The fantastic Tipova Cave Monastery is built into cliffs that tower some 200m above the Dniestr River's right (west) bank, in the tiny village of Tipova some 95km northeast of Chişinău. The monastery consists of three religious chambers and monastic cells linked by precarious steps built into the rock face. The oldest of the three chambers, the Elevation of the Holy Cross cave church, is thought to date from the 11th century. Dress appropriately to enter any religious areas.
The newest chamber, the Dormition of Our Lady cave complex (15th century), houses an active church and a small museum. Along with their religious role, these complexes played an important role in defending the medieval Moldovan state against attacks by Mongols and other invaders. Legend has it that none other than Ştefan cel Mare married one of his wives here in the 15th century.
From the parking area, walk through a modern Orthodox church complex toward the cliff edge, from where there are spectacular views of the Dniestr embracing the picturesque Transdniestran village of Popencu on the opposite bank. Head south along the cliff edge and follow steep trails down to the cave monastery.
If arriving by private car (recommended), turn off Hwy R20 about 20km south of Rezina, then follow a sealed road through sunflower fields for 12.5km and look for the clearly marked turnoff to Tipova on the left – the monastery is 2.5km from here on a partially sealed road.
You can also take the 10.30am marshrutka to Tipova (2½ hours) from Chişinău's North Bus Station, then overnight at Vila Serenada in nearby Horodişte or turn around and head right back to Chişinău on the late-afternoon (around 3pm) trip.
If driving, you can combine Tipova with Orheiul Vechi and/or the pretty, if unspectacular, Saharna monastery near Rezina.