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Bulgaria

Day trips from Sofia

Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of Sofia, Bulgaria. Orthodox Church landmark.

Located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, Sofia, the Bulgarian capital is attracting both local and international visitors. Home to a number of universities, cultural institutions and recently, also a bustling nest for start-ups, Sofia is a vibrant, stimulating, but also a fairly busy city. If you are looking to escape the urban jungle and see a different side of Bulgaria, this guide will help you navigate through the best Sofia day tours.

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Day trip from Sofia to Vitosha Mountain

With its highest peak called Cherni Vruh (2.290 m), Vitosha Mountain is considered a symbol of the Bulgarian capital (hence the name “Vitosha Boulevard” for Sofia’s main commercial street filled with cafés, restaurants and boutiques). The mountain is a part of Vitosha Nature Park – the oldest of its kind in the Balkans. The park varies in elevation which results in a big diversity in its fauna and flora, so prepare to explore wild routes and enjoy amazing natural sights and fragrances.

On your day tour to Vitosha, make sure to visit Knyazhevo, one of the areas situated at the foothill of the mountain. The area is known for its thermal mineral springs with water suitable for drinking and often used for healing. The temperature of the springs is between 28° – 32°C (82,5° – 89,5° F).

Skiing enthusiasts will also be happy to learn that Vitosha Mountain offers great conditions for practising various winter sports, which makes a day tour to Vitosha one of the most popular day trips from Sofia in winter.

Vitosha Mountain is just 10 km away from Sofia, and from the city centre, it is easily accessible by car or bus. The bus line 66 will bring you to the Aleko area which is the highest point you can reach with public transportation. If you prefer going by taxi, the ride to Simeonovo ski lift will cost you around 7 USD. With the ski lift, you can then reach the Aleko Hut and start trekking from there.

Day trip from Sofia to Vitosha Mountain

Mountain view with spruce trees covered by snow and a mountain hut. Beautiful winter landscapes of Vitosha mountains, Bulgaria. Frost nature

Day trip from Sofia to Boyana Church

Boyana Church is a popular stop on many trips to the Vitosha Mountain, but if a full day trip with trekking and hiking is too much, we suggest you arrange a short tour just to visit the Boyana Church. You can reach the church from Sofia city centre taking the bus line 64.

Boyana Church is one of Bulgaria’s designated UNESCO world heritage sites. It consists of three buildings, construction of which started as early as the 10th century! Around the church, you will find a park that separates and protects the religious site from the urban bustle. Boyana Church is a stunning monument of medieval art with its core artefact: the remarkable frescos from the 13th century in the second building. Make sure you pay attention to the grandiose depiction of Christ Pantocrator in the church dome!

If you are in the mood for further explorations after visiting Boyana Church, try to make your way to the National History Museum, located a mere 2 kilometres from the church. In its collection the museum stores fine arts and furniture, but also uniforms and urban clothing, and a collection of… flags! It is a deep dive into Bulgaria’s history! The museum is open every day besides New Year and Easter, but note that opening hours vary with the season, so check the museum website for detailed information.

Day trip from Sofia to Boyana Church

Boyana Church Bulgaria

Day trip from Sofia to Seven Rila Lakes

Are you ready for breathtaking sights and incredible hiking trails? Getaways to the area of Seven Rila Lakes are some of the most popular Sofia day trips, and rightfully so! The lake area is one of the most iconic sites of Bulgaria, located about 80 kilometres away from the capital. The naturally created Seven Rila Lakes are glacial pools, and each of them has a specific name, given to it based on the most significant feature of the lake. The clearest of the lakes is called “The Tear”, the shallowest got the name “The Fish”, and “The Kidney” was named after its particular, organ-like shape.

From the central bus station in Sofia, you can get to Seven Rila Lakes by bus departing to Dupnitsa (for a price as low as 2 leva, approx. 1 USD). In Dupnitsa you change to a bus towards Sapareva Banya (a town famous for Bulgaria’s hottest mineral water spring, and a place where many tourists decide to stay overnight after a long hike around the seven lakes). The hike up to the lakes starts at Pionerska Hut though. There are shuttle buses between Sapareva Banya and Pionerska hut, and you can check the updated timetable online.

