Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 1
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Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip

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Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, and welcome to the best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip! If you’re traveling around the Balkans, you’ll probably want to hit up every country in the most efficient way possible. Gotta check ’em all off your bucket list after all.

So I suggest heading from North Macedonia to Bulgaria by following this stunning Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip. North Macedonia, whose capital is Skopje, is an underrated destination, as is Bulgaria, so I recommend that you experience them both.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip

#1 TOP PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
RILA MONASTERY DAY TRIP
✔️ Expert local guide
✔️Experience stunning architecture

#2 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 3

PRIVATE WALKING TOUR
✔️ Five star reviews
✔️ Get off the beaten track

#3 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 4

ALL OTHER SOFIA TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

But even if you can’t drive, this trip is still highly possible. (And I should know, as I know no more about driving than a newborn baby dragon does.) Instead, hire a private driver to take you around on a fantastic tour.

This way you’ll have an affordable yet private driver take you on your Rila Monastery day trip. You can choose different stops along the way if you wish. Just be sure to stop at Rila Monastery because it really is spectacular. Feel free to create the itinerary that works best for you!

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Just remember, if you want to do this Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip as a round trip from Sofia, then I recommend booking this tour. It’s extremely affordable, and it will get you to and from Sofia to Rila Monastery with ease and efficiency.

You can go ahead and book the tour right here.

Then get ready for a magic Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip!

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Where to Stay?

Sofia is a charming and very walkable city, so you’re going to want a location right in the center of town. I strongly recommend the Rosslyn Thracia Hotel. The staff is super friendly, the room is comfy, there’s a yummy breakfast spread every morning, and it’s within walking distance of lots of cute coffee places and shops.

If you’d like a great deal on this hotel, just click here.

And if you’d rather explore hundreds of other excellent hotels in Sofia, click here! This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay for your Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Morning: Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery is absolutely one of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria. I must admit that my photos don’t do it justice, though I did the best that I could. It’s so important that they actually put the image of this monastery on the back of some Bulgarian currency.

I enjoyed the time I spent in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, but I honestly don’t think you can say that you’ve seen Bulgaria properly unless you get out of the city and out to Rila Monastery.

I’m so glad I got a chance to see it on my Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip, and I’m positive you’ll love it too, especially if you love terrifying murder angels and being yelled at in Bulgarian. But where to start our tour of Rila Monastery? Why with…

Three Fun Facts: Rila Monastery

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
1) Who Founded This Monastery?

There’s a clue in the monastery’s official name: the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila. Yes, twas Saint Ivan who is responsible for this majestic creation. For some reason, some of the English signs at the monastery refer to him as Saint John. (Ivan in Bulgarian = John in English.)

I’m not fluent in Bulgarian or anything, but I think most English speakers can handle the name Ivan. It’s not like he was Saint Zhelyazko.

If we want to be strictly honest, and we do because we’re in a monastery and God might smite us for lying, Saint Ivan probably didn’t actually found the monastery himself. He was a saintly hermit who lived in a cave nearby and attracted many students who wanted to learn from his wise, silent, hermitty ways. So it’s really his students who founded the monastery.

However, The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila’s Students doesn’t sound quite as prestigious, so I guess it makes sense that the Bulgarian church would rather have this monastery known as St. Ivan’s instead. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” as my grandmother always used to say.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
2) What’s the Best Thing to See at Rila Monastery?

In this humble blogger’s opinion, it’s definitely the stunning paintings that cover both the interior and exterior of the monastery. Images of saints and other religious figures are so important in the Orthodox.

The most important images are called icons and treated with special religious devotion, but most Orthodox churches I’ve been to are coated with gorgeous paintings.

Much better than those Calvinist churches in Switzerland that are painted completely white because God forbid anyone enjoy even one moment of being in church. (Don’t @ me, John Calvin. You know I’m right.)

You can’t take photos inside the monastery, but you can take as many as you want outside. Be sure to find this elaborate portrayal of the Archangel Michael getting all stabby that you can see in my photo above.

What is up with his shoulders? Where did those faces come from? Did he cut them off some demons and stick them on like epaulets? If you know, please email me at iknowthedealwiththearchangelmichaelsfaces.com

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

I guess he didn’t take the faces off of these demons though. They still look pretty cheerful, perhaps because they are grooving on torturing Bulgarian peasants.

I feel grateful that these images were made in a time when most people couldn’t read. That’s why they are still comprehensible even if you don’t know how to say “demon” in Bulgarian. Thanks, illiteracy!

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
3) Anything Else To Do?

Sure! Are you interested in Bulgarian Orthodox icons? Then you can pay a tiny fee and see them in a separate gallery. Just don’t try to take photos inside because there’s a mean old man who sits in front of the icons yelling at people who try to snap them.

I mean, I can’t complain too much about that because those icons are sacred to many people, and I think they deserve more respect than being posted on someone’s Instagram account with a funny caption.

That’s why my photos of the exterior of the monastery will have to serve as an adequate substitute. They’re not icons, but you can post them on social media, so they are almost as good.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

There is also a museum in the monastery that charges admission, but I didn’t think there was enough time to visit, so I skipped it. Perhaps you will have enough time to see it on your trip, and then you can tell me all about it.

You can also grab a snack from one of the snack shops outside the monastery since we won’t have a proper lunch break on this itinerary. None of these places took credit cards when I was there, though that might have changed.

