The establishment of Christianity as the state religion in 864 AD contributed to the development of the Bulgarian nationality and created conditions for the flourishing of Bulgarian literature and culture.
The beauty of the 160 Bulgarian monasteries ensembles, with their numerous colonnades, arches, vaults, nooks and graceful curves, superbly linked with the surrounding scenery, are the work of talented master builders. Their architectural silhouettes stand magnificently against the background of lovely nature. The imaginative wood-cuts, exquisite murals, skillful ornamentation and warm coloration testify to the unsurpassed imagination of the Bulgarian national genius.
The iconostasis of the Bulgarian monasteries are absolute masterpieces - a perfect mixture of woodcarving and engraving, and the icon collections, which contain pieces as old as 1,400 years, are with exceptional beauty.
Although the monastic museums are rich of exhibits, the monasteries themselves are not museums - they still continue their functioning. Today a large part of the Bulgarian monasteries are attractive tourist targets.
Below is a short list of must-see-in-Bulgaria monasteries:
Rila Monastery (10th century)
Situated right in the heart of the Rila Mountain, 119 km south of Sofia, an inaccessible fortress from the outside, Rila Monastery reveals a totally different world behind its heavy gates - exquisite architecture with arches and columns, 1,200 outdoor murals, sunlit verandahs and old fountains. Rila Monastery's museum contains over 41,000 exhibits altogether. Included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Bachkovo Monastery (11th century)
The second largest in Bulgaria, lies in the beautiful Chaya River Valley in the Rhodope Mountains, 29 km south of Plovdiv. It boasts a rich museum collection and a library containing valuable incunabula and manuscripts. The murals, old icons from different periods, as well as the many objects linked with church crafts, turned the monastery into one of the richest galleries of old Bulgarian art.
Troyan Monastery (16th century)
The third largest monastery in Bulgaria, situated in Central North part of the country, 10 km away from the town of Troyan. Fortunately, most of the great works of old and National Revival art have survived. The iconostasis of the main church is a masterpiece of woodcarving. Particularly valuable are the so-called Troyan Homilies of the 17th century. The Monastery's printing house, in which fine graphic works, including many landscapes were made, was widely known.
Rozhen Monastery (12th century)
Situated in the South-West Bulgaria, rising high above sandstone pyramids, 6 km from the museum-town of Melnik. The present-day appearance dates back to 16th century. Rozhen Monastery owes its fame above all to its carved iconostases and lecterns. The monastery church has stained glass windows, murals and some fine icons. Rozhen Monastery has left us with a treasure in yet another art - that of calligraphy. A unique work of the calligraphic school is the manuscript "Interpretation of Jonah", kept today in the Holy Grave Church in Jerusalem
Preobrazhenski Monastery (14th century)
Masterpriece of another age, of other principles in architecture and art, the monastery was erected 7 km away from Veliko Turnovo - the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, in one of the picturesque gorges of the Yantra River. Burnt to ground, the monastery started its second existence in 1825. One of the supreme examples of Bulgarian Baroque.
Dryanovo Monastery (12th century)
Situated in the Balkan Range, in the Dryanovo river gorge, 4 km away from the town of Dryanovo. In existence since the Second Bulgarian Kingdom it was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt in its present location in 1845. Relics of the April epopee are preserved in the monastery museum today, along with some valuable icons.
Ivanovo Rock Monasteries (14th century)
Situated 21 km south of the town of Rousse. Small churches, chapels and cells are hewn into the rocks, 32 m above the waters of the picturesque canyon of the Roussenski Lom River. The murals abound in antique motives - nude caryatids, columns atop lions, masks. They are an example of the revived attention towards Antiquity and its culture, which in the 14th century renewed the whole of Eastern Christian Art. The rock monasteries are included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Aladja Rock Monastery (14th century)
One of the few preserved and accessible rock monasteries in Bulgaria, dating from the early Middle Ages and confirming to the hesychastic idea of silence, asceticism and moral perfection. Monastic cells and a small church have been dug into the sheer rock. Differently coloured frescoes are still discernible on its walls.
Bulgarian Monasteries TOURSThe most famed Bulgarian Monasteries - jealous guards of Bulgaria's national culture, are the highlight of our guided cultural tours.
Nestled in the most beautiful parts of the mountains, between virgin scenery, each monastery has its own unique and impressive story.
You will be charmed by Rila monastery (UNESCO site), Bachkovo monastery, Troyan monastery and many other Bulgarian architecture masterpieces. Our special guided tour will acquaint you with a variety of unforgettable places, part of Bulgaria's cultural heritage. Visiting the Bulgarian monasteries is equal to time-traveling – it allows you to acknowledge the country’s turbulent history. Bulgaria is a country with strong Christian traditions survived over the centuries.
We offer escorted tours with different duration. Each tour includes visits to a number of cultural and historical monuments, focusing on unique Bulgarian Orthodox monasteries from different periods of our turbulent history. You will be captured by the Bulgarian medieval art, richly decorated walls with magnificent murals, you will enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Bulgarian countryside, as well as many other sights part of Bulgaria’s cultural and historical past – UNESCO sites, ancient fortresses and basilicas, archaeological landmarks, churches, basilicas and many more…
We would recommend you to extend your tour and visit the most impressive heritage sites in Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, or some other neighboring countries as well. We would be glad to assist you in customizing the itinerary according to your preferences.
Featured tours:The ideas listed below are just a few samples of the different types of Bulgarian Monasteries tours we can arrange. We can create a tour based on your specific interests enriched by inspiring visits and amazing travel experience.
Grand Tour (10 days / 9 nights)Our Grand Tour starts from Sofia and includes visits of the first three most famous monasteries in Bulgaria – Rila Monastery (UNESCO site), Bachkovo monastery and Troyan monastery, as well as many others along the itinerary – Dryanovo monastery, Sokolski monastery, and more – all of them exquisite examples of the Bulgarian medieval art. The tour is extended to the Black Sea with a visit of Varna and the Aladja monastery, as well as to the Danube river with a visit of Rousse and the Ivanovo monastery – the best preserved rock-cut monasteries in Bulgaria.
Standard Tour (8 days / 7 nights)Our Standard Tour starts from Sofia and will acquaint you with the beauty and uniqueness of the major Bulgarian Orthodox monasteries – Rila monastery (UNESCO site), Bachkovo monastery and Troyan monastery, as well as some smaller monasteries along the itinerary reaching the Central and the Western part of Bulgaria only.
Guaranteed Departure ToursOur guaranteed departure tours Bulgarian monasteries are private guided tours upon request, organized for min 2 persons. The best period is April – October but mostly March and November are also very good for touring in Bulgaria.
Special discounts apply for small groups of 6 and more persons.
The price includes land services only. It may vary depending on the type of hotel accommodation, transportation and guide service.
Superior accommodation, knowledgeable and friendly tour guides, many extras...
Your Unique TourOur customized Bulgarian monasteries tours variety could be unlimited.
Put your ideas in the hands of our travel consultants and they will make your customized tour exclusive and memorable. We will design your tour by focusing on your preferred towns and villages with their unique architectural style, and specific interests in culture, history, archaeology, nature, music, traditions, wine or culinary. We would be glad to assist you and be at your disposal by the end of your tour taking care for all details.
Feel free to contact us and find out what we can do for you.