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Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery: Our most recommended tours and activities

From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour

1. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour

Start your day with travel to the Boyana Church in the suburbs of Sofia (if option selected). See the historically significant frescoes of the Byzantine building, and hear how they started the fashion of illustrating biblical figures with emotions and placing them alongside the local aristocracy. After that, relax on the 2-hour drive to the Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains. Upon arrival, explore the largest and most important Orthodox cloister in Bulgaria. Admire the arcaded balconies, and discover unique frescoes by one of the most famous painters of the Bulgarian National Revival period. See the gilded iconostasis and enjoy the fabulous mountain views. Hear the story of the monastery from your guide before enjoying some time to explore the monastic complex on your own. Learn more at the museum, or purchase souvenir icons and other items in the nearby shops. Take some time to refuel with lunch at one of the local restaurants, where you can purchase local dishes such as mekitsi (a traditional Bulgarian dish of kneaded dough made with yoghurt that is deep-fried).

From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip

2. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip

Experience the religious history of Bulgaria on a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Rila Monastery and Boyana Church from Sofia. Follow your guide around the monastery to learn about this epic site or choose to explore it on your own before viewing Boyana Church's ancient frescoes. Meet your friendly group for the day at the parking lot Behind Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, near cafe La Cathedrale. Settle down in your seat and set off out of the city as you drive along scenic roads with picturesque views of rural Bulgaria. Arrive at Rila Monastery, the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in the country. If you've booked the tour, follow your guide around the historic site and learn about the main frescoes. If you're an explorer you can visit the museum, take photos, and check out the church at your own pace. Spend about 3-hours at the monastery where you will get the opportunity to take photos, check the shops, visit the museums, and have a lunch break in the nearby restaurant. Then start your journey back to Sofia with one more important stop along the way. Enter the medieval Boyana Church and stroll within the ancient walls, studying the artistic frescoes which make this place so special. Finish your journey at around 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM in the city center.

From Sofia: 7 Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery Self-Guided Trip

3. From Sofia: 7 Rila Lakes and Rila Monastery Self-Guided Trip

Depart Sofia in the morning and travel by shuttle bus with a friendly English-speaking driver. Journey in air-conditioned comfort to Panichishte in the beautiful Rila National Park. Get briefed on arrival by your driver, who will tell you the different options and routes you can take up the mountain. Ride the chairlift to the 7 Rila Lakes, where you will get 5 hours of free time to go on some amazing nature walks independently to experience the glacial lakes from different perspectives. Board the shuttle bus at the agreed meeting point and relax on the 2-hour drive to Rila Monastery in a deep valley of the Rilska River. Founded in the 10th century, the monastery complex is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural and historical monuments. Get 1.5 hours to explore the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria at your own pace. Then, return to Sofia in the evening and get dropped off at the meeting point.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Plovdiv Town Full-Day Trip

4. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Plovdiv Town Full-Day Trip

Explore Bulgaria's most famous sites in 1 day from Sofia: the UNESCO Rila Monastery and the city of Plovdiv on a small group, self-guided trip. Walk the sites at your own comfortable pace without the need of following others. Get expert local advice from your friendly English-speaking host and benefit from reliable comfortable transfers. Depart from Sofia city center at 7:30 AM and travel by shuttle bus with a friendly English-speaking host. (For the period October to April, departure from Sofia is at 07:00 AM and the bus goes to first to Rila monastery and then to Plovdiv. Return to Sofia is around 20:00h). After your 2-hour transfer in an air-conditioned minibus, you will reach the city of Plovdiv and get more than 4 hours to explore Bulgaria's second largest city, famous for its Old Town, Roman remains and Kapana artistic district. Your driver will provide you with a free copy of a tourist city map and local tips. Meet your host again at 14:00h and ontinue with a 3.5-hour transfer (a short break half-way is included) through scenic mountain roads to the medieval Rila Monastery in the spectacular Rila Mountains. Once there, you have more than 1-hour to explore the monastic complex at your own pace - more than enough time to see all the major parts of the complex. The monastery was founded by the hermit monk Ivan Rilski in 927 AD. Marvel at the frescoes of the main church and visit the museum and medieval tower independently. Board the shuttle bus at 18:30h at the agreed meeting point and return to Sofia in the evening to be dropped off at the meeting point around 20:30 at knyaz Alexander I square in downtown Sofia.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day Trip

5. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day Trip

Travel in comfort as you visit several Bulgarian landmarks like the Rila Monastery and the Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski in the company of a guide. See one of Bulgaria's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, enjoy a delicious bite to eat, and learn about each location through the use of an audio guide. 9:00 AM - Depart from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Square (back side of the cathedral), and relax on a 3-hour drive to the Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains. At noon arrive at the Rila Monastery. 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM - Enjoy a guided walk at the Rila Monastery. Admire the arcaded balconies, and discover unique frescoes by one of the most famous painters of the Bulgarian National Revival period. See the gilded iconostasis and enjoy the fabulous mountain views. Hear the story of the monastery from your guide before enjoying some time to explore the monastic complex on your own. Learn more at the museum, or purchase souvenir icons and other items in the nearby shops. 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM - Take some free time to have lunch at one of the restaurants around the monastery, where you could taste local dishes such as mekitsi (a traditional Bulgarian dish of kneaded dough made with yoghurt that is deep-fried) or some grilled trout. 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM - Visit the Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski - one of the most sacred places in Bulgaria. Pass through the tunnel of St. Ivan Rilski. Drink some water from the holy spring which is believed to never freeze. 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM - Head back to Sofia and arrive at Alexander Nevski Cathedral Square around 5:00 PM The local tour operator, Traventuria, was awarded a “Business Which Supports Biodiversity” certification by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation for its “Tours with a Cause” initiative.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery Shuttle Day Trip

6. From Sofia: Rila Monastery Shuttle Day Trip

Important note: on the 31st of December the tour will be with meeting time 9:15 and departutre time 9:30! The meeting point for the tour is at the parking lot, behind saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - please be there at 8:45. The departure is at 9:00. The arrrival at the monastery is at about 11:00. The Rila Moanstery is the biggest and most famous and important Bulgarian one, remarkable for its frescoes, history and architecture. There, you will have some time to refresh and then, depending on the booked option - to have a tour with an English - speaking live guide (about 40 - 45 minutes) or to explore the monastery on your own pace with the self - guided option. Then, you will have free time approximately to 14:15, during which you can visit the monastery museums, take photos, check the shops and have a lunch break in the nearby restaurants. You can also do a short walk at some of the paths near the monastery. The return in the city center is approximatelly at 4:30 - 5 pm.

From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

7. From Sofia: Seven Rila Lakes & Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

This full-day tour is designed for active people wishing to combine a trek to natural wonders, with a tour of the most visited tourist attraction in Bulgaria, the magnificent Rila Monastery. Departing Sofia, you will head for the Rila Mountains, where you will enjoy a moderate hike through what is arguably the most distinguished area in the mountains, the 7 Rila Lakes. After a transfer of approximately 90 minutes, you will reach the region of Panichishte, where you will board a chair lift to the Rila Lakes hut. Consisting of a group of glacial lakes, the 7 Rila Lakes is located at an altitude of between 6,900 feet (2,100 meters) and 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. Surrounded by rugged peaks and deep valleys, you will see spectacular views as you walk through its pearls, such as The Eye, The Tear, The Kidney, The Twins, The Trefoil, The Fish Lake, and The Lower Lake. The route can be adjusted on the spot, following more gentle or steeper paths, depending on your fitness levels. Having visited all of the lakes, continue by car for approximately 90 minutes to Rila Monastery, the biggest and most important symbol of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Behind the 65-foot (20-meter) walls lie impressive monastery buildings, including a church and a chapel with valuable murals. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th-Century Hrelyo Tower, the 5th-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church, and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century. You will also explore the monastery’s rich museum, containing a valuable collection of old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets, and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16,000 books. The tour is offered as well with an ONLINE, cloud-based audioguide in different languages - English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, and English. INTERNET required to download and use. The local tour operator, Traventuria, was awarded a “Business Which Supports Biodiversity” certification by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation for its “Tours with a Cause” initiative.

