The Bulgarian Rila monastery

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria: Should you visit this landmark?

Do you love Bulgaria and are you wondering about visiting Rila monastery?

A monastry? Could that be interesting to visit, you might think? Well, the Rila Monastery is in located Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains, which is a truly beautiful place. This place has a deep story that goes back hundreds of years.

The monastery is surrounded by tall peaks and green forests. If you love to travel, learn about history, or enjoy nature, this is a great place to visit.

Let’s dive in!

Is Rila monastery worth visiting?

Yes, Rila Monastery is a great place to go. This place is in the middle of Bulgaria. It is more than just a building; it is a piece of history that tells stories from a long time ago.

The church has been there for hundreds of years, and when you go inside, you can feel how important it is to the people of Bulgaria. The temple is beautiful to look at. It has bright colours and intricate patterns that really make you stop and look.

Architecture of the monastery
Architecture of the monastery

The surroundings mountains make it feel peaceful and quiet, so it’s a great place to sit back and think. People come from all over the world to see the Rila Monastery and learn about its history and beauty.

Rila Monastery is a place you should visit if you are interested in history, art, or just want to see a special place in Bulgaria.

What is Rila monastery known for?

The monastery of Rila has a few specific things that make it stand out and why it’s great to visit:

  • Long History: Rila Monastery has been standing since the 10th century. Because it has been around for so long, it has seen a lot of things happen and change in Bulgaria.

    When you walk on its grounds, you are walking on paths that people have used for hundreds of years!
  • Unique Architecture: One of the first things people notice about the monastery is its unique architecture. Details like brightly painted walls, big towers, and wood carvings stand out.

    The buildings aren’t just places to pray. They’re also works of art that show how good Bulgarian builders were in the past.
  • Cultural Symbol: Rila Monastery is a cultural symbol for many Bulgarians. It is more than just a building for them. It shows the deep spiritual views and traditions of the country.

    It has become a proud symbol of Bulgarian togetherness and identity over time.
  • Stunning Location: Rila Monastery is in a beautiful place! It’s located in the Rila Mountains. The green and tall peaks make a great background for the monastery and make it even more beautiful.

    This mix of nature and architecture gives you a quiet place to get away from the busy world.
  • Educational Hub: Inside the walls of the monastery, there is a very good museum. This museum has pieces of art, old books, and other things that have to do with religion.

    These things give a detailed look at how Bulgarians practise religion and at the past of the Orthodox Church.

When you go to Rila Monastery, it’s a great experience full of stories about religion, art, and being proud to be Bulgarian. Every corner and stone has a story to tell to those who are willing to listen!

Why was the Rila monastery built?

St. John of Rila was the reason why the Rila Monastery was built. He was a very religious man who wanted a quiet place in the mountains to pray and be close to nature.

He thought that being in a place with so much peace would help him connect more with his religion. As more people heard about St. John and how much he cared about prayer, they were moved and wanted to join him.

Murals in the monastery
Murals in the monastery

They also wanted to feel a strong connection to their values. So, what began as a simple place for one man to pray got bigger over time. As more buildings were built, it became a special place where many people could meet and talk about their religion.

So, Rila Monastery was made not only as a place to pray, but also as a place for people to learn, help each other, and grow in their beliefs. It became a symbol of hope and unity for many people in Bulgaria, and people came from all over to visit.

How long does it take to get through Rila Monastery?

Most of the visits usually take between two to three hours. This lets you see the intricate designs of the church, walk through the peaceful grounds, look at the artifacts in the museum, and maybe even talk with a monk or two!

If you like to pay attention to every detail, you might want to set aside half a day. Because there is a lot of detail to see!

Rules to be observed in the monastery

Before visiting the monastery, respect is very important here and there are some rules to take into account:

  • Dress With Respect: When you go to Rila Monastery, you should wear clothes that show respect for the sacred area. This means that your shoulders and knees need to be covered.

    Think about wearing long skirts or trousers and long-sleeved shirts. The monastery is a place of worship, so dressing modestly is a way to show respect for the people who pray there and their customs.
  • Talk Quietly: The monastery is a place for reflection and peace. Try to keep your voice down when you’re inside. This makes sure that everyone has time to think, pray, or just enjoy the beauty of the place in peace.

    By speaking softly, you can be sure that you won’t bother or disturbing the monks who are living there.
  • Limit The Use Of Cameras: It’s tempting to want to take a picture of every beautiful part of the monastery, but it’s good to remember some rules. First, don’t use your flash, especially when you’re inside.

    Also, you’re not able to take pictures in some places. If you’re not sure, always look for signs or ask someone.
  • Respect Religious Practices: There may be events or prayers going on while you are there. If so, step back and give them room. It’s a way to show respect for people who are doing religious things.

    It’s also a chance for people to see and learn about the monastery’s customs and rituals.

By following these rules, you’re just making sure that you’re respecting the Rila Monastery as a holy place and have a meaningful and respectful time there.

Rila monastery tours

If you’re staying in Sofia, you might want to make a great day-trip to visit the Rila monastery as well as the Boyana Church. The following tour combines these tow attractions:

Book your Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip from Sofia here!

