This trip is even shorter than the other ones I have suggested so far, however, it will take you to one of Bulgaria’s emblematic locations – the Rila monastery, and to another one, which, albeit somewhat lesser known, every bit as interesting – the Stob pyramids.
Both locations are close to Sofia, so visiting them is possible within one day, but I would recommend spending te night in the village of Stob, so that you have enough time to enjoy these magical places.
Duration: ca 300km round trip
Accessibility: car recommended, but not absolutely necessary
Leaving from Sofia: if you’re going to go for the one day option, leave no later than 9am
The first sight you are going to enjoy is the Stob pyramids, Стобски пирамиди,- a natural sandstone formation of impressive size. With their specific orange-ish colour and intriguing forms, they are a must-see attraction in the Western part of Bulgaria.
To get there you will mostly drive on one of the country’s newer highways, so the ride shouldn’t be too bumpy. Once you get to the plain village of Stob, look for the brown signs pointing to the way to the pyramids. There is a large parking space right before the beginning of the path leading to the pyramids. The walk will take you about half an hour, at the end of the path stand the pyramids, an orange-brown sea of strange shapes around you.
Some of the have a ‘hat’ of some sort, left me wondering how it got there and what forces keep it from falling off during the first heavy rain 🙂
The path at the top of the pyramid ‘plateau’ is well equipped with railings and provides a wonderful opportunity to take pictures of the rock formations from different angles. At the broader sections there is even a place to sit down and enjoy the shapes and sizes and maybe even exercise your imagination and try to guess what silhouettes the stones remind you of.
The next stop on your agenda is the noteworthy Rila monastery in the… you guessed it, Rila mountain 🙂 It is the largest Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, and I believe, the most popular and beloved one, as both Bulgarians and tourists fill its yard all year long. It is one of the country’s most important religious and cultural monuments and is a key asset in the tourist branch.
The monastery is very well-preserved, bearing in mind that it was built more than 11 centuries ago. It houses some famous religious artifacts striking both with their shiny gold exterior covered with precious stones, as well as with the craftsmanship required to create such exquisite objects.
The monastery is not only for believers, it is a cultural monument and in my opinion has a very strong Bulgarian atmosphere – a carrier of national pride and sentiment.
When we went last time to see it, we had both visited it before, so what left the strongest impression was not the building itself or the well-kept yard, but the super fat and lazy monastery tomcat that was lying on the ground despite the biting Novermber cold. The tale of the fat tomcat is something of a byword for monastery yards, so we loved seeing that fellow there. I’m just going to leave a few pics below 🙂
So this is one short trip I can suggest in Sofia’s proximity. I’m sure that it will leave you satisfied, albeit a bit brief. If you like to prolong it over a weekend, I suggest spending the night in the village of Stob – Стоб, there’s several guest-houses that will be glad to host you and a very nice church worth the visit.
Should anyone have an idea of how to fill the trip with another sight or location, you are welcome to share in the comments.