If you are planning on visiting the Bulgarian capital for an extended trip, you will definitely want to pay a visit to some of the best places near Sofia as well. Are you wondering which are the best Sofia day trips worth adding to your travel itinerary?
Keep reading as we are sharing the 12 best day trips from Sofia, which are totally worth the trip! From top-notch ski resorts perfect for the winter season to the most iconic Bulgarian landmarks, we have covered it all!
Sofia is situated in an interesting area from a natural point of view. Not far away from the city, you will find several natural spots that are highly worthy of visiting.
Seven Rila Lakes
By far one of the most popular Sofia day trips will take you straight to the heart of Rila Mountain and the stunning Seven Rila Lakes. Located at an elevation from 2,100 to 2,500 meters, the Rila Lakes are a collection of seven glacial lakes popular for their unique shapes and interesting names. Some of the most popular lakes are the Kidney, The Twin, The Eye and The Tear. The entire hike to reach all lakes can take up to 6 hours, but the views along the way are absolutely breathtaking. Before you head to the Seven Rila Lakes, you should keep in mind that they are located in Rila National Park, which means that you cannot reach them by car. You can drive to the bottom station of the chair lift, which will then take you to the Seven Rila Lakes hut. That is where your nature journey begins!
As the highest summit not only in Bulgaria but also in the Balkans, Musala Peak is one of the best Sofia day trips. Rising tall at 2925 meters, Musala Peak is also located in Rila Mountain and could be easily climbed in just one day. The hike starts at Yastrebets hut in Borovets and takes between 3 to 4 hours one way. It is strongly advisable that you have some previous experience with hiking, as climbing to the top of Musala Peak can be a challenge. If you are ready to embark on this adventure, though, you will be gifted with truly outstanding scenery of snowy capped mountain peaks along the way.
For those of you who like to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, but are no hiking experts, we strongly suggest taking a day trip to Lake Pancharevo. Situated less than 20 km away from the Bulgarian capital, it is one of the easiest days trips from Sofia, as you can even use public transport. Lake Pancharevo is an artificial lake along the longest river in Bulgaria – Iskar. Being 3 km long and 700 meters wide, the lake is one of the local’s favourite spots during the hot summer days.
Culture and History
Aside from taking a day trip to a natural setting, you can also go to one of the cultural or historical places near Sofia.
It would be a shame if you have been to Bulgaria without taking one of the best day trips from Sofia, which would take you to the iconic Rila Monastery. Not only is the Rila Monastery the largest monastery in the country, but it has also been designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Founded during the 10th century by St Ivan of Rila, the religious complex is absolutely massive and is home to more than 60 monks. It is impossible not to be impressed by the colorful arches, the carefully carved wooden details and the stunningly beautiful frescoes inside the church.
Situated in the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital, Boyana Church is one of the best places near Sofia. Compared to the other Sofia day trips, Boyana Church is just a 10 km drive from the city center and could be easily reached via public transport. Quietly nestled in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, Boyana Church has an incredible history, which dates as far back as the 10th century. While the outside structure is quite fascinating with its different wings constructed throughout the years, it is the beauty of the frescoes inside that will blow your mind. Before you head back to the hustle and bustle of the city, you might want to take the one-hour moderate hike from Boyana Church to the 25-meter tall Boyana Waterfall and fully immerse yourselves into the peace and quiet of Vitosha Mountain.
Royal Palace “Vrana”
Just 15 km away from the heart of the Bulgarian capital, visitors can find the iconic former royal palace “Vrana”. The entire complex spreads on a territory of more than 2500 decares and consists of 18 different buildings. Unfortunately, the palace itself is not open for the general public, however, visitors will love strolling down the numerous alleys of the park, which covers more than 1200 decares. With 4 lakes, an eco-farm and numerous greenhouses, the park is home to more than 400 different types of plant species and it is considered a true nature masterpiece. It is also quite interesting to note that it was Knyaz Ferdinand I himself who bought, planted and took care of most of the trees, which you would be able to admire on your walk through the garden.
Do you want an experience completely out of the ordinary? Then take a look at some of these places.
Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress
One of the most interesting natural phenomena in Bulgaria is situated just over 160 km away from the capital, making it one of the best day trips from Sofia. These fascinating sandstone rock formations are located on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains and will impress you with the breathtaking scenery and the intriguing myths and legends surrounding them. Some of the stones are as high as 200 meters, while others reach width of 2 meters. In this bizarre and truly beautiful setting, visitors will also find a Roman fortress, which blends perfectly well with the natural landscape. Unfortunately, public transport is not available to Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress, so it would be best to book a guided tour.
Stob Earth Pyramids
Located on the foothills of Rila Mountain, Stob Earth Pyramids are another truly spectacular collection of rock formations, which is worth visiting on a day trip from Sofia. It is believed that thousands of years ago, there was a river meandering through the clay and sandstone down the slope of the hill. As a result of the erosion, these unique tall and extremely thin conical shapes were formed. Most of them are now at least 12 meters tall and are topped with large flat stones. Taking the first glimpse of this natural phenomenon you would definitely wonder how is this even possible!
Widely known as the Eyes of God, Prohodna Cave is one of the most popular Sofia day trips. With its 262 meters of length, Prohodna is the longest cave in Bulgaria. It is the unique ceiling with two holes resembling eyes that makes it one of the most interesting phenomena in the country. The karst cave has two entrances, which reach between 35 meters and 45 meters in height. As a result, the cave is also used by thrill-seekers for bungee jumping. Even if you prefer standing on the ground, though, Prohodna Cave is a fantastic location to visit and admire the beauty of various geological formations.
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, but it is not the only interesting city. In the eastern and central parts of the country, there are other cities worth visiting as well, and here are a few examples.
As the second-largest city in Bulgaria and the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Europe, Plovdiv is one of the best day trips from Sofia. Situated less than 150 km away from the Bulgarian capital, visitors will find Plovdiv easy to reach via bus or train. The city is quite famous for its picturesque cobblestone streets in the old part of the town and the beautiful Ancient Theater dating back to the 1st century AD. Strolling down the narrow streets and immersing yourself into the historic and charming atmosphere of the city is definitely worth the day trip from Sofia. Before you head back, make sure to also stop by the vibrant Kapana neighborhood, which is filled with hipster, art and funky cafes and restaurants offering refreshing drinks and delicious snacks.
If you would like to take a step back in time and learn more about the Bulgarian heritage, Koprivshtitsaa should be on your list of Sofia day trips. With close to 400 historical buildings and monuments, the city is an open-air museum showcasing the beauty of Bulgaria from the 19th century. The narrow streets are lined with quaint colorful houses and it is worth just getting lost in between the alleys of the city. The history buffs would also enjoy visiting the interesting museums spread across the city telling revolutionary stories and legends.
If you are visiting during the winter season, Borovets is one of the best places near Sofia, which you should be adding to your travel itinerary. Despite not being the most popular ski resort in Bulgaria, Borovets is the oldest winter resort. Situated less than 80 km away from Sofia, Borovets is nestled on the northern side of Rila Mountain and offers approximately 60 km of ski runs spread across 3 different ski zones. The season in Borovets is also quite long from mid-December to late April and the skiing conditions are always perfect, allowing skiers with different skill levels to have the most of their winter day. Keep in mind that the best way to reach Borovets from Sofia is by car.
Would you love to go hiking and dive into the tranquility of the snowy capped mountain peaks and peaceful alpine lakes or would you prefer to stroll down and immerse yourself into the authentic charm in one of the historic cities in Bulgaria? Which one of the above mentioned 12 fantastic day trips from Sofia have you already added to your bucket list?