- Tour Plan
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- Good things to know
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The Boyana Church was built in three stages: in the late 10th and early 11th, the mid-13th, and the mid-19th centuries.
The oldest section (the eastern church) is a small one-apse cross-vaulted church with inbuilt cruciform supports. It was built in the late 10th and early 11th century.
The second section, which adjoins the eastern church, was commissioned by Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Dessislava and in the mid-13th century. This building belongs to the two-floor tomb-church type. It consists of a ground-floor family sepulchre with a semi-cylindrical vault and two arcosolia on the north and south walls, and an upper-floor family chapel identical in design to the eastern church. The exterior is decorated with ceramic ornaments.
The last section was built on donations from the local community in the mid-19th century.
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Rila Monastery, or rather the Treasury of Bulgaria, is blooming like an evergreen and magnificent flower in the bosom of Rila Mountain, in the place where the rivers Drushlyavitsa and Rilska join.
Founded in the first half of 10 c. by the heavenly protector of the Bulgarians Saint John of Rila, the monastery is a cradle, a pillar and a repository of the Bulgarian spirit even today.
While the records about the fate of the relics of Saint John from 10 c. to 14 c. are detailed, for the Rila Monastery itself they are scarce. Since 11 c. until today in the monastery book depository MS books have been kept, such as the glagolic transcript of the notable “Exhortation” by Saint Ephrem of Syria, which testifies for perpetual literary activity. In the roya decree (certificate for donation) of king Ivan Shishman (1371 – 1393) it is said the Bulgarian rulers – the kings Ivan Asen II (1218 – 1241) and his successor Kaloman (1241 –1245) confirmed the estates and the rights of the monastery, and they honored it as holy place and place of worship.
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Rise and shine
9:00 - The trip starts behind Alexander Nevski (parking)
9:30 - We arrive at the Boyana Church (it can be rescheduled for the afternoon)
10:15 - We depart for the Rila Monastery
12:15 - Approximate arrival at the Rila Monastery
12:15 - 13:15 - Our guide will take you inside the monastery and tell you about its long and interesting history
13:45 - 14:45 - Within this time window you can explore the area and have lunch if you like to
15:00 - We depart from Rila Monastery towards Sofia
17:00 - 17:30 - Approximate arrival time
Covid19 Update: Restaurants in the area of the Rila Monastery are with limited capacity until further notice, due to the state of emergency in Bulgaria.
It’s recommended that you check with us prior to your trip or go to this link for up to date information. You can also prepare sandwiches or small snacks sold everywhere in Sofia.
Rila Monastery’s Dress Code: The monastery is a functioning Orthodox temple. A strict dress code is imposed and needs be respected. Man and women should be wearing clothing covering their shoulders. Women should not wear short shorts or skirts. Please be respectful to the monks.
Attire: The monastery complex is 1,147 meters above sea level in the mountains. The weather conditions can change very rapidly. We advise you to pack some warm clothing even during the summer months. Comfortable shoes are recommended as the monastery inner yard is cobbled.
Taking photos in the inner yard is allowed, but it is strictly forbidden to take photos inside the church due to the preservation of the heritage.
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 frescoes.
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 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) if you would like to visit the museum.
Cash is important
Please have cash with you as not all places accept debit / credit cards and ATMs. There is a cash machine next to the monastery, but it is not reliable.
Food: There are two restaurants near the monastery serving local delicacies (e.g. grilled trout, bean soup, sheep yogurt with honey). In peak season the service is much slower. There are also some fast food options. The most famous is the monastery’s bakery offering made-on-the-spot Mekitsi – they follow the recipe of donuts, but combined with local jams are superior. If you would like to spend more time in the monastery and explore the area, you can bring your own food and skip the waiting lines.