Even if you are not a big fan of the mountain hikes, if you are near the town of Bansko or Dobrinishte, choose one day from your vacation to take a walk to one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in Pirin – Popovo Lake.
Papaz göl or Popovo Lake is located in the western part of the Pirin National Park, comfortably situated at the bottom of the largest circus in the Pirin Mountains – Popovo Lake circus.
By the middle of the last century (1942) the lake was called Papazgöl or Papaz Göl, after which it was renamed to Popovo Lake.
With an area of 123.6 decares, a depth of 29.5 m, a width of 336 m and a length of 480 m, Popovo Lake occupies the second place in size not only in Bulgaria but also in the Balkans (after Smradlivoto Lake in the Rila Mountains).
The water volume of the lake is about 1 270 000, and its huge amount of water it collects mainly from rainfall, snow, snowmelt and from two streams that flow into its southern part.
Papazgöl’s shape resembles an irregular triangle, in the middle of which there is a small island covered with a dwarf pine. The locals call the island “Kalimiyavkata” because it resembles a papal kamelaukion.
In addition to being one of the largest and deepest lakes in Bulgaria, a small stream comes out of it and flows into the nearby Ribni /Fish/ Popovi Lakes, from which the Retizhe River starts – one of the main tributaries of the Mesta River.
It is a curious fact that there are no animal species in Papazgöl. No fish, no snakes, no other lake creatures live here. Over the years there have been attempts to fish the lake, but all of them have been unsuccessful. Every living creature that was released for breeding died only a few days after it was moved and released into the waters of the lake.
Located at an altitude of 2233.5 meters and surrounded by 5 Pirin peaks – Kralev Dvor, Dzengal, Momini Dvori, Sivria and Dzhano, Popovo Lake is one of the most loved and popular summer routes for both locals and tourists.
The lake is loved by many locals who regularly visit it to enjoy the tranquility, peace and beauty of the mountain reflected in its waters. In the summer, people from Bansko, Dobrinishte and the surrounding settlements often choose Popovo Lake in the Pirin Mountains for outings or or picnics in nature.
Tourists visit the lake because, besides being very beautiful and majestic, there are various legends about it, which arouse their great curiosity and interest.
The route to Papazgöl is one of the easiest and most enjoyable summer routes that will not burden you, even if you have no mountain hiking experience.
Bezbog hut – Popovo Lake
The route that starts from Bezbog hut is the most popular and easy to walk. Although the starting point is Bezbog hut, in fact your adventure can start from Dobrinishte and more precisely from the Gotse Delchev hut, which is located about 11 km away from the town.
You can get to the hut by car, then leave it in the parking and then use a lift that will take you straight to Bezbog hut, which is the starting point of the route to the lake.
If you do not want to use the lift, you can get from the Gotse Delchev hut to Bezbog hut and along a marked hiking trail. When you reach Bezbog hut, you can enjoy a cup of hot tea and continue to your final destination.
The transition from the hut to Popovo Lake in Pirin starts from the hut itself, as first you have to walk along the Bezbozhko Lake and then take the marked path.
The length of the route is about 7 km. (in both directions) and the time it will take you is about 3 hours (in both directions).
The path you need to follow is marked in green. Almost all the way you will see yellow marking in addition to the green, but you should only follow the green as the yellow leads to the Demianitsa hut.
The route is mostly flat, covered in spots with stony sections (the total displacement along the whole route is 181 m) and is very pleasant for passing even by young children.
The only steeper section is the so-called “dushevadka” /soul tormentor/, which is a little more rocky and steep. However, once you pass it, the path is mostly flat and the effort you have to make is minimal.
Shortly before you reach your final destination you will see a beautiful meadow and a small spring, and once you get there, then you have almost reached the lake. There are only a few minutes left and you will enjoy one of the most beautiful, magical and romantic lakes in Pirin in its full splendor.
Legends about the Popovo Lake
You are unlikely to find many other places that are associated with so many legends as the Popovo Lake in Pirin Mountains. How so many folk traditions and legends have been passed down through generations and generations remains a mystery, but it is true that this place has been special to people since ancient times.
Our ancestors came along the shores of the lake and performed important pagan rituals. The pyramidal rock with the sacrificial altar, which were part of an ancient Thracian sanctuary, are also a proof of the sacred nature of the place.
But let’s go back to the legends about the lake…
According to one of the most popular legends, many, many years ago, god Bess lived in the lake, and he fell in love with the beautiful daughter of God Perun. Bess knew that Perun would not give him his daughter for a wife, so he took her from his father’s palace.
His actions greatly angered the brothers of the girl, and they had vowed to avenge the evil god Bess. They chased him and captured him at a nearby peak, where they covered him with stones as a punishment. Today, this peak is called Bezbog /Godless/.
Another legend tells that during the Ottoman rule in one of the nearby villages lived the beautiful Kalina, the daughter of the local priest. The richest Turk in the village fell in love with the priest’s daughter and took her for his harem. With his precious slave, the Turk headed up the mountain, but it was time to spend the night, and he and his suite spread their bivouac on the peak near the lake. However, the Turks did not know that they were followed by the priest who for nothing in the world wanted to leave his daughter in the hands of the bey.
The priest walked for a long time until he finally reached the frozen lake and heard the sad song his daughter sang. In the hurry to get to his child, the priest went through the ice, but he suddenly cracked under his feet and the man of God sank, and only his kamelaukion floated to the surface. Kalina saw her father’s kamelaukion and understood what had happened, and jumped into the lake because of her grief.
Due to the tragedy of a father and daughter being swallowed up by the waters of the lake, locals began to call it Popovo Lake and the islet located in it – Kalimiyavkata /kamelaukion/. In honor of the beautiful girl, the nearby peak, on which the Turks had placed their camp, was called “Momini Dvori”.
According to another popular legend, after the Bulgarians embraced Christianity, a priest from a nearby village climbed the mountain to try and banish god Perun. Perun, however, became so angry with the prayers of the priest that he caught and sent him straight to the lake. The priest sank into its deep waters, and only his kamelaukion emerged.