There are more than 30 monasteries near Sofia. During the last years I got to many of them. In this article I would like to present the most interesting. They are all real centers of spirituality, faith, and culture. In addition, monasteries in Bulgaria are located in quite beautiful places. Therefore, visiting a monastery is a good idea for a lovely walk and a touch to the history.
Find below a list of 15 interesting monasteries in the Sofia region (in alphabetical order).
Balsha monastery “St. Teodor Stratilat”
The monastery of Balsha is a good place for a short walk and for a picnic, very close to Sofia. It is located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. The monastery can be reached by car. There are also public bus lines that run nearby ( №29 and №30).
The church of the Balsha Monastery is not large: one-nave, one-apse with a narthex. I liked how the entire church was written inside. Among the frescoes I distinguished many saints, but the one made me the greatest impression was the image of St. King Boris the Baptist.
The buildings of the present monastery near the village of Balsha are new – their construction started in 1977 and were renovated in 2011 under a project funded by the Culture Program in Sofia. Regarding its history, there were no direct sources of information about the monastery, but it is believed that there was a monastery in that place in the 10th century. It is also believed that the monastery was restored by the master Pimen Zografski (lived around 1540 – 1620), who was born in the village of Balsha.
Buhovo monastery “St. Maria Magdalena”
In the area of Buhovo there are two old monasteries and this is one of them. It is located on a small hill just before the town of Buhovo. The monastery can be reached by car.
The monastery was created in 16th century over the foundations of an early Christian basilica. It is believed that the basilica was built at the time of the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great. The monastery was destroyed during the Ottoman slavery. It was revived again in the first half of 19th century. Unfortunately the information about the Buhovo monastery is very scarce.
Currently, the Buhovo monastery is a quite pleasant place in the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains with beautiful view to Vitosha Mountain. The monastery consists of a small church, built in 1881 year, and a residential building.
Divotino monastery “Holy Trinity”
The Divotino monastery is located near the village of Bankya. The monastery is very well settled, with well maintained garden, and a small but beautiful church decorated with interesting frescoes. The hosts there are so friendly.
The Divotino monastery was built between X-XII century. It was burned during the Ottoman slavery and later on in late XIX and early XX century the monastery was rebuilt.
You can reach the Divotino monastery by an off-road car, but I would suggest you something different and more interesting. Leave the car in the Bankya outskirts, in the area of Mihaylovo district and take the Divotino ecotrail from there. The walk takes only 20 minutes.
Dobroslavtsi monastery “Holy 40 Martyrs”
The Dobroslavtsi Monastery “Holy 40 Martyrs” is situated 3 km north of the village of Dobroslavtsi, in the southern folds of Stara Planina Mountains. It is reachable by car. About one kilometer after Dobroslavtsi, the road is branched out – the way ahead is for the Balsha monastery, described above, and the way on the right is for the Dobroslavtsi monastery. From that point there is about 300-400 meters distance to the monastery.
Dragalevtsi monastery “Virgin Mary”
It is one of the most beautiful monasteries near Sofia. The monastery is located in the foothills of the Vitosha Mountain near Dragalevtsi neighborhood and is accessible by car. The road to the monastery starts from the center of Dragalevtsi.
The Dragalevtsi monastery was founded in 1345th year during the rule of the Bulgarian king Ivan Aleksandar. The monastery was not only a part of the group of medieval monasteries around Sofia called “Sofia Saint Forest”, but it was the main one among those group. The monastery shared the fate of the most Bulgarian monasteries when Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule – it was destroyed. In 15th century the Dragalevtsi monastery was restored.
Nowadays, the monastery is a very nice place for a short walk.
Eleshnitsa monastery “Holy Virgin”
The monastery of Eleshnitsa is situated in a beautiful gorge near the village of Eleshnitsa. It is a great place for an afternoon walk near Sofia.
The Eleshnitsa monastery was built in the 13-14th century. In the 19th century it was an important literary and spiritual center. Unfortunately, nowadays part of the monastery buildings are in a very bad conditions.
German monastery “St. Ivan Rilski” near Sofia
The German monastery is located near the Sofia village of German. It is nestled between several hills of the Lozen Мountain. It is accessible by car.
The German monastery “St. Ivan Rilski” is one of the oldest in Sofia region. It was built in the 10th century. At the end of the 14th century, when Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman rule, the monastery was destroyed. In the 15th century the monastery was restored, but later it was destroyed again.
In its present view, the German monastery was built shortly after the Liberation. Few years later, in 1886, the present church was built. An interesting thing about the monastery is its iconostasis inside the church that was created by the brothers Ivan and Nicolas Dospevski, well-known Bulgarian icon-graphers. Both brothers came from the famous Samokov Art School.
