There’s a reason why the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria’s largest religious structure, is the most visited site in the country. Its cobblestone courtyard, winding balconies, picturesque mountain views and brightly colored frescos transport travelers to a place that is almost otherworldly. Nearly 1 million people find their way to this treasured destination every year.
Travelers can explore the cloisters, farming buildings and church. The museum, which offers an in-depth look at the monastery’s history and function, also showcases hand-woven national costumes donated from neighboring towns are on display. The nearby cave of St. Ivan of Rila continues to rank among the most popular stops on a tour of Rila Monastery. According to tradition, St. Ivan of Rila, the hermit who founded the monastery, lived in this cave while his students built what would eventually become Bulgaria’s most famous spiritual center.
Travelers can take the E79 International Route between Sofia and Kulata to the monastery. It’s located about 25 kilometers from Kocherinovo. Visitors must wear clothing that covers shoulders, knees and elbows in order to tour the grounds.