Dryanovo Monastery

Top choice in Bulgaria

A history of destruction and revolution, as dramatic as its cliff-backed location, entices visitors to Dryanovo Monastery. Originally founded in the early 13th century, when relics of St Michael were transported from Batak, the complex was plundered by the Ottomans. It was rebuilt in the late 17th century at its present location, astride the gorge about 6km from Dryanovo village, sheltered by limestone bluffs. The highlight is its frescoed church, sporting a huge gold and red chandelier.

Revolutionary sentiment simmered within the monastery walls over the decades that followed its 17th-century rebuild. Key events of the April 1876 uprising were plotted here and monks gave shelter to revolutionary fighters such as Vasil Levski. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), more than 100 locals made a valiant last stand against the Turks for nine days. The Turks eventually won, burning the place down yet again. The villagers’ bravery is commemorated with a mausoleum in the monastery grounds.

Hikers can explore the Dryanovo Ecotrail, a well-marked, circular path that starts and finishes near the monastery. The hike takes about four hours, and passes through lush, hilly forests. To find the trailhead, ask at nearby Bacho Kiro Cave.

Buses from Veliko Târnovo to Gabrovo can leave you at the turn-off to the monastery (4km south of Dryanovo), from where you’ll have to walk the last 1.5km. Car parking costs 1 lv per hour.