The Seven Rila Lakes are a two hour drive from Sofia in the Rila Mountains and one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. I’m told that in the summer months there are hour long waits for a seat on the chair lift that takes you up to the starting point for the trails that lead to the lakes. So we decided to do it in February instead.

At first it seemed like a bad idea. The sky was grey, the air was damp and it was cold. Sitting in the open chair lift gently shivering we did wonder if we had made a mistake. But after fifteen cold minutes or so we broke through the clouds to find a perfect blue sky and bright sunshine with snow on the ground and a nip in the air.

The lakes lie between 7,000 and just over 8,000 feet and a couple of hours of good hiking takes you past them and up to the higher elevations where there are good views over the lakes and beyond.

From the highest viewpoint it’s possible to see all the lakes but you can’t get them all in one photograph. This early in the year most of them were still frozen with only Babreka – the Kidney, for obvious reasons – having melted. Amazingly we had the whole place almost to ourselves. I think we saw no more than half a dozen other people while we were up there. Later in the day back at our cars under a grey sky it seemed like we had been in another world.