If you don’t have Bulgarian cash, don’t worry there are ATMs outside the monastery. My driver said the ATMs were sacrilegious and Jesus would get mad about it like he did with the moneylenders in the temple, but I say monks gotta eat too.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip

#1 TOP PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
RILA MONASTERY DAY TRIP
✔️ Expert local guide
✔️Experience stunning architecture

#2 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 3

PRIVATE WALKING TOUR
✔️ Five star reviews
✔️ Get off the beaten track

#3 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 4

ALL OTHER SOFIA TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Afternoon: Explore the Great Bulgarian Outdoors

So we spent the morning of our tour exploring one massive destination. But for the afternoon, we’re going to make a couple of little stops. We’ll see the finest, nay only Bulgarian waterfall I have ever visited. Then we’ll check out some highly controversial ruins.

Keep in mind that you’ll only be able to make these stops if you use a private driver. This tour from Sofia doesn’t stop here. However, a private tour is much more expensive, so just consider what your budget and other needs are. As always, I will keep you informed with…

Three Fun Facts: Bulgarian Nature

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
1) What’s the Prettiest Stop?

That would definitely be the Goritsa Waterfall, pictured above. Keep in mind that it’s a bit of a hike to get here from the parking lot where your driver will drop you off, so don’t make this stop if you hate walking uphill. However, I think the pretty view is worth it, and all the other tourists I met at the top of the waterfall agreed with me.

The waterfall gets its name from a legend about a girl named Goritsa, a name I must admit I had never heard before prior to visiting this waterfall. Apparently she was running away from a Bad Man and flung herself in the river to escape a Cruel Fate. Oh Bad Men, when will you learn to be good? If history serves as any lesson, the answer is probably never.

Since this Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip involves spending a lot of time in the car, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the chance to stretch your legs and breath in the outdoors here. Probably you’ll find quite a few other Bulgarians/American/French people here, but not so many that it will be crowded or unpleasant. People were quite polite about giving everyone a turn to reach the best spot from which to take photos.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
2) What’s the Most Interesting Stop?

In my opinion, it was Krakra Fortress, which is the ruins of a genuine medieval fortress from the days of the First Bulgarian Empire. It was destroyed back in 1063 in an earthquake, and then it had to be rebuilt. The reason I found this interesting is because I am from New York City, and we have almost no medieval ruins there.

There used to be 75 buildings in the fortress, including seven churches, but as you can see from my photo, the fortress has since fallen on hard times. Now there aren’t any building, just rows and rows of limestone bricks as far as the eye can see.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Supposedly there is sometimes a small admission fee to get into Krakra Fortress, but no one was taking money when I got there. So I got to ramble about the medieval limestone ruins all on my lonesome without paying a penny.

As an American, I’m always so impressed to see anything this old. The oldest building in my hometown New York City is actually a XXX movie theater from the 1970s in Times Square.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip
3) What’s the Worst Stop?

Also at the Krakra Fortress, you can see these hideous fake attempts at making walls for the fortress. These were done by the Bulgarian government in recent times to try to attract more visitors.

I mean, they might work because people will surely come from miles around to see an example of what bad restoration looks like. And how would poor Krakra feel if he came back from the dead, ready to revive the Bulgarian Empire, and was confronted with this nonsense?

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

The fortress also gives great views of Pernik, the nearby industrial city, to satisfy all your longings for Communist architecture. My driver referred to Pernik as either “the ass of Bulgaria” or “the asshole of Bulgaria”, I can’t remember which. I think that’s very mean! I would love to visit Pernik when I have some more time in the country. I’m sure it has tons of inner beauty.

24 Hour Tip

And those are all the strange secrets of my Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip!

There are many more wonderful fun facts you can learn, but you have to book the tour to find out what they are!

Check rates and availability by going here!

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Evening: Dinner at Cava

When you arrive at your hotel in Sofia, you’ll probably be a little tired from driving all day, climbing up waterfalls, and being confused by the Bulgarian government’s idea of conservation. So I suggest having a relaxing dinner at a charming Bulgarian tapas restaurant called Cava.

If you visit Sofia in the summer, you’re going to see TOMATOES on all the menus. And there’s nothing better than an in-season tomato on a Mutton Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, when the mutton is nice and lean.

I suggest starting with some excellent Bulgarian cured meat and tomato bruschetta. (The waitress was very clear that it was not prosciutto.)

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Then move on to an heirloom tomato salad with fresh local soft cow cheese. If there’s one thing Bulgaria knows, it’s dairy products. But we’ll learn more about that on our next 24 hours in Sofia.

rila monastery in bulgaria day trip

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

Tools For Travel

  • A portable cell charger so that your phone won’t die a miserable death during your Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip
  • I always get good advice from Lonely Planet’s guide to Bulgaria and Romania. They divide the guide into sections by region, which is very helpful.
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds on our Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.

That’s a Perfect Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip

What would you do on a Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Sofia right now? Is it sacrilegious to have an ATM outside a monastery? And what is the ass of Bulgaria? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip

#1 TOP PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
RILA MONASTERY DAY TRIP
✔️ Expert local guide
✔️Experience stunning architecture

#2 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 3

PRIVATE WALKING TOUR
✔️ Five star reviews
✔️ Get off the beaten track

#3 PICK

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 4

ALL OTHER SOFIA TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY see Sofia on a Rila Monastery day trip tour.

Experience 24 hours in Sofia Bulgaria. You can add a one day in Sofia itinerary. Explore the best Sofia Bulgaria tours. Find the best Sofia Bulgaria accommodations.

Best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria Day Trip 11

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