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Things to do in

Bulgaria

Our most recommended things to do in Bulgaria

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 and Boyana Church Day Trip

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

Experience the religious history of Bulgaria on a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Rila Monastery and Boyana Church from Sofia. Follow your guide around the monastery to learn about this epic site or choose to explore it on your own before viewing Boyana Church's ancient frescoes. Make your way to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to meet your friendly group for the day. Settle down in your seat and set off out of the city as you drive along scenic roads with picturesque views of rural Bulgaria. Arrive at Rila Monastery, the largest Eastern Othordox monastery in the country. If you've booked the tour, follow your guide around the historic site and learn about the main frescoes. If you're an explorer you can visit the museum, take photos, and check out the church at your own pace. Then start your journey back to Sofia with one more important stop along the way. Enter the medieval Boyana Church and stroll within the ancient walls, studying the artistic frescoes which make this place so special.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

3. 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.

The Seven Rila Lakes: Full-Day Tour from Sofia

4. The Seven Rila Lakes: Full-Day Tour from Sofia

Enjoy a full-day trek into the Rila Mountains to explore the most picturesque area near Sofia and one of Bulgaria's most beautiful natural sites, the Seven Rila Lakes.  This group of glacial lakes lies between 6,900 and 8,200 feet (2,100 and 2,500 meters) above sea level, surrounded by rugged peaks and deep valleys. Leaving Sofia, you will drive for 90 minutes to reach the Panichishte resort area, where you board the chairlift to the Rila Lakes mountain hut.  From here, continue on foot to explore the landscape and its majestic blue pearls – the Eye, the Tear, the Kidney, the Twins, the Trefoil, the Fish Lake, and the Lower Lake. The route is not difficult and can be altered on the spot depending on fitness levels or strength, following either more gentle routes or steeper gradients. Take your chance to explore the Blue Pearls of the Rila Mountains, and the Seven Rila Lakes.

From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes Shuttle Day Transfer

5. From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes Shuttle Day Transfer

The meeting point for the minivan is behind Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, near café La Cathedrale – you should be there at 7:45. The van will have a sing “Rila Lakes & City Tour” on the front. The departure is at 8am. You will travel on a scenic road about 1.5 hours to the mountain resort of Panichishte. There you will contunie with the lift. The traveling time with the lift is 20 – 30 minutes. And after that, if you have booked the self-guided option, you will start on your own the hike around the lakes OR if you have booked the guide option - the guide will escort you during the hike. Usually, it takes about 2 hours walking in each direction. You will be given a total of 5.5 hours to go around the lakes so at 15:30 the latest you should board back the lift and at 16:00 you should be back at the parking where the driver will expect you for the trip back to Sofia. The estimated return in Sofia is at 18:00.

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

6. 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.

Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Full-Day Tour from Sofia

7. Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Full-Day Tour from Sofia

A 2-hour drive from Sofia will take you to the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and one of its oldest towns. Within 2-3 hours of walking along the city, you will discover the history and culture behind a 7000-year old settlement, written by the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Bulgarian civilizations. You can enjoy sightseeing in the Old Town with its museums, historical monuments, revival period houses, lined with souvenir shops cobbled streets or get impressed by the rich Ethnographical Museum and the ancient Roman Theater. Feel the atmosphere of this artistic and trades center and enjoy a lunch at the local restaurants. Next stop on your way back is the charming town of Koprivshtitsa with its fascinating history and authentic 19th-century architecture. Spend the rest of the day in the leisure of this small and picturesque city situated in central Bulgaria, spread amongst the slopes of the Sredna Gora Mountains, that carries a specific spirit of tranquillity and eternity. Once a scene of battles for the liberation of Bulgaria, now the city is turned into a museum of the Revival Period of Bulgaria. Here you can visit the homes of some of the most eminent Bulgarians, writers and rebels, admire the vast collections of ethnographical treasures, including ancient weapons, intricate national costumes and stunning jewellery.

