Day Tour From Sofia – 15 Best Day Trips From Sofia

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, should be on any Bulgaria itinerary, and while you are there, stay a few days longer and enjoy one of these day trips from Sofia city in Bulgaria.

The country’s capital is one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities, filled with gorgeous architecture, art galleries, inviting parks, and plenty of historical sites. Sofia deserves some serious exploration on your Bulgaria road trip.

After you have explored this city and visited all the delicious restaurants, we suggest you rent a car and explore some other destinations in Bulgaria.

Using Sofia and the great selection of hotels as a base, there are several places you can visit on day excursions. The following are the best and most popular day trips from Sofia.

1. Seven Rila Lakes Day Tour

Amazing panorama of The Seven Rila Lakes, Rila Mountain

One of Bulgaria’s most beautiful natural attractions, the seven Rila Lakes, is only 90 kilometers from the city and among the most beautiful spring destinations in Eastern Europe.

This collection of glacial lakes is located at different altitudes in the highest mountain range in the Balkans. A hiking trail leads past each lake, ending at a viewpoint that overlooks all seven lakes. The hike takes three to four hours and is possibly the most incredible hike in Bulgaria.

2. Rila Monastery Trip From Sofia

3 Days In Bulgaria - Rila monastery, a famous monastery in Bulgaria

While it bears the same name as the attraction above, the Rila Monastery complex has nothing to do with it. The only similarity is that it also lies in the Rila Mountains. This major cultural landmark was founded in the 10th century and is one of Bulgaria’s and the Balkans’ most significant monuments.

When you visit Rila Monastery, you will see an incredibly colorful structure that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, indicating its enormous cultural and historical importance.

My kids loved roaming this beautiful Monastery as the shape and size is really like nothing else!

3. Day Trip From Sofia To Plovdiv

Things To Do In Plovdiv, Bulgaria - Hisar Kapia - Ancient gate in Plovdiv old town Bulgaria

Plovdiv is frequently cited as one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, tracing its origins to the 6th millennium BC. Its extensive history encompasses various periods and rulers, including Thracians, Romans, and Ottomans, which have all contributed to its wealth of cultural and historical landmarks. This deep historical foundation makes Plovdiv a compelling stop for anyone interested in exploring the enduring legacies of ancient civilizations

If you like antiquity, you can’t find a better place in the Balkans than Plovdiv.

Unsurprisingly, the city is home to a wealth of historic monuments. The most important ones are the Ancient Theater, the Roman Stadium and Forum, the remains of the 2nd-millennium-B.C. Thracian city of Eumolpias, and about 200 other archaeological sites

4. Veliko Tarnovo Fortress Tour From Sofia

Things To Do In Bulgaria - The Yantra River in the city of Veliko Tarnovo

An old Bulgarian capital, Veliko Tarnovo, lies in the country’s north-central region. This destination is one of the furthest day trips from Sofia on this list. If you plan to use public transport, there is a direct train connection between Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo, but it still takes about four hours to get there. Make sure to catch the earliest train of the day.

If you are driving, the distance from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo is about 224 kilometers (139 miles). Under normal traffic conditions, the drive typically takes around 3 hours. However, this can vary depending on the exact starting location in Sofia, traffic, weather conditions, and the specific route taken.

The main attraction here is Tsarevets Fortress, the most important and influential stronghold of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

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5. Krushuna Waterfalls Day Tour From Sofia

Amazing view of Krushuna Waterfalls, Lovech region, Bulgaria

The word ‘stunning’ sums up these beautiful waterfalls, set amongst the village of Krushuna, near Lovech in the northern central portion of the country. You can get to these waterfalls quite easily, as there is a daily bus from Sofia to Lovech, and you can catch a regular, local bus from there, making for one of the top Sofia day trips

Famous because of their remarkable landscape of travertine dams and lakes—people who have visited Plitvice Lakes in Croatia know what the result of this natural phenomenon can eventually be—these waterfalls are exceptionally photogenic, one of the top natural attractions in Bulgaria.

The falls are set in the forest, surrounded by authentic karst formations and mysterious caves. The waters around and within the falls are clear, turquoise, and despite the thundering water, very peaceful indeed! You can hike a pretty easy trail to the top of the falls, and there is even a spot to have a picnic overlooking the falls and a camping ground too!

I highly recommend you to visit as a part of one of the tours on offer. An organized tour is the best option as it will save your nerves, especially when you visit places like Devetashka Cave. 

Going on a tour also provides you with unforgettable memories and an opportunity to learn closely about the history of sights.

