Kyustendil Province
History & Heritage

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Our most recommended Kyustendil Province History & Heritage

From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

1. From Sofia: Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Small Group Tour

Depart Sofia at 09:00 AM sharp, and 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 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 specialties such as mekitsi (a traditional Bulgarian dish of kneaded dough made with yogurt that is deep fried). Depart at 01:30 PM and travel to Boyana Church in the suburbs of Sofia. See the historically significant frescoes of the Byzantine building, and hear how they started the fashion for illustrating biblical figures with emotions and placing them alongside the local aristocracy. With an estimated arrival time at the church of approximately 03:40 PM, enjoy about 30 minutes to explore. Leave at around 04:10 PM for the drive to Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia city center by 04:30 PM to 05:00 PM.

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

2. 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 at 9:00 behind St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. Sit back and relax for the next 2 hours as your friendly, English-speaking drivers transport you 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 which features a specialty of grilled trout. Get 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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Rila Monastery Day Trip from Sofia

3. Rila Monastery Day Trip from Sofia

Board the shuttle service behind St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia city center. Then, head to the medieval Rila Monastery in the spectacular Rila Mountains. Get over 2 hours of free time to explore the complex, founded by the hermit monk Ivan Rilski in 927 AD. Marvel at the frescoes of the main church and visit the medieval tower independently. Wander down quiet outdoor corridors adorned with beautiful mosaics, and see gold-plated iconostasis and valuable icons from the 14th to 19th century. Learn more about the history of the site at the museum, where highlights include the double-sided crucifix of the Rila Cross. See the old bakery and other monuments, including the residential area of high stone walls and little windows. Board the minibus back to Sofia in the afternoon and get dropped off at the pick-up point on arrival.

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Rila Mountain Winter Day Trip

4. Rila Mountain Winter Day Trip

Start the tour at 9 AM when the guide will pick you up from your hotel in Sofia and take you to the Rila Mountain. The transfer time to the mountain region is about an hour and a half.  Choose between 2 of the 5 following options for activities: 1 or 2 hour ski-doo ride in Borovets; take the cabin lift in Borovets and enjoy the beautiful panoramic views; visit the restored fortress of Tsari Mali Grad, located on a hill near the village of Belchin; experience the afternoon skiing or snowboarding with a private teacher; enjoy a spa afternoon in the village of Sapareva Banya, famous for its hot thermal springs. Return to Sofia between 5 PM and 6 PM.

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From Sofia: Shuttle Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church

5. From Sofia: Shuttle Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church

The tour departs early in the morning in front of Alexander Nevski. Your first stop will be the great UNESCO Boyana Church located on the outskirts of Sofia consisting of three buildings. The eastern church was built in the 10th-century, then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two-story building to be erected next to it. After exploring it, head to Rila Monastery, where you will admire the impressive architecture, frescoes and learn about the history of the monastery from your guide. During the guided tour in the inner yard and the monastery museum, discover the most precious pieces that are kept from the past and all the facts and stories about the largest Bulgarian monastery complex.

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Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour

6. Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour

After pickup from any accommodation in Sofia, your journey through over 1,000 years of Bulgarian cultural history begins. Make the 2-hour drive to the Rila Monastery via air-conditioned bus into the dense pine forests of Rila Mountain. Upon arriving, explore the monastery, which was founded in 927, at your own pace with 2 hours of free time. Amble the 21-acre complex, taking in the colorful and unique traditional Orthodox architecture. Gaze at the 5-domed church, with its numerous altars, side chapels, and gold-plated mosaics. Take in the beauty of the tranquil mountain environment surrounding the peaceful place of worship. Afterwards, you’ll have lunch, before heading on to your next destination. Only a couple of miles away from the monastery into the forest is St. Ivan Rilski Cave, where St. Ivan of Rila took up residency in the early 10th century. Experience a sacred site of tremendous importance to Bulgarian Orthodox Christians. On the way back to Sofia, you’ll pass through Boyana Church, famed for its elaborate frescoes dating back to the 11th, 13th, 15th-17th, and 19th century. Afterwards, you’ll be transported back back to your accommodation in Sofia.

