RILA MONASTERY & BOYANA CHURCH (SELF-GUIDED TOUR)
Take a tour at your own pace and revel in the Rila Monastery and the Boyana Church.
Explore two of Bulgaria’s holiest sites – the Rila Monastery and the Boyana Church – with a self-guided, shared shuttle bus tour. It departs daily from a convenient centrally located meeting point.
The Rila Monastery situated at 1147 meters altitude in the highest mountain in the Balkan peninsula. It was founded in the 10th century by a hermit called St. Ivan of Rila. He lived in a cave near the monastery’s location in order to restrict himself from any material possessions. The monastery is the largest and most famous place for the Orthodox church in Bulgaria, as it preserved the Bulgarian language and culture in the ages of the Ottoman rule. Being one of the 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria, it is a key tourist attraction. The monastery’s rich history is exhibited at its library where lots of important written records, icons, wood-carvings, ethnographic items are being kept safe. The beautiful frescoes of the main church were painted around the year 1834 by the most famous and talented Bulgarian artists at the time. What is more, when you climb the Hrelyo’s tower, you will witness the stunning view of the monastery yard and the Rila mountains.
The Boyana Church (its original name is the Church of Saint Nicholas and Saint Panteleimon) is a cultural monument under UNESCO protection, inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979. Located on the outskirts of Sofia, it consists of three sections.
The first section of the church was built in the end of 10th and the beginning of 11th c. Then, Sebastocrator Kaloyan (a important figure in the Bulgarian medieval history) donated funds to make the second part, which bears the most important and attracitive murals for art historians and tourists alike. In the 19th century the local people successfully initiated the completion of the structure by building the narthex.
The site is famous for its medieval frescoes that stand out with their unique painting style being ahead of its time of the East European medieval arts as they reflect the now known “classical composition of the iconography” – multitude of colors, versatility and rich spirituality.
- 09:00: Meet us behind the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (you will receive a detailed map after you complete the booking process).
- 09:30: Set off for Boyana Church (could be rescheduled for the afternoon).
- 10:15: Depart from Boyana to Rila Monastery.
- 12:15: Arrive at the Monastery.
- 12:15-14:45: Free time at the Monastery
- 14:45-15:00: Head back to Sofia.
- 16:45-17:30: Arrive at Alexandar Nevski Cathedral’s parking.
What is included:
+ Round-trip shared transfer;
+ Transportation by air-conditioned minibus;
+ English-speaking driver throughout the tour;
+ Audio guides with multi-language commentaries: Spanish, German, Italian, English or Russian (5 euro per person);
+ Hotel pick-up & drop off (5 euro per booking);
What is not included:
– Optional admission fees (all entrance fees must be paid in leva);
– Lunch and personal expenses;
– Guide services;
Read more about Rila Monastery, Boyana Church, lunch, souvenirs, etc. by following the link.
Keep in mind that the Rila Monastery is an active Christian temple. Visitors are expected to follow a certain dress code, in particular to wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees. High heels are not appropriate, because the inner yard of the monastery is cobbled-stoned.
Note that the Rila Monastery is situated 1147 meters above sea level. in the heart of Rila Mountain. That’s why we recommend bringing warm clothes in the winter and sun cream/ hat with you in the summer.
The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian lev (pl leva) and this is the only currency accepted in the shops, museums and restaurants in and around the monastery. Kindly note that payment by credit or debit card is not possible! There is only one ATM at the monastery and sometimes it is out of order. It’d be better to have some cash in you.
Fewer and fewer people send postcards, but if you are one of those people, know that there is a post office in the Rila Monastery, which is working during the week.
Wi-Fi & Mobile network coverage:
There is no Wi-Fi there! Don’t worry though, in most of Traventuria’s vehicles there is free Wi-Fi, which you can use while on the road. Good news is that the network coverage is good and you should have access to it during the whole journey.
Rila Monastery complex and the surrounding it Nature Park are extremely colorful and appealing. If you are a nature-lover or keen on architecture, it would probably be difficult for you to resist taking pictures. Note that this is not allowed inside the main church as well as in the museums.
This tour is also available with a tour guide every day of the year: Rila Monastery and Boyana church tour Here is a video from the guided tour:
2 UNESCO SITES - Rila Monastery & Boyana Church | Sofia Bulgaria Travel Vlog
The self-guided tour starts at 09:00 am from St. Alexander Nevski Square, behind the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (at the parking lot in front of La Cattedrale restaurant). You are going to receive a map with instructions after completing the booking. We could pick you up from your hotel too, but it would cost you 5 or 10 euro per booking, depending on the hotel’s location. After enjoying the day alone/with your friends or family, we are going to drive you back to St. Alexander Nevski Square. Drop-off is available for 5 euros per booking.