Sofia
UNESCO Sites

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Our most recommended Sofia UNESCO Sites

From Sofia: 7 Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery Self-Guided Trip

1. From Sofia: 7 Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery Self-Guided Trip

Depart Sofia in the morning and travel by shuttle bus with a friendly English-speaking driver. Journey in air-conditioned comfort to Panichishte in the beautiful Rila National Park. Get briefed on arrival by your driver, who will tell you the different options and routes you can take up the mountain. Ride the chairlift to the 7 Rila Lakes, where you will get 5 hours of free time to go on some amazing nature walks independently to experience the glacial lakes from different perspectives. Board the shuttle bus at the agreed meeting point and relax on the 2-hour drive to Rila Monastery in a deep valley of the Rilska River. Founded in the 10th century, the monastery complex is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural and historical monuments. Get 1.5 hours to explore the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria at your own pace. Then, return to Sofia in the evening and get dropped off at the meeting point.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

2. From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

Depart Sofia at 09:00 AM sharp, and relax on the 2-hour drive to the Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains. Upon arrival, explore the largest and most important Orthodox cloister in Bulgaria. Admire the arcaded balconies, and discover unique frescoes by one of the most famous painters of the Bulgarian National Revival period. See gilded iconostasis and enjoy the fabulous mountain views. Hear the story of the monastery from your guide before enjoying some time to explore the monastic complex on your own. Learn more at the museum, or purchase souvenir icons and other items in the nearby shops. Take some time to refuel with lunch at one of the local restaurants, where you can purchase local specialties such as mekitsi (a traditional Bulgarian dish of kneaded dough made with yogurt that is deep-fried). Depart at 01:30 PM and travel to Boyana Church in the suburbs of Sofia. See the historically significant frescoes of the Byzantine building, and hear how they started the fashion for illustrating biblical figures with emotions and placing them alongside the local aristocracy. With an estimated arrival time at the church of approximately 03:40 PM, enjoy about 30 minutes to explore. Leave at around 04:10 PM for the drive to Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia city center by 04:30 PM to 05:00 PM.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip

3. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip

Enjoy a comfortable shared round day transfer from the center of Sofia to two UNESCO heritage sites - Rila Monastery and Boyana Church. The meeting point for the trip is behind Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, next to cafe La Cathedrale. First, you will travel for about 2 hours on a scenic road to reach the Rila Monastery - the biggest and most beautiful Bulgarian monastery. There, you will be given 3 hours free time during which you will be able to explore the monastery on your own- visit the church, the museums, take photos, check the shops and have a lunch break. Then, on the way back to Sofia, you will also stop at the Boyana Church - another UNESCO heritage site, which is famous for its 800- year old frescoes. The inside visit of the Boyana Church is limited to 10 minutes, but it is definitely woth it! The expexcted return in the center of Sofia is at 5:30 pm.

Sofia: Rila Monastery Trip w/ Boyana Church & History Museum

4. Sofia: Rila Monastery Trip w/ Boyana Church & History Museum

Board the shuttle service behind St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia city center. Then, head to the medieval Rila Monastery in the spectacular Rila Mountains. Depending on the tour option selected: visit the UNESCO Boyana church and/or UNESCO Boyana church on the way to the Rila monastery. Get over 2 hours of free time to explore the complex, founded by the hermit monk Ivan Rilski in 927 AD. Marvel at the frescoes of the main church and visit the medieval tower independently. Wander down quiet outdoor corridors adorned with beautiful mosaics, and see gold-plated iconostasis and valuable icons from the 14th to 19th century. Learn more about the history of the site at the museum, where highlights include the double-sided crucifix of the Rila Cross. See the old bakery and other monuments, including the residential area of high stone walls and little windows. Board the minibus back to Sofia in the afternoon and get dropped off at the pick-up point on arrival.

From Sofia: Shuttle Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church

5. From Sofia: Shuttle Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church

The tour departs early in the morning in front of Alexander Nevski. Your first stop will be the great UNESCO Boyana Church located on the outskirts of Sofia consisting of three buildings. The eastern church was built in the 10th-century, then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two-story building to be erected next to it. After exploring it, head to Rila Monastery, where you will admire the impressive architecture, frescoes and learn about the history of the monastery from your guide. During the guided tour in the inner yard and the monastery museum, discover the most precious pieces that are kept from the past and all the facts and stories about the largest Bulgarian monastery complex. After your monastery tour, enjoy about 2.5 hours of free time for food and shopping.

