Day 195: Sleeping at a Bulgarian monastery

Rila Monastery

We heard of sleeping in monasteries from a Belgian family we met in Albania and decided to see for ourselves what it was like to spend a night in one.

Rila Monastery is Bulgaria’s most famous and I could see why from the minute we entered the courtyard. Immediately surrounding us were four levels of arched walkways which house the monks’ living cells. In front stood a domed church with beautiful murals, whilst the Rila mountains behind provided nothing short of a spectacular backdrop.

Intricately painted murals

We registered at the main office and paid the fee – €10pp – for a night in one of the rooms. Facilities were basic: no showers, shared (stinking squat) toilets on each floor, creaky floorboard rooms, and thin old “mattresses” laid on trampoline-like spring frames.

One of the Monastery’s rooms

No big deal, it was a monastery afterall and we’ve slept in conditions far more basic than this. But for the price it felt a little like falling into a tourist trap.

Since we were here for “spiritual” retreat, I spent the afternoon cleansing thy soul by doing absolutely nothing. Sat in the courtyard, emptied my thoughts – a much needed meditation – and just watched the shadows elongate across the holy grounds until the church was no longer bathed in sunlight.

Arched balconies surrounding the monastery courtyard

By evening the monastery was as tranquil as a still lake. I watched from above as a couple monks chatted by the balcony of a lower floor. It wasn’t hard to recognise them – I thought there’d be more of a “living with the monks” feeling but there were only 5 in the entire monastery. It was a little disappointing. And so without much to do, we bedded down for an early night…

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  1. Leslie says:

    That's first photo is magnificent! What kinda of good did you eat? I had a sudden thought and wondering if there were like Buddist monks and were vegetarians?

  2. 山 him says:

    Ha! we had the same concern whether there would be any food to eat… thankfully there are 2 restaurants just outside the monastery serving usual Bulgarian fare (salads and meats) so we could stay fed.

  3. ace says:


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