Monasteries in Bulgaria, tours Bulgaria, are unique because of their rich architecture, their icons and wall paintings. It’s not about religion or belief. Nor about being part of a mystery. It’s about a special atmosphere. Atmosphere of intimacy, cosiness… Bulgarian monasteries are also unique because of the legends around them. There is always mystery around each holy place.
This 22-day monasteries tour we made for a family for the summer of 2017. Many monasteries, many places they visited. All good memories and experiences.
Here we introduce the tour to you, the different destinations with some information.
Sofia – Rila Monastery
On the day of the arrival, for all tours Bulgaria, you meet the guide. This tour started with a visit to the Rila Monastery. This is the place that preserved Bulgarian culture alive in the years of the Ottomans (Istanbul day trips). Declared a National Museum and a National Historical reserve, The Rila Monastery is included in the List of World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. It also became a National Museum and a National Historical reserve. The monastery is one of the symbols of Bulgaria.
Rila Monastery – Melnik
A tour around the monastery to get you to know this holy place and feel its atmosphere.
Not far away is the smallest town of Bulgaria, Melnik. The tour, tours Bulgaria, takes you to a place definitely not ‘small’ in history. The thousands-year-old Melnik offers serenity, a mountain, rich history, cosiness, stunning scenery, rich wine… It is a romantic and full of charm place.
Melnik is the smallest town of Bulgaria. People also know it as one of the places where great wine is produced and the place of the sand pyramids. The Kordopulov’s House is supposed to be the biggest residential building on the Balkan Peninsula from the Revival period. And it is in that small town of Melnik.
Rozhen Monastery, Baba Vanga, Rupite
When you tell a Bulgarian Melnik, they will immediately tell you about the already mentioned things and also the Rozhen Monastery and Rupite.
Rupite is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria, on tours Bulgaria. It is best known as the place where the Bulgarian medium Baba Vanga lived and was buried. The area is in fact the crater of an extinct volcano. There is the ‘St. Petka’ Church, built with Vanga’s will and a place of worship for many people. There is also her small house where she would meet all the people in need in the last 25 years of her life.
‘St. Antonius the Great’ Monastery and another monastery are awaiting us – this is the Rozhen Monastery, built in 1890, with fine frescoes and amazing wood carvings.
Like I promised, there are always legends and secrets around the monasteries and churches in Bulgaria. There is a mystery, they say, of Dobarsko Church. It is very distinct from average Orthodox churches. Its freѕсoeѕ dated 400 уears ago. Among them there are two dіѕmaуіng freѕсоeѕ of Јeѕuѕ Chrіѕt deрісted іn ѕomethіng that lookѕ lіke a ѕрaсeѕhір. It is a small church – 160 sq.m. but there are 460 human figures in it.
The village in the hug of three mountains
On the road to Gorno Draglishte. The village is located at the foot of Rila mountain, close to the small town of Razlog. Three mountains surround the place – Rila mountain, Pirin mountain and Rhodopi mountain. There is a small guest house there which has the ‘Green House’ certificate. That certificate is a brand for quality and hospitality; for authentic welcoming and care for the nature while hosts cater for their guests.
The house and its hosts offer various interesting traditional for the region activities. These are cooking local foods together with the attractive hostess, loom weaving. Also, using a distaff and a spindle, dancing traditional Bulgarian folklore dances…
Bansko, Nikopolis Ad Nestum, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Delchevo – tours Bulgaria
We say goodbye to the attractive hosts and on the road to one of Bulgaria’s best ski resorts, Bansko. Bansko is a charming historic town with a stunning alpine background. Being part of the National Park Pirin, Bansko offers a great location for both summer vacations and ski holidays. There are multiple museums and landmarks in the town. 130 architectural and historical monuments of culture, seven of which are of national significance. Of the main sightseeings of the town of Bansko are the “St.Trinity” Church, the “Neofit Rilski” Museum Complex, the Museum House of Nikola Vaptsarov and the intellectual and historical centre “St. Paisiy Hilendarski”. In the Historical-Ethnographic Complex “Radonova House”, a rich ethnographic exposition presents in a unique way, the nature and the special features of the local material culture.
