After leaving Sofia we took a couple of buses to the small mountain town of Sapareva Banya where we planned for a relaxing stay before moving back to city life. In the 3 days we spent here we took a chair lift up to over 2000m, hiked around Rila’s seven lakes in the sun, snow and cloud with a lovely couple, drank and ate with kind locals, enjoyed mornings and evenings on our balcony looking over the beautiful view and spent an afternoon at the local thermal spa.
I’m so glad we stopped in this little corner of Bulgaria.
Hiking the Seven Lakes
One of the things we knew we wanted to do in Bulgaria is hiking, and this is one of the most popular hikes in the country. It begins with a chair lift taking you up to 2000m through the wooded mountainside and into the valley of the snowy peaks. The walk then takes you around the seven lakes in Rila Mountains. In May, when we did the walk, you will walk between bright sunshine and trekking through snow. The weather was pretty kind to us and the resulting images are pretty amazing. I would definitely recommend the hike, it’s not difficult and it’s incredibly beautiful.
You can get to Sapareva Banya by bus from Sofia. You need to get one of the few direct ones, or a bus to Dupnitsa (costing 6lv (£2.70)) and then a local bus to the village costing 1.60lv (£0.70). I would recommend staying in the town, and I’ll explan why later, especially because it gives you a more relaxed time to see the lakes. A taxi from Sapareva Banya cost us 32lv (£14.50) return and takes you to the bottom of the chairlift. The chairlift then costs 18lv (£8.20) return.
Sapareva Banya’s Geyser and Spa
The village/town of Sapareva Banya is small, but actually has quite a lot going for it. The main reason we stayed was for the seven lakes but eventually found that our days were full and we were so happy to have stayed here. The main ‘attraction’ is the geyser which basically looks like a fountain spouting boiling hot water and smelling of egg. It’s impressive none the less.
Right next to the geyser is the aquapark and spa which we spent a leisurely afternoon enjoying when the weather was a bit rubbish. We treated ourselves to the hot spa including saunas, a steam room and the naturally heated indoor pools. It was very relaxing and incredibly cheap at only 25lv (£11.40), including a bath robe. We then ate at the restaurant connected to it and were pleasantly surprised by the tasty food and good portions. Need I say how cheap it was?
Possible the most notable thing from this little town hidden at the foot of the Rila Mountains was the hospitality of the local people. The host for our apartment was helpful for our entire stay and organised our taxi to the mountains. Turns out the taxi was with his friendly neighbour who was a 64 year old Bulgarian man who spoke absolutely no English. That didn’t stop him having a number of conversations with us and even inviting us in one evening for a drink. What he meant by ‘drink’ was lots of food, beverages and an hour long skype to his family residing in London. It ended up being a fun evening and it was nice to be able to communicate through his family and find out more about them. His family were incredibly kind to us and it was lovely to experience this Bulgarian hospitality.
We did have some problems in Sapareva Banya eating out. There were lots of restaurants but as there is little English spoken it was tricky to communicate. It forced us to brush up on our ‘holiday Bulgarian’ phrases and we have since used this to eat at a restaurant which didn’t even have English on the menu. We were pretty pleased with that.
All in all this was a lovely stay and I am so pleased we included it in our trip. It’s a beautiful town, the hike was breathtaking and the spa was very luxurious.
More adventures from Bulgaria to come!