You have already explored Sofia? Great! Then it’s time to see what else Bulgaria has to offer. Sofia is the perfect starting point for various types of day trips including small historical towns, natural landmarks and so much more. Here are our top 7 suggestions for day trips from Sofia:
The Rila Monastery is truly one of Bulgaria’s most emblematic symbols and one of its most picturesquely located landmarks! Nested amongst the majestic peaks of the highest mountain on the Balkans, the monastery is simply an architectural and ethnographic piece of art to be discovered at the end of a scenic mountainous road that leaves you breathless on every turn. And if the inexhaustible array of stunning views displayed towards ancient forests, crystal-water mountain creeks and stiff alpine cliffs are not enough to have you hold your camera out throughout the whole journey, then the sophisticated lines of the monastery complex, its colorful inner yard facade and authentic atmosphere, are certain to do so. No wonder this site has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since the mid-80s.
You can spice up this enjoyable visit with an easy haft-an-hour hike to the tomb of the founder of the Monastery- St.Ivan Rilaski- a highly spiritual place, where some believe one can cleanse their sins by walking through a hole in the rocks.
To complete the whole experience, you should not miss trying the fresh fish specialties in one of the many traditional taverns near the monastery.
Distance from Sofia: 120 km
Plovdiv’s claim to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, along with its cozy artistic atmosphere and youthful spirit, make it a “must-see” for all the visitors of Bulgaria, who are eager to explore more than just the country’s capital.
Staring from one of Plovdiv’s most emblematic attractions – a remarkably well-preserved Roman stadium, right in the center of town, one can make their way through the colorful and always happening “Kapana” district where tiny workshops, galleries and craft beer bars mark each corner.
A quick climb of one of the seven hills, on which the town was built some 8000 years ago, brings a delightful reward- a stunning panorama of the whole Thracian plain guarded by the Rhodope mountains, to the South. Graffiti art, emerging hand-made art shops, creative startups and rich festival program blend with Plovdiv’s ancient Roman heritage and Revival 19-th century architecture, to form a city with unique charm and a proud Cultural capital of Europe of 2019. Plovdiv itself is a great base for other “day trips” options.
Distance from: Sofia: 130 km
While in Plovdiv, don’t forget to join our daily Plovdiv free walking tours.
The spectacular Seven Rila lakes have become one of the most attractive spots for the mountain lovers visiting Bulgaria. Their crystal water, the picturesque location at above 2200m and the breath-taking panorama of the surrounding Rila and Pirin mountains, make up for the moderate-level effort hike needed to reach them. The area is considered a sacred and special place by the mountain community.
The ascend to the lakes begins with a chair lift ride from the town Panitishte area to the “Rila Lakes” hut. From there it’s a 3-4 hours hike where you pass all the lakes and at the end you reach a peak overlooking all 7 lakes. The lift costs 10 leva one way and entrance to the Rila Lakes is free.
Distance from Sofia: 90 km
How to get there:
Vitosha Mountain is arguably one of Sofia’s queen-essential symbols. You can see it from almost every corner of the city. It is the local’s “Green escape” from the urban reality and the fast-pace of life in the capital. It is by far the most popular option when it comes to day trips from Sofia.
The highest peak of Vitosha – Cherni Vran (the Black peak) is 2290 m high. You can reach the peak in one day. According to the season, one can ascend most of the way to the peak by chair lift or by car. The last hike, which is around 2h, requires a medium- to low-level effort as there are no steep areas. There is a small tea house at the peak where you can have a beer, coffee, grilled meat or pancakes.
Another attractive area of Vitosha is the “Golden Bridges”. The Golden Birdges (Zlatnite mostove) aren’t actual bridges. It is in fact, a stone river that “flows” at an altitude of 1500 to 1350m. The large stone blocks are covered by gold lichens, which gave them their name. The area is perfect for a day hike and a picnic at the end. The easiest way to get here is with a car.
The Boyana waterfall trail is also a popular destination in Vitosha mountain. The trial starts form the Boyana church, in the Boyana neighborhood of Sofia. It takes 1,5h of moderate-level effort to get to the picturesque waterfall and take a few snaps of its crystal waters.
Distance from Sofia: ~ 5/10 km
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Veliko Tarnovo is situated in the heart of North Central Bulgaria. The mountainous town picturesquely cascading down the hills to the river Yantra, used to be the proud capital of Bulgaria. Today it fascinates its visitors with the must-see Tsarevets Fortress – a glorious Medieval stronghold and the seat of power of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. A remarkable Old-craft market street where one can see how tools, pots and clothes were made back in the Medieval times is another one of the towns highlights. Oh yes… and a surprisingly happening nightlife, with funky craft beer and cocktail bars that stay open well into the night. Veliko Tarnovo is also a good base for day trips to some nearby spots, like Buzludzha and the Krushuna waterfalls.
Distance from Sofia: 220 km
How to get to Veliko Tarnovo from Sofia
No “day trips” list would be complete without a small historical town. Koprivshtitsa is a historic town in central Bulgaria that would make a delightful day trip for those looking to immerse into Bulgaria’s 19th century revival architecture and history – a period of national awakening and struggle for independence, crucial for the foundation of the modern Bulgarian nation. The spirit of the Bulgarian National revival is soaked into every stone of the narrow-cobbled streets meandering in this ancient town while the names of some of the most renowned Bulgarian revival leaders and hero’s eco behind the high stone fences around their proud homes, turned today into inviting museum houses.
There are many legends about the town’s beginnings. However, all of them agree Koprivshtitsa dates back to the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (the end of the 14th century). The most dramatic hour in the town’s history was during the April Uprising in 1876, which was one of the most serious Bulgarian attempts to regain independence from the 5-century long Ottoman rule.
In 1978, Koprivshtitsa was recognized as a national architectural reserve with a total of 388 architectural, historical, artistic, and ethnographic monuments. Today it is known for its authentic Bulgarian architecture and for its folk music festivals, making it a very popular destination, well worth a visit.
Distance from Sofia: 111 km
If you’re short on days you can also combine a trip to Koprivshtitsa and Plovdiv in one day!
The North-West of Bulgaria often gets ignored when it comes to day trips from Sofia. However, The Belogradchik rocks is one of the most popular natural landmarks in Bulgaria. Located just outside the town of Belogradchik, in the western part the Balkan range, are incredible natural formations, sometimes referred to as “the 8th wonder of the world”. The peculiar yellow-red color sculptures tower at 200m above the ground and take up an area of about 30 sq.km. According to the historians they have started forming some 230 million years ago at the bottom of the sea. Time has sculptured them creating marvelous shapes and human fantasy has given them intriguing names. Even today you can hear lots of legends regarding this place, that make it even more attractive spot to visit.
At the very heart of Belogradchik Rocks, an old and quite preserved medieval fort named Kaleto, is nesting. The fortress has existed since Roman times and today it is a cultural monument with national importance.
In September 2008, the European commission named Belogradchik “European Destination of Excellence “and not without a reason.
Distance from Sofia: 190 km
There are also plently of options for organised trips to all of these places.
Author: Free Sofia Tour guide – Denica Dobreva
Last updated: November 2023
Also check out our Ultimate Sofia Travel Guide