Nikopolis Ad Nestum. This is one of the three cities that the Roman Emperor Trajan built in year 106. He built it to celebrate the victory over the province of Dacia. It is in a very good condition. There is a wall around the huge city and inside you can see religious buildings, residential areas. And of course a huge Roman bath, with the area for the hot and cold water. Also the channels for the water and others.
Ah, that Rhodopi mountain
Tours Bulgaria continue with the villages of Leshten and Kovachevitsa. They are two colourful villages located in the Rhodopi mountain. Leshten attracts tourists with its authentic look and the old houses, preserved since the Bulgarian Revival (18th – 19th century). The church “”St Paraskeva”” is from the year 1837. Now it is an Architectural and Cultural Monument of local importance.
Kovachevitsa was established after 1656 and it was an educational centre. Because of its typical architecture, in 1977 the village became a historical and architectural reservation. Interesting to see is the church “St. Nikolas”, which was built in 1847.
Dolno Dryanovo, Kribul, Dospat, Trigrad
Rhodopi mountain is a magic place. There is special energy in this place. Warm, friendly people… Whichever place one visits there on tours Bulgaria, they will remember their experience. The following places are in the region of the mountain.
The villages of Dolno Dryanovo and Kribul and the town of Dospat. In Dolno Dryanovo the Stone heads sanctuary is of great interest. It is a prehistoric sanctuary together with a Thracian sanctuary. There are several stone figurines, for which people thought were a natural phenomenon. However, it appeared that they are human-made.
Follows the village of Kribul. It is famous, in tours Bulgaria, for the Skribina sanctuary. It’s a very interesting place. Lots of people visit the place to get healed. That much I will tell you and will let your imagination play with the information. Let us take you there to find out what Skribina is.
Dospat is not a very big town. Near it there is a beautiful dam. A stop there to relax, to enjoy the view and take some great photos.
Rhodopi mountains and caves
Trigrad is a small village famous for the Trigrad Gorge. It is a canyon of vertical marble rocks in the Rhodope Mountains. The village is famous for the Yagodinska cave and the Devil’s Throat cave as well.
Yagodinska cave is the third longest cave in the country and the longest in the Rhodopes. It is the most beautiful one in the Rhodopi mountain. The cave contains a very large number of cave formations, or speleothems. These include stalactites, stalagmites, stalagnates, draperies and cave pearls. There is a very interesting hall in the cave as well, New Year`s hall. It annually attracts cavers wishing to spend The New Year Eve in an unusual and incredibly beautiful environment.
Tours Bulgaria can be mysterious, adventurous, romantic… Our Monasteries tour has something of everything. This part of the tour is mysterious.
Hidden deep in the Trigrad Gorge in the Rhodopi Mountains, the Devil’s throat cave is one of the most mysterious caves in Bulgaria. It does not impress with exquisite rock formations. However, the secrets it hides are what is most compelling about this cave.
The Devil’s throat cave is the home of the highest underground waterfall of the Balkan Peninsula. It is 42 meters high and is the main reason for the formation of the cave. The natural entrance of the cave also resembles a devil’s head and it is used as an exit.
Tours Bulgaria and spa centres
Although Bulgaria is a small country, it has a great amount of mineral waters on its land. The town of Velingard is one of the most beautiful and most famous among the Bulgarian Balneological resorts. There are 70 sources of mineral water with curative and preventive properties.
Refreshed from the healing waters in Velingrad, tours Bulgaria proceeds to the second biggest city in Bulgaria – Plovdiv. It is also one of the oldest on the Balkan Peninsula – it was the capital of Ancient Thrace and a big trading centre in the Middle Ages. In the historic quarter of the city, one can see beautifully decorated period houses, the ancient fortress wall, the Roman forum and stadium, and magnificent churches.
Bachkovo monastery, Krastova Gora
Your holiday in Bulgaria gets another ‘’flower to the wreath of Bulgarian monasteries’’. This is the Bachkovo Monastery. The monastery that ranks second to the Rila Monastery, regarding size, architecture and artistic and literary significance.
