We drove the 1.5 hours straight from Sofia airport to Borovets, a small town high up in the mountains. It’s mostly used in the winter for skiing, and the whole town is geared towards this. We had booked a cute cabin in the middle of nowhere and it was nice to feel ‘off the grid’ (although we still had phone signal!). Apart from lots of ski signs, there isn’t much in the centre of Borovets apart from a few places to eat and some small shops.
On our first full day, we spent 5.5 hours hiking 11 miles up and down the Rila Seven Lakes. This part of Bulgaria is absolutely stunning and well worth the effort. Each lake has been given a name to reflect its characteristics. We tried to guess them as we were going around – there are very few signs – but we only got a few of them right! They are:
1. The Tear
2. The Eye
3. The Kidney
4. The Twin
5. The Trefoil
6. The Fish Lake
7. The Lower Lake
You can walk up and down from the car park but as the mountains are between 2100m and 2500m, we decided to take the 20 minute Pionerska Chair Lift (Panichishte) up to the starting point, which I rode up with a young Bulgarian woman who was visiting with her grandfather and younger sister.
The first bit of the hike is quite hard as you’re immediately on a steep incline for about 20 minutes. It soon starts to plateau and you get your first glimpse of the azure blue lakes. Going up the side of the mountain we realised the white flecks across the landscape were actually solid blocks of ice that still hadn’t melted.
Once we got to the top we felt like we were in the Sound of Music! We were surrounded by a stunning, mountainous landscape with fresh air and luscious green grass. By this point we had passed The Lower lake, the Fish lake, the Trefoil and the Twin and we then went down to the side of The Kidney, which turned out to be my favourite one. The water was amazingly clear and not too cold. Unfortunately, swimming in any of the lakes is prohibited (as is goat grazing but we weren’t too concerned about that restriction).
Next it was time to begin our ascent to the highest viewpoint. It was extremely steep in places and was mostly made up of loose rocks so we had to pay attention! We got just over half way and had a pit stop and a snack at the the Eye lake, which luckily we had all to ourselves.
We then made our way up to the highest point, which was the steepest and most challenging bit of the hike. However, it was worth it at the top for the great views over all seven of the lakes. We decided this would be the best place to have lunch so we bust out our tuna sandwiches and enjoyed our chosen spot.
The way down was quite challenging too as you had to be really careful not to fall or slip on the rocks. We were lucky with the weather, but you definitely wouldn’t do it if it had been raining or if rain was forecast as it would just be too slippery.
We then looped around to see The Lower lake, the Fish lake, the Trefoil and the Twin at eye level. This part of the hike was reasonably flat and took around 2 hours. We started to congratulate ourselves that we’d made it and were looking forward to a shower (it was a very hot day!) and an afternoon relaxing… only to find the ski lift had broken down and we needed to walk down to the car park! It added an extra hour to our walk and was a bit annoying as there are 4x4s that take people up and down, leaving a trail of dust and petrol fumes in their wake.
I would definitely recommend hiking the Seven Lakes (if you’re into hiking of course!). You can hire a guide but there were plenty of people there on the day we went and the paths are pretty obvious. Suggestions would be to:
– wear good shoes: trainers are fine
– take lots of water, lunch and snacks: nowhere to buy anything on the journey
– go early: we were there just before 9am and didn’t have to queue for the ski lift (apparently queues of an hour are common) and when we were lucky enough to get most of the lakes to ourselves
– take suncream and something to cover up with: there is no shade anywhere along the route.
That evening we had a well deserved rest and had dinner at the restaurant on our cabin complex. We had a very funny incident where we tried to ask for the menu half way through our meal (including what we thought was the international sign for the menu), but ended up with some bread.
You probably don’t need to spend too long in this part of Bulgaria unless you’re an avid hiker. But one or two days would be worth your while and will probably be the highlight of your visit, like it was for us.
Shout out to Javs and Eddie for some of the photos.