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Rila Monastery – tickets, prices, discounts, timings, what to expect, FAQs

Bulgaria is a country with a rich and complex history and an extremely diverse geographical terrain.

This region’s art and religious history reflects the centuries of regional tumult and faith that have driven this country forward while being placed in pristine, scenic landscapes.

In the towering Rila Mountains, deep in the dense pine forests, lies the Rila Monastery, the most revered Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this monastery is a marvel of the fusion of Byzantine style with the Bulgarian National Revival Architecture.

With its deeply cherished stories of St. Ivan Of Rila (Ivan Rilski), this monastery draws pilgrims, tourists, and history enthusiasts from all over the globe. 

Its beautiful valley setting allows travelers to bolster their experience with short trips to Ivan Rilski’s cave, the Melnik pyramids, and much more. 

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets to the Rila Monastery.

What to expect at Rila Monastery

A glimpse into the stunning Rila Monastery.

Step into an arena of prayer, meditation, and seclusion, and learn how the monastery underwent several renovations over centuries, resulting in the impressive architectural complex we witness today.

Admire the exterior adorned with vibrant frescoes and intricate woodwork, while the interior features a mesmerizing wall of icons crafted with meticulous detail.

The Main Church at the monastery is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin.

Externally, the monastery presents itself as a formidable fortress, while within its walls, it embodies a sacred haven of faith and Bulgarian heritage.

Observe the fascinating fusion of Byzantine and Bulgarian National Revival styles, as thick stone walls and small windows co-exist with elegant arcades, domes, and ornate wood carvings. 

Visit the monastery’s museum, which houses a time capsule of Bulgaria’s spiritual and historical past.

The museum’s exhibits include rare manuscripts, handcrafted religious icons, precious metalwork, and ancient religious texts.

Explore the serene monastic complex built deep into the mountains and seek spiritual healing at the tomb of Saint Ivan of Rila.

After lunch, trek a short distance led by your guide to the cave of Ivan Rilski, the hermit patron saint who spent his life in prayer and seclusion.

Drink from the spring in the cave, which is believed never to freeze!

Hop back into your shuttle for a 2-hour drive to Melnik, the historic town associated with the Medi tribe, known for giving birth to the renowned slave warrior Spartacus.

Visit Melnik’s extraordinary sandstone formations, shaped over thousands of years by the combined forces of wind and water erosion and now resembling a group of pyramids.

The pyramid formations can also be found in the village of Stob, a shorter distance from the Rila Monastery. 

Take a trip to the Boyana Church on the outskirts of Sofia, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural landmarks. 

While the church’s exterior has a monolithic ascetic charm, the interiors are painted with extraordinary frescoes that vividly depict the life of Jesus Christ.

Opt for a private tour and dunk into an adrenaline-pumping rafting session on the Struma River before visiting the monastery. 

Ticket Ticket Cost
Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day-Trip €26
Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour €25
Rila Monastery & Melnik Day Trip with Transfers €143
Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids €190
Rafting and Rila Monastery Private Tour €270

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Where to book tickets

Tickets for Rila Monastery are available online and at the site’s visitor center. 

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the attraction.

Booking online also helps you get exclusive discounts and offers.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the ticket counters. 

Because some attractions sell a limited number of tickets due to their high demand, booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

Rila Monastery sits deep into the dense pine forests of the Rila Mountains.

Getting there with a tour shuttle is much easier than getting there yourself. 

How do online tickets work

Visit the booking page for Rila Monastery Tour.

Specify your planned travel date and the number of tickets and book immediately.

Once you complete the booking process, the tickets will be mailed to you.

You do not need to carry printouts.

Show your e-ticket on your smartphone to the staff at the pickup point. Carry a valid ID. 

Rila Monastery ticket prices

For the Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day Trip, the ticket price for all ages is €26.

For the Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour, the ticket price for all ages is €25.

Tickets for Rila Monastery & Melnik Day Trip with Transfers are available at €143 for all above 13 years.

Children under 12 can get access at €61.

For Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids, the ticket price for all ages is €190.

For the Rafting and Rila Monastery Private Tour, the ticket price for all ages is €270.

Rila Monastery tickets

The Rila Monastery Tours take you to some of Bulgaria’s most serene, spiritually uplifting, and breathtaking landscapes.

The remote embrace of the Rila Mountains, brimming with tales of unwavering faith and the enduring spirit of humanity, offers a truly enriching experience for the soul.

The tours give you access to many more stunning visions of nature and feats of humanity’s brilliance.

Here is a list of tours for you to choose from.

Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day-Trip tickets

Rila Monastery and St. Ivan Cave Day-Trip tickets(1)
Image: MilitaryMuseum.bg

You will be picked up from a predetermined meeting point in Sofia, where an air-conditioned shuttle will take you to the Rila Monastery.

Choose a tour with a live guide present or an audio-guided tour.

If you opt for an audio guide, instructions for an application download will be given to you, from where you can download the Rila Monastery audio guide files in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Russian.

You will need the Internet on your phone to download your files.

Once you reach the monastery, you will have an hour to explore.

The next hour will be reserved for lunch.

Food expenses are not included.

After lunch, you will travel to the cave where St. Ivan Of Rila lived, following which you will travel back to Sofia over a 2-hour drive to your original meeting point. 

Ticket prices are the same for all ages.

Ticket Price: €26

Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour tickets

Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Group Tour tickets
Image: MilitaryMuseum.bg

You will be picked up from a predetermined meeting point in Sofia, where an air-conditioned shuttle will take you on a 2-hour drive to the Rila Monastery. 

