An easy day trip out of Sofia, Bulgaria is to go to Rila Monastery. Since it's a beautiful and interesting place to visit, it's a day trip I recommend.
The scenery on the drive out to Rila Monastery is gorgeous. We chose to use Traventuria
's Rila Monastery and Boyana Church shuttle to get there. It includes transport and an English speaking driver, but doesn't include guide service, lunch, or admission fees. Although for us, our tiny group of four got a lot of information from our driver, Velko.
Rila Monastery is up in the mountains, which right now are still covered in snow. It's colder up there than in Sofia. But what we found when we went in made the cold worth it!
This monastery, today a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in the 10th century AD by followers of St. Ivan of Rila, a hermit who lived nearby and who supposedly told his followers not to build a monastery. They didn't listen, which I think is pretty fortunate.
The monastic complex and its church are free to enter. You can't take pictures inside the church, but you can take pictures of the incredible murals on the outside of the church, pictured above and below. If you want to see the museum there is an 8 lev (US $5.34) fee, and pictures aren't allowed.
The oldest building standing today is the tower, pictured below, which dates to 1334. There have been fires and Ottoman looting meaning that most of it was rebuilt for the last time around 1834.
Like so many things we've seen on this trip, I think that Rila Monastery is even more impressive in person than in photos. A visit will take an hour or two. You can get there by renting a car, taking a shuttle like Traventuria's, or taking the public bus – here are more details.
Disclaimer: Traventuria gave us a discount in exchange for mentioning them in this post. However, they did not ask for a review and all our opinions remain our own.