Planning a ski or hiking adventure in Borovets and need to know how to reach the resort town from Sofia?
Whether you’re leaving for Borovets directly from the Sofia airport, or you plan to enjoy a few days in the city before you go, here’s everything you need to know to easily get from Sofia to Borovets by bus, private transfer, rental car, and taxi.
Where to Stay in Sofia & Borovets
If you’re headed to Borovets, you’ll want to make sure your accommodations are booked ahead of time, as they can sell out easily in the high season. You’ll also want your Sofia accommodations planned if you intend to stay in the city before or after your trip to Borovets.
Accommodations in Bulgaria offer a great value compared to other parts of Europe. Here is a general range of what we mean by each budget category:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $5-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $40 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $40-80
- Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Where to Stay in Sofia
If you’re planning on spending time in Sofia before or after you head to Borovets, here are our hotel recommendations depending on your budget. If you’re looking for more options, check our Sofia Hotel Guide.
Budget: For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent. Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.
Mid-range: For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel. The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Luxury: As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Where to Stay in Borovets
Once you’re in Borovets, you’re going to want to have a nice, cozy bed to head to. Here are our recommendations for Borovets hotels for every budget.
Budget: While there aren’t any traditional hostels in Borovets, you can enjoy budget accommodations by staying a bit further away from the ski resort. The SDL Apartments Borovets Gardens are a great value since the taxis back and forth to the resort are still less than staying at the next level of accommodations. These are self-catering apartments, so you can also eat some meals in. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here
Mid-Range: I stayed at the Hotel Flora during my trip, and I loved it! We had a welcome bottle of wine waiting for us, and it was a self-catering apartment with comfortable furniture and a great location within a few minutes walk from the Yastrebetz Gondola. If you are traveling during peak season, book early since this is one of the more popular mid-range options in town and can sell out in advance. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here
Luxury: The Rila Hotel is known for its stunning views, and amenities. It’s also located right at the bottom of the ski lifts, so it boasts a location that can’t be beaten in all of Borovets. It has several restaurants and a luxury spa so guests can enjoy complete convenience during their stay. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here
How to Get from Sofia to Borovets
The Bulgarian ski resort town of Borovets is located about an hour and a half southeast of Sofia, in the northern part of the Rila Mountains. It’s actually a shorter distance than going from Sofia to Rila Monastery, which is a popular day trip from Sofia, so you know the distance is easily manageable.
While there’s no train and no direct bus from the Sofia airport, it’s surprisingly easy to get from Sofia to Borovets by bus. I’ve also outlined your options for arranging a private transfer, renting a car, or using a taxi from Sofia.
Option 1: Sofia to Borovets by Bus
This is a very popular way to travel to Borovets, and I found it both cheap and easy. The basic route is to go from Sofia to Samokov, transfer at the Samokov bus station, and then take a marshrutka (minibus) to Borovets. The total cost for the route is 7.50 leva, which is about $4.5 USD or about 3.5 GBP. Additional costs include your transportation to the bus station and to your hotel in Borovets (if needed).
While this route is extremely easy and economical, I’ve outlined the actual step-by-step process. For those who don’t read Cyrillic, I’ve included pictures of the actual bus signs so you know which buses to look for.
Step 1. Go to the Sofia South Bus Station (Avtogara Yug)
The posted schedule shows buses leaving from Sofia to Samokov from Avtogara Yug (South Station) every half hour from 7 am until 8 pm. Even though I’ve taken my fair share of bus rides in Sofia and bus trips around the Balkans, I had never left Sofia from the South Bus Station before. Most of the trips I’ve been on have left from the Central Bus Station on the other side of town.
The South Station is located in the neighborhood of Iztok. If you’re going straight from the airport to Avtogara Yug, read our Sofia taxi guide so you know how Sofia taxis work and you avoid getting a scam taxi by accident.
The South Bus Station is a pretty bare one, with a ticket counter, a small snack counter, and toilets. If you need to use the toilet, expect to pay fifty stotinki (half a lev). There are no toilets on the buses, so this is your last chance to go before leaving town. While there is a ticket counter inside, you won’t purchase your tickets here but rather on the bus.
If you need to eat or buy snacks, there are several businesses nearby that are better than the bus station. There’s a Lidl grocery store about a block away. If you are looking for a meal, I love the restaurant Bar Musaka for a quick lunch. (You can read more of our Sofia restaurant recommendations if you want something other than Bulgarian, though none are near this station).
Step 2. Find the Sofia to Samokov Bus & Purchase Your Tickets
Since they leave so frequently, there were two buses headed for Samokov parked outside when we arrived. The driver of our bus opened the doors up about five minutes before we were supposed to leave. We paid as we boarded (six leva per person, cash only) and grabbed our seats.
The bus was a mid-day Saturday one, and it filled up quickly. We pulled out of the station and onto the road at exact minute we were scheduled to leave.
If you have luggage you need to store, you can store it under the bus. Have extra cash on you, as sometimes there is a small charge per bag, though I don’t believe this is enforced on this route.
As we left Sofia, we stopped a few more times to pick up folks on our way out of town.
Step 3. Sofia to Samokov by Bus
The bus ride from Sofia to Samokov was surprisingly scenic. The journey lasts a little over an hour, and it was all snow-covered mountains and trees as soon as we left Sofia. The ride would be beautiful even in summer since the drive is entirely on country roads after leaving the city.
