Top 17 things to do in Arbanassi – churches, museums, hiking and SPA

Arbanassi is a charming little village near Veliko Tarnovo. You can marvel there at the seven beautifully preserved medieval churches that stand as a testament to the rich history of this hidden gem. The village’s traditional architecture, characterized by white stone houses and towering fences, will take you back in time.

Arbanassi: Konstanzalieva's house
Arbanassi: Konstanzalieva’s house

This post covers everything you need to know about this charming destination – the top things to do in Arbanassi and nearby, what to see and where to stay. Whether you’re a seasoned visitor or a first-timer, you won’t want to miss out on the valuable tips and detailed insights found here.

How to get to Arbanassi

Arbanassi is located in the central part of Bulgaria – it is situated on a high plateau about 5 km northeast of Veliko Tarnovo and 4 km southwest of Gorna Oryahovitsa. This central location makes it convenient to reach from all over the country.

You can get to Arbanassi from Veliko Tarnovo either:

  • by car – you can take a taxi from the central part of Veliko Tarnovo and it normally costs 5 EUR;
  • by bus – you can use the bus line 12 from the Bus station West;
  • on foot – it takes about 1 hour.

Short history of Arbanassi

It is known that the settlement on the plateau existed during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Between the second half of the 17th century and the end of the 18th century was a period of heyday for Arbanassi. The seven churches, which the village is well-known for today, were been built at that time. The main occupation in the village during that period of time was the trade and the livestock breeding.

At that time many Greek families lived in Arbanassi. The information about where they came from is contradictory. According to some sources, the Greek families were settled there by Tsar Ivan Asen II after he married the Greek Irina Komnina. According to others, the Greek families settled in Arbanassi after 1500th year, after a Greek-Albanian uprising against Ottomans. According to the housekeeper in Konstanzalieva’s house, this second version is more likely to be true.

At the end of the 18th century, the village was devastated by the invasion of the kardjalii. As a result, a lot of people moved away from Arbanassi. In the 19th century Arbanassi was populated again by people coming from the Elena and Tryavna regions.

You can read more information about Arbanassi here.

Things to do in Arbanassi

As I said above, the village is quite small, so you will need a couple of hours to walk around the interesting sites. The sites include two museums, two monasteries, several churches and two fountains. To get around the pedestrian routes along Arbanassi, you will need a bit more time. See below for more information.

One weekend would be enough to see and explore everything interesting in Arbanassi. If you have more time tough, there are still a lot of things to do and see. First of all, you could (and should) visit the city of Veliko Tarnovo – the old Bulgarian capital. You can also go for a day to the city of Gabrovo.

Museums in Arbanassi

Konstanzalieva’s house

Konstanzalieva’s house is located on the main street, just below the center of Arbanassi. Step inside and you’ll discover the rich history of a prominent merchant family who lived in the house. Originally constructed in the late 17th century, this grand residence has undergone several renovations over the years. With its impressive size, luxurious details, and unique architectural features, this house is sure to capture your imagination.

Arbanassi: Konstanzalieva's house
Arbanassi: Konstanzalieva’s house

Konstanzalieva’s house is a museum. The entrance ticket is 6 BGN.

Church of the Nativity

It is located in the central part of Arbanassi and is extremely interesting. It has a complex architecture consisting of naos, narthex, chapel St. John the Precursor with an antechamber, united by the L-shaped gallery. Initially, the naos was built as a separate church at the end of the 16th century. The church was subsequently upgraded and changed.

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

The Church of the Nativity in Arbanasi is filled with many beautiful frescoes, located on a total area – walls, arches and ceilings – of 2000 square meters. The personages in these frescoes are thousands. I cannot, and do not have to, list them. You just have to see them!

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

The church is currently a museum and the entrance ticket is 6 BGN.

Monasteries

Arbanassi Monastery of Virgin Mary

The monastery is located on the western outskirts of the village. It is accessible by car.

The monastery was built during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It was part of the Tarnovo Holy Mountain – a ring of monasteries around the old Bulgarian capital. In the first years of the Ottoman rule, the monastery was preserved, but subsequently it gradually fell and became desolate. At the end of the 17th century it was restored. At the end of the 18th century the monastery was devastated by the kardzhalii invasions. It was restored again in the first half of the 19th century.

Arbanassi Monastery of Virgin Mary
Arbanassi Monastery of Virgin Mary

Currently, the monastery consists of a church, monastery buildings and a bell tower, which welcomes people at the entrance.

