RILA MONASTERY & BOYANA CHURCH - EVERY DAY (bestseller)
Rila Monastery is definitely a must-see sight if you are a tourist with a free day in Sofia. The arcaded balconies, the unique frescoes – a work of one of the most famous Bulgarian Revival Period painters, the gilded iconostasis, the fabulous mountain views… and the unique combination of them all, makes the visit to the monastery extraordinary and memorable one. You will have around an hour of free time at the Rila Monastery to explore the most visited UNESCO site in Bulgaria, enter the main church and take photos of the narthex’s gallery, admire the exhibits in the History Museum of the Monastery, try the tasty "mekitsi" (Bulgarian doughnuts) with delicious buffalo’s yogurt (local specialty) or even have a short walk in the area;
The Boyana Church's frescoes bring epochal change in the mural painting and are considered predecessors of the European Renaissance. The majority of more than 240 figures depicted there have individuality, vitality and psychological depth.
Prices and discounts
April – October
30 Euro per adult; 25 Euro per child (6-12 years old).
November – March
35 Euro per adult; 30 Euro per child (6-12 years old).
All prices include English/Spanish speaking guide, modern A/C equipped vehicle and all transportation costs.
Prices do not include entrance fees for Boyana church, the museum in Rila Monastery, any personal expenses, food, beverages and gratuities.
- For group discounts contact us via email.
- Join the most popular and best-selling trip from Sofia
- Discover the two most frequented Bulgarian UNESCO sites
- Uncover the fascinating history of Boyana Church and Rila Monastery with a guide
- Travel with a modern air-conditioned minibus
- Experience and admire the awesome beauty of Rila National Park
- Sample local fresh, healthy food and good wines
09:00: The trip starts from the parking behind Alexander Nevski Cathedral (you will receive a detailed map after you complete the booking process).
09:30: A planned visit to the Boyana Church (It can be rescheduled for the afternoon).
10:15: Departure for a 2-hour travel through beautiful countryside to the Rila Monastery.
12:15: Estimated time of arrival at the monastery.
12:15 – 13:15: Guided visit to the Monastery
13:15 – 14:45: Free time for lunch or further explorations of the area on your own.
14:45-15:00: We depart from Rila Monastery and head back to Sofia.
16:45-17:30: Approximate time of arrival at Alexandar Nevski Cathedral parking.
- Hotel pick-up costs additional 5/10 Euro per reservation (not per person, depending on the hotel’s location).
- Tour with a Spanish-speaking guide every Thursday and Saturday. The surcharge for this tour is 5 Euro per person.
- Audio guide with headphones (English, Spanish, German, Russian and Italian) – 5 euro per device.
- WWF DANUBE-CARPATHIAN PROGRAM DONATIONS (wwf.bg): Traventuria Ltd is an environmentally responsible company that supports the work of the World Wide Fund. You can also help by donating funds for their activities during the booking process.
Good to know before you go
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.
Clothes: The monastery complex is more than 1000 meters above sea level in the mountains. The weather conditions can change within minutes. We advise you to bring warm clothes even during the summer.
Shoes: We advise you to wear comfortable walking shoes as the inner yard of the Rila Monastery is cobbled. Walking around the monastic complex (optional) also requires comfortable walking shoes.
Taking photos in the inner yard is allowed, but it is strictly forbidden to take photos inside the church.
The time spent inside the Boyana church is limited to a maximum of 10 minutes, as a preservation measurement for the UNESCO World Heritage site's fragile frescos.
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.
The entry ticket for the Boyana Church is 10 leva (approx. 5.5 euro). It can be pre-booked from our side.
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: Kindly note that payment by credit/debit card is possible only at the Boyana Church. 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 yoghurt 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 metres (3760 feet) above sea level. It is situated 120 kilometres south of Sofia, and 41 kilometres 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 centre 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.
About Boyana church (UNESCO)
Boyana Church is a small temple at the outskirts of Sofia with frescoes dating back to three separate periods: 11th, 13th and 19th century. The most important and fascinating are the frescoes dating from 1259. They are Renaissance frescoes that predate the Italian Renaissance (triggered by the works of Giotto) and brake the strict Christian canon law to present pure human emotions, royal figures and folklore elements.