Are you ready to explore one of the coolest national parks in Bulgaria!? The Pirin National Park is one of three national parks in the country.
The Pirins are famous for Vihren Peak which is the second tallest mountain in Bulgaria along with all the beautiful alpine lakes that you can find scattered all over the mountains, one of our favourites being Sinanishko Lake next to Sinanitsa Hut.
In this post, we’re going to talk about two beautiful alpine lakes that are quite close to Vihren Hut: Lake Okoto and Lake Muratovo. They are both stunning alpine lakes that can be reached in less than an hour of hiking from Vihren Hut so they both make for great afternoon hikes.
Exploring some beautiful Alpine Lakes in the Pirin National Park
This is the easiest and maybe even the most beautiful trail we’ve done in the Pirin National Park. A lot of the hikes in this mountain range require a lot of walking over big rocks, lots of elevation, and are quite exhausting. But not this one! So this time we decided to switch things up a bit.
This hiking trail really isn’t that challenging or steep. So if you’re in for a relaxing hike to a few beautiful spots you’ve picked the right hike. Otherwise, you can hike up to Vihren Peak or Sinanitsa Hut if you’re looking for something more challenging.
But back to this nice and easy trail, Lake Okoto and Lake Muratovo are both on the same trail and are very easy to access. You don’t even need hiking shoes for this one you can just wear some good trail or running shoes.
What we do recommend though is bringing a bunch of snacks, maybe a picnic blanket, and anything else you need for a relaxing day hanging out by some alpine lakes.
Before jumping into the post, we quickly want to mention that you cannot swim in these alpine lakes! It may be obvious for some of you but I (Dom) actually didn’t know about this because in Canada it’s quite common for people to jump into the freezing cold lakes. But here in Bulgaria it’s a big no no. In all honesty it’s a good thing because it helps preserve the lakes and keep the water in them clean and pure.
Practical information about the hike up to Lake Muratovo and Lake Okoto
Distance: 4.6 km return / 2.86 miles return
Elevation: 287 m / 941 ft. elevation gain
Type: In and out trail
Length: 2-4 hours return (depending on how long you hang out by the lakes)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The hike itself is pretty straightforward and there are signs along the way. You’ll follow the Swedish colours (blue and yellow) for most of the hike. Then Lake Muratovo is right off the yellow and blue trail so you won’t miss it! And when you head to Lake Okoto, it is slightly off the trail but still really easy to get to.
How to get from Vihren Hut to the alpine lakes
From Vihren Hut to Lake Muratovo
Since there are two lakes, we went to the furthest one first. Lake Muratovo is the further one and the one directly next to the main hiking trail. So once you leave Vihren hut you will start the hike up the Swedish trail into the mountain meadow. This little area is our favourite.
You will continue walking parallel with the stream where the path leads. You’ll come by a bridge that you will cross later to get to Lake Okoto. But for now, just stick to the trail.
The path is a nice and easy walking path. Maybe one of the only ones like this in Pirin National Park. From our experience of hiking to Sinanitska Hut and Vihren Peak the trails are usually way more challenging.
There’s a few sections on this stretch with a bit of elevation and where you’ll be walking over big rocks but for the most part it’s a nice trail.
At some point, you will start to see the trail veer off to the right and out of nowhere the beautiful Moratovo Lake will appear. Moratovo is definitely one of our favorite lakes in the Pirin National Park.
Hanging out at Lake Muratovo
If you bring your camera or even your smartphone, you can capture some pretty amazing shots of the lake. The reflection that Muratovo gives off on a calm day is amazing. Especially since you can see all the mountains in it. Definitely a fun place to play around with pictures.
There is also a little stream on the opposite side of the hiking trail where you can go to fill up your water. It’s in between a few rocks and the fresh mountain water is just delicious.
If you bring snacks, games, and a blanket this is the spot to relax at. Usually it’s not too windy by the lake because you’re protected by all the mountains. If you’re hiking during summer or early fall you should hopefully get some amazing weather.
We spent a good amount of time with our friends just hanging out and taking in the views. It’s seriously one of the most magical places in this mountain range and it’s not even that hard to get to. Plus, in our experience, it’s usually not too busy at Muratovo either unless you’re hiking on a weekend in the summer.
Lake Muratovo to Lake Okoto
Alright, you’ve had some time to soak up the sun, get some ice cold mountain water, and enjoy the beautiful lake? Let’s head over to Lake Okoto which is another awesome spot to hang out at.
Lake Muratovo is the furthest point on this hike. When you’re ready to leave, you can connect back to the yellow and blue trail and start walking back the same way you came from.
Remember seeing a bridge that crossed the stream? To get to Lake Okoto, you cross the bridge and follow the trail up to the lake.
From the bridge it’s only a 5 minute uphill until you get to the lake. You won’t see it at first, but then out of nowhere this tiny little alpine lake will appear. It was actually the first alpine lake we visited. When we hiked up from Bansko to Vihren Hut we did a little extra hike to Okoto and were blown away.
Okoto is way smaller than Muratovo but equally as beautiful. Maybe it’s because people can’t swim in these alpine lakes but the reflections from the lakes are just so beautiful.