6. Mount Musala Day Trip From Sofia

Musala Peak, Rila Mountain Bulgaria

The Rila Mountains are the highest mountain range in the Balkans (see above) and are home to the Balkans’ highest mountain. Mount Musala, also known as Musala Peak, towers above the landscape, its peak 2,925 meters high – as is one of the must-visit Sofia day trips for outdoorsy types.

Surprisingly, the climb to the summit isn’t that technical or challenging and will reward travelers with the best views from the top. The area has impressive lakes, springs, and other minor peaks that add beauty to the awe-inspiring landscape.

You can quickly drive there from Sofia, climb the mountain, hike, and head back to Sofia in one day. Count on four hours to reach the top and another four hours to get back down.

You may also take a private tour like this: Rila Mountains and The Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia, and you will have the pleasure of getting to the highest of all lakes – the Eye, the Tear, the Kidney, the Twins, the Trefoil, the Fish Lake and the Lower Lake and enjoy the incredible scenery revealed from there!”

  • Musala can be climbed on a day trip from the ski resort of Borovets if the first part of the climb is done on the Yastrebets lift
  • The round trip from the top to Musala peak takes 5 to 6 hours, depending on fitness level and skills
  • Those interested in climbing up the whole way from Borovets should consider an overnight stay at one of the mountain refuges.
  • Lifts (also known as gondolas) do not operate when the wind is strong
  • The gondola works every day during ski season but remains closed Mon and Tue the rest of the year
  • The gondola operates on Wed to Sun from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. Do not miss the last gondola down because it can turn out to be a long and tiring walk back
  • The more you ascend, the more challenging the terrain becomes, giving way to bigger rocks. Decent hiking footwear is a must!

7. Prohodna Cave One Day Tour

Prohodna cave known as God's eyes near Karlukovo village

A karst cave near the village of Karlukovo in the province of Lovech, Prohodna Cave, is 262 meters long, making it one of the longest caves in Bulgaria. On this popular day trip from Sofia, you will see what it is famous for – the two holes in the ceiling resembling two massive eyes. This cave isn’t popular among only hikers and cavers, but rock climbers and even bungee jumpers find some entertainment there.

8. Trip To Belogradchik Rock Formations

Best Castles In Bulgaria - Bulgaria Travel Blog - Belogradchik Fortres
Belogradchik Fortress

One of Bulgaria’s most popular tourist attractions, Belogradchik, is attractive for various reasons. The town of Belogradchik is the base for all touristic activities, while the Belogradchik Rocks are arguably the area’s most significant landmark.

This collection of strangely shaped sandstone formations near Sofia is an extraordinary sight, made even more impressive by their local folkloric tales. Another major highlight in Belogradchik is the Belogradchik Fortress.

9. Day Trip To Melnik City 

Small Towns Bulgaria - Aerial view of Melnik traditional architecture, Bulgaria

The town of Melnik is an architectural preservation site in Bulgaria, with almost 100 of its buildings designated as cultural monuments. Interestingly, Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria, home to no more than 400 people. Cool huh?

Additionally, Melnik is one of the best day trips from Sofia because of the nearby rock formations. The “Melnik pyramids,” sometimes referred to, are imposing sandstone rock formations in various shapes. To top it all off, there are also great vineyards in the area.

10. Vitosha Mountain  Full-Day Tour Including Boyana 

Day Trips from Sofia to Vitosha mountain
Vitosha Mountain As Seen From Sofia

One of the most accessible day trips from Sofia is Vitosha Mountain. Located just outside the Bulgarian capital, this mountain massif forms the backdrop of the Sofia skyline. It is the city’s closest destination for outdoor recreation, like hiking, skiing, and rock climbing.

Vitosha Nature Park, the oldest of its kind in the entire Balkans, encompasses the mountain, including the area’s most popular places. There are many attractions to see and visit on Vitosha Mountain. These include the iconic Boyana Waterfall, the beautiful Cherni Vrah summit, the Dragalevtski Monastery, the Golden Bridges Stone River, and many more.

If you’re looking to escape Sofia for a while, Vitosha Mountain is one of the best places to visit from Sofia on a day trip.

Although many visitors know of the locally famous mountain, few take the time to hike up it. It’s pretty easy to reach the top; there’s no need to take expensive guided tours with a local guide or anything. Make your way toward the foot of Mount Vitosha using public transport (Bus 93 and 122 will get you there from the city center) and find one of many trails to start climbing.