At Pionerska you can embark on the cable car, and in just 25 minutes, you will be at the top (Rilski hut) by the lakes, ready to meander around the lakes and enjoy the breathtaking sceneries. More adventurous hikers can choose to trek up to Rilski hut, but bear in mind that if you also want to walk around the lakes, you are in for a 7 – 8 hours long hike.

Day trip from Sofia to Seven Rila Lakes

Bulgaria, Kyustendil region, Rila, Rila Mountains, Lake, Mountain Lakes, The Seven Rila Lakes, Seven Rila Lakes, Rila Lakes, Mountain, Recreation, Tourism, Water, Nature, Trail, Route, outdoor, bush, clear, green, travel, view, destination, sunny, scenery

Day trip from Sofia to Rila Monastery

A tour to Rila monastery (commonly used name for “The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila”) can be an extension of your excursion to the Seven Rila Lakes, but direct trips to Rila Monastery are also very popular among tourists. The monastery is one of the most visited sites in Bulgaria, and one of Eastern Europe’s most beautifully painted (in both inner and outer areas) Orthodox sanctuaries. The monastery has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1983 and is widely known for its unique architecture and remarkable frescos.

The monastery is a full complex consisting of churches, a museum and a residential part with a library, chapels and chambers housing the monks. It has a rather turbulent history with fires and raids, and in the middle of the 15th century the monastery was destroyed by the Ottomans, but was restored quickly due to generous donations.

The monastery is situated inside of “Rila Monastery Natural Park”, in the southwestern Rila Mountains. The beautiful surroundings are a perfect environment for a hike after your visit to the religious complex. The most popular trail is the “pilgrimage hike”; it leads to the cave that, according to the legend, Saint Ivan lived in.

To get to the Rila Monastery from Sofia, you can take the only direct public bus – the Rila Express. It departs every day at 10.20 AM from Ovcha Kupel bus station, located in the West part of Sofia City, and arrives at Rila Monastery at 1 PM. If you want to take the same bus back to Sofia, you will only have 2 hours on site, on the bus back leaves at 3 PM. The one-way ticket price is 11 levas, approx. 6 USD. You can also look into booking the Rila Shuttle that runs every day from St. Alexander Nevski cathedral, departing at 9.30 AM. Round-trip fees start at 20 €, around 22,5 USD. The shuttle arrives at Rila Monastery at 11.30 AM and leaves to Sofia City at 2.30 PM.

Day trip from Sofia to Rila Monastery

BULGARIA - Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, Monastery, Bulgaria

Day trip from Sofia to Plovdiv

Ready for a cultural getaway? Plovdiv is the place to go. The city was named European Culture Capital 2019, so you can be looking forward to exploring its vibrant art district with galleries, ateliers and workshops as well as taking part in public festivals and visiting museums.

You can start your explorations in Plovdiv Old City, admire the architecture (with extremely charming wooden houses dating back to the 18th and 19th century) and wander around the narrow alleyways that often house art galleries, regional museums and chapels. Plovdiv is the city with the longest pedestrian strip in Europe! So make sure you enjoy the pedestrian-only outdoor spaces to the fullest, visiting the cafés and boutiques in the pedestrian zone.

In the old town, you will also find the Church of St. Konstantin and Elena; its history dates back to the 4th century! The church is open daily (until 5.30 PM in the winter season and until 8 PM during summer months), and make sure that during your visit you have a look at the beautiful frescoes inside the church!

Buses between Sofia and Plovdiv depart frequently (but make sure you arrive at the bus station in advance, especially during peak season – it’s a popular trip). The cheaper bus company is called Karats, and the one-way ticket fee is 9.50 leva (approx. 5,5 USD). The tickets can be bought online or in person at the domestic terminal of Sofia Bus Station, from where the bus also departs.

Day trip from Sofia to Plovdiv

SOFIA BULGARIA Cathedral of St Joseph is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. . It is the co-cathedral of the Diocese of Sofia and Plovdiv, together with the Cathedral of St Louis in Plovdiv.

