How to become Zen: Visit Rila Monastery Bulgaria

After a day and a half spent in Sofia, we went on our Balkan road trip and got to visit Rila Monastery, one of the most famous monasteries in Bulgaria. It was so nice to enjoy the mountain temperatures after the hot days we had experienced till then. We felt so cold that we actually switched to long pants, discreetly, in the parking lot before visiting a monastery!

rila monastery how to get there
Rila Monastery how to get there

What town is the Rila Monastery in?

The Monastery Rila isn’t in a town, it’s a destination that developed by itself, secluded away from everyday life. This, in part, is what makes it so special.

This Bulgarian monastery is located in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 kilometers south of Sofia, in the deep valley of the Rila or Rilska River, at 1,147 meters above sea level.

Is Rila Monastery worth visiting?

Yes, the Rila Monastery is definitely worth visiting. The monastery is a beautiful and historic site, and it offers visitors a glimpse into Bulgaria’s religious and cultural heritage. The monastery is an important religious site, and it’s home to a number of beautiful and ornate chapels and churches. In addition, the monastery is surrounded by beautiful forests and meadows, and it’s a peaceful and serene place to visit.

In addition to its religious and cultural significance, the Rila Monastery is also an important historical site. The monastery was founded in the 10th century, and it’s a stunning example of medieval Bulgarian architecture. The monastery is home to a number of museums, including the Museum of Icons, which features a collection of beautifully painted icons from the Middle Ages, and the Museum of Hesychasm, which explores the history and practices of the Hesychast movement in Bulgaria.

In short, the Rila Monastery is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Bulgaria’s rich religious and cultural heritage. The monastery is a beautiful and peaceful place, and it offers visitors a unique and fascinating glimpse into the country’s past.

visit rila monastery bulgaria
Visit Rila Monastery Bulgaria

Why is Rila Monastery important?

St John of Rila, an Orthodox Church-canonized hermit, founded the Rila Monastery in the 10th century. His ascetic abode and burial were turned into a holy place and a monastery complex that played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian monastery complex was destroyed by fire at the beginning of the nineteenth century and reconstructed between 1834 and 1862. A typical example of the Bulgarian Renaissance (18th–19th centuries), this monument represents the recognition of a Slavic cultural identity after centuries of domination.

How much does it cost to visit Rila Monastery?

The cost to visit the Rila Monastery depends on a few factors, including whether you’re a Bulgarian citizen, a student, or a senior citizen. For most visitors, the cost of admission to the monastery is 10 Bulgarian lev (about $6), and this fee includes access to the monastery’s museums, chapels, and gardens.

If you’re a Bulgarian citizen, a student, or a senior citizen, the cost of admission is reduced to 5 Bulgarian leva (about $3). Additionally, if you visit Rila monastery on a Monday, the cost of admission is reduced to 7 Bulgarian leva (about $4) for all visitors.

As you can see, the cost of visiting the Rila Monastery is relatively affordable, and it’s a great way to learn about Bulgaria’s rich religious and cultural heritage. The monastery is a beautiful and historic site, and it’s well worth the price of admission.

visit rila monastery bulgaria
Reasons to visit Rila Monastery in Bulgaria’s mountains

My visit to Monastery Rila Bulgaria

The Rila Monastery is quite a sight, due to its beautifully painted interior courtyard. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Its courtyard is a very calm place and you can enjoy the quietness to reflect on things. Tim, for example, is not even an Orthodox, but he liked the atmosphere a lot, so in the evening, before closing, he returned to the courtyard to meditate. Hence the title of this blog post.

rila monastery opening hours
Make sure to check Rila Monastery opening hours below before visiting!

How do I get to Rila Monastery?

The Rila Monastery is located in the Rila Mountains of Bulgaria, about 120 kilometers south of the capital city of Sofia. The easiest way to get to the monastery is by car, and the trip takes about two hours from Sofia.

If you don’t have a car, you can also take a bus from Sofia to the town of Rila, which is located about 7 kilometers from the monastery. From Rila, you can take a taxi or a local bus to the monastery.

Alternatively, you can also take a train from Sofia to the town of Dupnitsa, which is located about 25 kilometers from the monastery. From Dupnitsa, you can take a local bus or a taxi to the monastery.

All things considered, the Rila Monastery is easily accessible by car or public transportation from Sofia.

Rila Monastery opening hours & other useful details
Rila Monastery is a well-known Eastern Orthodox monastery located in Bulgaria. It is open daily from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm. The address is 2643, Bulgaria and the phone number to call for more information is +359-7054-2208.

rila monastery accommodation
Rila Monastery accommodation

Can you sleep in Rila Monastery?

Yes, it is possible to sleep in the Rila Monastery. The monastery offers accommodation in the form of guest rooms, which are located in a separate building within the monastery complex. The guest rooms are simple but comfortable, and they offer basic amenities such as beds, linens, and towels.