If you’d like to do as little climbing as possible but still want to take in the excellent views of the city and breathe the fresh mountain air, Bus 66 will take you near the Aleko area, which is the highest you can climb using public transport. Sofia may well be the only European capital city with such a large mountain nearby. Don’t miss your chance to explore nature so conveniently; we guarantee it’s one of the best day trips from Sofia.

11. Bansko Ski Resort Day Tour

Bankso Ski Resoirt

Bansko Ski Resort is in the southwest of Bulgaria, about 160 km away from the capital, Sofia. The town of Bansko sits at the foot of the Pirin Mountain, with the Glazne River running through the town. From that description, you can guess that the Bansko ski runs and resorts are on Pirin Mountain itself, and its highest peak is Vihren.

This is the best ski resort in Bulgaria and the Bansko ski season is one of the longest. Ideal for skiing, snowboarding, après skiing, chilling out, and nature photography, Bansko Bulgaria ski holidays are a fantastic way to explore and appreciate the wonder of winter.

There is plenty to see and do around the resort for families, with a children’s ski school on-site and a kindergarten that takes children from 4-7 years of age. There are 18 runs, which take you through stunning natural beauty, with 70 km of pistes. As you can see, Bansko is large!

There are also 7 km of night skiing runs; the longest run measures 4.8 km. Enough statistics. Are you feeling itchy feet yet? A daily Bansko ski pass ranges from 50 Euros for adults to 20 Euros for children, so prices are competitive. (Please do check these before booking your Bansko ski package to be sure they have not increased)

12. Unique Tour To The Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha Monument - Day Trips From Sofia

This historic mountain summit in Bulgaria’s Central Balkan Mountains will make for a round trip from Sofia, but it’ll be worth it. Buzludzha is near Shipka Pass and the town of Kazanlak. It is famous for its now-abandoned Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, which stands atop the peak. The mountain was the location of an 1868 battle between Bulgarians and Turks, while a group of socialists gathered at the summit to discuss the country’s socialist future.

Because of this historical character, the communist government in Bulgaria, which was under the influence of the Soviets, chose Buzludzha Peak as the site for a communist-era monument. Work started in 1974, but this flying saucer-shaped monument was abandoned after the fall of communism in Bulgaria in 1989.

You will need a car or other private transportation if you want to visit Buzludzha Monument on a day trip from Sofia.

The building is closed off to the public to prevent vandalism and is currently listed as one of Europe’s most endangered heritage sites. However, you can still explore the mountain and walk around this striking and unusual landmark.

13. Tour Koprivshtitsa, A Colourful City In Europe 

Koprivshtitsa Bulgaria

If you want to learn more about Bulgarian culture and identity, go to Koprivshtitsa. Known for its significant role in the uprisings of April 1876, the town is also renowned for its typical Bulgarian architecture and folk music festivals.

14. Damascena Ethnographic Complex, Rose Valley

Bulgaria Travel Blog_Best Day Trips From Sofia_Damascena Ethnographic Complex
Photo Credit: Damascena Ethnographic Complex

If you are in Bulgaria in June, head to the Rose Valley. Located in Central Bulgaria, the township of Kazanlak is blossoming with roses and holds a festival in celebration at harvest time. 

Even though the rose festival and harvest are worth attending, Rose Valley is undoubtedly a place to visit in Bulgaria at other times of the year, where you can wander through the Damascena Ethnographic Complex – the first private rose oil distillery. Here you can experience the rose distillation process and the sweet scent of delicate Damascena roses.

 Enjoy learning more about the production of pure organic rose essential oil (also known as the “liquid gold” of Bulgaria), wander through the museum, admire the frescoes, and stop by the gift shop to buy yourself a gift to take home.

Driving from Sofia to Kazanlak is easy, and it takes 2 ½ hours to go back to Sofia.

15. The Canyon Of Waterfalls, Smolyan

This is where 46 waterfalls all come together, with the highest, Orpheus, measuring almost 70 meters. There is a rather interesting legend attached to this fall, as it is named after the mythical Thracian prophet Orpheus, who was reported to have lived in the mountains.

There is a very easy-to-follow trail that connects all the waterfalls together, and the hike only takes around 4 hours at a leisurely pace.

The falls are close to Smolyan, which is linked by bus to both Plovdiv and Sofia. When you are on the road from Smolyan, heading in the direction of the village of Mugla, look for signs marking the beginning of the trail near the exit of the town.

With so many options for day trips from Sofia, Bulgaria, how will you pick just one Sofia day trip!?


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