Rila Monastary is located about 2 hours outside of Sofia, the capital city. You can hire a taxi (be sure to bargain – and note that hiring taxis from public transportation places such as bus or train stations are usually higher in price), take a bus or go with a number of Bulgarian based tour companies that visit the monastery (Traventuria, Tandem Travel, Bulgaria-Guide). The road past the small village of Rila is narrow and winds up a river canyon. There are several nice hotels/restaurants located along here which would make for nice stops before or after your visit.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is well worth visiting, not only for the picturesque monastery (free entrance) but for the hiking in the beautiful surrounding mountains. The monastery has been rebuilt several times over the years since it was founded in the 10th century and parts of it date from the 1300’s. It is four levels of residences that surround a central church. This is no ordinary church – beautiful hand paintings line the ceilings near the entrance with stunning gilded ornate bronze lining the inside and impressive onion domes on the top of the church.
Monks dressed in black walk around the courtyard mingling with the tourist. This is one of Bulgaria’s more visited attractions – around a million visitors pop in every year. Rising above the parking lot, is a trail that winds its way through the forest higher into the mountains. Don’t just visit the Monastery – take some time to hike and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery.
For more information visit the official site: www.rilamonastery.pmg-blg.com