Over the weekend I was able to tick off the last destination I definitely wanted to visit in Bulgaria: 7 Rila Lakes
I had never heard of the place before I came here, the only association I had with Rila was the monastery but turns out it is a whole mountain range south of the capital Sofia.
If you don’t have a car, you might want want to follow this plan: take the train (or bus) from Sofia to Dupnitsa, shouldn’t be more than 5leva. In Dupnitsa, stay at the same station and wait for the bus to Sapareva Banya (every40 mins, takes about 20 mins), no more than 2 leva. From SB, there are only a few buses a day to Panichiste, again not more than 2 lev (if you are unlucky, you will need to take a taxi for about 12 leva). From P it is a nice hour long walk to the lift through an old forest.
The lift costs 15 leva return and operates from 9ish am to 4.30pm (that is when the last one comes down). Alternatively, you can also hike it up, the forest will give you nice shade, though I would personally keep my strengths up for the lakes themselves (but might walk down, if I was not dependent on the public transport back to Sofia.
On top you are greeted by this building, the hut “7 Rila Lakes”, here is the link to their website (only in Bulgarian). The lakes are free of snow ONLY in July and August, during these times and on weekends I would highly recommend booking a room. The staff does not speak any English, nor do they try so I would suggest writing them an email and using Google Translate do send it in Bulgarian. The answer came promptly.
The hike itself took me 6 hours and I am fit by no means. I would classify it as moderate rather than easy, it is doable but bring loads of water and good shoes and don’t forget the sunscreen, as it may be max 10C up there but there is also no shadow whatsoever. The whole experience is surreal, I still cannot believe I was there and saw all of it. I think the snow made it even more beautiful.
We arrived on a Friday, slept there and hiked on Saturday. Since it was the weekend, there were many many hundreds of people there, which was good cause I could always ask for a hand, if I could not get down but at the same time, it was not much of a “me and the nature” kind of weekend. Still worth it.
We arrived back in Sofia around 8.30pm and now, 5 days later, my legs have almost stopped hurting haha. Highly recommend doing this if you are ever in Bulgaria!!
It was a great last memory for the next few months when I will be sitting indoors. However, I think I have been converted to a nature fan cause I cannot wait to explore what other wonders mother nature has to offer.
Please reference source when using any of the photos in this post.