Rila Monastery
Tours

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Our most recommended Rila Monastery Tours

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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From Sofia: Shuttle Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church

3. 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

4. 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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Rila Monastery and Boyana Church: Small Group Tour

5. Rila Monastery and Boyana Church: Small Group Tour

Situated deep in the dense pine forests of Rila Mountain, Rila Monastery is the biggest and most important Orthodox cloister in Bulgaria. It is an outstanding example of the Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage, in which architecture and painting merge harmoniously. The site is part of UNESCO world heritage list. Rila Monastery was found in the 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski, a Hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. His ascetic dwelling and tomb became a holy place and later on a monastic complex was formed. It played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. After the guided visit of the Monastery complex and lunch, we will head back to Sofia. On the way, we will stop at the second UNESCO site for the day, Boyana church. Small but unique with the most preserved frescoes in this part of Europe, dating back to 1259. The tour will end with drop-off at your hotel.

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

6. 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 5-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.

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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 Sofia: Rila Monastery and Plovdiv Self-Guided Trip

8. 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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Sofia: Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids

9. Sofia: Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids

Spend the morning in the Rila Monastery, one of the country’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites, a must-see for anyone visiting Bulgaria. Discover the centuries old forests of the Rila Mountains on a scenic walk to the cave of St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila), where the founder of the monastery lived as an anchorite and explore the amazing rock formations of the natural phenomenon of the Stob Pyramids. Escape the Sofia crowds for a memorable full-day trip led by an expert. You will be picked up in the morning from your hotel or address in Sofia for a wonderful journey through the scenic Rila Mountains. Arrive at the Rila Monastery within 2-hours and head towards the cave of St. Ivan Rilski by foot. A fairy trail will lead you through the centuries old woods of the Rila Monastery Nature Park to the cave where the founder of the monastery spent the last years of his life as a hermit. Visit the cave and walk back to the monastery for a guided tour and free time to explore the hidden corners of the 10th century UNESCO site. After lunch, the journey will continue with a short transfer (approximately 25 minutes) to the village of Stob, where you will have a short walk to the natural phenomenon of the sandstone Stob Pyramids. In the late afternoon, transfer back to Sofia, where you will be transferred back to your place.

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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 Rila Monastery

This trip has exceeded my expectations. Beside the fact that the 2 sites are very important historically/ culturally & very beautiful , I engaged in long deep chats about Bulgaria with Martin -our guide- during the 2-hours bus drive each way. Martin was very organized & informative , yet funny & easy going. I was on a tight schedule in Sofia (only 3 days , including the trip to Rila), so Martin provided very useful insights about how to benefit of my short time there to the maximum. Highly recommeded trip & guide.

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

Very nice travel destination, knowledgable tourguide and everything on time. Can recommend.