In North-West Bulgaria, about 90 kilometers south of Sofia, the Rila National Park which with its 81,000 hectares of extension is one of the most evocative places in the whole country. A destination that must absolutely be discovered by all those who love mountain excursions, trekking, walks in the midst of nature but also history, art and culture.
Trekking in the seven Rila lakes
Among the various wonders to visit in this spectacular park are the seven lakes of Rila. Situated at an altitude ranging between 2100 and 2500 metres, they are of glacial origin and are connected to each other by small streams. But not only. The most interesting thing is that they can be reached via a suggestive trekking route that winds through nature’s spectacles and enchanted panoramas made up of peaks and waterfalls.
There is even a chairlift at your disposal which takes you to the Rila Lake Hut, the true starting point of the trail. From here you can venture on a circular route of about 15 kilometres. In total there are 2 practicable paths, but in both cases it is necessary to consider at least 4/5 hours of walking.
The name details of the Seven Rila Lakes
THE seven lakes of Rila they have very particular names as they reflect their essence. The Kidney, which is lake number 1, is so called because its banks are the steepest. A wonder of nature located at an altitude of 2282 meters.
Then lake number 2 which is called there‘Eye due to its oval shape. Located at an altitude of 2440 meters, it is also known as the Heart and is the deepest of all seven.
Lake number 3 is called la Tear for its extraordinary clear waters. It is probably the least famous of all as it is difficult to reach as it is located on a steep hill at an altitude of 2535 meters.
The Twin, on the other hand, it is lake number 4 that can boast this name due to the size of its surface. Then again number 5, the Cloverso called for its irregular shape and low banks, the Lake Fishi.e. the number 6 which bears this name for fish farming and which is distinguished by being the least shallow of all, and the lower lake, number 7, which wins this title as the lowest in altitude with its 2095 meters.
What else to see in Rila National Park
The Rila National Park is a protected natural area in Bulgaria where the Mount Mussala which with its 2925 meters above sea level represents the highest peak of the Rila massif. Just think that from its summit, on clear days, you should be able to see all the main mountain ranges of the country.
The fauna is represented by a considerable number of vertebrates, 178 species. Among the main ones are the Balkan chamois, red deer, roe deer, brown bear, wolf, wild cat, marbled polecat, stone marten, weasel, squirrel and much more.
No less rich is the avifauna with its 99 species such as the eastern imperial eagle which is even listed in the Red List of globally endangered animal species.
In addition to a precious nature and ai seven lakes of rila, in these parts there is also the majestic to admire Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous in all of Bulgaria. This marvel is located at an altitude of 1147 meters and nowadays it is considered one of the most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments in the whole country.
In fact, what you will find in front of you is a true masterpiece that earned the status of a national historic monument in 1976, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
The Rila Monastery is surrounded by a moat which can be accessed through two large mirrored portals. Inside there is a four-story building with 300 cells, a large sacred courtyard, a central church and the tower of the despot Hrelio.
The works that are kept there are wonderful. Among the most famous not to be missed are, for example, the frescoes by Zaharij Zograf, the icons and the splendid Byzantine-inspired mosaics. At first glance it will seem more like a fortress than a monastery due to its high walls and multiple loopholes.
In addition, a museum comes to life inside which is probably the most underrated place in the whole complex. It includes 4 separate expositions – a historical museum, an ethnographic one, an icon exposition and a traditional Bulgarian room.
The most important piece is the Rafael cross carved in wood representing 104 religious scenes with 650 miniatures. A job that took 12 years to complete and cost the person who decided to create it his eyesight.
In the ethnographic exhibition you can admire traditional Bulgarian costumes from different parts of the country, while in the icon exhibition you can see some of the oldest icons of the monastery.
An hour’s walk from the monastery, however, is not to be missed Ivan Rilski cave, where the saint spent the last twenty years of his life. Its interior is rather dark, but despite this this narrow natural fissure in the rock is known as the “miracle hole”.
For centuries, in fact, pilgrims have reached it to try to climb through the hole and emerge on the hill above. The ascent has symbolic significance as it is believed that only the pure in heart can accomplish it all.
In short, the Rila National Park it really hides so many wonders. It is good to know, however, that the most suitable period to venture into the trek that leads to the discovery of seven lakes of Rila it’s summer. In fact, during the summer, the temperatures are pleasant, there is no high risk of precipitation and, above all, the path is completely free.
The risk you run if carried out in winter is that the lakes freeze and that the snow reaches even two meters. In this way the route would be completely submerged and orientation would become difficult, as well as quite dangerous.