Arbanassi Monastery of Virgin Mary
Arbanassi Monastery of Virgin Mary

The temple of the Virgin Mary Monastery is interesting for its architecture and for the marvelous scenery inside. You can see there the miraculous icon “The Virgin Mary”, which helps those people who truly believe. It is supposed that the icon was brought from Mount Athos in the 13th century. When Bulgaria fell under Turkish slavery, the icon was hidden so as not to be destroyed. Then it remained long in oblivion. According to the legend, it was accidentally found by a shepherd who was feeding her animals on the meadows around the church.

There is a very special habitant of the monastery – it is the monk cat Mancho, a well-fed, rounded and very loving cat 🙂 .

Arbanassi monastery St. Nikola

Monastery of St. Nikola is located on a hill in the southern part of Arbanassi, under the Arbanassi Park Hotel. It is accessible by car.

Arbanassi monastery St. Nikola
Arbanassi monastery St. Nikola

The monastery was built during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. During the Turkish slavery it was destroyed. The monastery was built again at the end of the 17th century, and a century later – again destroyed by the kardjalii. In the early 19th century it was restored.

In the Temple of Arbanassi Monastery St. Nikola you can see two miraculous icons – St. Nikola and the Virgin Mary.

Churches

St. Dimitar

The church is located in the center of the village – just below the main square. It was built in the beginning of the 17th century on the foundations of an older church.

Church St. Dimitar
Church St. Dimitar

Unfortunately, the church of St. Dimitar has been closed for some unknown period of time for renovation, but if you look through the window of the apse, you will see the old frescoes on the walls.

St. Atanas

This church is located in the cemetery at the northern end of the Arbanassi, a 5-minute walk from the center. It was built in the 17th century.

Arbanassi church St. Atanas
Arbanassi church St. Atanas

St. George

It is located in the western part of the village, near the monastery of Virgin Mary. It was built in the late 17th or in early 18th century over an older Christian temple.

Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel

The Church of St. Archangels Michael and Gabriel is located in the southern part of Arbanassi, not far from Park Hotel Arbanasi, the entrance is from Sofroniy Vrachanski Str. The temple was built at the end of the 17th century on the remains of an earlier medieval church.

Note: Keep in mind that the churches of St. Georgi and St. Archangels Michail and Gabriel are closed during the winter until the end of March.

Interesting fountains

Kokonska fountain

The Kokonska Fountain is located on the main street near the Konstanzalieva house. The fountain was built in 1786 and named as one of the inhabitants of Konstanzaliev’s house, Kokona Sultana.

Kokonska fountain
Kokonska fountain

Market fountain

This is the fountain on the main square of Arbanassi. The fountain was built in 1829.

Market fountain
Market fountain

Hiking routes near Arbanassi

To the cave Kalugerska Hole

The eco-path to the cave starts near the Arbanashka sreshta tavern in the southeastern outskirts of Arbanassi. There are convenient parking spaces next to the tavern. There are directional signs pointing to the path.

The beginning of the trail
The beginning of the trail

Staring from there, follow a marked trail. After 5 minutes of walking you reach a small pine grove that you should cross, and after take the path to the left. Twenty meters away, look around for stone pyramids on the right side. They have been made by local people to indicate the way to the cave. You should go along the pyramids to the near gully.

To the Kalugerska Hole cave - follow the pyramids
To the Kalugerska Hole cave – follow the pyramids

5 minutes after the pine forest you will reach the aforementioned gully. Go down and take a few steps to the right. First you will see a large trench. The cave Kalugerska Hole is just above it.

The cave Kalugerska Hole
The cave Kalugerska Hole

Let me sum up the time needed to reach from the outskirts of Arbanassi to the cave – it is not more than 15-20 minutes.

The Kalugerska Hole cave
The Kalugerska Hole cave

The cave is very much like the famous Utrobata cave in the Eastern Rhodopes. It is quite narrow. We managed to get in about 10 meters inside. As soon as we entered the cave we heard the rumble of the raging water. Probably, the small river nearby springs from the Kalugerska Hole cave.

To the Great Lako

The Great Lako fountain is just below the Kalugerska Hole cave along the same gully. There were times when the Lako was a beautiful Roman fountain.

The Great Lako
The Great Lako

Unfortunately, now it is destroyed and you can see only its remains. Next to the fountain there is a gazebo where you could have a bit of rest.

Near the Great Lako
Near the Great Lako

To get to the Great Lako you should start from the same place as above. Follow the guidelines until you reach and go out of the pine grove. Then go straight on the marked path. 5 minutes later the trail makes a sharp turn to the left and descends straight to the river. Just go a little longer and you are on the Great Lako.

