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How to get to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia

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About the Seven Rila Lakes

The Seven Rila Lakes are located high in the rugged alpine zone of the Rila National Park. They form a strikingly beautiful cascade in a cirque that was once carved into the mountain by a huge glacier. Every lake is named according to some of its prominent characteristics. The highest lake is the crystal clear Salzata (the Teardrop). From it opens a breath-taking panorama over the neighbouring peaks, steep valleys and the rest of the lakes. Further down from it is the oval-shaped Okoto (The Eye), which is the deepest. Below it are Babreka (the Kidney) and Bliznaka (the Twin). The last three down the cirque’s slope are Trilistnika (the Trefoil), Ribnoto (the Fish Lake) and Dolnoto (the Lower Lake, located at 2100 m above sea level).

23It is difficult to emphasize with words the Seven Rila Lake’s untamed natural beauty, but the hike along them is a true cult among Bulgarians. It is a kind of national duty to make the walk to the highest lake at least once in a lifetime. The White Brotherhood religion, also, considers it a place for worship. Certainly, nowadays, it is the most alluring trek for foreigners visiting Bulgaria and is on the top of their thing-to-do list.

The fame of the lakes has grown exponentially with the construction of a chairlift connecting Panichishte Resort to the Lower Lake.  All this attention, unfortunately, has brought some problems, which you can read from Here.

How to get to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia

The Seven Rila Lakes are best reached from the resort of Panichishte. There are options for taking the chairlift, hiking for a few hours uphill or book a 4WD for an adrenaline ride up the slope.

Public Transport

There isn’t a straight forward way of getting to the Seven Rila Lakes. First, you have to reach the resort of Panichishte from where you can hike, take a lift or use the illegal 4WD to get to the lowest of the lakes.

Train

There is an option to take the train from Sofia to the town of Dupnitsa, but buses are more often and convenient. From the town of Dupnitsa, one has to take a bus to continue further.

Bus

Sofia –> Dupnitsa (1.5 hrs/70 km)
There is a bus leaving every 30 minutes from “Ovcha Kupel” station, also knows as “the West” bus station. You can check the schedule from the following site https://www.busradar.com and even book online. If you wish to make the hike as a day trip, then we recommend you to take the first bus in the morning. The price is 6 BGN (about 3 Euro) for this trip part of the journey.

Dupnitsa –> Sapareva Banya (30 mins/20 km)
Every about 30 minutes there are buses from the town of Dupnitsa to the small town of Sapareva Banya . These tickets can be bought only on spot and paid in Bulgarian leva. The price is between 1.2 to 1.5 leva depending on the transport company of your choice.

Sapareva Banya –> Pionerska hut, Panichishte resort (30 min/18 km)
There is a shuttle bus that leaves when it gets full from Sapareva Banya to Pionerska hut. Another option is to take a taxi, which should not cost more than 15 leva, but the price should be bargained in advance.

Panichishte Resort –> the Seven Rila Lakes
There are 3 options during the high season to reach the lowest of the Seven Rila Lakes from the resort of Panichishte.

  • The chairlift is the most often used means of transport. The ticket is 20 leva for a return ticket per adult. The ride takes about 25 minutes. The chairlift is working until 16:30.  You can find more information about the prices and working hours at https://rilskiezera.bg/en/lift-working-hours/ Unfortunately the site is not very often updated and it is best to reconfirm the information with a phone call. Usually, in Autumn the chairlift closes at mid-November until the ski season starts.
  • Taking the trek from Panichishte resort to the lakes requires good physical fitness. It is not a scenic trek like the one along the Seven Rila Lakes.  This usually takes 1-1.5 hours (depending on how fit you are) to reach the lowest lake. Keep in mind that the hike along the lakes is another 4-5 hours.
  • Booking a 4WD that will drive you uphill to the lakes. The 4×4 owners are working illegally and you are not insured in case of an accident. It is very risky and at the same time unecological way to reach the lakes. Traventuria advises you to ignore this option for your own safety and for the safety of the environment.

Keep in mind that neither the bus drivers nor the cashiers at Dupnitsa and Sapareva Banya bus stations speak English and purchasing the tickets can be a small challenge. It is always best to pay in leva as foreign currencies are officially not accepted. Travelling on a bus is a cheap way to reach Panichishte Resort, but it is very time-consuming. This may leave you with not enough time to explore all the lakes and force you to walk in a hurry. On your way back from the lakes, you should be at the top chairlift station not later 16:30.

Rent-a-car/own vehicle

Travelling at your own pace is the best way to spend your holiday. You’ll not be restricted by any time frames and you may stop wherever you want along the way. The road to Panichishte Resort is generally in good condition, though the last 20 km stretch is with a lot of turns. During the high season, the parking at the bottom chairlift station gets full fast and you may have to park further away. We advise you to be at the parking as early as possible. This way you may park the car there and be at the ticket office before the queue starts to build up. The parking costs 5 leva per car per day.

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Guided or Self-guided Tours

A few companies in Sofia offer just transportation with an English-speaking driver or guided tours (private or shared). These options are more expensive, but you will be at the bottom of the chairlift station some 1.5 hrs after you leave Sofia. Traventuria is a leading provider of guided hiking tours to the Seven Rila Lakes. The advantages of being with a guide in the mountains are numerous, firstly you have an experienced person by your side in the high mountains. Moreover, you will learn more about the Bulgarian mountains and wildlife.

What to bring when heading to the Seven Rila Lakes

  • Essential Clothes and Gear 
    – Wear comfortable hiking shoes with ankle support. Do not wear flip-flops or sandals even in the summertime;
    – A raincoat/wind stopper is a must as the weather changes swiftly moods in the high mountain, even in hot summer days;
    – If you experience problems with your legs while hiking than using poles could provide relief;
    – Sunglasses and sunscreen;
    – Hat and even gloves.
  • Food and water – bring packed food with you as the choices of meals on the spot are limited. Travel in an environmentally friendly way and bring water in a bottle for multiple uses.
  • Difficulty: The walking route from the top chairlift station is moderately arduous, with individual brief paths featuring steep inclines.
  • Cash: Have Bulgarian levs (BGN) with you! You won’t be able to pay for the chairlift ticket, which is 20 BGN both ways, with a card. If anybody excepts foreign currency on the spot than the exchange rate will not be good.
  • Weather: Check what the temperatures are at the moment so that you can prepare accordingly. Rain showers are common even in during the summer afternoons.
  • Chairlift
    – During the summer the chairlift is not working on Monday mornings.
    – In the case of strong wind, the lift may stop operating. The working timetable and prices of the lift can be seen here: https://rilskiezera.bg/en/lift-working-hours/. Keep in mind that this time schedule may be out of date since the company responsible for the lift is not updating it regularly.

Traventuria day tour to the Seven Rila Lakes

Traventuria is the biggest company for one day tours from Sofia. Their group tour to the Seven Rila Lakes are with licensed mountain guides and even in peak season, the groups are not more than 12 people. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during summer and during the colder months, September and November, every Saturday.
A nice addition to this tour is a visit to the Rila Monastery, which can be booked from Here and you can also find more information for the Monastery itself from here.

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