Things to do in Rila Mountains

Our most recommended things to do in Rila Mountains

From Sofia: Rila Monastery, Scenic Train Ride & Bansko Town

1. From Sofia: Rila Monastery, Scenic Train Ride & Bansko Town

Explore the best of Bulgaria on a day trip from Sofia, combining a visit to UNESCO Rila Monastery, a scenic mountain train ride, and a stop in Bansko Old Town. Enjoy roundtrip transportation and explore the area at your own pace. In the morning, meet your host at a central meeting point and board the shuttle bus for a transfer to the Rhodope mountains. Ride the last operating narrow gauge train in Bulgaria and enjoy the scenic rail journey through the mountains. Experience the local lifestyle of Bulgarian people living in rural areas. Get off the train and, after a short minibus transfer, reach Bansko town. Explore historical Bulgarian architecture in the Old Town of Bansko. Discover authentic restaurants to try traditional cuisine. Board the shuttle bus in the afternoon for a minibus transfer to Rila National Park. Explore the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery complex, marvel at the frescoes of the main church, and visit the medieval tower. Wander down quiet outdoor corridors adorned with beautiful frescoes, and see gold-plated iconostasis and valuable icons from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Learn more about the history of the site at the museum, where highlights include the double-sided crucifix of the Rila Cross. Finally, board the minibus back to Sofia in the afternoon and get dropped off at the central meeting point.

The Seven Rila Lakes: Full-Day Tour from Sofia

2. 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.

Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour

3. 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.

Musala Peak, Rila Mountains: Full-Day Hiking Tour from Sofia

4. Musala Peak, Rila Mountains: Full-Day Hiking Tour from Sofia

The majestic heights of the Balkans await you on this hiking day-tour to Musala Peak; the pinnacle of the Rila mountain range with its 2925-meter (9596 feet) summit, 6th highest in Europe. Wander a path leading above deep gorges, past 150 crystal-clear glacial lakes, in a panorama of crests extending before you like a stormy seascape. Starting the day early from Sofia, transfer to the famous Borovets Resort, and ride the gondola lift to neighboring Yastrabets summit. From here the hike begins as the path leads towards Musala Peak via stops at the Musala chalet, and Ledeno Ezero(icy lake) mountain shelter, and onto the last stage of the trek to Musala Peak. Rest and take in the surroundings before returning on the same route. Witness the breathtaking mountain panoramas, and pristine lakes on this moderate difficulty hike; for anyone in good physical condition with a passion for supurb vistas.

Boyana Church & Rila Monastery Full-Day Private Tour

5. Boyana Church & Rila Monastery Full-Day Private Tour

The tour departs early in the morning and heads to the tranquil hearth of Rila Mountains where you can admire the impressive Rila Monastery (UNESCO). Its architecture and frescoes present the apogee of Bulgarian Renaissance art. During the guided tour in the inner yard and the monastery museum, you will discover the most treasured monuments and learn the most fascinating facts and stories about the biggest Bulgarian monastery complex. The first stop will be at the Rilla monastery and the museum, so you can fully explore the history and see what it was in the past. After the museum you will have the chance to explore more about the complex and then visit the surrounding mountain around the monastery.  There will be sufficient time to stop and have lunch by the side of the river in one of the greatest restaurants on the side of the road back to Sofia. There you will have the chance to taste some great Bulgarian cuisine.You will also have free time to buy souvenirs, take some photos and then continue on to the tour. After visiting Rila mountains, you will go back to Sofia and on the way stop at Boyana church. Part of the UNESCO heritage area, it's located deep in the Vitosha mountain near Sofia. Located on the outskirts of Sofia, Boyana Church consists of three buildings. The eastern church was built in the 10th century, then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two storey building to be erected next to it. The frescoes in this second church, painted in 1259, make it one of the most important collections of medieval paintings. The ensemble is completed by a third church, built at the beginning of the 19th century. This site is one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art.

From Plovdiv: Musala Peak Full-Day Trekking Tour

6. From Plovdiv: Musala Peak Full-Day Trekking Tour

Enjoy a full-day hike of the Rila National Park and conquer the summit of Musala, the highest mountain on the Balkan peninsula Boasting more than 180 glacial lakes, the name of the mountain is of Thracian origin and means “Plenty of Water.” Coniferous trees grow up to 170-200 feet (50-60 meters) tall, concealing diverse wildlife that includes bears, wolves, wild goats, and imperial eagles. Following a pick-up in Plovdiv, head towards Borovets, Bulgaria's oldest ski resort. The 19th-century resort is surrounded by old pine forests, and boasts one of the healthiest climates in Bulgaria. Board the gondola lift to the peak of Yastrebet (7,936 feet/2,369 meters) for the start of your trek. Your guide will lead you along the trail to the Musala Mountain Hut, and on to a stunning lake, before hiking to Icy Lake (9,078 feet/2,710 meters), the coldest and highest lake in the Rila Mountains. A short but steep ascent follows all the way to Musala’s summit (9,799 feet/2,925 meters), with spectacular vistas along the way. Gaze across at the alpine Pirin Mountains, Vitosha Mountain, Sredna Gora Mountains, and the green carpets of the Rhodope Mountains. After a break at the summit, hike back down, retracing your steps to the gondola lift and on to Borovets for the transfer back to Plovdiv.

Other Sightseeing Options in Rila Mountains

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What people are saying about Rila Mountains

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 435 reviews

Some people were (very!) inappropriate equipped, so at first the guides didn't want to take us to the top, to the main vantage point. After few discussions we finally went up, otherwise I would be very disappointed because that's the whole point of trekking and it would be unfair to those of us who were well equipped. The view at the top is really divine! So thanks to all guides.

Great tour and the lakes are beautiful, due to a bus breakdown we didn't make all 7 lakes but it was still a great day lit

Our guide was exceptional. Very informative and took care of every little detail.

Best program near Sofia, especially in october. :D

Amazing tour and even more amazing panoramic views