Once you get to Lake Okoto, bring out the camera and have some fun taking epic pictures.
Enjoy the views from Lake Okoto
We said it before… This is the most chill hike we’ll post about in the Pirin National Park. It’s nice to switch it up every once in a while and do a more relaxing one. No knee or back pain from this hike.
Lake Okoto is small but there’s plenty of grassy room to drop everything you have and relax! So find a spot and enjoy the sun. Again, remember you can’t swim in the alpine lakes here in Bulgaria. It’s just to preserve them and keep them clean. Which in fairness is really smart.
This is the last spot on this day’s hike in the Pirins, so depending how much time you have, you can relax here for a while. Vihren Hut is only a 20-30 minunte hike away so you’re almost back at the beginning of the trail.
How to get to Vihren Hut from Bansko
So let’s talk about how to actually get to the trailhead and start this hike. If you haven’t been up to Vihren Hut yet, this may be handy for you to know. There are actually a bunch of different ways to get to the hut so no matter the time of year you plan on hiking this you should easily be able to get to the hut.
Like we mentioned before, you can totally hike up to the hut. It’s challenging because it basically adds an extra 20 km to your hike but it is definitely doable. For all the information about hiking up to Vihren Hut, you can check out this post: How to hike from Bansko to Vihren Hut.
Go by bus
If you’re going solo up to Vihren Hut then the bus is probably the best option. You can see the bus timetable between Bansko and Vihren Hut here. The price for the ticket is 8 Lev ($4.5).
The bus runs consistently from February to mid-September. The time schedule is all on the website we linked above. There’s also a phone number you can call to double-check if the bus is actually going (sometimes it runs on what we like to call Bulgarian schedule). It takes just under an hour to get to Vihren Hut by bus.
Go by car
If you rented a car or have friends with a car, then that would definitely be your best option. If you’re a digital nomad like us and at Coworking Bansko then you can also rent one of their cars for the day (they even have a Lada).
There are a few parking areas up on the mountain. There’s a small car park right at Vihren Hut but unless you leave at 7am you likely won’t get a spot. There are plenty of spots on the side of the road up the mountain as well so you should be able to find parking there.
For the first 20-minutes of the drive, the road is very decent! But just to give you a bit of heads up, the roads are quite narrow near the top close to Vihren Hut. So if you’re not super comfortable with narrow roads then maybe park a little further down the mountain. There’s a big parking lot a bit further down and from there it’s about a 40-minute walk to Vihren Hut.
Go by taxi
Going by taxi is probably the easiest and most convenient way, and if there are at least 2 of you it’s also pretty affordable. A one-way drive up the mountain will cost you about 25 Lev ($15). Here are the phone numbers for the Bansko taxi services.
We usually keep the phone number of our driver so we can call him again after our hike. That way we know we get a driver we can trust.
By taxi, the trip is about 30 minutes. So a lot quicker than taking the bus (and cheaper if you’re 2-4 people).
Before you hike up to the alpine lakes
A few things to consider before hiking to the lakes is that the weather in Bansko can be quite different from the weather up in the mountains. The elevation gain from the town of Bansko up to Vihren Hut is almost a 1000 meter difference. So check the weather before you go!
It’s also a good idea to download the app Mapy.cz (click here for Android or here for iPhone) to follow the trail. It’s honestly our favourite app for hiking because of how detailed it is. It works in any country we’ve been to so – even offline when we’ve loaded the map beforehand.
What to bring on the trail
Hiking to Okoto and Muratovo is a pretty chill few-hour hike but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring anything. Whenever we go hiking our Osprey bags are always full of sunscreen, snacks, a tripod, our camera, and other random things we need for hiking.
On this hike, we brought some extra snacks to have while hanging out at the lakes and a blanket to sit on. Plus simple card games to have some fun with our friends up in the mountains.
Things to consider bringing:
- Reusable water bottles! We love our Lifestraws because of the filter! Although we fill it up with fresh mountain water on almost every hike you just never know if it’s actually drinkable or not.
- Sunscreen is a must (eco-friendly of course)! Okoto and Muratovo Lakes are around 2100 meters above sea level. It can get toasty up there.
- Extra layers for the chillier days (long-sleeve shirt or a windbreaker jacket).
- A sun hat or bucket hat + sunglasses for the sunnier days.
- If you want to take some cool pictures a portable tripod or a #selfiestick is nice to bring. Especially with the reflections of the lakes it may not be a bad idea to bring one.
Also, this is a great list of hiking gear if you’re looking for more inspiration.
You may also like…
- 5 Beautiful Hikes to Do in the Pirin Mountains
- Hiking the Beautiful Sinanitsa Hut and Peak in the Pirin National Park
- How To Hike The Famous Vihren Peak In Bulgaria
- How to Hike From Bansko to Vihren Hut
- The Best Ways to Get From Sofia to Bansko
We hope you enjoy both of these beautiful lakes. The Pirin Mountain range is incredible and especially in late summer early fall when the trails are a bit quieter. The colours of the trees start to turn orange and red and it’s just so beautiful!
We hope you enjoy all the other hikes in and around Bansko as well. Maybe next time we’ll check out another peak.
Dom & Jo
Red White Adventures