Rila Monastery and Boyana Church are probably the two best known and most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. They are a must-see when visiting the hidden jewel of the Balkans. If you want to make your next visit to Bulgaria truly special, then this day trip from Sofia is unmissable, but you may also like to take a look at our Private Bulgaria Day trips. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more extensive, check out our Tailor-made Bulgaria Tour Packages.
Located on the outskirts of Sofia, at the northern slopes of the Vitosha Mountain, Boyana Church is one of the few well-preserved mediaeval structures in the area. Perhaps unspectacular at first glance, the church stands as a testament to the significant contribution of Bulgarian art to European culture in the Middle Ages.
Its 13th century frescoes are not only a masterpiece of Christian Orthodox Art but a first step towards the magnificence of what would later become the norm for Renaissance masters.
Just like the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery is a symbol of Bulgaria and is regarded as one of the country’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. The centuries-old cloister has always been considered a spiritual, literary and cultural center. Hidden in the recesses of mighty Rila’s pine forests, this exceptionally fine artistic complex impresses with its rich history, cobblestone courtyard, winding balconies, picturesque mountain views and brightly colored intricate frescos.
We invite you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Bulgarian’s most famous UNESCO landmarks, while discovering the natural splendor of rural Bulgaria along the way. If it’s the rural part and the natural views that interest you most of all, however, check out our 7 Rila Lakes Hiking Trip.
All year round
We depart at 9:00 AM from a location of your choosing in Sofia
We leave at 9:00 AM and our first stop is the Boyana Church on the outskirts of Sofia.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Boyana Church is subject to entrance restrictions, aimed to preserve its priceless 13th century frescoes in the best possible condition. Only small groups of up to 15 people are allowed one at a time and we are given about 10-15 min inside, so we might have to wait a bit before we can go in.
After we finish with our guided tour at the church, we will head south towards the Rila Monastery. The drive is about 1.5h and we arrive around noon.
While exploring the monastery grounds, we will learn of its 11-centuries old history and visit the local museum, where its most prized possessions are put on display. We will also dedicate some time to marvelling at the intricate and rich frescoes decorating the main church’s exterior, and guests will learn about Christian Orthodoxy and its peculiarities while exploring the enchanting interior.
Of course, you will also have some time to roam the grounds on your own, take photos and/or sit down for lunch or a snack in a near-by restaurant.
We then drive back to Sofia, where this tour ends, at around 6:00 PM.
Needs 6 stars
“We’re so happy to have met Manuela! My two friends and I only had one full day in Bulgaria and we wanted to see the highlights. She was able to pick us up from the airport, took us to the city to get my Starbucks mug collection, and then headed over to Rila, Boyana and then back to the hotel where she waited for us to check in and then dropped us off at the Alexander Nevsky cathedral. At the end of the trip I told Manuela that I feel that I should be getting a degree in Bulgarian history after having talked to her about it all day. We had a wonderful Bulgarian lunch at the monastery restaurant. She was able to go at our pace, took photos whenever we asked to, she was super knowledgeable, it was extremely fascinating to listen to her views and perspective of what has happened in Bulgaria during her lifetime and also from as early as 8000 BC. I had no idea that this country is 3rd after Italia and Greece in having the most number of archaeological sites. And the oldest Roman city is actually in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. (If I remember correctly.). Having gone thru the era of communism and then now democracy, she’s seen history being re-written a couple times. I should also mention Damion our driver who was amazing, he was able to get us to our places of interest in time so that we wouldn’t miss anything. If you ever met Manuela, you could really sense her passion for her country and her country’s treasures. This whole one day experience is quite moving. I would love to go back to Bulgaria to visit Sofia longer and visit the rest of the country. And of course wouldn’t want anyone else to guide us but Manuela! Oh, and she brought snacks in her car, which was consumed timely. The halva was so scrumptious!”