Full Day Tour: Rila Monastery & Melnik
This 12-hour guided small group tour is naturally with a strong accent on the highlights - Rila Monastery and Melnik, but it is more rewarding than that. You will be also introduced to nature conservation, Bulgarian geography (as you will see two of the highest mountains on the Balkans), agriculture and economy during and after the communism and plenty of other interesting themes you will may wish to discuss with our experienced guides.Travel across the Bulgarian countryside to the impressive Rila Monastery (UNESCO) located in Rila National Park. Enjoy the idyllic Sand Pyramids natural phenomenon and the romantic town of Melnik. Take the journey in a small group and benefit from personalized guided services.
- 1 pers. – 180 euro per person
- 2 pers – 99 euro per person
- 3 pers – 80 euro per person
- 4-7 pers – 65 euro per person
- 8-12 pers – 60 euro per person
All prices include English guide, modern A/C equipped vehicle and all transportation costs along the way.
Prices do not include entrance fees, personal expenses, food, beverages and gratuities.
- Explore the highlights of southwest Bulgaria in a small guided group
- Visit the famous Rila Monastery and let the guide relive its history and enlighten you on its present-day status
- Enrich your experience by tasting local delicacies and in this way involving all your senses in this holiday experience
- Enjoy spectacular sights of the tranquil Bulgarian countryside and its sleepy villages
- Tour the smallest Bulgarian town, known for its architecture, stunning surroundings and wine production
- The Melnik Pyramids are a fantastic phenomenon. Benefit from the recommended photo stops!
07:00: The trip starts from the parking behind Alexander Nevski Cathedral (you will receive a detailed map after you complete the booking process). There are options for hotel pick-ups.
09:30: Arrival in the town of Melnik, followed by the guided tour in the area
12:00: Departure from Melnik and heading to Rila Monastery
13:30: Free time for lunch at the restaurants near to the Rila Monastery.
14:30: Guided tour of the monastery complex and free time to explore it further on your own.
17:30: Departure from Rila Monastery and heading to Sofia
19:30: Arrival at the starting point of the tour
- Please note that all of the timetables are approximate and are subject to change, depending on the size of the group and the traffic along the way.
Good to know before you go
- Wear comfortable shoes – Melnik and the Rila Monastery are with cobbled streets.
- The tour is not suitable for disabled people and children under 6 years old.
- During summer time, due to its location, Melnik can be quite hot and sunny. We advise bringing a hat and sun lotion.
- Rila Monastery is 1150 meters above sea level and could be quite chilly even in summer. You may bring a light jacket, just in case.
- Rila Monastery’s Dress Code: The monastery is functioning as an Orthodox temple. Strict dress code is imposed and should be respected. Man and women should be wearing clothes covering their shoulders. Women should not wear short shorts or skirts.
- Photos: Taking photos in the courtyard and of the frescoes on the outer fresco gallery of the main church of Rila Monastery is allowed. Taking photos inside the main church, the residential parts and the museum is NOT permitted. Everywhere else along the trip you’ll have the opportunity to make great photos, which you can always share on our Facebook page for all to see!
- Admission tickets: Entering the Rila Monastery is free! However, there is a small fee (8 leva/approx. 4 euro) for going into the museum (optional).
- Cash is the king: There is a cash machine at the Rila Monastery, but most of the time it is not working. The restaurants around the monastery are not accepting debit/credit cards. For your personal expenses, we recommend bringing leva in cash with you.
- Food: There are two restaurants near the monastery serving local delicacies (e.g. grilled trout, bean soup, sheep yogurt with honey). In peak season they can be rather slow on the servings. There are also some fast food options. The most famous is the monastery’s bakery offering made-on-the-spot mekitsi – Bulgarian doughnuts.
If you wish to spend more of your free time exploring the monastery and its surroundings than you should consider bringing a lunch pack with you.
About Rila Monastery (UNESCO)
The Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria’s symbols and a popular tourist destination. The monastery is set deep in the heart of Rila Mountain, between the Rilska and Drushliavitza Rivers, at 1147 meters (3760 feet) above sea level. It is situated 120 kilometers south of Sofia, and 41 kilometers east of Blagoevgrad.
The monastery was found in the first half of the 10th century AD. Its history is directly connected with the first Bulgarian hermit, Saint John of Rila or Ivan Rilski, who chose this site to pray in seclusion. Through the ages, the Rila Monastery served as a spiritual, educational and cultural center for the Bulgarians. During the Bulgarian Revival (eighteenth-nineteenth century) the monastery opened about fifty metohia – small convents located in the bigger settlements on Bulgarian territory and its monks frequently went there to officiate, educate and popularize the monastery among the laymen. Most of the present complex of the Rila Monastery dates from the nineteenth century. The oldest building here is the Hrelyova Tower. Every inch of the principal church here, Nativity of Mary is covered by frescoes, work of the most renowned Bulgarian Renaissance painters.
From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, the Rila Monastery has a museum with historical exhibits from the region. The exposition includes important examples of Bulgarian and foreign art from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The most precious exhibit is the finely carved wooden cross, work of Father Rafail. He worked on his masterpiece for years, using the finest chisels and tools, and completed it in 1802, losing his eyesight due to the strenuous work. The cross represents 36 Biblical scenes, eighteen on each side, with over 600 miniature figures.
Now the smallest town in Bulgarian with only 208 inhabitants, Melnik still preserves part of its glory from 17nth till 19nth-century, when it had been a flourishing tobacco and wine-producing center, whose fame was spread by local merchants to many European countries. Today, the city is famous for its lovely white houses and cobbled streets, mild climate and of course internationally recognized brands of red wine. You will have a guided walking tour through the city and enter the biggest Bulgarian Revival Period style house and its tunnel-like wine cellar.