We really enjoyed our day trip to the UNESCO listed Rila Monastery. We booked with Traventuria and found them to be great, the tour guide was very friendly and knowledgable and it was good value. We travelled in a comfortable minibus with a small varied group of people from around the world.
The tour started at 9am and stopped off at the incredibly old and compact Boyana Church, on the southern outskirts of Sofia, on the way to the monastery. There are lovely frescos inside but you are not allowed to take photos.
We returned to the minibus for a pleasant onward journey to the National Park and the monastery. We had a short stop to take in the scenery and stretch our legs by a vinyard with lovely views of the park and mountains ahead of us.
The Monastery is a couple of hours south of Sofia in the middle of the beautiful Rila National Park which incorporates mountains, lakes, forests and waterfalls. There are separate tours to the park which look tempting.
Rila Monastery, set in a wooded valley was founded in the 10th Century. It was decimated by fire in 1833 and has now been rebuilt. It is still a functioning monastery today and there is basic accomodation if you want an overnight stay. The whole complex is protected by imposing outerwalls which hides the marvels within. The black and white zebra like stripes of the interior are amazing as are the murals on the outside of The Church of the Nativity.
The murals are great and are worthy of a long linger. There are depictions of what will happen to you if you are not good and do not follow the gospel.
There are depictions of sprites, fire, and the underworld to help remind you of what may befall you if you do not tow the line. The inside of the church was dripping in gold as one would expect.
We had plenty of time to explore and have lunch. There is a cafe at the monastery in the grounds near the babbling brook but we were happy with our picnic. The woods near the entrance were attractive and that is where we found the grave pictured below.
We also enjoyed a cuddle with a friendly puppy. Let’s call him Toothums.