Discover two of Bulgaria’s UNESCO World Heritage gems on this day trip from Sofia. Traveling by minivan, admire rural Bulgaria on route to the Rila Monastery in the pine-carpeted Rila Mountains. Take a guided tour of the medieval treasure with its fresco-coated church, and visit its fascinating museum. Then, after time to explore independently, continue to Boyana Church, near Sofia, to marvel at its spectacular pre-Renaissance frescoes. Entrance fees not included.
Meet your guide near Alexander Nevsky Square in central Sofia and settle into your air-conditioned minivan. Then, relax on your roughly 2-hour journey to UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, tucked in the pine-forested Rila Mountains in southwest Bulgaria.Enjoy the views over rural Bulgaria as you travel and hear enlightening facts about the monastery. Founded in 927 AD by hermit monk Ivan Rilski or ‘John of Rila,’ Bulgaria’s patron saint; this photogenic walled complex came to symbolize the Bulgarian national identity and is considered a masterpiece of Slav architecture for its arcaded balconies and splendid frescoes.On arrival, enjoy a guided tour of the main courtyard and five-domed church, admiring its vivid, fresco-coated colonnades as you enter. Then, head inside to gaze at the richly gilded wood-carved iconostasis, the largest in the Balkans; and the tomb of Bulgaria’s last monarch, Boris III. If you wish, you may also head inside the monastery museum (own expense) to see its priceless exhibits.After, enjoy free time to look around independently and have lunch (own expense). Perhaps fill up with some delicious mekitsi (Bulgarian donuts served with fresh buffalo yogurt) at a local bakery or visit a restaurant to enjoy specialities such as fresh local trout.Next, return to the minivan and drive back to the fringes of Sofia to visit Boyana Church, a UNESCO-listed Orthodox church famed for its medieval frescoes. After paying your entrance fee, take in the breathtaking cycles of 11th- and 13th-century murals that depict Christ, angels, saints, apostles and other religious figures, and hear how they predate the Renaissance in Florence.Having explored here, return to central Sofia, where your tour concludes with a drop-off at the original departure point.