We left Sofia around 7:30 in the morning and in about an hour and a half reached Sapareva Banya and chalet Pionerska by car. We could’ve walked up from there, but since we were goofy-tourists and not real hikers, we took the lift***.

The wonderful 20-minute life ride above the coniferous forest revealed marvelous views towards the whole of Rila mountain, and it saved us a 4-5 hour walk. We reached chalet Sedemte Ezera (the Seven Lakes) at the altitude of 2100 meters. From there, we took the “winter route” on the right of the chalet, which immediately got us climbing up a steep and rocky hill. Our tongues were hanging in no time, but it was worth it!

First we saw Dolnoto Ezero (the Lower Lake) and Ribnoto Ezero (the Fish Lake).  The Seven Rila Lakes have a glacial origin and are part of the Rila National Park. They are connected though streams that later become Dzherman River. We saw Trilistnika (the Trefoil) below us and Bliznaka (the Twin). Bliznaka, at 2240 meters, is the largest of the seven and is composed of two parts connected by a strait, thus the name, the Twin. Another explanation for the name is that the peak Haramiata and its reflection in the lake look like twins.

At 2280m, we reached a large circular plateau covered in the greenest grass. This is the site of the annual Paneurhythmy, a ritual performed by the followers of teaching of the esoteric master Peter Deunov – Beinsa Douno, which you can read about in my next post.  In the vicinity, we found Babreka (the Kidney), which is the most famous lake due to its curious shape. The water was so clear we could see schools of trout in it. Bareback horses and their foals were grazing around the water.

In order to reach the last two lakes, we had to sweat profusely again. After another 200 meters along the steep trail, we reached Okoto (the Eye) (I chose to climb straight up along the waterfalls in search the best photo and found myself on a hill above the Eye). Okoto is definitely my favorite lake because of its magical turquoise color. It is the deepest lake, 38m deep, and part of its shore is ice-bound all year long. I wasn’t surprised to hear a kid cry out: “This is the best day in my life!”

The last lake, Sulzata (the Tear), at 2535m, is the smallest and as clear as a tear-drop. Mount Ezeren next to it reveals the Most Beautiful View in the World: the Seven Rila Lakes, the entire Rila mountain, and even half the country, as far as Stara Planina (the Balkan Mountain Range).  We joined the ritual and added a small flat pebble to the towers of pebbles build up by people who had been there before us.

On the way back, we took the “summer route,” which was a lot less steep and passed next to Trilistnika, Ribnoto Ezero and Dolnoto Ezero. The whole trip took us about 4 hours up and 3 hours down and culminated with kebabche, kiufte and beer in the chalet. Our faces, arms and necks were painfully sunburned, and we almost fell asleep on the lift on the way down, but it was a truly marvelous day!

***Let me just mention that the lift from chalet Pionerska to chalet Rila Lakes has a notorious fame among hard-core mountaineers, who claim that it is turning the region into a walk-in-the-park for lazy Sofia city dwellers who obviously don’t understand the power of nature and are there to pollute and harm the mountain. As if! I think that the lift is a great idea because it allows many people to rejoice at the marvels of Rila; people, who might not have the physical preparation in order to make the entire trip to the peak, and who wouldn’t otherwise be able to ever see the lakes. And trust me, everyone deserves to see the Seven Rila Lakes at least once in their lifetime!

See more beautiful pictures from Rila here.