The most famous sight in Bulgaria, and another UNESCO world heritage site. The Rila monastery is about 120km from Sophia, so it’s easily doable as a day trip
I walked into the building, not expecting much, but it realy blew me away. The monastery is lost in the midst of a mountain range so the backdrop is something really stunning.
The monastery itself is beautiful too, and over 1000 years old (built in 1927), it’s been protecting Bulgarian culture and tradition since then, which was particularly important during the Ottoman rule.
It’s free to walk around the monastery but if you want to enter the museum or tower you have to buy tickets ($4 each).
Also, 4km behind the monastery is a cave tomb, the Tomb of St Ivan. You have to hike up into the mountains, and once there you’ll find a little building which acts as the tomb. Another small hike later and you’ll be squeezing through rocks, bouldering your way out to the other side. It’s a quanit little side show to the main event of the monastery but if you took public transport it’s a bit of a mission.
I set off in a taxi around 9.30am and was back by 3pm – all in all a great day trip from Sophia. Next up – night bus to Macedonia. Happy travels!
HOW TO GET TO THE RILA MONASTERY:
It’s only 120km so a day trip is your best bet, there are a few options to get there:
a) Hostel tour – every hostel runs day trips here for around 40 Lev ($25)
b) Taxi – take a taxi, have him wait, and take the taxi back. Should cost around $50, but remember you can squeeze 3 or 4 people in one taxi.
c) Public bus: 3 hour buses run in the morning and return at 3pm, it’s $7 each way.