The Rila Natural Park is located in Bulgaria. It is a beautiful natural park, surrounded by mountains that evolve from an intense green to a faint gray rock.
The road we traveled to find the most visited activity in the Rila Natural Park, the Rila Monastery, is full of curves and through the window they reveal the forests that fill this natural park with lushness. And all together creates a beautiful place.
What to do in the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria
The Rila Monastery is one of the best known places in Bulgaria, this being a monastery of Orthodox Christian religion.
All the churches, temples, orthodox cathedrals that we have been lucky enough to visit in Bulgaria are cared for with care both outside and inside, and those that are not are that they are so old, that they prefer not to overdo the reconstructions and show it more Like a relic That is why they are beautiful inside out.
But if you ask us in the case of the Rila Monastery if we stay with the interior or exterior of the monastery, here we have a clear answer and in unison: we are left with the facade.
The entire Rila Monastery is surrounded and you cannot see the interior, which is why when you cross and you can finally see the Rila Monastery you are overwhelmed by its colors: yellow, white, red, stripes, structures with curves, columns, frescoes of very striking colors about the Orthodox religion.
It is a beautiful picture that, being honest, looks a bit spoiled by the amount of tourists it receives. It is practically impossible to take a picture without leaving 3 or 4 strangers in it. But calm because we have the solution: if you have the opportunity to go after 18:00 you will have it for yourself.
We visited it full of people, and when we approached after eating, what was our surprise that there was absolutely no one! We think it would be why most influx comes with hired guides and these excursions are tomorrow. Of course, the cake shop that we talked about below in the post, will be closed.
The interior of the temple has very large dimensions, almost like the famous Nevsky temple in Sofia. Although it is true that we like it a little less, perhaps because of the comparison with the churches we find in Spain, which is very dark inside, and the candles of practitioners who have put on for years have spoiled the colors of the fresh. Even so, the place does not stop having that air of mysticism that have such large constructions, completely covered in paintings and lit by candles.
Where to park in the Rila Monastery
This monastery, initially when it was created, was not a pilgrimage site with so many visits, so they did not think of a good parking lot 🙂
So our first Tip to visit this place is to get up early. The monastery has a small paid parking right at the door, but the truth, that in less than 2 hours open to the public is already full of cars and buses.
The following options once the parking is covered is the free parking area before arriving at the monastery (the three curves before arriving) or also, park to the left of the road once you have passed the monastery (This last area is also free).
There is another parking farther away, no more than 5 minutes walk, which we saw open. But for the booth we saw, in the high season we imagine it to be paid. All these areas of which we speak you will find them marked in purple on the map.
This way, early in the morning, it will be much easier to find parking. There are so many people who come that many choose to take a tourist bus or a taxi from the nearest town to the Rila monastery and leave the car there.
Sleep inside the Rila Monastery
In addition to monastery, Rila Monastery is also a hotel. You can sleep inside the same monastery grounds. The walls that protect the Rila Monastery are buildings equipped to spend the night.
In the form of balconies, each door of the rooms that can be reserved for sleeping faces the center of the monastery grounds, right in the square where the orthodox temple is located. That is, just leaving the balcony or leaving the door open to the room that you reserve, will have Direct views of the monastery.
In addition, depending on the orientation of the room you choose, it is almost certain that you will also have views of the mountains of the Rila Natural Park.
A whole experience to sleep in a well-known monastery, being able to even walk and have a night view of the Rila Monastery. In addition, after 5 pm, there is not a single tourist and you can walk through the Rila Monastery and have it just for you.
Buy Rila's famous "toasts"
It is typical for monasteries to sell the typical sweet from the home made area and 100% traditional. Well, we had not noticed that fact until we left the Rila Monastery we saw a long queue of people waiting in order to leave that store with a bag full of that typical candy.
In the case of the Rila Monastery, They bought a kind of cake, sized like the palm of a hand that they accompanied with yogurt, butter, honey or jam. And it is that both yogurt and honey are very typical of this area.
Yogurts are not like the ones you can imagine in Spain, but it is more like a Greek yogurt, with a taste of acid, a bit similar to the "curd" in Spain. And the honey, of all colors and shapes, you will see in a lot of posts on the edge of the cart. People who sell the little production they have and elaborated in a 100% handmade way.
Arm yourself with courage and get in line, because we don't know if it was the Rila Monastery, the Rila Natural Park, the expert hands on making monks' toasts, but it is priceless to eat one of those toasts surrounded by that place. They are of those things, "that at home, they don't know just as good."
Climb to the Cave of the Hermit of Rila
After having taken energy with the cakes of the Rila Monastery you will have to visit the reason why that monastery was created right there.
From the Monastery of Rila to the Cave of the Hermit of Rila separate 4 kilometers. What by car translates in 4 minutes and walking almost an hour. If you decide to go by car, you can park it on the sides of the road. You will see more cars parked and with the precaution of parking it letting other vehicles pass is enough.
To visit the Cave of the Hermit of Rila it is necessary to do a small trekking. The beginning, which may lead to the conclusion The beginning of the small route is located just in a curve, you can find him, since there is an informative poster right at the entrance.
The route is only 2 kilometers, the road is simple, although there is a bit more slope and it would be advisable to wear good shoes, since if rain or other reasons are wet, the ground may slip a bit.
Once you have traveled the 2 kilometers that will take you 15 minutes you will see a small stone hermitage, that will give you the clue that you have reached your goal.