From Sofia: Rila Monastery UNESCO Site & Outdoor Mineral Spa

8. From Sofia: Rila Monastery UNESCO Site & Outdoor Mineral Spa

After years of providing customized tours for our clients, we have designed an amazing tour, giving you the chance of visiting the sanctuary of Balkan culture, history, religion, and spirit - Rilski Manastir ( Rila Monastery ) and be able to feel the healing powers of Bulgaria's mineral springs, close to the only Gaiser on the Balkans within a day from Sofia and water heated by the Earth's core, popping out to 103 above ground. Famous since Roman times, Bulgaria is known for its rejuvenating mineral waters. On this day trip, combine a visit to the best mineral water baths, open all-year-round, with visit of Rila MOnastery. Your day starts with a pick-up near Serdika, easily reachable by all public transport in Sofia and within a 15-minute walk from all centrally based accommodations. Visit one of the Unesco sites in Bulgaria, a monastery established by the first Bulgarian Hermit, A Miracle Worker, The Spiritual Protector of the Balkans- Ioan Rilski. After having some time of your own, to admire the beauty of the almost 200-year-old frescoes, presented like a comic book by some of that time's best painters like Zahary Zograf, Stanislav Dospevski, together with the beauty of Rila Mountain, we move on. The best way to be able to experience a country is to try local food. Several options are available, depending on group size and food preferences. And we head for the Spa. Just an hour or so away is our next destination- Sapareva Banya - the hot water in an outdoor complex with several pool areas, hydro jets, jacuzzi a wet bar all year long. After soaking in the mineral waters good for skin, bone, and heart, we head back to Sofia.

Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Audio-guided Tour+free pick

9. Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Audio-guided Tour+free pick

The tour starts from from your hotel. After two hours transfer we will reach the Rila monastery. We will leave you to explore the monastery for 2 hours by audio guide (English, Espanol, Italiano, Français, Deutsche, Русский). After this time you will take the shuttle back to Sofia. Before to return you back we will take you to Boyana church, where you will have time to visit the church with audio guide. At the end of the tour we will leave you back on in your hotel. The Church “St. Nicholas and St. Pantaleon” (also “St. Nikola and St. Panteleimon”) in Boyana district, Sofia, or Boyana Church for short, is famous for its remarkable medieval frescoes, among which the remarkable images from 1259 of the sevastocratic couple Kaloyan and Desislava and of the Bulgarian ruling family of that time: tsar Constantine Tikh Asen (1257 – 1277) and empress consort (tsaritsa) Irene. In the four spaces of the tripartite building are preserved frescoed layers created between the 11th-12th and 16th-17th centuries, with the largest area occupied by frescoes from 1259. The park around the church was created at the tsar’s initiative in the early twentieth century and is remarkable for its giant sequoias. The Boyana Church was declared a national antiquity, protected by the state in 1927 and remained an active parish church until 1954. In 1979 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List under the protection of UNESCO under No. 42, and since 2003 the cultural property has been a branch of the National History Museum.

From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Boyana

10. From Sofia: Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Boyana

Spend the day exploring 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located outside of Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city. Begin by meeting with your local guide at behind St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia who is ready to make the best of your day, sharing historical facts and insider tips. Sit back and relax for the next 2 hours as your English-speaking driver transportsyou to Rila. Upon arriving, spend 2 hours exploring the area and visiting the Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. Then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant that features a specialty of grilled trout. Hop back in the van for another 2-hour journey, eventually arriving at Boyana Church, a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church on the outskirts of Sofia. Check out the elaborate frescoes that have made this site famous, before your tour returns you to your meeting point.

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What people are saying about Rila Monastery

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 2,473 reviews

Excellent day trip, Philip is an excellent guide and is clearly very good at his job. Everything was clear, good instructions, good communication well in advance and everything ran on time. Rila Monastery is a must see, I would suggest prepping in advance what you want to do in Plovdiv.

We did the guided tour with Hristo and he provided so many interesting facts that got us closer to the bulgarian culture. He was very charming and showed his passion at all times. We left the tour very happy and fulfilled. The monastery and frescos were stunning!

The visit was beautiful, Alex our guide spent the entire journey on the bus giving us interesting information about Bulgaria and the places we were going to visit. His kindness and interest in the area made the experience beautiful.

Our guide Alex was super nice and made the tour super interesting and very enjoyable. For it being his first tour in Spanish he did great!!

Excellent experience, congratulations to Alexander who guided us during the tour, professional and super nice!