St Luke’s Hermitage & St Ivan’s Cave

Plovdiv & Southern Mountains

About 3.7km northeast of Rila Monastery, on the road to Kiril Meadow, a trail leads to St Luke’s Hermitage. Built in 1798, the hermitage features a courtyard and the Church of Sveti Luka. Take the uphill walking trail for about 15 minutes to St Ivan’s Cave, where Ivan Rilski lived and is buried; his picture by the roadside signals the start to the uphill trail.

Sveti Ivan (born 876) lived in caves for seven years, sleeping on bare stone and eating only foraged scraps, to attain greater closeness with God. These years of extreme asceticism, and his alleged miracles, brought him fame and followers across the Bulgarian Empire. Today he is remembered for founding Bulgaria's monastic order and is honoured as Bulgaria's patron saint.