So I heard you are planning to stay in Sofia and you would like to see a bit more during your short stay in Bulgaria. Let's look at the best places that you can visit and get back to Sofia in one day. Don't know how you will get there? No worries, transport options are included!
1. Rila Monastery - Sacred and Holy
Let's start with Rila Monastery that was founded in the 10th century and it is still functioning. Only 2 hours away from Sofia you will be able to visit the most famous and largest monastery in the whole country. Considered as one of the symbols of Bulgaria, the monastery is named after Saint Ivan of Rila, who is the patron saint of all Bulgarians.
Besides its majestic size, the monastery is home of one of the most valuable Bulgarian church artifacts - The Rafail Cross. Legends say that Father Rafail spent all of his life in carving it and due to paying incredible attention to the details he eventually lost his sight and went completely blind. The artifact is exhibited in the monastery.
The wall murals inside the church are really spectacular. There are unique illustrations that show the appearance of the devil and the judgement day. Rila Monastery is this kind of impressive place that people just want to visit. In order to go there, you need to take a daily bus departing from Sofia every morning. There is a bus on your way back from Rila Monastery to Sofia in different hours of the day.
2. Plovdiv - The Oldest city in Europe
Plovdiv is one of the ten oldest cities in the world. There Roman, Byzantine, Thracian and Slavic history and culture mix to reveal the glory of this astonishing city during each century.
Plovdiv has historically developed on seven hills, that is why it is also known as “The City of the Seven Hills”. Ancient theaters, city walls from Medieval times, Ottoman mosques, beautiful Orthodox churches and romantic narrow streets. The Old Town of Plovdiv is a must-see. There not only can you go sightseeing, but also enjoy street music performances, while eating exquisite local dishes and feel the authentic atmosphere of the 19th century.
The city is located in Southcentral Bulgaria and it takes 2 hours by train to reach the place departing from Sofia Central Train Station. Learn more about how to buy your train/bus ticket from Sofia to Plovdiv from this short useful article.
3. Melnik - ,,The small Italy of Bulgaria''
Melnik is the smallest Bulgarian town. It is popular for its finest wineries. During the summer the temperatures can get really high but luckily there is a number of vineyards for wine tasting that keep it pleasantly cool and refreshing.
If you are a wine lover and enjoy sandy nature, then Melnik is the place for your one-day trip from Sofia. There is no train line going to Melnik directly but there are daily buses that can take you there and get you back. Enjoy Bulgaria's most renowned red wines in a cozy and splendid atmosphere.
4. Koprivshtitsa- The small town of big heroes
Koprivshtitsa or “Копривщица” in Bulgarian is a really interesting place to go to if you are into old authentic houses, narrow streets, old churches and history. The place itself is an open-air museum of the Bulgarian way of living in the 19th century during the National Revival. It is known for the April Uprising or in other words the famous Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, which later led to the independence of Bulgaria. In this small town you can see and visit a lot of preserved architectural monuments (houses). There you can find exhibitions of Bulgarian traditional costumes, craft tools, jewellery, cutlery, authentic handmade carpets and more. There are some things to remember:
Once getting there I advise buying one-ticket entrance for all museum houses that you can visit. It costs 3 euro or 6 leva. You get a map of the town along with the one-in-all ticket where you can see the location of all houses. The map is not that well made and it was available only in Bulgarian the last time I visited, so you can also just decide to take a leisure walk in Koprivshtitsa. This way you will get to see along almost every house museum just passing through the narrow streets in 1 to 2 hours. Don’t go to Koprivshtitsa on Mondays or Tuesdays, the house museums are closed and some of the restaurants too.
It takes only 1 to 2 hours by train to reach Koprivshtitsa from Sofia, so it is a perfect place for a one-day trip. When you get at the train station you must then hop on a small bus that awaits the train passengers. The small bus will take you to the town.
5. Seven Rila Lakes - The Healing Waters of Bulgaria
Being short of time when visiting in Sofia, you can also decide to get to Sapareva Banya and take the lift to the magnificent and famous Seven Rila Lakes which is a must-see in the summer. I would not advise going there in the winter/autumn since it is foggy and you need winter equipment. Please note that you need to spare 1 day to explore the Seven Rila Lakes, first you need to get to there which is around 1–2 hours by bus from Sofia and get back for another 2 hours. You will hike there around 4–5 hours. So it is a one-day trip.
Here are some useful websites that will help you when traveling in Bulgaria such as the Central Railway Schedules and the Bulgarian Bus Transport Services. If you are in need of any help, our team of travel specialists will help to plan your trip in Bulgaria for free. Write to us for more destination insights and transport options at all time.
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