In just one day enjoy a full visit to UNESCO’s top World Heritage Site in Bulgaria – The Rila Monastery.
And also discover the holy cave of Saint Ivan Rilski – the founder of the Rila Monastery.
Rila Monastery (UNESCO), the biggest and most visited Bulgarian monastery is set in the heart of Rila Nature Park. It attracts pilgrims and tourists with its spirituality, colourful architecture and vivid religious art. The superb views of rugged mountain peaks and the century-old spruce forests surrounding the monastic complex add unforgeable splendour to every visitor’s experience. Spend an hour or two in the monastery premises learning about the over a 1000 years history of Rila Monastery, marveling the strikingly beautiful and intricate murals and touring the local museum. Add a culinary touch to your visit by sampling the delicacies of the monastery’s bakery or taste local dishes in the restaurants nearby.
The Cave of St. Ivan Rilski (Saint John of Rila)
The cave in which St. Ivan Rilski has spent more than 7 years of his life, is located only 3-4 kilometres from the Rila Monastery. Legend has it that whoever manages to pass through the hole at the end of the cave is sinless. To get to the Cave of St. Ivan Rilski, you pass the parking lot of the monastery and continue up this road for another 3-4 kilometres. Just before an almost U-turn in the road you will see a large wooden icon on the left. The bus will drop you off there and you will continue on foot through the forest. The pedestrian “crossing” will take you about 15 minutes, after which you will reach a small church nestled among the trees. The path to this church is very well trodden, with clear markings and plenty of directional signs.
Visit the Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski (14:00 to 15:00) – one of the most sacred places in Bulgaria and pass through the tunnel of St. Ivan Rilski cave to see if you can actually do it. The belief is that only people with clean souls and with no sins, can pass through. The religious powers of the cave keep the sinners away. While you’re there, do not forget to drink some water from the holy spring. It is believed that this water never stops, never freezes even when it is extremely cold in the winter.
Who is Saint Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila)?
Ivan Rilski (876 – 946) was a Bulgarian hermit monk. He was the founder of the Rila Monastery. Saint Ivan of Rila was born with the name Ioan in the village of Skrino (near Dupnitsa). He was a contemporary of the Golden Age of the Bulgarian state. Ioan spent his youth as a shepherd, and at the age of 25 gave away the inheritance received from his parents and devoted himself to monastic life in the monastery “St. Dimitar” in the Vlahina mountains nearby. He received a theological education in this holy monastery. In the following years, Ivan (Ioan) led a hermit’s life in various places, after which he settled at today’s cave in the Rila wilderness (i.e. Rila Mountains). Here Ivan Rilski remained until the end of his life, performing various pious deeds and miracles. His fame spread far and wide. In his biography, it is said that Tsar Peter I himself came to meet the monk and brought him rich gifts. Ivan Rilski modestly greeted him from a distance and accepted only the apples that the ruler had brought to him. St. John of Rila died on August 18, 946.
- 09:00: Meet us behind the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (you will receive a detailed map after you complete the booking process).
- 12:00 (approx): Arrival at the Monastery.
- 12:00-14:00: Guided visit of the Monastery (including time for lunch).
- 14:00-15:00: Guided visit to the Cave of Saint John of Rila (Saint Ivan Rilski).
- 15:00-17:00 (approx): Arrival back at Alexandar Nevski Cathedral’s parking.
Rila Monastery Dress Code!
There is a dress code for entering the monastery. People wearing short skirts and trousers (above knee) are not allowed to enter. Women should have their shoulders covered. Rila Monastery is in the mountain and usually it is colder/cooler than in Sofia.
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.
Wi-Fi & Mobile network coverage:
There is no Wi-Fi at the Monastery areas. There is free Wi-Fi in all Traventuria vehicles, which you can use while on the road. Network coverage is usually good and you should have access to it during the whole journey.
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 Rila monastery. Kindly note that payment by credit or debit card is not really possible at the Monastery or the restaurants around. There is only one ATM at the monastery and sometimes it is out of order. It’d be better to have some cash with you.
What is included:
+ Round-trip shared transfer;
+ Transportation by air-conditioned bus;
+ English-speaking live tour guide;
+ ONLINE audio guides: Spanish, German, Italian, English, Russian, and French (Internet connection required to download and listen);
+ Hotel pick-up & drop off (available during booking process; price depends on the location of your hotel/accommodation);
What is not included:
– Admission fee to Rila Monastery Museum (all entrance fees must be paid in leva);
– Lunch and personal expenses;