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Rila Monastery & St. Ivan Cave Day Tour


USE CODE TOUR10 for a 10% DISCOUNT on your tour! *Limited time offer!

New! Everyday Tour from Sofia to Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Rilski Cave! Two places at one sight: The UNESCO World Heritage Top destination – The Rila Monastery and The holy Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski – the founder of the Rila Monastery.

Rila Monastery is definitely a must-see 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 at least two full hours at the Rila Monastery (12:00 – 14:00, with free time including, however, please kindly note that on some dates the free time for exploration of the Rila Monastery may be limited*) to explore, 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 donuts) with delicious buffalo’s milk (local specialty).
Visit the Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski (14:00 to 15:00) – one of the most sacred places in Bulgaria and pass through the tunnel of St. Ivan Rilski Cave to see if you can actually do it. The belief is that only people with clean souls and with no sins, can pass through. The religious powers of the cave keep the sinners away. This is why the Cave is also called the Sacred Hole of the Righteous. While you’re there, do not forget to drink some water from the holy spring. It is believed that this water never stops, never freezes even when it is extremely cold in the winter. ! Kindly note that visiting the Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski comes after a relatively easy (moderate) 20 min. hike through the beautiful forest surrounding the Rila Monastery. We advise you to wear comfortable (flat) and warm shoes and to bring a jacket with you.

  • 09:00: Meet us behind the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (you will receive a detailed map after you complete the booking process).
  • 12:00/12:30: (approx): Arrival at the Monastery.
  • 12:00/12:30 -14:00/14:30: Guided visit of the Monastery (including time for lunch).
    *Please, kindly note that on some dates the free time for exploration at the Rila Monastery may be limited, because of a bonus visit to the Boyana Church, included in the itinerary program of the trip.
    For more time spent at the Rila Monastery, we recommend you to book the classic version of our Rila Monastery & Boyana Church Day Tour from Sofia.
  • 14:00/14:30-15:00/15:30: Guided visit to the Cave of Saint John of Rila (Saint Ivan Rilski).
  • 15:00/15:30-17:00/17:30 (approx): Arrival back at Alexandar Nevski Cathedral’s parking.

Remarks & Logistics: Advance booking required; The meeting point is behind Alexandar Nevski Cathedral at 9:00 am sharp; Expected return to Sofia around 16:30-17:00 pm.

(*Special timetables, rates and conditions apply during the Easter holidays! Note that these may show differences as compared to the normal tour program as per above)

Price: 50 Euro per person (* 25 Euro/person Special Offer Price)
Admission fees (not included): 4 Euro for Rila Monastery Museum (optional); 5 Euro for Boyana Church (optional);
The price includes: All transportation along the route: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Boyana Church (optional) – Sofia; English speaking guide and Online (cloud-based) Audio guides in EN, IT, ES, FR, DE, RU; VAT and parking fees;

Rila Monastery (UNESCO), the biggest and most visited Bulgarian monastery is set in the heart of Rila Nature Park. It attracts pilgrims and tourists with its spirituality, colourful architecture and vivid religious art. The superb views of rugged mountain peaks and the century-old spruce forests surrounding the monastic complex add unforgeable splendour to every visitor’s experience. Spend an hour or two in the monastery premises learning about the over a 1000 years history of Rila Monastery, marvelling at the strikingly beautiful and intricate murals and touring the local museum. Add a culinary touch to your visit by sampling the delicacies of the monastery’s bakery or taste local dishes in the restaurants nearby.

The Cave of St. Ivan Rilski (Saint John of Rila)
The cave in which St. Ivan Rilski has spent more than 7 years of his life, is located only 3-4 kilometres from the Rila Monastery. Legend has it that whoever manages to pass through the hole at the end of the cave is sinless. To get to the Cave of St. Ivan Rilski, you pass the parking lot of the monastery and continue up this road for another 3-4 kilometres. Just before an almost U-turn in the road you will see a large wooden icon on the left. The bus will drop you off there and you will continue on foot through the forest. The pedestrian “crossing” will take you about 15 minutes, after which you will reach a small church nestled among the trees. The path to this church is very well trodden, with clear markings and plenty of directional signs.

Who is Saint Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila)?
Ivan Rilski (876 – 946) was a Bulgarian hermit monk. He was the founder of the Rila Monastery. Saint Ivan of Rila was born with the name Ioan in the village of Skrino (near Dupnitsa). He was a contemporary of the Golden Age of the Bulgarian state. Ioan spent his youth as a shepherd, and at the age of 25 gave away the inheritance received from his parents and devoted himself to monastic life in the monastery “St. Dimitar” in the Vlahina mountains nearby. He received a theological education in this holy monastery. In the following years, Ivan (Ioan) led a hermit’s life in various places, after which he settled at today’s cave in the Rila wilderness (i.e. Rila Mountains). Here Ivan Rilski remained until the end of his life, performing various pious deeds and miracles. His fame spread far and wide. In his biography, it is said that Tsar Peter I himself came to meet the monk and brought him rich gifts. Ivan Rilski modestly greeted him from a distance and accepted only the apples that the ruler had brought to him. St. John of Rila died on August 18, 946.

Rila Monastery Dress Code!
There is a dress code for entering the monastery. People wearing short skirts and trousers (above the knee) are not allowed to enter. Women should have their shoulders covered. Rila Monastery is in the mountains and usually it is colder/cooler than in Sofia.