Rila monastery is the first thing that comes to your mind when you have friends from abroad visiting. I will dare to be accused of blasphemy and even say that sometimes it feels a bit of a cliché. But there’s a reason for that – no surprise it’s one of the nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. Words fail to describe this heavenly monument.
Believe it or not, getting to the place is not the easiest thing, though. That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions is…
Here’s the answer(s):
There’s only one daily public bus to Rila Monastery. It leaves at 10:20 from the West bus station (Ovcha Kupel). You can get there in around 25 minutes with tram N5 just behind our starting point at the Palace of Justice.
The bus arrives around 13:00. It leaves to Sofia at 15:00 and is back in the city around 17:30. Return ticket cost 22 BGN (11 EUR) and you buy it from the driver.
Ever since the pandemic started the bus has not been operating. Call +35929555362 for the most up-to-date info.
There is a new initiative for a shuttle that would take you to two UNESCO World heritage sites in one day from Sofia – Rila Monastery and Boyana Church. Definitely worth it if you are here for short time. The price is 30 EUR per person return ticket. Prices could vary depending on the season. Advance booking is required – click here.
As far as we know, our friends at Hostel Mostel also organize a minibus to Rila Monastery. The requirement is that there are at least 3 travellers. It would take you back around 17:00-18:00. For more information, please contact the hostel.
This is probably the most expensive option. You can book a private guided tour to the monastery and most of the companies would be able to provide transport included in the price. For more information, contact Association of Bulgarian Tour Guides or a private tour company of your choice.
The most convenient way to travel in Bulgaria in general. If you can use a car (rented or borrowed), do not hesitate. This would give you much more speed, freedom and chance to stop by less obvious but as interesting tourist attractions. For example, you can see the unofficial ‘junk’ museum just outside of Kocherinovo. Retro cars, old TV sets, photos of Lenin and hundreds of other old items, stored by a local in the building of the Soviet-era агропромышленный комплекс.
You can go hiking from Sofia through Vitosha mountain to Rila mountain following the E4 European long distance path and then find your way to the monastery.
If you know any other means of transportation to the monastery or if there are any changes in the above-mentioned information, please let us know. Also, do not hesitate to ask us any questions as comments to this blog post or through our other contact details.
The Rila Monastary is one of the holiest places in Bulgaria. It dates back to the 10th century. Over the centuries it has been through a lot. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Today it is by far the biggest and most famous monastary in Bulgaria among both locals and tourists. It is situated at 1147 meters altitude in the Rila mountains – Bulgaria’s highest mountain. On about 8800 square meters the monastary complex includes 24-meter stone walls, the Hreliov’s tower, “The Nativity of the Virgin” – main church, around 300 rooms, 110 monk’s cells and 40 drawing rooms, a library and much more.
One of the monastary’s most valuable parts is the wooden-carved iconostasis. The monastary is also home to several permanent and temporary expositions of Bulgarian icon art, manuscripts and old printed work. For the past 1000 years the Rila Monastary has been the heart and soul of Bulgarian literacy, culture and religion.
Ivan Rilski (876 – 946) – St John of Rila is Bulgaria’s first hermit. It is believed that he is the creator of the Monastary. He is also regarded as the patron saint of all Bulgarians. He is also one of the most important saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox church. In his lifetime he witnessed the glory and decline of the First Bulgarian Empire. If you are interested in learning more about his life and testement you should definately check the information provided here.
That’s right! It is actually possible to spend the night at the Rila Monastry at a very reasonable price. The monastary has a special area that hosts travellers. Of course, don’t expect a 5-star hotel service but a rather unique experience instead. You can book a room there by simply calling +359 70542208. It will cost you 25 BGN (around 13 euros) You might need a Bulgarian to assist you with your phone conversation as they might not speak very good English. Check-in is before 6PM. Breakfast and dinner options are available as there are several restaurants in the area.
There are several landmarks that are nearby. They are easily accessible, especially if you have your own car. We encourage you to check out the Ivan Rilski Cave and The Stob Earth Pyramids (Stobski Piramidi).
Want to spend more time in the Rila Mountains? Then you should definately go to the Seven Rila Lakes – trust us. It is one of the most breathtaking hikes you’ll ever experience.
Last updated: August 2019
If you go by bus it might be a good idea to stay at the Monastery overnight. You can use the time to go hiking, there are many paths that will lead you along an old railway, to beautiful meadows, rivers and lakes. Sleeping in the Monastery costs 15 Eu per person. Be aware that eating can be hard to find there and be prepared with your own food.
something else to see around – the Stob pyramids: http://travelinos.com/sightseeing/n27-16737-Stob_Pyramids_in_Bulgaria
I’d also recommend a sleepover. The Monastery is a whole new thing once all the tourists go back. It’s really magical 🙂 And you can get very nice breakfast (or at least used to be so). There is only one setback – ladies and gents are not allowed to sleep in the same rooms, as is the norm for any religious setting 🙂 I’m not sure but maybe it is okay if they are married.
Kudos to FST for this extremely useful post! I’ve often wondered myself how to take my friends there when not with a car.
I want to buy a soviet era television.
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Please contact me if you can help.
Brad, from Canada
[…] Like so many things we've seen on this trip, I think that Rila Monastery is even more impressive in person than in photos. A visit will take an hour or two. You can get there by renting a car, taking a shuttle like Traventuria's, or taking the public bus – here are more details. […]
How to get to Rila Monastery
You say it is possible to get to Rila from Sofia just walking. Is that right?
How long does it take?
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[…] How to Get to Rila Monastery […]
Please, if somebody know, where is bus stop in rila monastery? I woud like to travel from sofia to rila monastery by bus. Is bus stop close by rila?
Hello! Is Rila suitable to visit in mid-March? What are driving conditions from Sofia to Rila like that time of year?
As for now the public bus from Sofia to Rila Monastery is not working until further notice – I have experienced it myself today and was disappointed. Hope this information saves someone else’s day.