Day trip from Sofia to Krushuna Waterfalls

A must-see site in Bulgaria is the Krushuna Waterfalls. You are signing up for an active walk in beautiful surroundings, but don’t expect (or fear) a challenging hike! It is a perfect spot for a relaxing escape from the city.
About 20-meters high, the main waterfall splits into several smaller ones and creates organic pools of mineral water, that, due to the relatively high content of limestone, has an extremely bright, turquoise colour.

It is very common to add Devetashka Cave onto the Krushuna Waterfalls itinerary! The cave used to serve as a secret military establishment, but nowadays it can be visited by tourists. Note that access to the cave is restricted during the summer months. It is breeding time for some bat species, and Devetashka Cave is home to almost 30.000 different bat species!
Getting to Krushuna Waterfalls can be a bit challenging. The site is located in the northern part of Bulgaria, near cities Pleven and Lovech, and when visiting the waterfalls, many decide to stay in either of the two towns overnight (from Sofia it can take up to three hours to reach the waterfalls).

If you are not up for an overnight trip, and if you are travelling with a small group, it is common to rent a car in Sofia and drive to the waterfalls on your own or you can simply book a tour from Sofia with an agency – they will provide comfortable transportation and a guide who will be able to tell you interesting facts (and legends!) about the area.

Day trip from Sofia to Krushuna Waterfalls

Krushuna waterfalls in northern Bulgaria near a village of Krushuna, Letnitsa.

Day trip from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo

Are you longing for a day tour away from the urban buzz and the bustle of high-end shopping? Add a trip to the charming city of Veliko Tarnovo onto your itinerary! The city was built on three hills: Tsaravets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora (“Holy Mountain”).

The main attraction of the city is the Tsaravets Fortress surrounded with winding stone walls. It is very popular for its “Sound and Light” audiovisual shows where the story of the fall of Tarnovo to the Ottoman invaders is told through lasers, lights and atmospheric music. You can double-check the dates and times of the entertainment shows with Veliko Tarnovo’s Tourist Information Centre at the main square.

When in Veliko Tarnovo, make sure you find time for a stroll around the old town with Samovodskata Charshia, the arts and crafts street, which is also known for its very distinct architecture. It is the best place to go to explore local shops and buy some authentic (hand-made) Bulgarian souvenirs.

If you are curious to know more about the Bulgarian Revival architecture, but also local art, we recommend you pay a visit to the Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum. It is situated inside the old home of Hadnj Nikoli, who was a local tradesman. The museum showcases historical and cultural artefacts as well as a collection of visual arts, but it is equally popular for its atmospheric wine bar! Get ready for a wine tasting of specially selected Bulgarian and imported wines in the charming setting of the Hadji Nikoli Inn!

Getting from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo is very easy! We recommend you take the bus. It will be a 3-hour long journey, and the fare is around 10 € (approx. 11,5 USD) for a one-way ticket. The buses depart frequently from Sofia Central Bus Station (domestic terminal).

Day trip from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo

Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo from Tsarevets hill. Typical terrace architecture in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Day trip from Sofia to Poganovo Monastery

Day trips from Sofia to Serbia are a popular pick among tourists, and when you go, make sure you add the Poganovo Monastery of St. John the Theologian onto your Serbia trip itinerary! The monastery, situated near the Serbian village Poganovo, is an old orthodox church with remarkable frescoes made by Greek masters. The church was built in the late 14th century and is now regarded as one of Serbia’s most precious monuments of Medieval culture.

Poganovo is less than 100 kilometres away from Sofia, and it is often added to private tours from Sofia to Boyana Church, so if you are interested in exploring old monasteries in both Bulgaria and Serbia, a joint trip to Boyana and Poganovo might be a great solution.

If you decide to go to Serbia on your own (eg. by taking the bus towards Dimitrovgrad, Serbia and from there another bus or a taxi directly to the monastery), you may have more time to explore the area around the old church. Poganovo Monastery is located at the entrance to Jerma River Canyon, a serene and very picturesque site – one of the most impressive natural spots in Serbia!

Day trip from Sofia to Poganovo Monastery

Panoramic view of medieval Poganovo Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Serbia

Recommended Day trips from Sofia

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Day trips from Sofia

Day trips from Sofia

Day trips from Sofia

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!