The distance from the outskirts of Arbanassi to the Great Lako normally takes about 15 minutes of walking.

To Xilifor resting area

From the Great Lako you may decide to return to Arbanasi. However, if you have enough time, you can continue along the path along the river, which will take you to the Xilifor area and further to Veliko Tarnovo – just follow the green markings.

Xilifor area near Arbanassi
Xilifor area near Arbanassi

Xilifor is a favorite place for recreation and relaxation of the residents of Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi and their guests, located just 2 km south of the village of Arbanasi. This picturesque area is home to a stunning lake, surrounded by an outdoor entertainment complex. Right by the lake, you’ll find the charming Xilifor hut and the cozy Momina Krepost hotel-restaurant.

To the Little Lako

The Little Lako is another interesting fountain near Arbanassi. It is located in the gully just under the Park Hotel Arbanassi.

The starting point of the route is the same as above. You walk along the path and just before the pine grove you turn right along the gully – it is dry in that part. There is a blue marking that leads to Little Lako, but it is lost in some places. Anyway, 5-10 minutes walking after the turn to the right, the path enters the rocks around the Little Lako. On some of those rocks you will see the blue marking, which is your true guide in this part of the route. Go a few more meters away and you are there at the fountain.

The Little Lako
The Little Lako

There is a small but interesting waterfall next to the Little Lako. The waterfall is about three meters tall.

The waterfall near the Little Lako
The waterfall near the Little Lako

More places to see in Arbanassi

The house of Peter Deunov

On the southeastern outskirts of Arbanassi you can see the house of Peter Deunov, who was called “The Teacher”. He was a Bulgarian philosopher developed a form of Esoteric Christianity known as the Universal White Brotherhood. In this house the Teacher created one of his most famous works, “The Testament of the Color Rays of Light”.

The park in the highest part of the Arbanassi Plateau

At the southeastern end of Arbanassi, near the TV tower there is a pleasant park for walking with beautiful panoramic views. If you cannot go through the hiking routes described above, but still want to go out, the park is a very good option.

The park of the Arbanassi Plateau
The park of the Arbanassi Plateau

The Horse base

You can also experience the thrill of adventure at the nearby horse base, just a stone’s throw away from the park and the TV tower.

Where to stay – Park Hotel Arbanassi

There are quite a lot hotels and guest houses in Arbanassi. I would recommend Park Hotel Arbanassi. I have vary good personal impressions from the hotel. We stayed there in a sunny, but an ice-cold weekend in January.

Park Hotel Arbanassi
Park Hotel Arbanassi

As a traveler, my first impression of this hotel was exceptional. Its prime location in the highest point of Arbanassi offered breathtaking panoramic views of Veliko Tarnovo. The perfect combination of stunning surroundings and convenient positioning left me in awe.

Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo
Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo
Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo
Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo

Warmed rooms also contributed to our delightful stay in the hotel – it was a winter and the average daily temperatures outside were far below zero.

Well, we did not just leave with our first impressions. For almost 3 days we managed to try everything or almost everything in Park Hotel Arbanassi – the good service, delicious food in the restaurant, stable and fast wireless internet, large swimming pool with pleasant warm water of 30 degrees, the beautiful garden around the hotel.

Park Hotel Arbanassi - the garden
Park Hotel Arbanassi – the garden

Let me also tell you that there was a beautiful panoramic view of the Balkan Mountains from our terrace – we saw the peaks of Shipka and Buzludzha.

👉 Check out the prices and availability at Park Hotel Arbanassi here!

In conclusion

It is always interesting to go to Arbanassi and stay there for a while. The village is located only 5 km far from the center of the old Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo, and the place offers conditions for almost any type of tourism – cultural, pilgrimage, SPA, pedestrian … considering that only ski tourism is not around.

Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll through the unique streets of Arbanassi and soak up its timeless beauty!

Explore Bulgaria through exciting day trips from Sofia

If you want to visit some of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria via organized daily tours, have a look here for several options from the biggest Bulgarian provider for day tours from Sofia.

See here!

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2 Responses to Top 17 things to do in Arbanassi – churches, museums, hiking and SPA

  1. Clara says:

    Thank you for your interesting posts about beautiful places in Bulgaria. I will probably never get to visit your country, so I have really enjoyed seeing the sights and wonders of Bulgaria through your words and pictures! The traditional villages and beautiful waterfalls are especially lovely. Thank you for sharing about your country!

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