There are few better places where contemplation, a journal and a quiet sunny afternoon coincide more perfectly than at the Rila Monastery, located just south of the capital city, Sofia. Inside the monastery’s fortress-like walls, aside from the magnificent chapel, small sleeping quarters are available. Though the monastery unofficially reserves these rooms for those on a religious voyage, rumor has it anyone may make a reservation. For a small fee, you can climb the bell tower, which gives a breath-taking view of the surrounding mountains and the monastery grounds.This monastery was built to commemorate Saint Ivan Rila, a respected pious hermit. Surrounding hiking trails lead to his rugged, year-round, secluded habitat. Though a “less religious” offering, you must stop on your way out at a local river-front restaurant for some of the freshest trout in the region.
If you can make this journey in the early spring or late fall, you will bump shoulders with fewer tourists and can easily wander around or find a place to sit and think. The summer season is beautiful, very warm and crowded. Winter has the perk of being deserted and getting the place to yourself, but be sure to dress Eskimo-style. According to Bulgarians, this is the most beautiful region in the country and a must-see before you leave the country.