Рила in Bulgarian
The highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula. It is situated in southwestern Bulgaria and forms part of the Rila–Rhodope Massif. The highest summit is Musala at an altitude of 2,925 meter which makes Rila the sixth highest mountain range in Europe after the Caucasus, the Alps, Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees and Mount Etna, and the highest one between the Alps and the Caucasus. It spans a territory of 2,629 km2 with an average altitude of 1487 meter. In the mountain range you will find more than 200 glacial lakes. The high-altitude zone over 1,600 m forms about 50% of the total territory. There are over 140 main peaks above 2,000 m
One of the most well-known hikes in the Rila Mountains is the “seven lakes hike”. Via road number 6206 you will drive to the chairlift (named “The lift to the 7 Rila Lakes”) who will bring you to the start of the hike. The chairlift takes round 25 minutes (one way). Please be aware of the weather and mountains conditions. In the late spring or early autumn, it is possible that there will be snow around the lakes. Please always ask for information about the weather/mountain conditions before you start the tour. Bring extra clothes and food/drinks.
Rila has abundant water resources. Some of the Balkans' longest and deepest rivers originate from Rila, including the Maritsa, Iskar and Mesta rivers. Bulgaria's main water divide separating the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea drainage systems follows the main ridge of Rila.
The mountain range has varied flora and fauna with several endemic and relict species and some of the best-preserved forests in the country. The biodiversity and the pristine landscapes are protected by Rila national Park which covers much of the mountain; the rest lies within Rila Monastery Nature Park. In addition, there are five nature reserves: Parangalitsa, Central Rila Reserve, Rila Monastery Forest, Ibar and Skakavitsa.
The mammal species within Rila National Park and its surroundings are 62 and include taxon’s of high conservation value, such as brown bear, grey wolf, wildcat, least weasel, European pine marten, marbled polecat, wild boar, red deer, roe deer, chamois, European ground squirrel, as well as the glacial relict European snow vole. The bird species are 156; of the 120 are nesting within Rila National Park. These include three relicts — boreal owl, Eurasian pygmy owl and Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, and species that require special conservation measures like short toed snake eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, western capercaillie, hazel grouse, rock partridge, greay-headed woodpecker, black woodpecker, white-throated dipper, wallcreeper and Alpine chough among others.
Summers are warm and sunny. In summer, it generally remains a bit cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to its higher altitude. Average temperature May, June and September are around 24c, in July and August around 28c. July and August have around 250 hours of sunshine per month, which means around 10 hours per day average.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE
Rila or Rilski Monastery
This is absolute a must see in Bulgaria. You will spend most probably 5-6 hours minimum for the drive to and from, the sight-seeing in and around the monastery and a nice lunch behind the monastery in one of the restaurants. Rila Monastery is the most recognizable landmark of the mountain range, Bulgaria's largest and most important monastery, founded in the 10th century by Saint John of Rila. Due to its outstanding cultural and spiritual value it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Rila is also a popular destination for hiking, winter sports and spa tourism, hosting the nation's oldest ski resort Borovets, as well as numerous hiking trails. Some of the most important hydro power stations in Bulgaria are situated in the eastern part of the mountain range.
Spend a day or at least half a day in one of the mineral pools or Spa complexes. The water is warm and works very well for tired muscles after a long nice walk/hike in the Rila mountains. You will feel very well after a few hours in the warm water pool.
Chair Lift and hike to the 7 Rila Lakes
Take the chair lift to the 7 Rila lakes and have a fantastic hike. You don’t have to do the whole circle, but after ca. 30 minutes walking you can already see the first lake. Where the chairlift stops, there is a nice hut (Rila Lakes Chalet) for a cup of coffee, a lunch or even an overnight is here possible. They have great soup, our tip!
Resilovsky Monastery together with Gorcia waterfall in Ovchartsi
Just a few minutes driving from Sapareva Banya you will find the nice walk to the waterfall Gorcia. Easy walk true the forest, a bit up to the nice few. When returning from the waterfall, drive true Ovchartsi (opposite direction from Sapareva Banya) and after 2-3km you will find an exit on the left side of the road to the monastery.
There are a few festivals and events taking place within the area of RILA:
"Rila ni gleda" (Rila is watching us) - a national folklore festival with singing and dancing which takes place in the towns of Dupnitsa and Sapareva Banya every year in the middle of June
"Rock in Rila" - an international rock festival, takes place in Beli Iskar village in August
White Brotherhood Summer Spiritual School - a gathering of the followers of Peter Deunov, a Bulgarian spiritual master. From the beginning of August till the 3rd weekend of the month (the peak of the festival).The place is the area of Seven Rila Lakes.