The great Rila Mountains are the most stunning alpine range in Bulgaria and the highest in whole Balkan Peninsula. Rila has its own special charm fed by legends and stories that inspire awe for the history and extraordinary beauty of Rila Mountains.
Rila is famous for its unique preserved nature and is a paradise for the lovers of the outdoor activities. Its gives plenty of opportunities for trekking, snowshoeing and ski touring trips also the area is a popular rock-climbing destination.
In this article we want to share our 2 days hike that took us to the most pristine and panoramic part of Rila Mountains. We passed by the crystal-clear waters of each of the Seven Rila Lakes – the pearls of Rila Mountains and reached a peak through a superb mountain trek having some fun adventures on our way.
Day 1: Hiking to The Seven Rila Lakes
Hitchhiking from Sofia to Pionerska Chalet. Early in the morning we left our amazing host in Sofia and moved to the place where we started to hitchhike. We got very lucky as soon a car stopped and took us straight to Sapareva Banya although the village was not on his way at all.
From Sapareva Banya we took another car and here our trip started to get interesting! We drove through serpentine up to 858 m elevation enjoying incredible panoramic views from the mountain. Only 1.4 km left to the chairlift when the driver let us go, so we continued on foot.
Take a chair lift or hike? It was already 12 PM when we arrived, and sun was shining from the blue sky. Instead of using a chair lift we chose to walk a path leading to the forest that later joined the road going along the chair lift track.
During 2 hours hike we climbed more than 600 m elevation, crossed several mountain rivers and reached the first lake – The Lower Lake, and the track going around the other lakes. There was plenty of other hikers wandering around glacier lakes.
Wandering around The Seven Rila Lakes. One of the iconic attractions in Bulgaria and a must visit sight for every traveler, no matter a hiker or not! These glacier lakes spread among impressive peaks and deep gorges and fascinates every visitor with its crystal-clear water and surrounding sceneries.
Lakes are surrounded by comparatively easy tracks, so it is possible to visit lakes even if your not a professional hiker. We stopped near Riboto ezero for a longer break to take a lunch and make some pictures.
Ambitions! Exhausted after whole day on foot with backpacks we started gradually ascending up to one of the highest peaks leaving the crystal-clear lakes – Ribnoto and Trilistnika – behind us. The panorama was great, and we continued climbing up!
Hiking off road – again! For us it is getting more and more usual end up walking off-roads which happens when you choose a track which is too difficult to handle without gear while believing that GPS knows shows easy roads for every hiker out there. After steep climbing up, we passed by Kharamiyata peak we found ourselves at an impasse. The was no road further as our GPS said. So, we had to look for the least dangerous path to climb down and continue our hike!
Don’t forget to admire incredible views surrounding you! While hiking we struggled choosing the right path from the beginning, thus, we wasted part of our energy finding the alternative route in order to reach our goal. Nevertheless, we enjoyed every second there as sun was already settling down. Rila mountains is not a place where you simply pass by. It is a majestic, spectacular, wonderful and incredible! We were fascinated especially by panoramic view to Bliznaka lake surrounded by massive cliffs and snow.
Reaching the peak. Finally, we got back on track! Tired, sweaty and trying to accumulate our last strength we did not give up and continued reaching our goal. Slowly going up we met herd of wild horses and climbed to the ridge of the mountain. It was so good not feel rocks underfoot, just green, and soft grass!
We did it! Damga/Vazov peak. Breath steams up in the cool mountain air. Mountains decorated with small drops of snow and illuminated by last sunshine takes our breath away. Small human against gorgeous and majestic mountains. We start a dance of happiness because we made it! This will remain a lifetime in our memories.
Camping at Rila mountains. Reaching the peak was amazing, but it was already getting dark and we did not have a place where to sleep so we had to hurry to find where to make a camp. 3.4 km from peak there was Ivan Vazov hut built in the beautiful grassy valley of Bistritsa River. However we decided skip it and found a perfect valley on our way down not so far from the summit.
Our first day in Rila recorded and uploaded on our YouTube channel:
Day 2: The Way to Rila Monastery
Waking up. The night was cold, but we managed to get good night sleep in our cozy sleeping bags. When we woke up temperature was only around 6-7 degrees, while we ate some breakfast it rose a bit to more comfortable level to start hiking. So, we set off for another exciting hike to the charming Rila Monastery.
More beautiful sceneries! Step by step we started descending down the mountain leaving high and impressive glacier peaks behind us. Stunning gorges opened before our eyes! We had to stop for a while and admire the beauty of Rila mountains.
The path leads us to a valley of extraterrestrial beauty! Perfectly green and smooth meadows covered huge mountains. Once again, we stopped, took a deep breath of fresh air and continued walking down the mountain.
The track disappeared in the tall grass. After couple of hours romantic track trough mountains and forests ended and we entered meadows. The grass there was so tall that track was barely visible. Ieva even slipped couple times as it was hard to see were to put our foot.
The long way down. We managed to follow the signs not to lose a track and accompanied by grasshopper music and bee buzz entered the last forest. The Monastery was so close, yet so far away… It was only several kilometers left, but we were already tired, and our legs were very sore because of tension climbing down the mountain.
Finally, Rila Monastery! Yes, we did it! We went down the mountains, descended around 1300 m and covered 11 km distance in one day to see the centuries old Rila Monastery before the trip comes to its end. The most gorgeous, peaceful and authentic place in Bulgaria was like “a cherry on top of cake” for us. We were so proud of us and so happy, that we manage to make such a hard and amazing adventure!
Our second day in Rila recorded and uploaded on our YouTube channel:
How to Get to The Seven Rila Lakes and Rila monastery
The best way to access Rila Monastery is going by car but you can also take bus or taxi from Sofia. Asphalt goes up to the Monastery area. To reach the Seven Rila Lakes you will need take a ride to the Pionerska Chalet (1585 m), from where a chair lift goes up to 2150 m elevation. Or you can hike to make it more adventurous!
Best of luck planning your holidays in Rila Mountains!