But if you want to explore the surrounding mountains and lakes and if you love to spend your day hiking, I would recommend the following tour to witness some beautiful beautiful nature in combination with the monastery:

Book your Seven Lakes and Rila Monastery Tour here!

These two tours will give you great options to get the maximum out of stay in Bulgaria. Big time!

Rila monastery opening hours

Knowing when the Rila Monastery is open will help you get the most out of your trip to this historic place. The hours change with the seasons, so it’s always smart to plan ahead.

During the summer (From May to September):

  • Monastery Grounds: From 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., when the sun goes down, people can walk around the outdoor parts of the monastery. During the summer, this extra time lets you enjoy the natural beauty of the area while it is still light outside.
  • Main Church and Tower: These are the most important parts of the monastery. They are full of art and history and are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s important to take advantage of these hours, especially if you want to look at the small features inside.
  • The Monastery Museum: This is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It has artifacts and tells the story of Rila over the ages. Since the museum takes more time, it’s best to get there early.

During the winter (October through April):

  • Monastery Grounds: Even though the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, the monastery grounds are still open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The snowy background can make for a unique and beautiful sight.
  • Main Church and Tower: You can look around inside from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the quieter months. When candles are lit, especially in the late afternoon, it can feel a bit mysterious.
  • Monastery Museum: This is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a warm place to go when it’s cold outside, and it tells stories about Bulgaria’s long history.

It’s important to know that there could be changes to these schedules because of religious events or ceremonies. So, it can be smart to check the monastery’s website or give them a call before going.

Can you stay at Rila Monastery?

You sure can! Rila Monastery isn’t just a place of worship and history for monks, but it’s also a safe place if you want to spend more time in its quiet surroundings.

There are some guest rooms inside the monastery if you want to stay for a night or more in this peaceful place. Even though these rooms are quite simple, they give you a real feel for how monks live.

Rila monastery - at night
The monastery at night

When you stay overnight, you can see the monastery’s quiet beauty after the day’s tourists have left, and you can start the next day listening to the sounds of morning prayers.

But because it’s popular and there aren’t many rooms to stay, it’s best to book ahead, especially during busy times. Living inside the monastery walls is a one-of-a-kind way to get closer to Rila’s spiritual side and give yourself time to think away from the usual busyness.

How do I get from Sofia to Rila?

It’s not too hard to get to Rila Monastery from Sofia, which is the beautiful capital city of Bulgaria. Here are some options that you have to get from Sofia to Rila:

  • By car: This gives you the most freedom. From Sofia, take the A3 highway, then Route 1, and finally Route 107. The trip takes about two hours, depending on how busy the roads are, and is about 120 kilometres long.

    If you have a car, you can drive at your own pace and maybe visit other nearby places of interest.

    If you’re looking for a car to rent, Discover Cars is your best option with the best service and the best experience:

Book Your Rental Car to Explore the Beauty of Bulgaria here!

  • By Bus: There are busses to Rila Monastery every day from the main bus stop in Sofia. Most of the time, it takes about three hours to get there. During tourist season, it’s a good idea to check the schedules and buy tickets ahead of time.
  • By Taxi or Ride Share: This can be a more expensive choice, but it gets you there quickly and in comfort. Make sure you and the driver agree on a price ahead of time, or use a known ride-sharing app.
  • Combining Public Transport: To be honest, this is a bit of a trip. You would first take a bus or train to the town of Rila or Blagoevgrad, and then a local bus to the monastery. This option takes more time and planning, and will take you longer.

Think about the season and time of day when you plan your trip. Winters can be very cold, and roads in the mountains can be hard to drive on. You can also see the monastery with fewer people if you go early in the day or stay the night at Rila.

But no matter how you get there, the trip through the beautiful countryside of Bulgaria to one of its most famous sites is a great experience!

Rila monastery: FAQs

The information below is related to the monastery and about the town of Rila. It will give you some more great insights!

How tall is the Rila mountain?

It’s good to know that Rila is known for more than just the monastery. It’s also Bulgaria’s highest mountain range.

The Musala peak
The Rila Mountains

Its peak, which is called Musala, stands proudly at 2,925 metres. Not only is it a beautiful sight, but it’s also a challenge that many hikers love.

How many monks live at Rila monastery?

So the Monastery used to be home to a larger group of people, but now only 20 to 30 monks live there. Their days are filled with prayers, work, and taking care of the monastery’s legacy.

How many monasteries are there in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria has a lot of religious history, and it has more than 120 monasteries to show for it. Each one definitely has its own personality and story, which adds to the spiritual landscape of the country.

The Wrap-Up: Monastery in Rila

You could say that the Rila Monastery isn’t just another place for tourists to visit. It’s a trip into the heart of Bulgaria.

It is a memorable place to visit because of its architecture, history, and peaceful atmosphere. If you happen to be in Bulgaria, this fascinating piece of history is a must-visit! Especially with the beautiful surrounding mountains and lakes.

If you want to know more about Bulgaria, check out my post about the Bulgarian language or the best Bulgarian castles!

And if you love beer in combination with Bulgaria, check out my post about Beer in Bulgaria!

Your restless voyager,


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