From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Boyana

6. From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Boyana

Spend the day exploring 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located outside of Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city. Begin by meeting at 9:00 behind St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. Sit back and relax for the next 2 hours as your friendly, English-speaking drivers transport you to Rila. Upon arriving, spend 2 hours exploring the area and visiting the Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. Then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant which features a specialty of grilled trout. Get back in the van for another 2-hour journey, eventually arriving at Boyana Church, a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church on the outskirts of Sofia. Check out the elaborate frescoes that have made this site famous, before your tour returns you to your meeting point.

From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

7. From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

This full-day tour is designed for active people wishing to combine a trek to natural wonders, with a tour of the most visited tourist attraction in Bulgaria, the magnificent Rila Monastery. Departing Sofia, you will head for the Rila Mountains, where you will enjoy a moderate hike through what is arguably the most distinguished area in the mountains, the 7 Rila Lakes. After a transfer of approximately 90 minutes, you will reach the region of Panichishte, where you will board a chair lift to the Rila Lakes hut. Consisting of a group of glacial lakes, the 7 Rila Lakes is located at an altitude of between 6,900 feet (2,100 meters) and 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. Surrounded by rugged peaks and deep valleys, you will see spectacular views as you walk through its pearls, such as The Eye, The Tear, The Kidney, The Twins, The Trefoil, The Fish Lake and The Lower Lake. The route can be adjusted on the spot, following more gentle or steeper paths, depending on your fitness levels. Having visited all of the lakes, continue by car for approximately 90 minutes to Rila Monastery, the biggest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Behind the 65-foot (20-meter) walls lie impressive monastery buildings, including a church and a chapel with valuable murals. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th-Century Hrelyo Tower, the 5-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th-Century. You will also explore the monastery’s rich museum, containing a valuable collection of old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects and a library containing more than 16,000 books.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery, Boyana church and History Museum

8. From Sofia: Rila Monastery, Boyana church and History Museum

Enjoy the sights of Bulgaria from the comfort and convenience of a transfer, taking you to some of the country's most stunning and significant highlights all in one day. Meet your driver in the morning, at a centrally located meeting point in Sofia. Head to the UNESCO Boyana church and visit the richly frescoed historical site. Continue with a short transfer for the National Museum of History where you will have ample time for a tour of your own. Learn about the intriguing history of Bulgarian lands, and then meet you driver again for an onwards journey towards the UNESCO Rila Monastery. You will pass through beautiful countryside on the way to the Rila mountains. Go higher up the mountain through the scenic route, and reach the Rila Monastery. You will have enough time to visit at your own pace all the areas of the monastery complex. Then, in the afternoon, you will be driven back to Sofia city.

Sofia Half-Day Tour

9. Sofia Half-Day Tour

A guide will pick you up from your hotel and start off the tour by visiting the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the vicinity of Sofia - the Boyana Church. This delightful church is small in size yet has an enormous collection of historical art. You also have the option of going to the National Historical Museum nearby. Afterwards, it's on to Alexander Nevski Square for a visit of the largest Cathedral in the Balkans, followed by a stroll to the Russian Church. You'll also get to visit the National Theater and its garden, the rotunda (circular church) Church of St. George and the Roman remains. The tour will finish with a walk in front of the Balkan Hotel (St. Nedelya Church square).

Sofia: Struma River Rafting Tour and Rila Monastery Visit

10. Sofia: Struma River Rafting Tour and Rila Monastery Visit

Your tour will start at 9:00 AM at your hotel or accommodation in Sofia. After a 2-hour drive, you will reach the gorge where your activity will begin. You will have a safety briefing by your professional instructor, before receiving your equipment and final instructions before the action begins. Your rafting activity will take approximately an hour and a half, and a vehicle will wait for you at the end of it to transport you back to the base where you will return the equipment and dress up. If your appetite has increased throughout the adrenaline rush, you will have the option to have lunch nearby. After the rafting activity, embark on a one-hour road trip to Rila Monastery for a self-guided visit with a personal audio guide in English, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and German. At the conclusion of your activity, you will be returned to Sofia.

Other Sightseeing Options in Sofia

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What people are saying about Sofia

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 794 reviews

Very nice trip, we enjoyed a day long tour around places you must visit if you come to Sofia as the botana church, the national history museum and the monastery of rila. We had time enough to visit each place, specially at the monastery where you have plenty of time to relax and have a meal or a local breakfast. The guide was very nice with as and explained us many historical things while traveling even we didn’t hire a guided tour option. A totally recommended experience!!

Great tour, liked the fact that it was a minivan and not a big group. The guide was extremely informative and ready to answer all questions. Would definitely recommend.

The tour was very good value. Easy to meet up, comfortable journey. The guide was really pleasant and friendly and very informative.

Excellent day and even though it is self guided we were still provided with so much info

Excellent day trip with a great guide, definitely worth it!