The Rila Mountains in southwest Bulgaria are known for being the tallest mountain chains in the entire Balkans region and for housing some of the most beautiful sights, and most incredible experiences travelers can encounter in Bulgaria. Only a few kilometers away from the capital Sofia, Rila unveils the snowcapped, stunning mountains at the Rila National Park, the famous high-altitude glacial lake chain that is the Seven Rila Lakes, and the treasure that is the Rila Monastery, an ancient, UNESCO World Heritage Site building that is an exhibit of Bulgarian history, culture, architecture, and art. Taking a day tour to experience the Seven Rila Lakes route and the Rila Monastery is a perfect way to get to know Bulgaria’s most precious destinations and something that will please outdoor and history lovers alike.


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The Seven Rila Lakes: A Gem Of Bulgaria

A part of the Rila National Park, the Seven Rila Lakes are a group of glacial lakes nestled in between the northwestern region of the Rila Mountains, only a small group amidst the near 200 glacial lakes in the Park. Their placement, in a crooked cirque, cut through by the dips and valleys of the Rila Mountains and connected by thin streams and waterfalls, create a sight unlike any other, a striking hiking path amidst mountains and natural lakes, overlooking the vast Bulgarian mountainscapes below; it’s no wonder, that the Seven Rila Lakes make for Bulgaria’s most popular touristic attractions.

During the winter months, the lakes can be frozen and covered with snow, but in summer and spring, their deep blue, gray, and green hues of them can be seen in full glory. The Seven Lakes are named due to their shape and nature, as such:

The Tear (Сълзата - Salzata)

  • Altitude: 2,535 m (8,317 ft).
  • It gets the name for its clear waters.

The Eye (Окото - Okoto)

  • Altitude: 2,440 m (8,010 ft)
  • It gets the name for its oval, eye shape, and is the deepest of the mountain lakes.

The Kidney (Бъбрека - Babreka)

  • Height: 2,282 m (7,487 ft)
  • It gets its name from the curved, kidney-like shape.

The Twin (Близнака - Bliznaka)

  • Height: 2,243 m (7,359 ft)
  • When the season is dry, it’s two lakes divided by a thin rock formation.

The Trefoil (Трилистника - Trilistnika)

  • Height: 2,216 m (7,270 ft)
  • It gets the name from its irregular, three-leafed shape.

The Fish Lake (Рибното езеро - Ribnoto ezero)

  • Height: 2,184 m (7,165 ft)
  • At 2,5 m deep, it's the shallowest of the mountain lakes.

The Lower Lake (Долното езеро - Dolnoto ezero)

  • Height: 2,095 m (6,873 ft)
  • It gets its name because it is the lake with the lowest altitude.

About Hiking The Seven Lakes:

  • Elevation: 2,000 to 2,500 m (8,000 ft)
  • Distance: 10 km loop trail
  • Avg. Time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Related: Off The Beaten Path: Top 10 Things To Do In Bulgaria

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UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery

As if its natural spectacle wasn’t enough, the Rila region in Bulgaria has another stunning treasure - or rather, a treasury - worth exploring: the historical Rila Monastery, officially named Monastery of Saint John from the Rila. Dating back to the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is the largest, most well-known, and one of the most important Eastern Orthodox Monasteries in the country and in Southern Europe.

Rila Monastery stood as witness to the medieval history of Bulgaria through Empires, conquests, revolutions, and revivals. The oldest structures of the buildings date back to the 13th century, with reconstructions from the 18th - 19th century Bulgarian Revival, also known as the “Bulgarian renaissance”.

Officialized as a national historical monument in 1976 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Rila Monastery is an emblematic monastery in history, a repository of centuries of Bulgarian history, faith, artistic movements, and architecture. It features the main church with its five domes, the 14th century Tower of Hrelja, the monks’ residential areas, and the Monastery Museum, with different subdivisions. Divided between the church and the museums, gold-plated reliefs, wood carvings, iconoclastic sculptures, and painted frescos will delight any and all art lovers.

Take A Day Tour To Explore The Seven Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery

It is possible to experience the Rila on your own, but a guided tour can make the trip so much more worthwhile. Reaching the Rila Mountains from Sofia can take up to two hours on the road, and the hike through the Seven Lakes will take a minimum of 5 hours. Visiting the Rila Monastery should be a 1-hour activity, at the least, to see everything.

A day tour like The Seven Lakes & Rila Monastery can provide shuttles, expert guidance on the trek up and around the mountains, and historical guidance and information about the Rila Region and the fascinating history of the Rila monastery.

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About The Tour

  • Name: The Seven Lakes & Rila Monastery
  • Price: From $58 USD
  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Language: English
  • Cancelation Policy: Up to 24 hours in advance
  • Includes: Shuttles from and back to Sofia, hotel pickup, tickets for the cable car ride up to the Rila Lakes, and tickets to the Rila Monastery