Zone Bulgaria  
Main Menu
Sofia > Environs

The Environs of Sofia

Most conspicuous to the guests of Sofia are the mountains, which encircle the Sofia Plain. Vitosha, Lyulin and Plana Mountains are interesting and full of sights worth visiting. The present tour guide has a separate chapter on Vitosha Mountain.

Lyulin Mountain is situated south-west of the capital city, 3 kilometres from the ring road. Now virtually a part of the city, it is a good place for outings, picnics and walks. Bonsovy polyany are the most frequented place in the mountain. There are interesting areas with deciduous vegetation, beautiful valleys and meadows. Tourist signs mark the routes to Lulin chalets and shelters. Plana Mountain also offers  interesting sights for tourists. It is situated about 10 km south of the capital and can be reached by city bus transport or by car along the road to Samokov.

Most frequently visited is the Kokalyane Monastery, built in the 10th century by Tzar Samuil. Beautiful frescoes and murals decorate the church, built after Russian patterns. Three of the monks in the monastery serve also in the Bulgarian monastery on Athos (Greece). There is a small scenic waterfall close to the monastery in southern direction. The monastery can be reached after a 45-minutes walk along the footpath above the asphalt road from the Devils Bridge over the Vedena River. Another popular spot is the glade with Khan Asparoukh oak, called after him because of its age nearing 14 centuries. The oak is believed to have witnessed the days in which Bulgaria was founded. Fields and a lush hazelnut forest surround the place. About 500 metres from the oak on the footpath to the village of Zheleznitsa there is a small water spring. Tourist chalets and shelters abound in this mountain.

The Pancharevo Lake (12 km from the capital city) is situated next to the village of Pancharevo. The lake is about 5 km long and 1 km wide. It is suitable for recreation, sunbathing, fishing and water sports - swimming, rowing, surfing, and water skiing. Rowing and water-ski competitions are frequently organised here. Pedalos are available, fishing and bathing in the lake are only allowed in strictly limited areas. Numerous small private restaurants can be found around the lake, Lebeda (the Swan) being the most popular of these.

The Iskar Dam is another large water reservoir near Sofia; it lies 25 km south of the city, and is a very good recreation spot where aquatic sports can be practised. The Shturkelovo gnezdo (Storks nest) Resort is a place worth visiting. Special attention is paid to strict observance of bathing and recreation rules, because the lake is also a drinking water reservoir for the capital. There are numerous small restaurants at the lakeside; fruits and vegetables are often offered for sale.

Within Vitosha Mountain the most interesting landmarks are the Boyana Church (built in  three stages 11th, 13th and 19th centuries) and the Dragalevtsy Monastery (14th century), both considered the heralds of European Renaissance. Most interesting are the frescoes (1259) in the Boyana Church, which art experts today rate them as a peak of realistic art of those times. The church is inluded in UNESCO List of world heritage. Remarkable are the frescoes portraying the donors of the church.

Bankya is 22 km from the capital in the foothills of Lyulin Mountain. It is one of the villa areas of Sofia. The town is a balneological center for cardiovascular and pulmonary ailments. It can be reached by bus or by a regular railway line. Wonderful places for picnic and tourist outings surround it. The small town has several galleries, many restaurants and caf, small clubs and a race-course.

The Kremikovtsy Monastery (15th century) is located 30 km north of Sofia in the southern slopes of the Stara Planina Mountain. Its frescoes are treasured as a revelation of a new vision in church mural painting of that time. The church itself is very small yet very well preserved. Tourists rarely visit the place.

The Kourilo Monastery stands at the mouth of the Iskar gorge near the village of Kourilo, 18 km from the capital. It can be reached via the road to Mezdra or by a passenger train on the line connecting Sofia with Northern Bulgaria. The church was built and painted in the 15th century. Along the gorge, 9 km from the Eliseina station and at a 3-hour walk from the Prolet stop lies the Sedemte Prestola (The Seven Thrones) Monastery. It dates back to the 16th century and its icons and murals were painted in stages. The central nave of the church is divided into 7 chapels (thrones) and is adorned with a very beautiful wooden chandelier.

Home | Search | Site map | Copyright