To stay at the Rila Monastery, you must make a reservation in advance. You can do this by contacting the monastery directly, either by phone or email or by booking through a travel agency or online booking platform.

It’s worth noting that the guest rooms at the Rila Monastery are not luxurious, and they are intended for pilgrims and other visitors who are interested in exploring the monastery and its surrounding area. If you’re looking for a more comfortable and upscale accommodation experience, there are also several hotels and guesthouses located in the nearby town of Rila (see below).

In conclusion, staying at the Rila Monastery is a unique and interesting experience, and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the monastery’s religious and cultural atmosphere. Whether you’re a pilgrim, a history enthusiast, or just a traveler looking for an interesting place to stay, the Rila Monastery offers a one-of-a-kind experience.

Alternative accommodation when you visit Rila Monastery

We couldn’t stay in Monastery Rila quarters, as we had wished. The lady there said she’ll look into it but she never returned to give us any news, good or bad. So we stayed at a nearby Rila Monastery hotel, Tsarev Vrah, built and owned by the monks from the Monastery Rila.

Rila Monastery Hotel – Tsarev Vrah is a hotel and restaurant located next to the Rila Monastery. You can find it at 2630 Rila, Bulgaria. To check room availability, you can call +359-7054-2180.

The delicious dinner at Rila Monastery Hotel

In the evening, we went to the terrace of the Rila Monastery Hotel and ate fresh trout, caught the very same day from the river right next to it. It was a nice dinner, but it was so cold that our breaths were steamy. We had our warmest clothes but still shuddered. Luckily, they had some blankets and we each took two.

It’s also possible to have dinner at the Rila Monastery, although it is not guaranteed. The monastery operates a dining hall that serves traditional Bulgarian food, and visitors are welcome to eat there. However, the dining hall only serves meals at specific times, and it is not always open to the public.

It’s worth noting that the dining hall at the Rila Monastery is not a typical restaurant, and the food and service may not be up to the standards of a typical restaurant. The dining hall is run by the monastery’s monks, and the food is prepared using traditional recipes and ingredients. The atmosphere is simple and modest, and the focus is on providing nourishing and satisfying meals to the monastery’s guests and residents.

Having dinner at the Rila Monastery is a unique and interesting experience, and it’s a great way to sample some of Bulgaria’s traditional cuisine. If you’re interested in having dinner at the Rila Monastery, it’s best to contact the monastery directly to inquire about availability and make a reservation.

rila mountains bulgaria
The Rila Mountains

Back on the road after visiting a monastery in Bulgaria

The next day, after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we returned to the Rila Monastery to send some postcards, as they have a Post Office right there. And then we hopped back in the old Cielo and headed towards the border with North Macedonia.

If we had more time at our disposal and warmer clothes, the place was worth a longer stay. It would have been nice to climb up the Rila Mountains and watch the sunset, maybe after climbing Musala Peak (2 925 m).

Bonus: Hiking in the Rila Mountains

The Rila Mountains are a popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities in Bulgaria. Located in the southwestern part of the country, the Rila Mountains are the highest mountain range in the Balkans, with the highest peak – Musala – reaching an altitude of 2,925 meters (9,596 feet).

Musala is also the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula and an amazing place to watch the sunset. Its name comes from Musalla, which in Arabic (through Ottoman Turkish) means near God. Definitely, the place to go after you visit Rila Monastery Bulgaria!

The Rila Mountains are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, and they offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. They’re a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts, and there are several well-marked trails that offer easy to challenging hikes.

One of the most popular hiking routes in the Rila Mountains is the Seven Rila Lakes trail, which leads to a series of seven glacial lakes located at the foot of the mountains. The trail is around 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long, and it offers stunning views of the lakes and the surrounding landscape.

To go hiking in the Rila Mountains, you will need to be properly equipped with appropriate clothing and gear. The weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, so it’s important to bring layers and rain gear. You should also bring a map and a compass, and be prepared for challenging terrain.

When you visit Rila Monastery, hiking in the nearby mountains can be a unique and rewarding experience and a great way to explore the natural beauty of Bulgaria. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner looking for an exciting outdoor adventure, you’re bound to find a trail to your liking!

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur, based in the scenic South of France, is a passionate Romanian travel expert with a deep-rooted love for European adventures. Through her acclaimed platform, The Travel Bunny, she shares affordable and enriching travel experiences across Europe, making her a trusted voice in the travel community.

When it comes to the Rila Monastery, Mirela stands out as the definitive guide. Whether you’re curious about accommodations near the monastery, planning an immersive visit, or navigating the route from Sofia to Rila Monastery, Mirela’s insights are unparalleled. Her dedication extends beyond just travel; as a problem solver and budding coffee enthusiast, she ensures every traveler’s experience is memorable and hassle-free.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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