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From Sofia: Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

7. From Sofia: Rila Monastery Full-Day Tour

Discover one of the most important historical monuments in Bulgaria: The Rila Monastery. The largest spiritual and cultural center in Bulgaria for hundreds of years, the Rila Monastery is located in the heart of the Rila Mountain, about 130 km (80 miles) south of Sofia. You'll be transported by car or air-conditioned minibus from your hotel in Sofia up to Rila Mountain, where your guide will take you on a tour of the captivating ancient Eastern Orthodox monastery. Named on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Rila Monastery offers insight into the Balkan's Medieval history. With its 1,200 scenes in numerous decorative paintings and figural images, the stunning open arcade is also an art gallery. Admire the exquisitely detailed artwork under the arches, and then visit beautiful church with colorful frescoes located at the center of the Monastery. Then enjoy a traditional 3-course Bulgarian lunch as well as a visit to Rila Museum.

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From Bansko: Rila Monastery Half-Day Tour

8. From Bansko: Rila Monastery Half-Day Tour

Meet your driver in Bansko and board the air-conditioned vehicle to travel to Rila Monastery. Relax during the 1.5-hour drive as you admire the beautiful Bulgarian landscape. Arrive at the monastery at approximately 3 PM, giving you plenty of time to explore the complex inside and out. Admire its balconies and discover unique frescoes by one of the most famous painters of the Bulgarian National Revival period. See gilded iconostasis and enjoy the fabulous mountain views. Stop at one of the 2 restaurants in the complex to have something to eat or drink. Take the opportunity to discover more at the museum, or purchase souvenir icons and other items in the nearby shops. The departure time from Rila Monastery will be between 5 and 5:30 PM. At the end of the tour, your driver will drop you off at your accommodation in Bansko.

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From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Plovdiv Self-Guided Trip

9. From Sofia: Rila Monastery and Plovdiv Self-Guided Trip

Depart from Sofia city center at 7:00 AM (for the period May to September, departure is at 07:30 AM) and travel by shuttle bus with a friendly English-speaking driver. After your 2-hour transfer in an air-conditioned minibus, you will reach 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 medieval tower independently. Continue with a 3.5-hour transfer to the city of Plovdiv (a short break half-way is included) and get more than 4.5 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. Board the shuttle bus at 6:00 PM (for the period May to September, departure is 6:30 PM) at the agreed meeting point and return to Sofia in the evening to be dropped off at the meeting point behind St.Alexander Nevski Cathedral.

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Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik

10. Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik

This 11-hour guided small-group tour focuses on the highlights of Rila Monastery and Melnik. You will be also introduced to nature conservation, Bulgarian geography, as you will see two of the highest mountains on the Balkans, agriculture and economy during and after  communism. There are plenty of other interesting themes that you can discuss with your experienced guide while on the road.  Depart early in the morning from busy Sofia and head to the tranquil heart of the Rila mountains, where you can admire the impressive Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Its architecture and the frescoes represent the apogee of Bulgarian Renaissance art. In a one-hour guided tour of the most treasured monuments in the inner yard and the Monastery museum, you will learn the most fascinating facts and stories about the biggest Bulgarian monastery complex. Enjoy free time to buy souvenirs, take photos or to continue to explore it by yourself. Your tour continues south to Melnik (about a 1.5-hour drive). Admire the strangely shaped sand and clay formations. Now the smallest town in Bulgarian with only 208 inhabitants, Melnik still preserves part of its glory from the 17th to 19th centuries, when it was a flourishing tobacco and wine-producing center. Today, the city is famous for its lovely white houses and cobbled streets, mild climate and of course internationally recognized brands of red wine. You will have a guided walking tour through the city and enter the biggest Bulgarian Revival Period style house and its tunnel-like wine cellar.

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What people are saying about Kyustendil Province

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 783 reviews

Our guide, Philip, was extremely knowledge about the monastery itself and about the history of his country. By the time we arrived we had an understanding of what we were visiting but were still unprepared for how stunning the place actually was. Pictures do not do it justice. We would encourage any visitor to take the opportunity to go.

really nice Guide, Philipp was verhelpful and told us many interesting things. the church was smaller than expected, but still very pretty. the monastery was lovely and ee had a great time there

Very enjoyable day. the Monadteto is an oasis of peace and the Boyana Church a small treasure. We thank our excellent guide, Georgi

Filip was an outstanding guide. A very special excursion I recommend it to everyone ... enchanting places

Super interesting tour! Both me and my friends really enjoyed it and would totally recommend it!