Things to do in
Rila Mountains

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Our most recommended things to do in Rila Mountains

Rila Monastery Day Trip from Sofia

1. 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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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 from 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 you will 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, the Seven Rila Lakes.

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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.

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Boyana Church & Rila Monastery Full-Day Private Tour

4. 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.

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From Sofia: Hike to Rila Mountain and Spa Center Visit

5. From Sofia: Hike to Rila Mountain and Spa Center Visit

Explore the unspoiled forests around Rila Mountain on a 3-hour hike on Bulgaria's highest peak. Soak in the natural surroundings as you trek to a stunning local waterfall. Relax in the comfort of a leisurely pace, as you visit the village of Kostenets, famed for its hot mineral springs, and enjoy a traditional lunch in a local restaurant. Immerse yourself in an afternoon of spa treatment, as you bathe in the aquatonic pools of a mineral Spa center, and treat yourself to hydromassages, steam baths, and jacuzzi sessions.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Rila Mountains

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What people are saying about Rila Mountains

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 164 reviews

Rade was a great guide who was informative and friendly (worth the extra cost!). Would recommend doing the lakes if you have the opportunity to.

The best trip to Rila Monastery . Maria is wonderful guide. Really recommend to all who would like to have perfect weekend outside of Sofia

The guide Todor was so nice. And the 7 lakes were very beautiful !

Very nice and friendly staff and everything worked as advertised.

Guide superb! Wonderful experience! Reasonable price!