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“A wonderful and very special place” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery
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$51.57*
and up
Rila Monastery and Boyana Church with Light Lunch
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Rila
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Founded in the 10th century, this monastery was restored in the 15th and again in the 19th century.
London UK
Level Contributor
218 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 105 helpful votes
“A wonderful and very special place”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 4, 2013

This huge monastery, now home to only nine monks, has a very special feel about it. Although I have never been to Tibet it felt like it could have belonged there, set in the mountains as it is - only the prayer flags were missing. Our group was privileged to see more than the average visitor as we were with a tour guide who has a close relationship with the Abbot, with whom we had an audience at the end of our visit. We were able to go up on to the higher balconies of the residential blocks, visiting the wonderfully decorated rooms devoted to different regions within Bulgaria where people would come to meet, exchange news and do business. We also saw a vacated monks dwelling; less spartan than one would imagine with kelims and a stove for winter. Those remaining now apparently have en-suite bathrooms and micro-wave ovens. The church is typical of many Orthodox places of worship with many icons and candles but notable for the large central chandelier with vast ornate gold 'crown' encircling it. The monks were much in evidence in the church and contrary to our experience at other monasteries, seemed relaxed and happy, chatting to each other and smiling at visitors. The monastery employs about 80 people working in the fields and grounds, runs it's own restaurant with wonderful food (chicken soup to die for) and from a separate building makes and sells the most delicious doughnuts in the world. There is a real sense of peace in this lovely place. Let us hope that tourists, whom the Abbot said were his biggest challenge, do not despoil this precious jewel of Bulgaria.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank Highgateglobetrotter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
109 reviews
32 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 87 helpful votes
“Extraordinary Monastery”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 4, 2013

Having seen a number of monasteries in the U.S. and Europe, Rila Monastery stands out for the tremendous number of frescoes, both inside and outside the monastery's Church of the Nativity. The monastic community was founded by Saint John of Rila in the 10th century. The monastery buildings were first constructed a short time later. However, the Ottoman Turks destroyed all but the tower in the 15th century, a few decades after they gained control of the area. Given how remote this site is deep in the mountains of Bulgaria, the Ottoman Turks had to be on a serious mission to get to and destroy this monastery. As I write this, there are riots in Istanbul in which buildings, cars, etc. are being destroyed. How times haven't changed!

The Ecclesiastical Museum, also called the Treasury Museum, is very well laid out and has an outstanding collection of icons, vestments, chalices, etc. The small charge to enter it is well worth the cost.

There are a number of restaurants overlooking the river as you approach the monastery. We stopped at one. The food was very good, and the prices were very low.

The monastery is 110 km (1 hour 47 minutes) south of Sofia according to Google maps. There are a lot of tour busses in the monastery's parking lot so this must be a popular way of getting to the monastery. We had a car, so we drove. The roads are generally good, although there is a long detour for some road construction. The Google directions must be pretty good because we did not get lost. The initial instructions for getting out of Sofia seemed to minimize the distance you travel, but again, we did not get lost.

Advice to those who drive in Sofia: Above all HAVE A GOOD, DETAILED MAP OF ALL OF SOFIA. There are not enough street signs. The signs they do have are too small. There are not enough signs in the Roman alphabet. There are almost no signs informing you of major streets that are coming up. On the way from central Sofia to the airport, there are only three signs that point the way to the airport. This was a contributing factor for why my spouse and I initially ended up in the underground garage of a shopping center instead of the car rental parking lot of Terminal 2.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank Seala_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rafina, Greece
Level Contributor
130 reviews
61 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 115 helpful votes
“Exquisite”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 23, 2013

A huge 10th-century monastery, I think it is the largest Orthodox monastery of Bulgaria. Driving through the Rilska river valley up to about 1400m where the monument is built is really a fantastic experience. The monastery ensamble is a colourfull arcitectural marvel with a lot of treasures to admire in the main churche and the nearby museum as well.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank zaniko
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Blackpool, United Kingdom
2 reviews
“Set in a lovely location and maintained beautifully”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 22, 2013

it is still a working monastery with monks in attendance. The inside of the monastery is very opulent I haven't seen one like it. I

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
Thank Tara W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sofia, Bulgaria
Level Contributor
11 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Best monastery in Bulgaria”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 15, 2013

Spend 2-3 hours here and admire the best series of outdoor frescoes on the walls, the museum, and do understand most old monasteries of this type did not well survive the Turkish occupation. Rila monastery is unique in having been difficult to find, extremely well guarded, and difficult for the Turks to close without igniting full rebellion many centuries early. If you have the time, this is a great 1 day trip. You could camp in the mountains nearby if you didn't feel like returning to Sofia too soon.

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1 Thank Glenn S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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