Blagoevgrad – Rila Monastery – Blagoevgrad to Skopje via Kyustendil
Replies: 3 - Last Post: Aug 9, 2013 1:24 PM Last Post By: injera_grandee
Jun 12, 2013 10:16 AM
Blagoevgrad – Rila Monastery – Blagoevgrad to Skopje via KyustendilI am cross-posting this information on the Macedonia thread, though I realise only the final paragraph of this post relates to that country.
Recently I was in Plovdiv, and wanted to visit Rila Monastery by public transport without first going to Sofia. I wondered whether it was feasible to visit the monastery based in Blagoevgrad, and then travel on to Skopje without going through Sofia. As I found little information on these questions, and some of what I did find turned out to be incorrect now, I thought I’d write a few comments which might help possible future travellers.
First, I really liked Blagoevgrad. Wikitravel has some reasonable information on the city, but it is not covered in the LP Eastern Europe guide. There are two bus stations located very close to the train station. The bus station at which I arrived from Plovdiv, was also the one from which I took buses to Rila and Kyustendil. The Old Town is located in an area called Varosha, by the river, and is a few kilometres from the stations. However, my strong recommendation is to stay at the Rio Hotel – perhaps an ironic nod to the huge cross overlooking both Blagoevgrad and the more famous Brazilian city! – which is quiet, comfortable and very good value for money, and is a short walk from the stations. The tariff includes a very good breakfast, and the restaurant/café is justifiably popular with locals throughout the day. Once you check in, head for Varosha, which is a very pleasant, largely pedestrianized area, full of cafes, restaurants, bars and parkland. The most notable sight is the Bulgarian church in Varosha just across the river from the main square.
Secondly, bus services leave on the hour from Blagoevgrad to Rila village. However, the monastery is still some 18 kilometres away. I tried hitch-hiking from the far end of the village up to the village, but gave up! Almost all traffic going past will be coaches with tour groups, and they won’t stop! Bus services from Rila village to the monastery are infrequent – I believe there are three a day, but from a practical point of view you are most likely to be getting the 12.40 service from Rila. This means that catching the 11.00 from Blagoevgrad is the best option – the 12.00 would be very risky! The 12.40 from Rila is in fact a continuation of the 10.20 from Sofia, which is covered extensively elsewhere on the net. The museum at the monastery is very good. I also recommend taking the road at the rear of the monastery, and then the well-marked forest trail, to see the Tomb of St Ivan: take a torch/flashlight so that you can enter the cave right next to the tomb. There probably will be both 17.00 and 17.10 bus services from the monastery back to Rila village – but I would catch the 17.00 to be sure! The 17.00 stops briefly in Rila village, then continues to Dupnica, from where it is possible to catch a further bus to Sofia. The 17.10 waits forever in Rila village, and becomes the 18.00 service back to Blagoevgrad. Alternatively, there is a 19.00 last bus as well – though I’d be surprised if anything detains you in Rila village!
Finally, according to the timetable at Kyustendil, there are services to Skopje at 0830, 1130, 1730 and 1930. In fact, though, the late morning service is 1100 and costs 28 leva. This means that you must take the 0815 from Blagoevgrad to Kyustendil – the next bus won’t allow time for the journey, and purchasing the ticket from an office inside the station which is not the main ticketing office for local buses.
Jun 16, 2013 5:57 PM
Aug 3, 2013 10:14 AM
Aug 9, 2013 1:24 PM
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