Hiking the Seven Rila Lakes – a crazy drive from Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

 In Hungarian/Magyarul  – Túrázás a rilai 7 tó körül Bulgáriában

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” True words from the actress Mae West. Do you do it right? I do my best!
The Numbers of My crazy plan: Driving roughly 860 kilometers from Sunny Beach and back (it took altogether 11 hours), hiking 8 kilometers (ca 5 hours up and down the mountains), seeing the magnificent 7 Rila Lakes, planning for 2-3 weeks, doing it in 1,5 days. I DID IT… It is possible, EVERYTHING is POSSIBLE if you WANT it!
Here is the result:
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What are the Seven Rila Lakes?
It is a group of lakes in the Rila Mountains, they are glacier lakes (I even saw some snow in August here). The lakes are connected with small streams and waterfalls.
The name of each of the Seven Lakes is related to their characteristics. It starts with the Lower Lake (the lowest), then comes the Fish Lake (the shallowest), the Trefoil (it has an irregular shape), the Twin is almost divided into 2 smaller lakes, from where the name comes from. The Kidney (my favourite one), it looks like a kidney 🙂
The Eye (my second favourite), named after its oval shape, it is the deepest circus lake in Bulgaria, ca 37 m. And the seventh is the Tear (the highest), named after its clear water.

Rila Lakes_157THE LAKES
7 Tear 2,535 m
6 Eye 2,440 m
5 Kidney 2,282 m
4 Twin 2,243 m
3 Trefoil 2,216 m
2 Fish Lake  2,184 m
1 Lower Lake 2,095 m

Some other numbers I found on the internet, good to know how many kilometers you have to hike:
Rila Lakes station => Kidney – 2,50 km
Kidney => Eye – 0,55 km
Eye => Tear (the peak) – 0,66 km
Tear => Seven lakes hut – 3 km
Seven Lakes hut => Rila Lakes station – 1,80 km
Total distance: 8,45 km
map 1

How did I do it?
Not that easy to plan it from Sunny Beach, I was thinking if I leave on Monday at 19.00 after finishing work, I would arrive there after midnight. Hmmm, another plan needed. So I rather worked half day on my last day-off and took the afternoon off before the event so I could leave at 16.00. Done, after asking permission from my boss to leave the destination (If you read my blog, thanks again Christo 🙂 )
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I arrived at around 22.00 in Sapareva Banya (never heard of it, right?). First – and thank God only – excitement: i didn’t find on Google maps the hotel. Nothing. My God, how will I find it. Here nobody speaks English, then sign language I will try. “Dobro utro…Yo, reservation, hotel, HELP, HILFE, where, blagodarja…” 🙂 At a petrol station the guy was so nice he called the Guesthouse and the owner came down for me to pick me up. There are nice people in Bulgaria.
I had read there was always a long line at the chair lift so I left the next day early and I was there at the bottom of it in Panachiste before 8.30.
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At that time the line is not long at all, so you don’t have to be there let’s say hours earlier to catch the first chair lift when it starts to work. Up 2,5 km by chair lift, the air was fresh there (2,100 m) and I started the hike.
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The way up
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The view over the chair lift

I followed the crowd (I think it was better so). I died 2 times at least the first 30 minutes going up.

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It is not what I expected… 30 minutes passed since I have been hiking

And I cursed the one(s) in different blogs who wrote “moderate hiking”. NO WAY!!! I wanted to give up, I thought ‘ok at least the Kidney Lake I would like to see even if to the 7th Lake I can’t make it’… No, I don’t give up!

After that it became easy so I though ok, not that bad… Haha, I hadn’t know yet what was waiting for me…:)
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Getting better

To the Kidney the journey was like this:

The Lower Lake,
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at the Fish Lake I saw the religious group, the White Brothers dancing (I thought they would do it only at the end of August. No, they stay there for 1 month and they dance in circles in white dresses).
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The Trefoil,
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the Twin
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Arriving at the Kidney
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After the Kidney to the Tear, to the highest Lake: KILLER! Absolutely and definitely not “moderate hiking”.
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Going up and passing by the Eye,
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you reach the highest Lake, the Tear (2,535 m) in ca 1 hour.
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What you get at the end is AMAZING
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OK, so now what is next? Should I go back the same way? YES 😦
I reached the Kidney again and there are 2 ways back, the one I came on and the other one to where the white dancers were. I read on blogs that the latter is more scenic. That was wrong, it is not much more scenic, it is even more difficult! I cursed myself I didn’t choose the original way I came on. It didn’t give me more and definitely if I had come on that way up I would have given it up.
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Rila Lakes_184Stones, cliffs, small roads you lose track on, bushes… I almost fell at least 3 times (my legs were giving up, I was on the verge of my energy). The scenery is nice but not nicer than on the other way and honestly by the time I saw from far the chair lift again I just wanted to reach it, I didn’t care about the scenery.
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I reached the chair lift at last at around 14.30 (It took for me ca. 5,5 hours).
Rila Lakes_204 I saw on the way going up some poor hikers, I was sorry for them. I was going back on the chair lift in a coma like state.
Rila Lakes_208Ah and now driving back to Sunny Beach, 430 km, I came here in 6 hours, back it took ‘only’ 5 hours…
At the end of the day I called my mum who was worried about  me to be able to do it: ‘But you will drive so long? It is crazy…’ ‘And hiking 8 kilometes? Vikiiii, but you never hike…’ ‘And how will you drive back after hiking so long? You have to stop regularly on the highway…’ Well, mothers…

Long story short
It is a DIFFICULT HIKE! Have good sports/hiking shoes. Some were walking there in sandals. Are they crazy???
I read the weather changes fast, on 1st of August it was constantly warm, I was hiking in a t-shirt, my hoodie was on my backpack. But on the chair lift while sitting there for 20 minutes it is windy, take a sweater with you.
Take enough food, enough water, nowhere to buy anything.
The chair lift operates in Summer 8.30 – 18.30, be there early in the morning, the landscape is much more beautiful in morning lights.
There are 2 Panachistes near Sapareva banya (I don’t know how), I was following the GPS, don’t do so, just follow the signs. The signs said 10 kilometers from Sapareva Banya there (I read on the internet 2,5 km…hmmm)
There are a lot of tourists hiking (especially around midday there is a crowd there:)), so it is safe, you will not be lost, the tracks are well beaten, mostly Bulgarians there, everyone I asked spoke English, they asked me where I came from, how I came here…etc They were very nice and curious and shocked by my plan 🙂 I heard some German words…no wonder, Austrians 🙂

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At the End

Was it worth of it? For me yes, I challenged myself with it (Life would be boring without challenges), I could manage it, I am proud of myself.
Would I do it again? No, it was a once in a lifetime experience and once it was way more than enough.
I don’t have much muscle pain, it wasn’t like after the Samaria Gorge that I could hardly walk 🙂
It was one of the times of my life and I am very very happy I did it 🙂
Vicky

 

Useful blog posts:
https://travellingbuzz.com/hiking-seven-rila-lakes-in-bulgaria/

http://followthesisters.com/going-to-the-7-rila-lakes-in-useful-tips/

http://flipfloppeople.com/Seven-Rila-Lakes-250

http://bulguides.com/hiking-the-seven-rila-lakes-bulgaria/

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