Sunny Beach: Sunset Catamaran Cruise with Dinner & Champagne

8. Sunny Beach: Sunset Catamaran Cruise with Dinner & Champagne

Get picked up from the resort – points to be advised. Arrive at the harbor and board the catamaran for departure. Safety talk and information about the route and program. During the trip the bar is open, mineral water, red and white wine, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and beer are available. Sail around the town of Old Nessebar for a close panorama. As the time gets close to the sun setting, the captain will drop the anchor and you can enjoy a perfect view of the sunset. Once the sun has set, the captain will lift anchor and you can enjoy the view of Nessebar by night. While you wait for the sunset, chilled champagne will be served, one bottle for each couple, then food will be served. Once everyone has eaten the captain will lift anchor and set sail on the return journey across the bay to the harbor. Sit back, relax and enjoy the trip. Arrive back at the harbor for the return journey to Sunny Beach by double-decker bus. Menu: Cheese board, assorted salad, assorted cold meats, fresh bread, pate, fresh fruit. Half a bottle of champagne per adult. All food and drink are included in the trip.

Sofia's Hidden Bars: 4-Hour Pub Crawl

9. Sofia's Hidden Bars: 4-Hour Pub Crawl

Explore Sofia’s hidden nightlife gems on a 4-hour pub crawl. Meet people at some of the favorite hangouts in the city. If you’re a solo traveler this is a great way to socialize with locals and meet travelers from all around the world. The guides are a unique part of this experience. They’ll take the time to get to know you and at the end of the night you’ll have made some new friends. Enjoy a free beer at the first stop, then proceed to a second bar where you can enjoy an alcoholic dessert with anything you buy. Enjoy another free beer on tap at the third stop and then free admission to the club selected for the night.

From Obzor: Half-Day Black Sea Catamaran Cruise

10. From Obzor: Half-Day Black Sea Catamaran Cruise

Following pick-up from your accommodation, you’ll be off and running on your journey to the harbor of Nessebar. A local, expert guide will take you on a tour of the historic port which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy some free time after the tour to explore the lively markets, discovering the streets and corners of the town, or simply relaxing in one of the many street cafes. Afterwards, you will gather at the harbor and board the catamaran for your departure at 2:00 PM. You will get a brief safety introduction and information about the route as you enjoy welcome drinks upon your arrival. Make use of the open bar, which serves coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer, and wine. Soon afterwards, the anchor will be dropped for swimming. There are masks and snorkels available and the crew will be happy to explain on how to use them. There’s plenty to see on the bottom of the sea — look out for crabs, fish, seahorses, and lots more. Once you are done and tuckered out from swimming, get some energy back during lunch — enjoy a meal of hot pasta with Bolognese sauce, assorted salads, cold meats and cheeses, fresh bread, pate, and fresh fruit.  Sails will be set again after lunch as your journey across the bay continues. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins en route to the harbour of Nessebar. After arrival back at the harbor at 6:00 PM, you’ll head back to Obzor via coach.

Other Sightseeing Options in Bulgaria

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What people are saying about Bulgaria

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 3,553 reviews

A wonderful monastery that is preserved well. A great place to visit. It is a long journey from Sofia, but worth the trip and we had the comfort of a luxury air conditioned coach. Whilst in the monastery, there is enough time to look around and decent places to eat just outside the monastery.

I've booked in the last moment so I contacted agency by WhatsUp before. They answered immediately (late Saturday evening). We departed (and arrived) right on time. Guide Philipp gave a lot of useful info not only about historical objects, but also about local food/drinks/passtime

Both the Rila monastery and the Rila lakes was a wonderful experience! We’ll worth the trip! I wish I would have known that the weather at Rila lakes is significantly colder than in Sofia…but despite the freeze, I enjoyed the entire day!

The guide, Rosen, was amazing entertaining and interesting! The drive there and back was (surprisingly) really fun and fortunately we had very good companion as well. The local guide Lana was nice and informative. So much fun!!!

it was wonderful...comfortable transport and very eloquent guide