Religion is an important part of Bulgaria’s national identity. If want to understand more of the country’s culture it’s monasteries are important part of your trip. Here is a guide to some of the most beautiful monasteries in Bulgaria.

Rila Monastery

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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 Monastery

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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.

Troyan Monastery

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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.

Ivanovo Rock Monastery

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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.

Glozhene Monastery

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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.