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 had 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 hopped in the car and at about 4 pm, we were at the reception to check in.
* Reception is located right next to the museum, and the check-in hours are from 2 pm until 5 pm.
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.
Update (2018): The price per night per person is now 30 leva (15 Euro)
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:
- The vow of Celibate (Chastity);
- The vow of Poverty;
- The Vow of Obedience;
- 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 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.