About the Rila monastery
The monastery was built some 10 centuries ago by Ivan Rilski. It has 5 floors, 4 of which are visible and one is “hidden” due to requirements at the Ottoman time. This is the biggest monastery in Bulgaria and therefore a real must see, housing the biggest collection of icons on the territory of the country. Moreover, the beautiful scenery of the surrounding Rila mountain will help you find peace and tranquility.
Best way to experience it?
Imagine being able to stay the night at Macchu Picchu? Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to immerse into a place, is to sleep over and there are very few tourist attractions in the world where you can actually do it. This is possible in the Rila Monastery, for a very low price and we strongly recommend it, so you also get the chance to feel the surroundings!
How to get there?
- By public transport: There is a regular shuttle bus going from Sofia to the Rila Monastery. It departs every day from Bus and Coach station Ovcha Kupel at 10:20 AM and the journey takes 3 hours. The cost of the ticket is 11 BGN and you can buy it at the bus station or in the bus. To get to the bus station, you can take tram 5. You can buy the tram ticket from the tram stop, from the machine in the tram or from the driver as last resort. It costs 1,60 BGN and it’s always better to have the exact amount prepared. The tram stop is situated behind the Palace of Justice on street Lavele. Get off at the 11th stop at Bus Station Ovcha Kupel, that is approximately after 20 minutes depending on the traffic. Mind you, the return bus is at 3PM from Rila Monastery back to Sofia.
- By car: It takes about 2 hours to drive the 120 km to the Rila monastery from the center of Sofia. Once you get there, there will be a Parking to leave your car. Don’t park in front of the monastery if you are going to stay for the night, as this parking is just for short-time visitors. Go around and park behind at the designated area. You can rent a car from Val & Kar starting at 20 EUR per day, as well as have your rental delivered to your door from Dream Rent.
Sleeping over in the monastery
This is an amazing experience which we would definitely recommend. The monastery has a specially designated area for hosting travellers. Don’t expect anything luxurious, but do expect a tranquil time with the monks. Here is what you should know about sleeping over.
- Make a reservation by calling at +359 70542208. The reception doesn’t speak English, so some basic Bulgarian is recommended. Here is a phrase you can use: “ Mozje li da rezerviram leglo za dovechera na imeto na ….(fill in your name).” – meaning “May I reserve a bed under the name of…..”
- The price is 25 BGN per night and check in is before 6PM, otherwise the door will be closed 🙂
- There are many restaurants in the area but you might want to bring some snacks for breakfast just in case.
- At 9pm the doors of the monastery close, so make sure you are in your room before that.
- As of 9:30am, there is fresh Mekici for breakfast. The breakfast is not included, but you will find the shop behind the monastery.
Things to do around the monastery
Once you wake up fresh and vibrant, you might want to walk around. We recommend visiting the Ivan Rilski cave. It’s around half an hour walk from the Rila monastery. The saint spent 7 years of his life in this cave and there is a legend that you will be clean from all sins if you pass through the stone hole in the cave. Stay tuned for more detailed information about how to get to the cave and what to do there.