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A night in the Rila Monastery

You can’t sleep on the Eiffel tower, nor on Tower Bridge. Actually, most famous spots limit your experience to simply watching. But! We got some good news for you – this isn’t the case in Bulgaria. The most popular site in our gorgeous country allows you far more than merely seeing it. We’re talking about spending a night in a monk’s cell in Rila monastery.

Although we’ve been there many times through the years, we didn’t feel that the stunning beauty of the place was a good enough reason to dedicate a blog post to it. We knew there has to be something more than what we see on the surface. So there was only one thing left we could do – spend a night there.

So, how much does it cost to sleep in Rila Monastery?

On the 18th of July we hoped in the car and at about 4pm we were at the reception to check in.

* Reception is located right next to the museum, and the check-in hours are from 2pm until 5pm.

For 20 leva per person, we got the key to our monk cell. Our room turned out to be so much more than I expected. Quite spacious with 3 comfortable single beds, couple of tables, big wardrobe, and a bathroom. Simple and not at all luxurious (most of the furniture was quite old), yet clean and well-organized. In my imagination, a monk cell didn’t have its own bathroom, but while brushing my teeth in the morning I couldn’t be more thankful for not having to use a shared one.

The privilege of being a guest of the Rila monastery.

Walking around the corridors and the terrace of the monastery is forbidden for visitors, but the limitation doesn’t apply to guests. Naturally, we took advantage of this and went for a walk immediately after dropping our luggage. Out of respect, of course, we kept it quiet while exploring and taking pictures. Many of the rooms are inhabited by monks, who are there to find some piece – we didn’t want to disturb them while being all touristy about their home.

What we learned about being a monk in Rila monastery:

While having dinner in the restaurant right behind the monastery, Nina got the chance to talk to one of the monks and ask him about the life they live. We learned that to become a monk, there are 4 vows a man needs to give:

  1. The vow of Celibate (Chastity);
  2. The vow of Poverty;
  3. The Vow of Obedience;
  4. The Vow of Stability.

Basically, future monks give up on everything that we, regular people, dream for, including wealth (financial), career development, life partner, and family. This is the only way to truly dedicate themselves to God. Although I am not religious, I was amazed by how faithful to their beliefs they are. Moreover, my perception totally changed and I gained respect for the monks not just based on their title, but much more based on the mental strength they have (can you imagine giving up on everything mentioned above?)

The priest (whose name, unfortunately, we can’t remember) told us that nowadays fewer monks choose Rila Monastery for the place to spend their lives in. What we, visitors, fail to see and understand is that monasteries are meant to allow their inhabitants to focus on their inner world. The buzz that tourists create makes this gorgeous location less preferable to holy people. Pity, isn’t it?

Nights are simply incredible in the Rila monastery

Few minutes before 9 pm we went back. The door closes at 21 sharp, and after everything we learned about the monks, we didn’t want to be the kind of people who use this place for the cheap accommodation only. Nonetheless, the opportunity to see Rila monastery after dusk was enticing and we couldn’t resist.

So what is it like?

Nothing to do, but immerse into the silence. This is what Rila Monastery is about at night. We walked around in absolute quietness and simply admired the serenity. Next time, we told ourselves, we’re certainly staying longer and using the opportunity to catch up on reading.

Finally, we returned to our room and went to sleep. During that night I didn’t stop dreaming. next morning I couldn’t recall any of my dreams, but I still vividly remember the feeling I woke up with – all refreshed and relaxed, full of love, appreciation, and respect.

What do we recommend?

We usually talk about accommodation as a starting point and tell you what’s around. Spending a night (or more) in the Rila Monastery, however, isn’t to be thought of this way. It is an experience which you should think of as exclusive. Yes, you can go to the cave of St. Ivan Rilski while you’re there (and we strongly recommend you do), yet allow yourself to relax and slow down. If there is a place that can teach you how to rest – this is it.

On parking: the guests of the monastery do not have to pay the parking fee – there is a free parking at the back of the monastery, so pass the one in the front and go behind.

Breakfast? The best mekitsi in Bulgaria are made behind Rila Monastery – make sure you try them!

Reservations? It is not absolutely mandatory that you do a booking in the Rila Monastery, but just so you are sure that you’ll have a bed I strongly recommend you find a Bulgarian friend to call them for you. The number is +359 896 872010

Cost? 20 leva per person, per night.

Ellie Alexander

Ellie is the baby sister (as Nina would say). She is а full time marketer, regular psychology student, social butterfly, and a newbie when it comes to traveling. Her favorite quote is “A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t go anywhere until you change it”

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. We are visiting Bansko in July and visiting the monastery and lakes. Do they allow children to stay as there are two in our party ages 6 and 3. Rowena Austin

  2. Hello,
    How did you reach the monastery, were you hiking from the Rila lakes? If yes, is the path well marked?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Luna! We reached the lakes by car, but it’s a 4 h hiking path from the lakes to there. It is well marked, nonetheless I do recommend getting a local SIM card with data so you can ensure everything is ok. Also, please note there’s still snow up in the mountains and hiking from there to the monastery isn’t recommended before mid June.

  3. Thank you for the great article, I can see Rila Monastery in a different light and from “inside” now. Visiting Rila Monastery for an overnight stay will be next on my list for sure. I hope that I will feel recharged and full of spiritual energy after the visit.

  4. great posting you two, might give this a try sometime, would be good to get away from the noise and craziness of the city 🙂

    1. Thank you, Glyn! We’re actually thinking about doing it soon too – it’s an amazing place. We wish there was a little more light in the evenig (would have helped for taking pics) but perhaps it’s the darkness that helps relax you mind so much 🙂

  5. Hey! This is great. I’m going to Sofia in 2 weeks and was looking at going to Rila. But now I can even stay there, awesome! It looks so peaceful at night! Just trying to figure out whether to try and call or not. Would it be busy on a Friday night at the end of September?
    Super blog by the way 😀

    1. Hi! Thank you for stopping by and glad that we can help 🙂 It probably won’t be that busy, but I still recommend you give them a call. Better yet, find someone who speaks Bulgarian to do your booking for you. If you have no one in mind, shoot us an email with the date you want to spend a night there and your name and we’ll happily give them a call on your behalf 🙂

  6. Very nice post, sisters! I was always wondering what it’s like to spend a night in a monastery – now I know and I’ll be definitely booking a night at the Rila Monestery in the near future 🙂

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