Visit Rila Monastery from Sofia


One of the most important places in Bulgaria is the Rila monastery, which is usually visited fromSofia in one day. It is located in a beautiful natural environment within the network of national parks of the country, surrounded by mountains and deep forests, where snow is common during much of the winter.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

Rila monastery visit from Sofia in one day

Last March we were making a small trip to Bulgaria, where we focused mainly on its capital, Sofia and the Rila monastery. We visited the latter on our own after renting a car at the airport. We have always liked to stop whenever we want and take all the time in the world, that's why the rental car option is always our favorite. However, the most common option is the use of an organized tour from Sofia or even by public transport.

Driving on the roads of Bulgaria

The roads that connect Sofia with the Monastery of Rila are in good condition, especially the highways. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that on many county roads water rafts tend to form when there is heavy rain, but otherwise it is very correct. Another detail to value is that we must drive in a calm way. Many drivers tend to sting, so if we follow traffic rules and drive on the right, everything will go pink.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

Basically the last 20 kilometers (120km in total), already within the Rila National Park, are the most interesting. Very beautiful landscapes, surrounded by forests, and on both sides of the road certain accommodation in camping format with cabins in the forest, without missing the numerous restaurants. We are talking about one of the most visited areas of the country, especially in summer, noticing that the area is very prepared for it.

Rila Monastery

When we arrive in Rila, the first thing we find is a small parking lot next to the entrance to the monastery. The small village where it sits is not visible, since it is just behind the Monastery where there are some restaurants, hotels and even some additional parking. This has an approximate cost of 4BGN that must be paid to the parking attendant. If we go ahead with time, about 200 meters before reaching the monastery, there are several parking spaces next to the river that have no cost.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

The monastery was built in honor ofSan Juan de Rila. A saint who is granted several miracles and who lived 10 centuries ago in a cave near where the Rila monastery now sits. Most of what we see today dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries, although it was originally built in the 10th century. However, some 14th-century structures such as the one still remain Jreliyova tower.

Visit to the monastery of Rila

We enter the monastery of Rila from the door that leads to the main parking lot, the dupnist door or west entrance. This is where the main ticket office (closed) is located, since the payment part applies only to museums.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

It was raining in the seas and as soon as we got out of the car we had to look for a roof quickly. It diluted and it was best to wait a while to begin our visit. Even so, the wide arcades that line the interior of the monastery mean that we don't waste much time, but we always had the option of the museum, which, by the way, there we had to pay.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

We begin to skirt the arcades, almost always looking towards the church of the nativity and the towerJreliyova ó HrelyoTo get there you had to get wet if or if, therefore it was best to wait 30 minutes while watching the building that houses the rooms of the monastery.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

He could also have taken advantage of the time inside the souvenir shop, but that might leave him for last. The rain didn't matter to me while I was indoors. There is no hurry, especially when there were not many tourists. Most are expected from 12:00 onwards.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

Even so with this comfort time passes and there was no choice but to go through the pouring rain and head towards the Church of the Nativity. Omnipresent throughout the center of the monastery.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

Once we reach the door of the church, a little wet by the way, one is perplexed by the high level of detail that the paintings have both on the ceiling and on all its walls.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

It is a real wonder, a very common thing in the main Orthodox churches of Bulgaria. Perhaps the only negative point is that most of these have an excessively dark interior, barely illuminated by candlelight and the odd light.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

You can't take pictures inside but you can take one from the door. As in the Sofia Cathedral, there are several people placed in strategic places to control whether a smart phone takes out the cell phone to take a picture.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

To the right of the church we have theJreliyova tower where curiously a souvenir shop is housed. Go site to be the oldest building in the complex.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria

Finally we can visit the history museum and the ethnographic museum, both for a fee. Personally we only visit history and the truth is that we left quite happy.

Rila Monastery - Bulgaria Bulgaria (Guide EDT / Lonely Planet)
  • Mark Baker, Chris Deliso, Richard Watkins
  • Publisher: EDT
  • Issue no. 2 (11/21/2013)
€ 23.50 See on Amazon

Practical data of the Rila Monastery

Before leaving for Sofia

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  • The best excursions in Bulgaria

Excursions to the monastery of Rila

If we do not have a rental car, public transport does not meet our requirements, we want a guide and time is short, it is best to take us by the hand on a comfortable tour.

Excursion to the monastery of Rila

How to get to Rila Monastery?

A bus from the stationOvcha Kupel in Sofia it leaves at 10:20, arriving at 13:00 (about € 10/12 round trip). The return bus leaves at 15:00, taking 2h margin only To visit the monastery. There are also much more flexible private shuttles for an approximate cost of 30€.

By car they are around 120km, about 2 hours maximum.

What time is the Rila Monastery?

  • From June 1 to September 30: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • From October 1 to May 31: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

What does the Rila Monastery cost?

The Monastery and the Church of the Nativity are free access. You just have to pay for parking (4BGN), the entrance to the History Museum of 8BGN or 4BGN to the ethnographic museum.

What to see in the surroundings

  • The pyramids of Stob: some gullies in an unusual place.

Where to sleep near the monastery of Rila?

There are several hotels located on the mountain road that reaches the Rila monastery. These are our recommendations.

  • Rilets Resort & Spa: the most comfortable option in the area and from where you can walk to the monastery. Excellent option with Spa.
  • Hotel Gorski Kut: economical hotel located next to the river and perfect for hiking trails and visiting the monastery.
  • Complex Magiyata na Rila: very similar to the previous one.