Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Lake Locations:

Bulgaria -

Also known as:  The Tear, The Eye, The Kidney, Twin Lake, Fish Lake, Lower Lake, Trefoil Lake

The Seven Rila Lakes are Bulgaria’s most visited lakes. These glacial lakes in the mountains hold a natural scenic spot in Rila National Park, complete with a chair lift to reach close to the lakes. Located in the Rila Mountains in northwestern Bulgaria, the natural beauty of the area has made the lakes a favorite hiking destination less than two hours from the capital city of Sofia. Local legend tells of two giants, husband and wife, who once inhabited the spot. When enemies attacked them, the man fought valiantly but was eventually felled. The lakes were created by the wife’s tears over her loss. Several endangered species of plants and animals are found here and in a few other locations in Rila National Park.

Created by glacial action, the seven lakes nestle one above the other, each draining to the next in a series of small streams and cascades. The outflow from the group forms the Dzherman River. Starting with the highest, the lakes are:

‘The Tear’, 1.7 acres in size and 15 feet deep, At an altitude of 8,317 feet, The Tear has exceedingly clear waters.

‘The Eye’, 17 acres with a depth of 123 feet at 8,010 feet, with an oval or eye-shaped shoreline.

‘The Kidney’, 21 acres and almost 92 feet deep. At 7,487 feet, this lake has the steepest shores and is shaped somewhat like a kidney.

‘The Twin’, 22 acres, 90 feet in depth, and located at 7,359 feet. Because the narrow, shallow center section sometimes dries up in midsummer heat, the lake is sometimes divided into two lakes.

‘The Trefoil’ has a highly irregularly-shaped shoreline. At 6.4 acres and 21 feet in depth, The Trefoil lies at 7,270 in altitude.

‘Fish Lake’, 8.6 acres and the shallowest lake at 8.2 feet. Fish lake has plenty of fish-primarily trout- and is found at 7,165 in elevation.

‘Lower Lake’. With 15 acres and a depth of 36.1 feet, the lake sits at 6,873 feet.

Popular walking paths circle the lakes and are often quite busy in warm weather. Many times, walkers circle only some of the lakes, particularly if they have arrived by bus at the bottom of the chairlift and need to catch the last bus back to Sofia. Small ski chalets at the bottom and top of the chairlift serve basic meals and snacks. Other people carry a picnic lunch to eat overlooking the lakes. Tourist lodgings can be found at the ski huts but are usually rough, dormitory-style rooms. July and August are the best times to visit because the lakes are often ice-covered and surrounded by deep snow between October and June. A jacket is recommended even during the summer as surprise storms can appear here at any time. Although the trail is considered of moderate difficulty, sturdy walking shoes or boots are recommended as some short sections are quite steep and rocky.

Another impressive sightseeing destination in the Seven Rila Lakes area is the Rila Monastery. It is possible to trek from one to the other, but that leaves very little time to enjoy either, so most visitors try to schedule two days for the visit. Rila Monastery is one of the iconic landmarks of the Bulgarian national identity. Built originally in the reign of Tsar Peter I around 950 AD, the monastery is usually attributed to the hermit, Saint Ivan of Rila. In actuality, Saint Ivan lived in the caves nearby without material possessions, and the monastery was built by his students. The complex was rebuilt in the 14th century; the oldest buildings existing date from the 1330s. Although destroyed by the Ottomans in the 15th century, the monastery was again rebuilt with the support of Sultana Mara Brankovic, the Rossikon monastery of Mount Athos and the Russian Orthodox Church. The complex is impressive and contains relics from the various periods through which it has existed. Bus tours are regularly scheduled to the monastery from Sofia.

With 200,269 acres, the Rila National Park is the largest national park in Bulgaria and one of the largest in Europe. The park encompasses the Rila Mountain Range and includes many high peaks and snow-capped views. Hiking in the mountains is a popular pastime. Many trails, marked and unmarked, lead to over 200 small glacial lakes and offer views of abundant wildlife and birds. Many lodging and resort locations exist near the park, since it is a popular destination for a summer holiday. Organized, guided tours can be found to most of the more prominent natural features in the park, with lodgings and transportation arranged by any reputable travel agent. The destination is becoming more popular with European visitors each year.

About two hours north of Seven Rila Lakes, the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia offers some of the best historic sightseeing in Europe. Hugging the slopes of Mount Vitosha, the site was settled around 200 AD but didn’t actually become a city until many centuries later. Located at the crossroads of two historic trade routes, Sofia has an impressive collection of ruins of buildings from its several incarnations under the governance of a number of different rulerships. Now a cosmopolitan city with over a million residents, this long and colorful history has left Sofia with numerous historic churches, palaces and official residences-turned-museums. Some of the more impressive attractions include the Museum of Natural History, the National Historical and Archeological Museum, a separate National Archeological Museum, the National Art Gallery, National Museum of Ethnography, and the elegant Ivan Vazov National Theater.

International conferences and scientific meetings are often held in Sofia. The city is well-supplied with international chain hotels augmented by more informal hostels, guest houses and inns. The hot spring mineral baths that enchanted the Romans are still open for business outside of the city center. The eclectic mix of nightlife keeps many visitors content. Two ski centers just outside of the city on Mount Vitosha offer plenty in the way of winter sports such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and sledding. Every season provides plenty to see and do in Bulgaria, but hiking to Seven Rila Lakes is best left to the summer months.

* Statistics listed on the sidebar are for the largest-Twin Lake-only.

Things to do at Seven Rila Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Tobogganing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Seven Rila Lakes

  • Trout

Seven Rila Lakes Photo Gallery

Seven Rila Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 22 acres

Shoreline Length: 1 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 7,359 feet

Maximum Depth: 90 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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