  I go on about the wonder of the Seven Rila Lakes, let me say how surprised to see the hundreds of cars and many coach trips that had descended on Panichishte and the lift area. The queue was well over an hour. But in the sunshine everyone seemed just happy to be there. We were there to hike up – so after a few photos it was time to set off.

Pionerska Chair Lift

Pionerska Chair Lift Base Station, Panichishte

Visitors were mostly from Sofia, and the many smart cars were decanting the occupants. With around three quarters of people there to take the 15 leva return (10 leva on way) chair lift to the Lake area, it seemed that this lift is set to remain popular.

The new lift had created, what we later found out to be, 2,000 tickets sold on Saturday (around 30,000 leva income). It was very well manned and the lift attendants were helpful. This point not always something I see in Bansko.

At the top of the lift is a hotel, which is being refurbished. It’s here you find perfectly acceptable toilets! It is also here that you buy your return lift pass, if you didnt buy a return. Which is what we did, see video. If you want to walk down then it will take around 50 minutes to an hour.

Hiking To The Lakes

Seven Rila Lakes

Trilistnika ("The Trefoil"): 7 Rila Lakes

The walk up was consistently spectacular, the air was fresh smelling and the nature was bursting with colour. The hike started through forest and then moved onto rocky paths interpersed with streams as we made it up above the tree line. At around 2,000 metres (when walking up) you reach the first lake, Dolnoto Ezero (“The Lower Lake”).

Seven Rila LakesThe second lake, Ribnoto Ezero (“The Fish Lake”), takes you up to this mountain refuge and mesmerising mountain lake reflections. A cool beer here (2.50 leva for a 500ml) could not be resisted in the sunshine and pleasant mountain sunshine. Food is also available here… but we had already eaten our sandwiches by the first lake, Dolnoto Ezero (“The Lower Lake”).

Seven Rial Lakes Mountain Refuge

Mountain Refuge by Ribnoto Ezero ("The Fish Lake")

The separate toilets block are quite simply to be avoided if you are male – unless you enjoy thousands of flies and… well I’ll drop this topic by saying you would rather “au nature”  than enter!

Up past lakes three, Trilistnika (“The Trefoil”),  and four,  Bliznaka (“The Twin”), and from the path stunning views opened up looking down on these lakes. This is especially true, as we took the steep climb above lake number five, Babreka (“The Kidney”) up towards number six, Okoto (“The Eye”) and seven, Salzata (“The Tear”).  See the snow still remaining:

Seven Rila Lakes

Okoto ("The Eye") Lake No. 6 of The 7 Rila Lakes

The lakes have changed their numbering. Now number 7, Salzata (“The Tear”) is the highest – so in descending order they are as follows:

  • Salzata (“The Tear”) due to its clear waters that allow visibility in depth. and is the highest one
  • Okoto (“The Eye”) named after its almost perfectly oval form and is the next one in height  – 37.5m deep
  • Babreka (“The Kidney”) is the lake with the steepest shores from the whole group
  • Bliznaka (“The Twin”) is the largest one by area
  • Trilistnika (“The Trefoil”) has an irregular shape and low shores
  • Ribnoto Ezero (“The Fish Lake”)  is the shallowest
  • Dolnoto Ezero (“The Lower Lake”) is where the waters that flow out of the other lakes are gathered to form the Dzherman River
Beer by Ribnoto Ezero

A Cool Beer By Ribnoto Ezero ("The Fish Lake")

Panichishte Skiing

There are currently three ski drag lifts in Panichishte and the new Pionerska chair lift I took on the way down. The drag lift that starts by the top of the chair lift under the Kabul mountain looks as if it would be a very slope to ski/board in winter snow.

Environmental Impact

Pionerska Chair Lift

Pionerska Chair Lift, Panichishte

There had been a huge amount of protest from the “For The Nature” pressure group claiming illegal construction of this lift. I am in two minds. The deforestation to make way fo the lift line seemed quite modest – but there it is nonetheless. Perhaps more worrying will be the errosion now caused by a huge increase in hikers visiting the lake area. Like in other countries, proper paths will have to be built – but I suspect this won’t happen until the damage on the landscape is more noticeable.