And Krastova Gora (the Cross Forest). The legend says people get cured on that holy place while sleeping. Monks there say you only need to remember what you saw in your dream after you woke up the next morning. A place full of energy and mysticism… Krastova Gora is one of the places to visit in Bulgaria. It can be on your list for your holiday in Bulgaria and as one of Bulgaria destinations next time you plan to travel to Bulgaria.
The nearby village of Starosel is the location of one of the major centres of Thracian culture. Many of the ancient rulers and their soldiers are buried in dozens of tombs in the surrounding area.
The next stop is Koprivshtitsa. This is one of the few towns of the Bulgarian Revival Period with thoroughly preserved architecture. Koprivshtitsa’s greatest wealth lies in its Revival Period houses, some of which are now museums.
Kazanlak, Shipka Monastery, Rose distillery
Kazanlak is a small town located in the centre of Bulgaria, in the Valley of Roses and Thracian Kings. The Valley of Roses – because of the Rosa Damascena which finds the conditions in Kazanlak (like high humidity, suitable temperature and sandy soil) to be more favourable for the cultivation of the rose than the ones in its own country of origin, Syria.
People know Kazanlak as the Valley of the Thracian Kings as well. It is because of the dozens of Thracian burial mounds which are there. The Big Kosmatka (Golyamata Kosmatka) tomb is one of the most impressive tombs in the region. It’s not only because of its size but because of the fact that it hadn’t been looted. “This is probably the richest tomb of a Thracian king ever discovered in Bulgaria. Its style and its making are entirely new to us as experts,” said Georgi Kitov, the head of the team of archaeologists that found the tomb. Another tomb is the Svetitsa tomb. Then the Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ (better known as the Shipka Memorial Church or Shipka Monastery).
As we are in the Rose Valley, a rose distillery is something on our list.
Bulgarian traditions and again monasteries in tours Bulgaria
Of course, there is not only a distillery in the Rose Valley. There is a Rose Museum in which one can learn about the histiry of rosa Damascena. Then the Ethnographic Complex ‘Kulata’ to ‘charge the batteries’ with rose liquer and rose jam.
On the way to Dryanovo Monastery and Veliko Tarnovo is the Architectural-Ethnographic Complex “ETAR” – Gabrovo. It is a lovely open-air museum which presents Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship.I promised traditions, didn’t I?
Dryanovo Monastery – it was founded in the 12th century, during the Second Bulgarian Empire. And it is dedicated to Archangel Michael. The monastery was one of the main centres of Hesychasm and it was a shelter to many monks in the 14th century.
City of the Tsars and … a monastery
City of the Tsars, Veliko Tarnovo, and the medieval fortress Tzarevetz. The fortress is on the homonymous peak, surrounded on three sides by a river. When, in the times of the Second Bulgarian State, the town of Veliko Tarnovo was the capital, Tzarevetz used to be main fortress in the country. Then, tours Bulgaria proceed with a short, relaxing walk along Samovodskata Charshia (the Crafts Streets). There houses built over 200 years ago march in front of people’s eyes. There is a completely different atmosphere as well.
Arbanassi – only 4 km away from Veliko Tarnovo, the village is famous for the rich history and large number of historical monuments and monasteries. An interesting fact – it was the place of the once private residence of communist-era Bulgarian dictator, Todor Zhivkov.
The Holy Transfiguration of God Monastey is seven kilometres north of Veliko Tarnovo. It’s a magnificent monastery.
And … the Bulgarian coast
The Bulgarian Black Sea coast – the seaside town of Nessebar.
Nessebar is an ancient town with rich history. Everywhere in the town there are remains of past times. In the Old Town many houses from the Revival Period are well-preserved. They are typical for the Black Sea architecture. There are many UNESCO landmarks to enjoy in The Old Town such as the fortification walls. Else wooden houses, Byzantine baths, a basilica, Orthodox churches. A nice walk along Nessebar’s cobbled streets brings peace and joy.
Coastal Bulgaria tours and St. Stephen Church. The church has some of the most significant Orthodox frescoes. In fact, the churches of Nessebar represent the rich architectural heritage of the Eastern Orthodox world.