Gorni Bogrov monastery “St. George the Victorious”
It is located in the village of Gorni Bogrov, on the old road from Sofia to Varna. The current monastery was built in the early 20th century. On the altar of the church there is a miraculous stone with carved crosses, which is believed to have been brought by the Crusaders. What’s miraculous, you would ask? Some people say that this stone is growing with time.
Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas”
The Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas” is located in the western foot of the Vitosha Mountain, on the outskirts of the Pernik village of Kladnitsa. It is a place with beautiful nature and reach history. The monastery was a part of aforementioned ring of monasteries around Sofia – Sofia Saint Forest.
During the Turkish slavery the Kladnitsa monastery was destroyed. In 1841 it was restored. The man with the greatest merit for restoration was Spas Bournov who became the first abbot in the restored monastery … However, not for a long time – he died of a Turkish sword in the monastery’s temple.
The Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas” is located 29 km far from Sofia. It can be reached by car. From the village of Kladnitsa you should take the paved road to the hut Selimitsa. The monastery is situated at the right of the road just after a big and steep right turn. For orientation – before this turn there is a separate wooden relaxation area.
Kremikovtsi monastery “St. George”
The Kremikovtsi monastery is located in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains. Is is about 4 km far from Kremikovtsi district and can be reached by car.
The monastery was built at the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It was a part of the monasteries group, mentioned above, “Sofia Saint Forest”. During the Ottoman rule, the Kremikovtsi monastery had similar fate as the most Bulgarian monasteries – destroyed by the Turks. Later on it was restored.
The monastery has two temples – the old one called “St. George” which has valuable murals and the new one named Pokrov.
From the courtyard, you can enjoy the appealing panoramic view of Sofia, the Sofia Flat field and the Vitosha Mountain.
Kurilo monastery “St. Ivan Rilski”
The Kurilo monastery is famous for the fact that the most revered Bulgarian saint – Ivan Rilski – shortly lived there, before retiring in the Rila monastery. Hence the name of the monastery.
It is located close to Sofia, near the Kurilo quarter of the town of Novi Iskar and it is accessible by car.
The area around the monastery is quiet, calm and so pleasant. Perhaps, that is why the place around was chosen for settling a psychiatric clinic nearby.
In the monastery church you can see the beautiful and ancient frescoes, the work of the great master Pimen Zografski. The monastery has a spring of healing water.
Lozen monastery “St. Spas”
It is located about 5 km southeast of Sofia in the north slopes of the Lozen Mountain, near the village of Dolni Lozen. A nice and pleasant ecopath called “Lozen Mountain” is situated there. It starts from the village and passes through the monastery. You should forsee about 40 minutes walking to get from the village to the monastery.
The Lozen monastery is a small but very well-maintained with an interesting church that has three domes and beautiful frescoes. Amazing panoramic views reveal from the courtyard to the big Sofia flat field.
The Lozen monastery was built in the 13th century and destroyed in the end of 14th century during the Turkish invasion of the Balkan Peninsula. The monastery was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century.
Obradovtsi monastery “St. Mina”
This is, perhaps, one of the most visited monasteries near Sofia and it is quite commercialized. Located at Benkovski quarter on the northern outskirts of the city of Sofia. It is accessible by car.
There are currently three lavish temples operating in the monastery, which really makes it unique. All the three are very beautiful!
Unfortunately, there is not much information about the history of the monastery “St. Mina”, but according to a legend, it was founded in the late period of the Roman rule over the current Bulgarian lands.
Seslavtsi monastery “St. Nicholas”
The Seslavtsi monastery is closed to the Kremikovtsi monastery, mentioned earlier, and it is located above the village of Seslavtsi. The monastery can be reached by car. Firstly, you should pass through the local church, which is well-visible and then to continue driving on the same street until you exit the village. The monastery is about 2 km far from Seslavtsi. Bear in mind that the last kilometer of the road is a bit rough.
The monastery was built during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom by the Boyar Seslav. It was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion. It was restored in the late 16th century.
Now, there is not much remained from the monastery – only the church and ruins of other monastery buildings. Despite that, the place is quiet, very calm, and straight charming, I would say. When we visited this interesting place, the church was closed, but, hopefully, we managed to see through the window some of the ancient wall paintings done by the master Pimen Zografski.
Vladaya monastery “St. Petka”
The Vladaya monastery is about 15 km away from Sofia and about a kilometer north of the village of Vladaya. It is reachable by car.
The current buildings of the Vladaya monastery are relatively new, but the monastery is old and was part of the medieval ring of monasteries around Sofia, called Sofia Saint Forest (Holy Mount of Sofia). It was repeatedly destroyed over the years.
This was the last monastery from the list of my favorites. Have you visited some or all of the monasteries above? Can you add some? I am eager to know …