Plans for a “Super Panichishte” project with over 100km of skiing are, at this stage, just plans without approval and the opposition to any more lifts up on Kabul mountain is predictably fierce. As it stands, on a good snow day and for those who like some backcountry skiing, this area looks amazing. For complete ski/board beginners this has to be one of the best places to learn to ski. And learn for a lot less than the major resorts of  Borovets, some thirty minutes away to the east.

Conclusion and Cautionary Note

Pony Treking Up From Top Lift Station To 7 Rila Lakes

Pony Treking Up The 7 Rila Lakes: Bliznaka ("The Twin") No.4 In Background

The Seven Rila Lakes, Panichishte and Sapareva Banya offer a totally different feel to Bansko and the Pirin. The area is almost totally undeveloped and untouched by man. Quite a contrast to Bansko! The region is close to Sofia – but you still feel very much away from the city.

The chair lift accessability that gets you within twenty minutes walk – or even a pony ride – up to lake number five Babreka (“The Kidney”) and number six,  Okoto (“The Eye”) of the Seven Lakes Area, makes this a memorable day trip  for most level of fitness.

I wont forget it and look forward to exploring this region further. I hope to take off on a paraglider on the ridge in above the top station. In fact just on Thursday some paragliders took off above Borovets at Markudvik 2. Here is the link to a film of their flight and includes footage of them flying high above the Seven Rila Lakes. Fabulous.

I hope this article helps you enjoy the Seven Rila Lakes Trip.

I have to add that decent walking boots with ankle support are desireable. My German paragliding boots, from Hanwag, were perfect. I was the only person out of four of us who do not get wet feet or a blister.

The boring bit…

Remember sunsceen, hat, glasses, rucksack, food, water, first aid kit, extra clothes and mobile. This is a high mountain area with weather that will change in a blink of the eye. And whilst paths have good markings, they may not all be really obvious in bad weather.

If you are in Bansko or touring Bulgaria as part of a longer stay, then the hiking routes could include many of the long distance routes, including a day hike to the famous Rila Monastry.

I hope to undertake this – and will report back.

There are more of my photographs on Flikr link here:

Have you been hiking or skiing in Panichishte? Or have you experiences of The Seven Rila Lakes and surrounding Rila routes from either the North or South side. Then do please comment below.


About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

8 Responses to “How To Enjoy The Seven Rila Lakes”

  1. Bansko Jazz Festival 2009 Programme | Banksoblog says:

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  3. Amy says:

    Hi Lance, just came across your guide as I am hoping to visit the lakes in August, very informative, thank-you. I just have one question; what sort of temperature was it at the lakes? I'm guessing it's not as hot as it would be in Sofia. Can you go swimming in them or is it too cold?

  4. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your comment.

    It's just nice temperature, around 19 to 21 degrees on a too hot Sofia day!.

    People do swim in the lakes. Way too cold for me! Please let me know how you get on as this seven rila lakes is one of the best trips to do that is close to Sofia, Lance

  5. Bob Hall says:

    I was at the new chairlisft on the weekend it opend in 2009 – the queue was huge both up and down. The 'walk' around the lakes was somewhat procession like as it was so busy, this rather detracted from the beauty of the place. The view from the high point over looking the top lake is quite amazing and certainly worth the effort. I am currently planning to walk it again during my Easter visit to BG, probably not on a weekend though! (The lift is closed on Monday and Tuesday I think.)

  6. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Bob, The day I walked up here, the queue was also long… and I agree that the number of people detracts a little. I recommend either early or late to walk around the lakes or avoid Saturday and Sunday… and of course there are fewer people higher up. It is such a wonderful attraction on a fine day – it's easy to see why so many people make the journey from Sofia to enjoy the nature here.

    In the Spring, I will be covering more about hiking and mountain biking in the Rila, Pirin and Rhodhopi mountains. Do comment how you enjoy your Spring hike around the Rila lakes

  7. Caspar Muller says:

    Hello sounds great!!
    We’re from Amsterdam and are going to do the Seven Rila Lakes in a few days time. Will it really be cold up there and should we bring a coat? Or would a t-shirt and a sweater be perfectly fine?
    Thanks, Caspar

    • Lance says:

      Hi Casper, I am sorry for the slow reply — this may be a bit late. But, yes always take something warm and waterproof clothes. There can be afternoon storms. Usually a T short and sweater is fine for 7 Rila Lakes at this time of year. Thank you for visiting Bansko Blog!

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