The bus had no amenities like USB ports, bathrooms, or entertainment. However, the ride is so short and the scenery so pleasant that we didn’t need anything special or fancy to enjoy the trip.
Step 4. Arrive at the Samokov Bus Station (Samokov Avtogara)
We pulled into the Samokov Bus Station (Samokov Avtogara) exactly on schedule. We didn’t need to go into the bus station for anything since you purchase your next tickets on the bus. In the parking lot, you can spot a small pizza shop and public toilets (thirty stotinki or 0.30 lev).
You can also see the sixteenth-century Bairakli Mosque and a beautifully painted fountain. These are right next to the station, so we had time before our next bus to grab some photos of them. On my next trip to Borovets, I want to visit inside the mosque, which has now been converted into a museum.
Step 5. Find the Samokov to Borovets Minibus (Marshrutka)
The platform for the Samokov to Borovets bus is platform 2 (as of this writing), but it was easy to spot since it was the only marshrutka (minibus) waiting to leave. The posted schedule showed that the minibus leaves every hour from 8 am until 6 pm.
If you arrive in Samokov after the last marshrutka has left, there were taxis waiting nearby. Just expect to pay more than the trip would typically cost since you’re trying to avoid being stranded. The drive between the two cities is only thirty minutes, and many Bulgarians choose to stay in Samokov at night to save money on accommodations.
If you have luggage, you can store it in the back of the bus. Keep spare change on you in case there’s a charge for luggage, though I don’t think this is enforced on all rides.
Step 6. Samokov to Borovets by Bus (Minibus / Marshrutka)
The minibus didn’t fill up, but we did leave exactly on schedule. The cost is 1.5 lev per person (cash only), and we paid after arriving in Borovets. The ride was slightly bumpier than our first leg of the trip, but it was lovely and very scenic as well.
This section of the trip takes about thirty minutes, and it’s a no-frills journey that’s over quickly.
Step 7. Get off in Borovets
The marshrutka dropped us off in from of the Hotel Samokov, which is slightly confusing since the Hotel Samokov is actually in Borovets. This is a central location in town, near the Yastrebetz Gondola Entrance. Note that if you are planning on taking the buses back, that this drop off is not the same as the pickup location, which is in front of the Hotel Ela.
Option 2: Book a Private Sofia to Borovets Transfer
If you find the buses to be a bit daunting, there are several companies that offer private transfers directly from the airport. This is a great option for families traveling with small children or larger groups. While the cost is significantly more than the public buses, there are many situations where the ease of getting picked up and dropped off trumps the increase in price.
Option 3: Rent a Car
I absolutely adore going on Balkan road trips, but honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to drive the route from Sofia to Borovets in the snow. I have driven to the Rila Mountains several times, and the drive is pretty pleasant. However, if you’re headed to Borovets during a time when there will be a lot of snow on the road, I would skip the car and hire a driver instead. If you’re going to Borovets in summer or when there won’t be any snow, then the drive will be very pleasant and easy.
We are working on our guide for renting a car in Bulgaria, but my biggest piece of advice is to book ahead of time so that you can pick your car up from the airport upon your arrival.
Option 4. Taxi
You can have a taxi drive you to Borovets from Sofia. My apps suggest the price will be around one hundred leva (about $59 USD or about 46 GBP). If you order one in the Sofia airport, make sure you request it at the taxi counter. You can also order one through an app or have your hotel order one for you. You’ll need to give them the address of your hotel in Borovets as the drop-off point. If you need to pay with a credit card, make sure to tell the company upfront and double check with your driver before leaving that they have a POS in their taxi.
Make sure to read our Sofia taxi guide before ordering a taxi in Sofia to avoid scam taxis.
Arriving in Borovets
If arriving by private transfer, taxi, or car, your trip will end at your hotel. If you arrive by bus, you’ll be dropped off at the Hotel Samokov. If you’re staying in Borovets proper, you can walk from here to your hotel. However, if you want to get a taxi to your hotel, there are several taxis waiting nearby. Just make sure you negotiate a price or make sure they turn on the meter and note that you’ll need to pay in cash.
Bulgaria Travel Tips
If you’re coming to Borovets for skiing or hiking, make sure to set aside some time to enjoy the town! We found that the hospitality in Borovets exceeded our expectations tremendously! Here are our Borovets restaurant recommendations for your trip. You’ll also want the return directions for getting from Borovets to Sofia.
If this is your first trip to Bulgaria, read up on our Bulgaria trip planning checklist. You may also want to brush up on our guides to the Sofia Airport and Sofia taxis, which will help you plan the logistics of your trip.
If you intend on spending some time in the capital before or after your trip, we have guides for things to do in Sofia and a separate post for how to enjoy your trip to Sofia in winter, along with our Sofia restaurant and bar guides.
Going Skiing? Update Your Travel Insurance Policy
Finally, make sure you always ski with an updated travel insurance policy. Any time you’ll be doing adventure sports and outdoor activities, you want to have travel insurance to cover you in case you get hurt. One of my best friends got in a skiing accident in Switzerland and had to be flown home. Without travel insurance, she would have gone bankrupt. However, they covered her ACL surgery in full.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin This For Your Trip to Borovets
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.