Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery Travel Blog

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Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria's most popular tourist destinations. The beautiful monastery welcomes hundred thousands of visitors every year and makes a good full day trip from Sofia. I did this day trip in July 2017 and it was one of the highlights of my short Bulgaria trip. Entry to the monastery is free, however the small museums on the ground charge a moderate entry fee. All areas open to tourists are located in the ground floor, the areas above include the residential areas of the monks, the working parts of the monastery as well as some guest rooms. Details about the museums and the church can be found in the separate reviews. Rila Monastery was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila (Jan Rilski) in the early 10th century. During Ottoman rule of Bulgaria, it was one of the few places in the area where Christianity was freely practised. Indeed, it is said that it was the place where Bulgarian culture and language survived the centuries. In 1833, a fire destroyed most of the monastery, only the Hrelyu Tower from 1334 remained. Rila Monastery was rebuilt in the years after in Bulgarian National Revival style.

Many tourists come on the scheduled bus which runs once daily from Sofia to the monastery and back for 11,00 Lev one way (2017). This is also the way of transport I would recommend to those who are not on guided tours or with their own vehicle. It may scare you off as it only gives you two hours in the monastery. However, unless you have a special interest in Orthodox Religious art or want to combine your visit with another activity like hiking, these two hours are fine for a monastery visit. You can visit the two museums, the icon gallery and the monastery church in an hour and use the second hour to wander around or have a break at one of the restaurants and cafés. Details about this bus connection can be found in the transportation tips. General Information about Rila Monastery can be accessed through by blog, but my general review is categorized under "Things to do in Bulgaria".

Great blog about your adventures at the Rila Monastery.
Posted on: Sep 06, 2017
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Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery Sights & Attractions review
Icon Gallery
Located in the eastern part of the monastery, this room shows a selection of the monastery's icons. For those who have seen enough icons on their trip… read entire review
Rila Monastery Sights & Attractions review
Ecclesiastical and Historical Museum
The main museum of the monastery has a focus on religious art, but also displays old documents, bibles and ceremonial clothes. The centrepiece is an 8… read entire review
Rila Monastery Sights & Attractions review
Museum of Monastic Life
I've found a couple of different names for this museum (including Ethnographic Museum and Monastery Farm Exhibition). The place I am talking about is … read entire review
Rila Monastery Sights & Attractions review
Church of the Nativity of the Virgin
The church was built in the years 1834 to 1837, replacing the building which was lost (like most of the monastery) in a fire in 1833. The church is we… read entire review
Rila Monastery General Tips & Advice review
From Sofia to Rila Monastery by bus
Getting from Sofia to Rila Monastery is easier than you might think. There is a reliable bus service running every day from Ovcha Kupel Bus station (a… read entire review
167 km (104 miles) traveled
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Rila Monastery
photo by: halilee