10 Awesome Day Trips From Sofia For True Explorers
After you spend a few days in the vibrant Bulgarian capital, you should consider venturing outside the city borders and exploring at least several other incredible destinations.
Because that’s what a true explorer does, right?
You don’t satisfy your thirst for adventure by visiting just one destination in a country. You want to discover the different intriguing facets and the fascinating true spirit of the place you’re travelling to.
Fortunately, Bulgaria’s small size makes it perfect for day trips, starting from the capital city Sofia.
So hop on a bus or a train, rent a car or hire a driver, and get the adventure started!
1. Vitosha: The Most Incredible View Over Sofia
Vitosha Mountain is watching over Sofia and you can bet that the view from up there will enchant even the most fastidious of travellers.
A bus, a tram, a lift, or even a taxi can get you to the start of numerous trails that criss-cross Vitosha and take you to jaw-dropping places.
You don’t even have to pack anything special for this trip. There are lots of huts and eateries as well as water springs where you can satisfy your thirst and hunger.
The trails are mostly well marked and if you go on a weekend, you’ll meet more people in the mountains than in the city. You can always ask them for direction if you’re unsure which way to go.
The difficulty of the trails varies from an absolute coach-potato level to a level that will challenge even hard-core mountaineers.
2. Melnik: Bulgaria’s Warmest Town
Just a few hours away from Sofia, near the southern border with Greece, lies Bulgaria’s smallest and warmest town, Melnik.
It is most famous for the Melnik Pyramids and the Melnik Wine.
The Melnik Pyramids are sandstone rocks, which time, wind, and rain have sculptured in a fascinating way. The best views of both the town and the pyramids are from the St. Nicholas plateau.
The path to the top of the plateau is steep and unsecured but in about 20 min of puffing and sweating, you’ll have the rewarding views over Melnik and the Melnik Pyramids as the background.
Come back in town for a wine tasting in one of the countless little restaurants or in the Museum of Wine. Learn about the wine production in the region and discover which famous person used to order 300 litres every year of the indigenous Melnik Wide-leafed Vine.
3. The Eyes Of God: Nature’s Unbelievable Creation
Near the small village Karlukovo and about 200 m away from the road, you’ll discover one of nature’s most unbelievable karst creations.
The Prohodna Cave, also known as The Eyes Of God, will make you question your senses, beliefs, and sanity.
Funny fact, that there’s a mental patients hospital in the nearby village. It is believed that whoever stares for too long into The Eyes Of God, might lose his sanity.
Are you brave enough to try this theory?
The cave is a famous spot for rock climbers and bungee jumpers who love to come here on weekends and define gravity.
4. Velingrad: All-year SPA Paradise
If you’re tired of exploring, take a day of relaxation and hit the mineral water pools in Velingrad, The SPA Capital Of The Balkans.
The town lies about two hours away from Sofia by car but if you’re searching for a more romantic way of transportation, ride the narrow-gauge train from Septemvri. I should warn you though, that the journey would take much longer by train. Still, the magnificent views along the way might be just what your explorer’s heart desires.
Velingrad cuddles between the hills of the Rhodopes Mountains at an altitude of around 770 m above sea level, which is the perfect elevation for rejuvenating your body. The crystal-clear, unpolluted air and the healing power of its mineral waters make it perfect for recovering from different diseases.
5. Koprivshtitsa: The Vibrant Architectural Reserve
The Bulgarian Revival architectural style can be seen in several small towns and villages in Bulgaria, but in Koprivshtitsa, you’ll find the most vibrant, largest, and numerous houses.
Stroll the cobble-stoned streets, witnesses of some of the most important battles in Bulgarian history.
Visit the houses of Bulgarian poets, revolutionaries, and merchants to experience the life of 18th and 19th-century people.
Sit in one of the countless cafes or restaurants and devour typical Bulgarian dishes in a traditional and authentic atmosphere.
6. Panagyurishte: The Home Of The Largest Thracian Golden Treasure
On a cold December day in 1949, three brothers went to work in the tile factory near Panagyurishte. What started as an ordinary day, ended with an extraordinary discovery.
The wine-drinking vessels they discovered weigh over 6 kilograms and are made of pure 24-carat gold. They’re dated back to 400 BC and were used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king Seuthes III.
Currently, you can see an elaborate, perfect copy of the treasure in the museum in Panagyurishte.
Located just two hours away from Sofia, both the treasure exhibition and the town are totally worth the day trip.
7. Melnicite: Fishing, Splashing, And A Family Picnic
If you’re searching for a secret getaway just outside of Sofia for a fun family day, head to Gorna Malina. Melnicite (The Windmills) is a great place for the whole family to enjoy.
You can fish in the pond while the kids visit the little zoo or ride a pony.
You can chill in the pool while the kids enjoy the waterslides.
Or you can all recharge in the crystal room and eat a delectable lunch at the restaurant or in the picnic area.
8. Pernik: Scaring Evil Spirits And Dancing In The Cold
The International Masquerade Games “Surva” in Pernik is a festival out of this world.
It’s about team spirit, traditional costumes, strength and resilience to dance and jump for long hours wearing several kilograms of bells, furs, and feathers in the below-freezing January temperatures.
It’s about courage and chasing evil spirits away.
And finally, it’s about wine and rakia to keep you warm.
9. The Lakatnik Rocks And Iskar Gorge: The River’s Fascinating Sculptures
The longest Bulgarian river – Iskar – has carved an enthralling gorge with jaw-dropping, high-rising rocks on both sides.
Take the train, jump in the car, or even go rafting for an incredible journey between the cliffs and hills of the Stara Planina Mountain.
Stop at one of the numerous panoramic restaurants for a scrumptious lunch with local specialities and a magnificent, unforgettable view.
Follow the Vazov Eco Path to discover why Bulgaria’s most famous poet and writer loved to come here and seek inspiration from the mesmerising surroundings to write some of his best works.
Hike to the Rajishka Cave or to the communist-era Septemvriytsi Monument and watch the river flow below you. The Lakatnik Rocks on both sides of the Iskar River will make you speechless and unwilling to leave.
10. Stara Zagora: The Biggest Lesson In Religious Tolerance
There are numerous historical and architectural attractions you could visit in the underrated Stara Zagora.
However, the Museum Of Religions is where you can learn the biggest lesson in religious tolerance.
It resides in a mosque.
The mosque used to be an East-Orthodox church. The church was built in the Middle Ages over the remains of a Thracian temple.
Inside, you’ll discover the traces of all these temples.
In 1877, Stara Zagora was burnt to the ground. Most buildings in the city were wooden and the only temple, which withstood the fire, was the stone-built mosque. No church survived the catastrophe.
As Christians had no place to pray, the Imam invited them to the mosque. Christians and Muslims took turns in praying in the same temple!
Day Trips From Sofia: The Perfect Way To Explore Bulgaria’s Nature, History, And Architecture
Bulgaria’s small area make it perfect for day trips and short road trip adventures.
Rent a car or a driver, hop on a bus or a train, and go explore these ten incredible destinations, which are easily accessible from Sofia and will show you another piece of the stunning, multi-faceted Bulgaria.
Whether you decide to explore traditions, nature, history, or architecture, relax in a mineral water pool or have a picnic with your family, these day trips from Sofia will give every true explorer yet another reason to come back to Bulgaria.
So, the only question is: which day trip from Sofia will you take next?