+44 (0)1900 838570


Rila Monastery
Rila Mountains
Seven Lakes
Borovets (ski resort)
Zemen Monastery
Pirin National Park
Mt. Vihren
Bansko-Semptemvri Railway
Razlog (Kukeri Festival)


Most areas are best reached by
road from Sofia; there are several
daily buses to Bansko (3 hours)
and hourly services to
Samokov (1 hour);
buses & taxis onwardsfrom
Samokov to Borovets

Of special note is the scenic
narrow gauge railway from
Semptemvri to Bansko
(5 hours; 3 per day; regular trains
from Semptemvri to Sofia 1-2 hours
and Plovdiv 1 hour))

Private transfers can be organised
from Sofia to all areas, including
day trips to Rila Monastery.

Rila & Pirin Mountains

The wild highlands of Bulgaria comprising its highest peaks, the fascinating Rila monastery
and several ski and mountains including the traditional village of Bansko


Accommodation in Rila & Pirin Mountains ACCOMMODATION

Location Map - Rila Mountains LOCATION MAP

Flights to Bulgaria FLIGHTS

Transfers, trains & tours GETTING ABOUT

Car Hire in Bulgaria CAR HIRE


Frescoes in Rila Monastery

+44 (0)1900 838570


The Rila Mountain Range ascends beyond Vistosha, south of Sofia. This dramatic mountain range, which encompasses the Rila National Park, rises to 2925 metres at Mt. Musala, Bulgaria's highest mountain, and comtains several beautiful fertile valleys. Access is easiest from Sofia via Samorkov and the ski resort of Borovets, which also offers the best selection of accommodation. However, there are several alternative entry points including Rila Monastery within the western side and from the resort of Bansko to the south-east. The Rila Mountains are interwoven by a network of marked hiking trails and mountain refuges, some of which have been refurbished over recent years.

The Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is probably the most beautiful in Bulgaria, and certainly has the most spectacular setting, against a backdrop of the Rila Mountains. It lies high up in the rugged Rilska valley, some 27km beyond the village of Rila. The story of the monastery began when a hermitage established by John of Rila (Ivan Rilski) at the end of the 9th century BC. The monastery itself was founded in 1335 though it was plundered by the Turks during the 18th century abd even burned down in 1833. However, it has been progressively rebuilt since then. The entrance is through a great gateway in the surrounding walls which leads into a large arcaded courtyard. The walls contain monastic cells and stairways leading up to open balconies. The monastery church stands in the middle with domes and cupolas, and arcades sheltering brightly painted frescoes. Rila is an important centre for Orthodox pilgrims and the church contains a fine, intricately carved iconostasis and also several relics, the holiest of which is the hand of John of Rila. Beside the church is the only surviving building from the 14th century - Hrelyo's Tower.

Rila monastery is also a good base for a number of trails into the Rila Mountains. There are two basic hotels, while it is sometimes possible to organise a stay in the rather spartan guest cells at the monastery itself (no hot water). Just beyond the monastery you will find the Drushliavitsa Restaurant situated beside the rushing Rilska River - a perfect place to relax amidst stunning scenery with an ice cold beer and a freshly grilled trout!


Bulgaria's premier ski and mountain resort, situated amidst the forests on the norther slopes of the Rila Mounatisn, just south of Samarkov. Borovets is a commercial resort with endless tourist stalls, restaurants, bars and, of course, a huge selection of accommodation. It benefits from its easy access from Sofia, decent facilities and as an excellent starting point for exploring the mountains. The nearby town of Samorkov is renowned throughout the country for its woodcarvers.


Bansko is an old mountain town which in recent years has become a busy tourist centre and ski resort. It offers an excellent base for exploring the region with its traditional, hefty timber-framed stone houses, cobbled streets, decent restaurants and 'mehanas', excellent transport links and a wide range of trails leading up into the Pirin mountains. Mt Vihren, the highest peak in the Pirin, rises above the town. It also offers a good selection of accommodation.


The Pirin Mountains provide some of the best hiking in Europe, amidst a stunning landscape of glaciated valleys, lakes and rocky peaks. They lie south of the Rila range and may be reached from the main town of Balgoevgrad on the road south to Melnok and the Greek border, or from the mountain town of Bansko at the end of the narrow gauge railway from Septemvri.

Sunset over Rila Mountains / Rose-coloured Starlings / Rila Monastery

Spring Croci / Rila Monastery / Rila Mountains near Dupnitsa

Rila Monastery / Rila Mountains from the west / Frescoes in Rila Monastery

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