Rila monastery and Rila lakes are unarguably two of the most popular places to see in Bulgaria. There is a reason – both are incredibly beautiful. I will share how you can combine them into two days trip without a car. We will visit Rila monastery and then go to Ivan Vazov hut. Early in the morning, we will hike to the peak with the view of all seven of the lakes. We will go down through all of them before the crowd arrives :). I and my partner in crime traveled by bus and hitchhiked on the way back. I will share what other options you have in relation to the transport.
The journey starts early in the morning in Sofia. There is a bus going to Kocherinovo at 7:10 from the Central Bus Station which we, unfortunately, missed being two minutes late. The other option was to catch a bus to Dupnitsa from Serdica Bus station which is in front of the Central Railways Station. We arrived at 10 in Dupnitsa and caught a bus to the town of Rila. This is the last town before Rila monastery. If you walk a little bit outside of it in the direction of the monastery all the cars will be heading your destination. We managed to hitchhike a car while still in the town. We arrived at noon at the monastery and spend about 30 minutes there. It is very beautiful and peaceful place, although you need time to ignore all the people and see it as it is – piece of art. It is surrounded by a forest and if you visit it during the autumn the scenery will be amazingly colorful.
The trek to Ivan Vazov hut starts just in front of the main entrance of the monastery. It is clearly marked and you cannot miss it. Trekking takes around 6 hours. We were walking pretty slow and making a lot of stops to take pictures. It’s going the whole way up, except the last hour when you will be walking down to the hut. There are clear trail marks and it will be very difficult to get lost.
The hut itself is a huge building and it is one of my favorite in Rila Mountain. Due to its remote location, there are always really interesting people you can meet. The owners are really cool people and I always have a great time. Recently they made some reconstructions and the facilities look quite good. They prepare food so you do not need to stock a lot of things before going. Wake up early in the morning and start climbing the hill behind the hut. It will take more than an hour but the view is rewarding, as you will be able to see all of the Seven Rila Lakes.
Continue on the ridge to the direction we came from the previous day. In the end of the ridge, you will see the path going to the first lake. Start descending from there. At the third lake called Babreka (The kidney :)), you will have a choice of going to the left on the ridge or to the right through the lakes.
Choose right. It is the long way down but you will have closer look at the lakes and the view from the ridge is not so good anyway. The other benefit is that most of the people will be still coming up on the ridge and you will be able to enjoy the way going down without hundreds other people. The place is amazingly beautiful but sometimes it gets really crowded and if you can choose when to go, try the weekdays.
There is a chair lift in the end of the trek and you can use it if you don’t want to walk anymore. The trail going down is also not at all interesting. Anyway, it is a quite short walk and for less than an hour, you can get to the road walking. So, if you don’t mind walking a little bit more you can save the 5 euros for something else. When you reach the road try hitchhiking to Sapareva Banya. It should be very easy as all of the traffic is going through there. If you like hot springs and hot open-air pools you can spend the night in Sapareva Banya. They have a geyser and really good pools with mineral hot water. Another option is to catch the bus to Dupnitsa and from there to catch another one to Sofia. Note that the last bus from Dupnitsa is at 19:50. We were extremely lucky and hitchhiked a car from Rila Lakes directly to Sofia.