Seven Rila Lakes
The journey from Plovdiv to Sapareva Banya itself turned out to be quite a challenge. We wanted to go to Sapareva Banya because that is the ideal starting point for a hike of the seven Rila lakes. Most people however approach this town from Sofia or Blagoevrad. Without getting into too much detail our trip comprised out of four legs. It took a trainride, a hitchhike, a minibus and finally a regular bus in total 8 hours of travel time to get here. No problem though, because Rila lakes were totally worth the headache.
Sapareva Banya of which the “Banya part means “bath” is mostly known for mineral hot springs that get some exploitation by the bigger hotels in town. There’s even a geyser in the center that constantly spews up 103C° hot water.
We however, got here to hike to the seven Rila lakes that find themselves high in the mountains and most of the year frozen over. If you visit the lakes in summer the ice is gone apart from some frozen snow fields here and there. It’s too cold to swim here sadly, plus it’s not allowed.
How to get there:
The lakes themselves can be explored through a 4 to 5 hour strenuous hike. The starting point of this hike is already at altitude and may be reached by cable cart (15 Leva return.) To save money you might opt to skip the lift and walk up to the starting point of the hike. This will however add a 1,5 hour steep ascend to your hike plus 1,5h to get back down.
The cable cart station is located 8 km from Sapareva Banya. You can get there by minibus from the town center or hitchhike (like we did). On busy days many people from Skopje may pass with their private cars and have a backseat free for some fellow hikers.
The minibusses from town will set you back 5 leva one-way.
Where to sleep in Sapareva Banya
We stayed in Guest house Khizhina run by a Russian lady, which was great, because Maarten got to practice his Russian finally. The room was really really small but still had a private bathroom and we got full use of the kitchen with had unlimited coffee and tea.
Costs: 30 leva/night (15 euro).
Where to eat in Sapareva Banya
Because we had our own kitchen we cooked ourselves this time. There are some buffet-style restaurants in this small city.