This UNESCO protected monastery is the biggest in Bulgaria and the closest to Sofia. It was established more than 1000 years ago by Saint Ivan from Rila, hence the name. Visit the monastery museum to marvel at the Rafail’s Cross, a wooden crucifix with 104 Bible scenes and 650 miniature figures carved in it to. The monk who created it, Rafail, used a magnifying glass to do his delicate work. The monastery offers simple accommodation for an overnight stay.
Bachkovo, the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria is situated close to the city of Plovdiv in the Rhodope Mountains. On August 15 thousands of people flock to the monastery to attend a special Mass dedicated to Mary. Once you have seen the monastery, take the path up the mountain. It will take you to several beautiful chapels in the forest, one hewn out of a rock.
The third biggest monastery in Bulgaria is nestled in the Stara Planina mountain close to the town of Troyan. It is approximately 400 years old but very well preserved. As it is situated in a region famous for its plum rakia production and it is no surprise that the monks from the monastery distil their own alcohol. There are rooms designated for tourists and pilgrims where you can spend the night.
This monastery in Northern Bulgaria was a place where revolutionaries secretly gathered in the 19th century to organize the Bulgarian liberation movement. View the amazing architecture and interior of the monastery, and then explore vicinity. Don’t miss the Bacho Kiro Cave (guided tours available) or the Path of Love (start at the entrance of the cave and follow the wooden signs up the hill for an amazing view).
Ivanovo Rock Monastery
This complex of rock hewn UNESCO protected churches, chapels, and monasteries will easily turn into one of the highlights of your trip to Bulgaria. They are situated near the city of Ruse (close to the Bulgarian-Romanian border). Inside some of the caves, you can still see well preserved Medieval frescoes drawn by the monks. The Ivanovo Rock Monastery is now a tourist site and there are no longer any practising monks.
Rozhen Monastery is tucked away among the mighty Melnik Pyramids (a large area of astonishing earth formations). It is just 4 miles (7 km) away from the smallest Bulgarian town Melnik, deep in the heart of Bulgarian wine production country. Expect marvelous landscapes, local wines and a feeling of deep serenity.
Aladzha Monastery is a gorgeous rock hewn building not far from the seaside (2 mi/3 km from Golden Sands resort and 10 mi/17 km from the city of Varna). Its name derives from Turkish and means “colorful”. During the summer a film about the history of the monastery is projected on the rocks in the evenings.
Glozhene Monastery is not among the biggest, the most visited or the oldest in Bulgaria. But it will win your heart with its splendid location, perched on top of a hill with a beautiful panorama. It is almost 700 years old and has some centuries old icons and frescoes.