Sofia is a beautiful city with plenty to see, but there is so much more to Bulgaria. So you gotta plan a few day trips from Sofia by train to make the most of it, especially if you’re only in the country for a few days. Driving around Bulgaria can
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What to know about train travel in Bulgaria
It’s totally possible to travel by public transport in Bulgaria. Often, bus travel is cheaper and faster but there are established train routes as well and travelling from Sofia by train is comfortable too. Also, Bulgaria is pretty safe for solo female travellers.
Please check train timetables before any trip. Train timetables are always subject to change. View timetables and routes here.
Sofia Day Trip Options
Plovdiv is an amazing city to visit. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The history of the city is there to see everywhere you turn.
Some of the great sights to see in the city are the ancient theatre of Philipopolis, the Roman Stadium, the Nebet Tepe and fortress ruins and the Plovdiv old town. There is so much on offer you may feel a day was not enough and an overnight stay is due, especially if you want to catch one of the sunsets over Plovdiv.
Trains leave every 1 to 2 hours in the morning from Sofia Central Station to Plovdiv. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes with the first train departing just before 0630. (Here are more details on how to get to Plovdiv from Sofia).
If you want to continue your travels from here, there are train trip day trips from Plovdiv to enjoy too.
Koprivshtitsa is a town in the Sofia region. The town is 1030 metres up in the Sredna Gora mountains.
This picturesque town boasts a large number of houses dating back to the Bulgarian revival period. Many of the houses have been lovingly restored and painted back to their original state. It’s good to research a bit upfront on what to do in Koprivshtitsa so you don’t miss out on the house museums.
There are 3 morning trains to Koprivshtitsa from Sofia Central Station Monday to Saturday. They leave at 0540, 0735 and 0840. The journey takes 2 hours 20 minutes for the 0540 and 0840, the 0735 train takes 1 hour 40 minutes as it has less stops.
Kazanlak is synonymous with Rose oil and the fields of Kazanlak. The Rose fields of Kazanlak are worth a visit during the springtime, especially during the famous Rose Festival.
While not on many tourists’ radar, Kazanlak is a must see as a day trip from Sofia. Not only is the town a wonderful place to spend your time and stock up on rose goodies, there is also the Thracian tomb of Kazanlak from the 4th century BC.
It takes 3 hours on the train from Sofia to Kazanlak. We suggest taking the 0735 train arriving in Kazalnlak at 1045 as the next train leaving Sofia isn’t until lunch time.
Vratsa is located in the foothills of a mountain that has the same name. Its location means that it has many beautiful natural sights of interest close by.
There are caves, waterfalls and so much more to enjoy. On top of this Vratsa itself is interesting to visit.
There are a number of trains daily to Vratsa, though most require a change costing you time. There are 2 direct trains to Vratsa from Sofia, they leave at 0735 and 1215, both take 1 hour 45 minutes.
Rila Monastery is found in the Rila Mountains and is one of Bulgaria’s most revered Monasteries.
Founded in the 10th century, the Monastery has been a part of Bulgarian culture for a thousand years. The Monastery has been developed over time and the main 5 domed church, dates to the 1800’s.
You take a train to Blagoevgrad and The train takes around 2 hours 30 minutes from Sofia. The train leaves at 0535, 0730, 1030 and 1230 daily.
From Blagievgrad to the Monastery there is a Rila Express shuttle bus that leaves at 0800, 1000, 1300 and 3 times in the evening. The bus costs 3 leva.
7 Rila Lakes
The 7 Rila Lakes are 7 glacial lakes found in the Rila Mountains. It’s possibly the most famously google day trip from Sofia there is.
There are many glacial lakes in the Bulgarian mountains, but nothing compares to these 7 lakes. The lakes are very close to each other at varying altitude and produce the most stunning panoramic views.
However, it is possible to catch a train, then a bus, a shuttle and then go on a hike. If this is too much of a hassle for you, there are many day tours taking you from Sofia to this more remote region. Check out this one*, which takes you to the monastery too for a full day trip.
To get to the Rila lakes from Sofia, take the train to Dupnitsa. The train takes 2 hours and leaves 3 times in the morning.
From Dupnitsa you can get the bus to Sapareva Banya which takes an hour. Then there are regular shuttle buses to the hut at the start of the Rila Lakes.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the big urban tourist destinations of Bulgaria. The city has beautiful architecture and its location makes it such a stunning place to visit.
There is also the Trapezitza hill, an ancient Roman fortress, a number of churches to visit as well as other sights to see in Valiko Tarnovo.
This is the longest of the 10 train trips from Sofia at 4 hours 20 minutes. The train leaves at 0715 in the morning and you change trains at Gorna Orjahovica.
Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress
The Belogradchik Rocks were formed over millions of years into unique and interesting shapes. They are like tall towers looming over the landscape below. The rocks are both beautiful and fascinating.
Add on the Belogradchik ancient fortress. A fortress that uses the rocks to form an impenetrable wall on one side. The result is a view that feels like it comes from another world.
It’s a long trip but definitely worth the trip. You take the train from Sofia to Vidin, this takes 4hours 30 minutes. There are two trains each morning. From Vidin you take a bus to Belogradchik, this takes an hour and runs 4 times daily.
Bankya is a famous town in Bulgaria. Its fame comes from the hot springs in the town that have been used for hundreds of years. The town’s name actually derives from the word hot springs.
The mineral baths are a great attraction and offer a well earned respite and place for relaxation after all of these Sofia day travels.
The train to Bankya from Sofia only takes 30 minutes and is the shortest of the 10 train trips from Sofia. There are 3 that leave Sofia in the morning, these run at 0755, 1035 and 1150.
Asenovgrad (also written as Assenowgrad) is home to Asen’s Fortress and the Bachkovo Monastery. Both are historically important and amazing places to visit and can be visited by train from Sofia or Plovdiv. If you want a guided tour, you can book one here*.
The fortress is in ruins today, but its church is still intact. Sitting on the edge of the Rhodope Mountain side, the fortress also offers splendid panoramic views. And climbing around the remains of this formerly grand building feels incredibly powerful.
Bachkovo Monastery dates back to the 11th and is still a working Monastery today. The Monastery also sits in the mountains just outside of Asenovgrad.
To get to Asenovgrad takes a train from Sofia to Plovdiv, they are very regular and take 2 hours 30 minutes. At Plovdiv change to the train to Asenovgrad, this takes 24 minutes. In Asenovgrad you will need to get a taxi for the short journey to either location.
Of course, there are many more places in Bulgaria you can visit by train from Sofia and really thoroughly explore the region. I hope this helped you get started on some ideas and if you have questions or your own recommendations, drop them down in the comments.
About the Author
Guy Marlow has a huge love for Bulgaria, spending a few months each year exploring the country. This love created Discover Bulgaria a place to explore where to visit and what to do in Bulgaria.