You will spend 2 hours at the monastery with your guide, after which you will go for lunch.

Food expenses are not included.

After lunch, the shuttle will return to Sofia and arrive at the Boyana Church in the suburbs. 

Explore the church for 1 hour with your guide, after which you will be dropped back to your original pick-up point at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. 

The ticket price is the same for all ages.

Ticket Price: €25

Rila Monastery & Melnik Day Trip Tickets with Transfers

From Sofia Rila Monastery & Melnik Day Trip Tickets with Transfers
Image: GetYourGuide.com

You will be picked up in the morning from your hotel or address in Sofia by an air-conditioned shuttle. 

After a 2-hour drive, you will arrive at the Rila Monastery.

After a guided tour of the monastery, hop back on the shuttle and be taken to the town of Melnik after a 90-minute drive.

See the sandstone Melnik pyramids at Melnik and visit the Kordopulova house.

An entry fee of 8 leva (€4.09) for the Rila Monastery Museum and 5 leva (€2.55) for the Kordopulova house will be charged for access.

Food expenses are not included.

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (13+ years): €143
Child Ticket (up to 12 years): €61

Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids tickets

Rila Monastery, St. Ivan Rilski Cave & Stob Pyramids tickets
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

Hotel pickup will be provided to you from any address in Sofia.

The air-conditioned shuttle will take you to the Rila Monastery, which you will explore with an expert guide.

Take a short trek to explore the cave of St. Ivan Of Rila, where the water spring is said never to freeze.

After the cave tour, you will be shuttled to Stob village, where you will see the delightful sandstone pyramid formations.

The trip will end with drop-off at the original location.

A small fee of €2.55 will have to be paid for entry to the Rila Monastery Museum. 

Food expenses are not included.

Ticket Price: €190

Rafting and Rila Monastery Private Tour tickets

Rafting and Rila Monastery Private Tour tickets
Image: GetYourGuide.com

After hotel pickup at 8 am, your air-conditioned shuttle will take you to the Struma River, 2 hours away.

You will be given all safety equipment at the rafting location and go for a 2-hour rafting session.

From there, continue to Rila Monastery on a one-hour drive.

Instructions for an application download at the monastery will be given to you, from where you can download the Rila Monastery audio guide files in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Russian.

You will need an Internet connection on your phone. 

After a 1-hour exploration of the monastery, you will be shuttled back to Sofia and dropped at the original meeting point.

Food expenses are not included.

Ticket Price: €270

Save time and money! On a full-day guided tour of Sofia, learn about one of Europe’s oldest towns while taking in UNESCO-listed structures, remnants of the Soviet era, and examples of the city’s rich artistic history. At just €90, take tours to Boyana Church, the National Historical Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, and the Royal Church.


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How to reach Rila Monastery

The Rila Monastery is located in a remote location in the Rila Mountains.

Address: 2643 Rila Monastery, Bulgaria. Get Directions.

Public transportation is very limited to the attraction.

By Bus

A bus leaves Sofia from the Ovcha Kupel bus station every day at 10.20 am and arrives at Rila Monastery bus station after a 2-hour journey.

The return bus journey from the Rila Monastery begins at 3 pm.

The Rila Monastery bus station is a 2-minute walk away from the monastery.

By Shuttle 

The best way to visit the Rila Monastery is using a tour guide shuttle.

By Car

Put your starting point here to navigate to the Rila Monastery.

Rental cars and taxis are available for hire in Sofia. 

Parking is available at Rila Monastery bus station. 

Rila Monastery timings

The Rila Monastery is open to the public every day between 7 am to 7.30 pm.

The History Museum is open from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.

How long does the tour take

How long does the tour take
Image: RilskiManastir.org

The Rila Monastery and the History Museum tour can be finished in 2 hours.

The tour of Rila Monastery, the museum, and Ivan Rilski’s cave will take 3 hours. 

The shuttle tours begin from Sofia at 9 am and drop you back to the pickup point in Sofia after a day trip of 10 hours. 

Best time to visit Rila Monastery

The best time to go to the Rila Monastery is in the mornings on weekdays as soon as the attraction opens for visitors.

The earlier you arrive at the attraction, the less crowded your experience will be.

Weekends and public holidays tend to be the most crowded.


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FAQs about Rila Monastery

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Rila Monastery.

Is there a dress code one must follow?

Yes, the Rila Monastery is a Holy ground for many and Bulgaria’s most prominent Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Dress regulations must be observed. 

Please do not wear sleeveless t-shirts, off-shoulder tops, shorts, or mini dresses. 

Does the Rila Monastery Tours include food and beverages?

While a few tours might include a light lunch, most tours do not include food and beverage expenses.

You can buy food and drinks at stops along the way. 

Why is the Rila Monastery so remote?

The Rila Monastery was built around the sacred living ground of St. Ivan Of Rila, an anchorite who had chosen deep solitude in search of prayer and meditation.

The cave he lived in was deep inside the pine forests of the Rila Mountains, and the monastery was later built near these hallowed grounds.

What is the best way to visit Rila Monastery?

The best way to visit Rila Monastery is through a guided tour shuttle that will transport you to and from the Monastery. 

Is the tour of Rila Monastery disability friendly?

No, the tour of Rila Monastery Tour is not accessible to people with mobility issues.

Do I have to pay an extra fee to visit the History Museum?

Yes, a small fee of 8 leva (€4.09) has to be paid for entry to the museum 

Is photography allowed in Rila Monastery?

The Church and the Museum at the Rila Monastery do not allow photography.

You are free to take photos in the compound and archway corridor.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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