Secluded in the middle of the Balkan Mountains lies Troyan Monastery (Troyanski Manastir/ Троянски манастир), a sixteenth-century Bulgarian Orthodox cloister. The third largest and third most important monastery in the country, it’s a wonderful day trip destination from Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, or Plovdiv. Because so many tourists flock to Rila and Bachkovo monasteries (both of which are stunning!), Troyan Monastery is a great hidden gem to check out while you’re in the country. On our trip there, we were the only tourists and found ourselves outnumbered by the monks!
Sitting aside the Cherni Osam River (which has some picturesque views of its own), the monastery is located on the Central Stara Planina, in the middle of the Central Balkan National Park. The park is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s a truly stunning mountain range to drive through or explore on foot.
The monastery has an interesting history and is deeply connected with the Bulgarian National Revival movement of the 19th century. It was actually started when Bulgaria was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Many Bulgarian Orthodox institutions were left intact because while Ottoman rule was difficult for Bulgarians in many ways, they were allowed to practice their own religion as long as they paid an extra tax.
The monks chronicled the rise of the monastery at the beginning of the 17th century. They state that several hermits moved into the area. They had in their possession an icon that many believed performed miracles. The icon showed the Virgin Mary with three hands (“Holy Virgin Troerouchitsa”), and locals began to visit the monks who had the miracle-working icon. Over time, the area became the perfect place to build a church, and when it was done they consecrated it to the Virgin Mary.
There were times when the monks faced violence and there were times when the monks there were killed in raids or political attacks. However, the monastery sees the period after 1830 as a turning point. During the 19th century, many of the buildings there today were built, including the main church and the monk’s rooms.
The monastery also played an important role in the fight for Bulgarian independence. In 1872, freedom fighter Vasil Levski recruited the monks to serve as part of a secret underground network of religious institutions. Later the monastery served as a citadel during the 1876 April uprising. You can still see the room where these decisions were made, and it’s been preserved for historical accuracy.
While you’re there, make sure to walk inside the main church. The painted icons here are stunning, and photography is allowed as long as you don’t use a flash! You can learn more about the history of the monastery here.
Where is Troyan Monastery?
Troyan Monastery is located in the Balkan Mountains and is easily accessible by car from most major cities in Bulgaria. You can alternatively take a bus or a bus/train combination from different starting points.
How to Get to Troyan Monastery from Sofia
The easiest way to get from Sofia to Troyan Monastery is to rent a car in Sofia and pick it up at the Sofia Airport. While the price to rent a car fluctuates over time due to demand, it’s one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to for getting a rental for a day or two. Just make sure to book ahead of time to avoid last minute surcharges.
The drive from Sofia to Troyan takes about two and a half hours and goes directly through the Central Balkans National Park. This is a gorgeous drive. For our drive in spring, we saw snow-capped mountains towering over green hills. It was enchanting.
You can also choose to go there via bus. You can check the current schedules on Rome2Rio.com, which are fairly accurate for Bulgaria. One thing to note with buses is that you need to bring cash to pay, and they don’t take credit cards and rarely speak English.
How to Get to Troyan Monastery from Veliko Tarnovo
It’s a little more difficult to get there from Veliko Tarnovo (which is strange because it’s so much closer). This is because there isn’t a reliable car rental option (though definitely check before finalizing your plans). You can hire a taxi to make the drive (about $45-$55), or take a bus. If you already have access to a car or you rented one in Sofia or Varna before arriving in Veliko Tarnovo, the drive to the monastery is only about an hour and a half.
Another alternative is to book a company that does a day trip out to the monastery or ask your accommodations.
How to Get to Troyan Monastery from Plovdiv
From Plovdiv, you have a few different options. You can take a bus or take a bus and train combination. You can also rent a car in Plovdiv (if you didn’t get one in Sofia), the drive is about two and a half hours.
Where to Go After Troyan Monastery
– We went to Troyan after a stop at Saeva Dupka, a beautiful underground cave complex. You can read more about our trip to Saeva Dupka and how we got there.
– The Devetashka cave is also located near Krushuna Waterfalls and is good to combine with a trip to Troyan and the Krushuna Waterfalls.
– You can also stop at Prohodna Cave (the Eyes of God) on a one-day trip.
– You can stop at the monastery on your way to Veliko Tarnovo or Kazanlak from Sofia, or on your way to Sofia from either of these.
How to Stay Overnight at Troyan Monastery
Like Rila Monastery, you can actually book a room and stay at Troyan Monastery overnight. The monastery offers rooms for rent which have their own access to bathroom facilities. The area has a few pubs and restaurants where you can dine at, and you can try the plum brandy that is made at Troyan by the monks using their own ancient recipe.
To book a room, call 069 522 866 (in Bulgaria) or +359 69 522 866 (international).
Advice for Visiting Troyan Monastery
The monastery is free to visitors, but you might want to bring cash if you plan on buying souvenirs, local food, or shopping at the open-air market outside the gate.
You can take photographs inside the church, but do not use a flash.
Parking is free outside in the parking lot. If the lot is full, there is ample street parking.
Give yourself time to drive around the river behind the monastery through the town of Cherni Osam.
Have you visited Troyan Monastery? What did you think?
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