How to become Zen: Visit Rila Monastery

After a day an a half spent in Sofia, we went on with our car trip and got to visit Rila Monastery. 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!

About the Rila Monastery

The Rila Monastery is quite a sight, due to its beautifully painted interior courtyard. It was founded in the 10th century and 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
The Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.
Address: 2643, Bulgaria | See on map
Tel. +359-7054-2208

Where to stay when you visit Rila Monastery

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

Tsarev Vrah
Hotel and restaurant, right next to the Rila Monastery.
Address: Rila Monastery, 2630 Rila, Bulgaria | See on map
Tel. +359-7054-2180 | Website

The delicious dinner on the terrace

In the evening, we went to their terrace 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.

rila mountains bulgaria
The Rila Mountains

Back on the road

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 from the top of Musala Peak (2 925 m).

Bonus: Hiking in the Rila Mountains

Musala is the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula and an amazing place to watch the sunset from. Its name comes from Musalla, which in Arabic (through Ottoman Turkish) means near God.

Elevation: 2,925 m

Did you visit Rila Monastery?

What are your thoughts on the place? Did you try the hike to watch the sunset?
Leave a comment to share your experience!

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14 Thoughts to “How to become Zen: Visit Rila Monastery”

  1. You have traveled a lot across Bulgaria. That’s wonderful! If you are heading to Plovdiv, do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to meet you.


    1. Yes, it’s nearby, beautiful and many times more convenient than my own country. 🙂
      I will be once again in Bulgaria in June, but only for a weekend, in Balchik and the nearby surrounding area. But thank you so much, should I ever be in Plovdiv, I’ll definitely get in touch.

  2. We’ve never actually been to Bulgaria, we might have to go!
    I really like the style of your blog and how you show quick and easy tips on where to stay and what to eat! It’s great, thanks 🙂

  3. Danik

    I remember this place well and brought back a lot of memories of my visit to Sofia. I loved the area around the monastery, so peaceful. One of my favourite parts of my trip to Bulgaria.

  4. If I ever have the chance to visit, I’m taking warm clothes and maybe a blanket! This sounds like a good place to let stress go and just experience the wonder!

  5. This looks like such a calming and beautiful place to visit. I love your photos and think this is a place I need to visit!

  6. Neha

    The monastery looks really beautiful and serene. I can understand why one would wish to meditate here! Also I like the way you put the quick guide with helpful tips at the end, really cool.

  7. Yukti

    I never knew of beautiful monasteries in Bulgaria. This Rila monastery is looking beautiful with the breathtaking natural scenery. Thanks for sharing all the tips!

  8. Zen is a philosophy which is so unique and interesting. Have always been fascinated with monasteries. They all have such an aura of peace and serenity. The Rila Monastery too looks so beautiful and exudes an aura of peace. It is no wonder it inspired Tim to meditate.

  9. Wow I have never heard of this monastery! What a fascinating place. Also love the fact you had to get changed in the car park! So sad you were so incredibly cold!

  10. Tif

    I have never visited this monastery But I would look forward to dinner on the terrace for sure!

  11. Wanted to but was short on time, so instead hiked to Vitosha and took a day trip to Plovdiv. I am definitely hiking the 7 lakes and checking out the Rila Monastery on my next trip to Bulgaria!

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