Bulgarian sea capital, Varna
Bulgarian Black Sea coast can geographically be divided in northern and southern coast. While Nessebar is in the southern part, Varna is in the northern. The city of Varna is one of the oldest settlements in the Bulgarian lands. It is on the Bulgarian coast and is the third biggest city in Bulgaria. It’s officially became a sea resort in 1921. It is a lively place which is long after remembered. One of the symbols of the sea capital is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin. It is a temple for the ones praying and an attraction for the tourists. This holy place takes you to the world of spirituality.
Beautiful scenery, historic and Christian landmarks
We talked about caves. We even visited them. But we haven’t talked about cave monasteries. Yes, there are cave monasteries in Bulgaria. Aladzha monastery is such a monastery. It will grab all your attention with its perfect combination of beautiful scenery, historic and Christian landmarks. This is the most famous of the numerous 13th – 14th century rock monasteries on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Rocks again but this time a unique image of a horseman carved on the rocks of the Shumen Plateau. This is the image of the Madara Horseman. The feature is now a UNESCO site. Scholars suggest that the image portrays the victorious Khan Tervel.
We have been to the City of Tsars, the sea capital of Bulgaria, The Rose Valley and The Valley of Thracian Kings. But we haven’t been to the Port of the Sixty Boats, Ruse. Later Ruschuk, it was the number one city in many terms in the past. The first railway station was constructed there, a contemporary publishing house was established, and a newspaper was issued. The city was the Headquarter of multiple consulates.
Tours Bulgaria will carry on to another site included in the UNESCO World Heritage List – The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo. This is a complex of churches, chapels, monasteries and cells hewn out of solid rock. The frescoes are exceptionally artistic. The magnificent natural environment also adds to the unforgettable experience of the visitor to this complex.
On the road again and off to Cherven Fortress. The medieval Bulgarian city of Cherven was one of the most important urban centres in the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Waterfalls and picturesque landscape
Krushuna Waterfalls are a series of waterfalls and are famous for their picturesque landscape. Many travertines formed them.
Lovech is one of the oldest settled places in Bulgaria. The city is on the remains of a Thracian settlement and a Roman city. Nowadays, it is a nice town, warm and welcoming for tourists. The symbol of Lovech is The Covered Bridge that spans the Osam River, connecting the old and new quarters. It was built in 1872-1874 by one of the era’s best-known master builders, Kolyu Ficheto. Today there are many shops on the bridge selling souvenirs. The place has preserved the 19th century atmosphere with its narrow, cobbled streets, high stone fences and rustic houses.
Once a Hamam, the old Deli Hamam bath in the town, now houses the unique water museum.This is the first virtual Museum of Water in Europe.
Troyan Monastery and the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia
Tours Bulgaria, Monasteries tour is getting closer to its end. Another monastery and the Bulgarian capital and the tailor-made tour finishes. New plans for visiting Bulgaria start, though. Contact us and share your ideas of places you like to visit in Bulgaria. That makes you an email away from your dreamed destination and holiday.
The Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God or more commonly the Troyan Monastery. This is the largest monastery in Bulgaria and it was founded no later than the end of the 16th century. It is on the banks of Cherni Osam. The Troyan Monastery is also, since the 17th century, the home of one of the holiest icons in Bulgarian Orthodoxy, the Three-Handed Virgin.
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and it’s not a big metropolis (just like whole Bulgaria – small and full of beauty and surprises). But it’s a modern, youthful city where churches, synagogues, Ottoman mosques and communist monuments live together peacefully and in harmony. Sofia is an old settlement with the previous name of Serdica. The tour offers a good mixture of traditional and modern Sofia.
City tours Sofia include a visit to the most famous places of interest: Alexander Nevski Cathedral, the Flea Market, the Jewish Synagogue, The Russian Church. Also The Church of St. Sophia, The Round Church “”St. George””, The National Theatre. We shouldn’t forget about The mineral baths, the Parliament Square, The Presidency, the Ruins of Serdica. And of course, the Bells Monument and the Snail House.
Sofia, the Airport
Goodbye Bulgaria. Thank you for the nice experience!