Explore the area, go around the church, find the fountain that is on the way up the right, where you will find a picture of a saint ..But what you can not stop doing at all, is to climb the stairs that are immediately to the right of the hermitage and know the real cave where he lived in all seasons of the year (which in winter we don't know how he survived) the hermit by which the monastery of Rila was built.
Tradition says that you walk the path of stairs, the cave, climbs the wooden stairs and slide down the stone until you leave the other side three times if you want to get the luck indicated by the legend of this place.
To return you have two options, return where you have climbed, or continue on the left side of the hermitage and travel a longer circular route (2.5 kilometers 40 minutes) that runs through the forest, passes through several streams and bridges and goes to the road that connects the Rila Monastery with the area where the car is parked before starting the route of the Hermit's Cave from Rila. You climb the road for a while, which is very quiet, and you reach the starting point of the route.
Where to eat in the Rila Monastery
There are several places where you can stay to eat in the Rila Monastery. The first and simplest option is just "behind" the monastery, where is a restaurant. This for proximity and ease is surely one of the options chosen by tourists who come here. But of course, That is not our recommendation, neither for price, nor for the appearance of the dishes, nor for the friendliness of the employees. Simply we would highlight that is close
If you have your own vehicle, or you have the desire and time to walk the road, until the options that we are going to advise you, know that the following options We value them as our two best restaurant experiences. And we liked the area so much that we ate and dined in the Rila Natural Park.
The food was on the terrace of a family restaurant, in whose letter I showed you in photos how little by little they had created and built that place where we were eating.
We ate 100% homemade and traditional food, on a terrace that was practically being inside the forest and whose kindness of the cook-waitress was such that I can assure you that the food we enjoyed was made with the same love that would have been made to a relative.
To give you an idea, in a place as touristy as this, the beer was worth € 1, salads were the same, there was meat for less than € 2, French tortillas (so we had no problem with the vegetarian diet). These prices are impossible for a tourist area in Spain. We do not remember the name of the restaurant, but there are only two, as it is just the first one you will meet.
Dinner was right in a restaurant located a few meters above from the restaurant where we ate, called «Ресторант« При Чичо Киро ».
We also ate 100% Bulgarian food on the terrace, very cheap and a dessert that we keep in memory: if you finally decide to visit this restaurant you can not miss the homemade yogurt with nuts and honey made by the chef and owner of this place.
The whole dinner was delicious, and again at impossible prices in Spain. But with what we really stayed, in both restaurants, it was with the tranquility of eating in the middle of a forest, surrounded by nature everywhere, without a single noise or car, or mobile, or anything that reminds you that civilization is 1 hour away by car. Only tranquility and extreme kindness from the owners of the restaurants.
And if we extend so much this point is related to gastronomy and not so much with the trip, it is because truly, those two times that we spend eating and enjoying there are part and create the good memory that we take from this place.
Where to sleep in Rila
As we told you a little above, there is the possibility of staying in the Monaserio de Rila itself, but there are also other options.
We spend the night in the Rila Natural Park and It is totally worth spending a night there. The sky without light pollution, tranquility, nature, night walks without tourists, the possibility of having a barbecue for dinner in one of the areas enabled for it. Without a doubt, it is worth discovering this place once night falls.
As always we leave you a map with which you can organize your holidays in this place.
What to do near the Rila Monastery
Take advantage of your escape to the Rila Monastery, and get to know the surroundings of the Rila National Park. This area hides a lot of activities related to nature: waterfalls, natural geological formations, the famous Seven Rila Lakes, etc.
Do not stay without knowing these beautiful places if you approach Rila.
The Seven Rila Lakes
These lakes of glacial origin are the prize to perform one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe. To see these lakes you will have to reach between 2100 and 2500 meters high, which is where they are located.
You can choose the path you want from Sapareva Banya to see it: a 2-hour trekking route to get there or 20 minutes on the chairlift that will leave you at 2100 meters high from the first lake for € 10 (round trip) , for others you will have to work a little more and if necessary visit them by one of the two routes that can be done there to reach the lakes. In addition, the chairlift will give you the breath that you would lose in the optional trekking, so when the panoramic view of the lakes leaves you breathless, during the whole journey of the chairlift it will seem that you are "furrowing" a forest. The views from the chair lift are amazing.
The two trekking we are talking about are the most common, but there are another thousand combinations. With entering any route application you can choose from all of them, we always use Wikiloc, but surely there are many others. According to your time and physical condition you can choose the one you like best.
We keep very good memories of this waterfall 1 hour from Sofia, since it was the first place we visited in Bulgaria.
We saw true engineers who did not stop us in photographing and being able to show you that bicycle with the trailer carefully to the smallest detail. The inhabitants of this area live in the vast majority of agriculture and we cross several small tractors that towed more than 10 people in their rear car.or it is not only the waterfall, it is the landscape with which you cross to reach it.
Once there, and climbing a road a bit paved with the car (you can save it by leaving a few meters below) We arrive at the beginning of the waterfall trekking. Right there is where you will see another piece of ingenuity like the previous bike cart, a washing machine that works with the force of the river that creates the waterfall! It was a great thing to see it work.
And that's it We begin to climb. The road is simple, a few stairs, somewhere steeper but not impossible. We saw families go up with children and without any difficulty, maybe some patience 🙂 Once it reaches the top it can be seen from a wooden railing and take the picture of the victory with the waterfall behind us.
All these plans, and surely many others that we did not know on our visit, are the ones that await you on your visit to the Rila National Park. If you also have more days in Bulgaria you can not miss the capital of Bulgaria «What to do in Sofia» either »The Roman remains of the city of Plovdiv»
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