Bulgarian monasteries are a particularly stunning draw in a country full of fascinating historical attractions that date back for centuries. In addition to visiting the capital city of Sofia and the historic cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, be sure to include a trip to at least one of the monasteries on your list of things to do in Bulgaria. Some of these sites date back to the times of the Byzantines, and they were important protectors of culture and literature during times of war. Beautiful architecture is a bonus on top of the cultural significance of these monasteries. Across the country from Bachkovo Monastery to Rila Monastery, there are several options for investigating these important historic sites during a trip to Bulgaria.
The second-largest of the Bulgarian monasteries, Bachkovo Monastery is a popular attraction for tourists. Surrounded on all sides by hills, the monastery is known for its atmosphere. This monastery was founded by the Byzantines during 1083. One highlight of a visit to this monastery is the museum on site which features rare religious items from different points in history. Unlike other monasteries, this one is set up to accommodate tourists. Nearby, you’ll find hotels, pubs, restaurants, and shops selling local delicacies, so be sure to pick up some rare herbs or homemade jams of wild fruits after you’re done touring Bachkovo.
The most popular monastery in the country, Rila is appealing for its size, gorgeous scenery, striking architecture, and well-preserved wall paintings. Located a little more than 70 miles from Sofia, the Rila Monastery is one of the most popular day trips from the capital city. The monastery is located 3,800 feet above sea level and offers many opportunities for hiking in the surrounding mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts often take advantage of the local inns and restaurants to make a home base here for hiking. This attraction provides everything tourists would need from shopping to accommodation to meals.
Not all Bulgarian Monasteries were built in ancient times. Take Sveti Georgi for example—this monastery was built in 1856. Located along the Black Sea Coast, this charming complex consists of pretty gardens, a church, and a bellower with beautiful frescoes. Part of the appeal of this spiritual spot is that it is possible to spend the night here. If you’re looking for a short break during your trip exploring Bulgarian beaches, spending a night at this monastery is sure to be a memorable experience.
Beyond Bachkovo Monastery and some of the other well-known sites there are many more Bulgarian Monasteries to explore, and an unusual option are the monolithic Eastern Orthodox churches at Ivanovo. The rock-hewn churches at this site are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s simply unforgettable to see the structures carved out of the rock. Ivanovo is also significant for its wall paintings. These cave-like churches were inhabited by monks during a period from the thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries, and beautiful wall paintings are well-preserved from this time. This site is considered to be a real treasure of Bulgarian painting from the medieval period. There is no food or accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the monastery, but this site is only about twelve miles from the town of Rousse, and it’s well worth a side trip.
Beyond these options, there are more monasteries spread throughout Bulgaria. If you’re exploring by rental car, you will come across them often and they are always worth a look around.