Sofia
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Our most recommended Sofia Churches & Cathedrals

From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

1. 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.

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

2. 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.

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Rila Monastery Day Trip from Sofia

3. Rila Monastery Day Trip from Sofia

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. 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.

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From Sofia: Plovdiv, Asen's Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery

4. From Sofia: Plovdiv, Asen's Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery

After you have been picked up from your hotel or accommodation in Sofia, enjoy an hour and a half scenic drive to Plovdiv.  Visit sights of historic importance such as the Roman Theatre and the Roman Stadium. Walk around the Old Town and admire the architecture of the houses, museums and cobbled streets typical of the Revival Period. After a traditional Bulgarian lunch, take a 25-minute drive to Asenova Fortress situated on the top of a cliff in Rodopi Mountain. Admire this medieval building and breathtaking views across the valley.  Visit Bachkovo Monastery, founded in 1083 and see the beautiful mural paintings which are still preserved today. End your tour with a drive back to Sofia where you will be dropped off at your accommodation.

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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.

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Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour

6. Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour

After pickup from any accommodation in Sofia, your journey through over 1,000 years of Bulgarian cultural history begins. Make the 2-hour drive to the Rila Monastery via air-conditioned bus into the dense pine forests of Rila Mountain. Upon arriving, explore the monastery, which was founded in 927, at your own pace with 2 hours of free time. Amble the 21-acre complex, taking in the colorful and unique traditional Orthodox architecture. Gaze at the 5-domed church, with its numerous altars, side chapels, and gold-plated mosaics. Take in the beauty of the tranquil mountain environment surrounding the peaceful place of worship. Afterwards, you’ll have lunch, before heading on to your next destination. Only a couple of miles away from the monastery into the forest is St. Ivan Rilski Cave, where St. Ivan of Rila took up residency in the early 10th century. Experience a sacred site of tremendous importance to Bulgarian Orthodox Christians. On the way back to Sofia, you’ll pass through Boyana Church, famed for its elaborate frescoes dating back to the 11th, 13th, 15th-17th, and 19th century. Afterwards, you’ll be transported back back to your accommodation in Sofia.

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From Sofia: Serbia and Macedonia Trip

7. From Sofia: Serbia and Macedonia Trip

An English-speaking driver will pick you up from your hotel in Sofia at 9:00AM and, after about a 2-hours drive with various landscapes to admire along the way, you will reach the Serbian border. After crossing the border you will go the nearby town of Bosilegrad (the former Yugoslavia's main state) before you cross back over the border with Bulgaria and head for Northern Macedonia. After another short drive, you will arrive at the beautiful Monastery of Osogovo – an incredibly powerful place in the hills from the 12th Century, which was later turned into a mosque by the Ottomans, and then again converted into a church. This place is very scenic and peaceful - take time to go for a walk around the area. Afterwards, you will have lunch in a nice restaurant with good Macedonian grill (meat or fish) and Skopsko beer, of course.

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Half-Day Private Tour: Sofia, Boyana Church & History Museum

8. Half-Day Private Tour: Sofia, Boyana Church & History Museum

The tour starts at 9:00 AM when you will be picked up by a private guide from your accommodation in Sofia. By car you will head to the outskirts of Sofia and Vitosha Mountain. The first stop is the National History Museum, the biggest museum in Bulgaria and one of the biggest in the Balkans. It has rich collections from antiquity to nowadays. The next stop is the remarkable Boyana Church, recognized by UNESCO because of its amazingly well-preserved frescoes from the 13th century. After exploring Boyana Church, head to the center of Sofia for a two-hour sightseeing tour. You will go around the most interesting buildings and places and learn their history from your guide. See sights such as Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Saint Sofia Basilica, Saint George Rotunda, the Parliament, the Presidency, the Roman Remains and others. The tour will finish at around 14:00 PM near the beginning of Vitosha street – the main street in Sofia.

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Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik

9. Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik

This 11-hour guided small-group tour focuses on the highlights of Rila Monastery and Melnik. You will be also introduced to nature conservation, Bulgarian geography, as you will see two of the highest mountains on the Balkans, agriculture and economy during and after  communism. There are plenty of other interesting themes that you can discuss with your experienced guide while on the road.  Depart early in the morning from busy Sofia and head to the tranquil heart of the Rila mountains, where you can admire the impressive Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Its architecture and the frescoes represent the apogee of Bulgarian Renaissance art. In a one-hour guided tour of the most treasured monuments in the inner yard and the Monastery museum, you will learn the most fascinating facts and stories about the biggest Bulgarian monastery complex. Enjoy free time to buy souvenirs, take photos or to continue to explore it by yourself. Your tour continues south to Melnik (about a 1.5-hour drive). Admire the strangely shaped sand and clay formations. Now the smallest town in Bulgarian with only 208 inhabitants, Melnik still preserves part of its glory from the 17th to 19th centuries, when it was a flourishing tobacco and wine-producing center. Today, the city is famous for its lovely white houses and cobbled streets, mild climate and of course internationally recognized brands of red wine. You will have a guided walking tour through the city and enter the biggest Bulgarian Revival Period style house and its tunnel-like wine cellar.

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From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Plovdiv and Bachkovo Monastery

10. From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Plovdiv and Bachkovo Monastery

On this full-day tour you will visit Plovdiv and the Bachkovo Monastery, located 170 kilometers from Sofia. You will start your journey from Sofia in the morning and first visit the old town of Plovdiv for a 2.5-hour walking tour through the Roman and medieval remains. You will then have some free time for a stroll along the main street in Plovdiv, enjoy an open-air café, or a quick kebab sandwich. Before returning to Sofia in the evening, stop at the Bachkovo Monastery (30 minute-drive from Plovdiv), where you can admire the churches and the dining room wall paintings from 1602. Plovdiv is one of the oldest European towns, contemporary to Troya and Mikena. It has existed as a settlement for about 8,000 years, and became a town 3,000 years ago during the Troyan war. In the historic quarter of the city you will see beautifully decorated Revival period houses, the ancient fortress-wall, the Roman forum and stadium, and magnificent churches. The old city of Plovdiv with its museums, historical sites, ancient houses, and paved streets is the perfect place for sightseeing.

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What people are saying about Sofia

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 799 reviews

Our guide, Philip, was extremely knowledge about the monastery itself and about the history of his country. By the time we arrived we had an understanding of what we were visiting but were still unprepared for how stunning the place actually was. Pictures do not do it justice. We would encourage any visitor to take the opportunity to go.

Plovdiv was a positive surprise. Town full of history, soul and cosy places. Whole trip was very well organized and Daniel an excellent guide.

Very enjoyable day. the Monadteto is an oasis of peace and the Boyana Church a small treasure. We thank our excellent guide, Georgi

Filip was an outstanding guide. A very special excursion I recommend it to everyone ... enchanting places

Super interesting tour! Both me and my friends really enjoyed it and would totally recommend it!