This is not a real tip for Plovdiv since Bachkovo is some 30km south of town but still close enough to be an easy excursion for half a day.
The monastery was founded in 1083. It had its heyday during the Second Bulgarian Empire 1185 - 1396 but was ransacked by the Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries. The reconstruction began in the middle of the 17th century. The famous murals were painted in the 19th century.
Bachkovo is now the second-largest monastery after Rila. It is a working monastery so therefore no photos are allowed inside the premises.
To get there take a minibus from the Rodopi bus station (south of the main railway station). There are many departures a day, and the journey won't take more than 40 min and cost only a couple of Lv.
The monastery was found by Prince Gregorios Pakourianos prominent Georgian statesman, military commander in 1083.The only part that has survived from the monastery's original structure is the ossuary.In the Church of the Virgin Mary is kept a valuable icon of the Virgin Mary Eleusa from 1310 (brought from Georgia). The museum of the monastery has a rich exhibition of church plate, icons and books.
After parking at the car park there is about 1 km walking to the Monastery and you pass by little stand where you can buy honey,local spices and jam and some traditional dishes and jewelries.
It is a day trip or half day trip depends on if you're going only in the monastery or you want to discover more of the area around. There is a wide path going up and passes through some nice landscapes like waterfalls,chapel and greenn areas.
There are regular buses from Rodopi bus station(look at my transport tips).
I did this trip with a tour organised by the accommodation (see seperate tip,)
The tour was a 1 day tour and also included Shiroka Laka Village and lunch.
The Monastery is approx 30k from Plovdiv, is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in europe.
It is wonderfully quiet and has fantastic art works.
No photo's are allowed in the monastery itself unfortunatly.
The church in the center of the monastery is beautiful, but you need a few minutes to let your eyes get used to the darkness due to centuries of candle smoke and lack of lighting, but the fresco's here are wonderful.
The Bachkovo Monastary is a UNESCO site.
It is a short bus ride (1/2 hour) from Plovdiv. The bus travels through flat land, towns and at the end a short stretch of a lovely mountain road. The monastery is surrounded by places to eat, buy take-out foods and souvenirs.
There are some very interesting frescoes on the walls of the inner courtyard. It is a good idea to read a guide book description first in order to understand the meaning of the symbols.
An interesting place to visit but small. Doesn't need much time. It is a 1/2 day trip unless you want to walk some of the lovely paths and trails in the hills around the monastery.
The return to Plovdiv: There are buses every hour from the bus stop at the bottom of the monastery road.
I visited on a Sunday, close to Orthodox Easter. There were large crowds of people lighting candles and praying, quite a long line to enter the church.
The toilet is filthy and they charged for it!
Bachkovo Monastery, situated about 29km South of Plovdiv, is the second largest in Bulgaria. It was built in the 11th century by two Georgian brothers. It was mostly destroyed by the Turks in the 14th century and rebuilt a century later.
The main treasure of the monastery is a miracle working icon (Sveta Bogorodica) which is said to heal the sick.
The monastery was founded by Prince Grigol Bakurianis-dze, prominent Georgian statesman and military commander in Byzantine service in 1083.
The only part that has survived from its original structure is the charnel house. Another building which has survived, is the church "Saint Archangels" dating back to the XII century. The cathedral church of the Virgin Mary (dating from 1604) is the place where a most valuable icon of the Virgin Mary Eleusa, dated from 1310 is kept (brought from Georgia). The museum of the Monastery has a rich exhibition of church plate, icons, books, the sword of Friedrich Barbarossa, the Crusader, the Sultan's firman from 1452, the wood carved cross with miniatures. Bachkovo Monastery is directly subordinated to the Holy Synod of Bulgaria.
What we did
We took a bus from Plovdiv's bus station which took us to the entrance of Bachkovo Monastery. It left us at the road below the monastery, and then we had to walk 5 minutes to the entrance. Before going there was an arch, and before the arch people selling food, and bulgarian souvenirs.
When we got to the monastery itself, we visited what we could, many parts were closed, I think because it was winter. so I'd recommend to find out first if you'll be able to see everythnig there's to see. When we finished our visit (it was noon), we were starving, so we decided to have lunch at a restaurant that was down by the road. We had a great bulgarian lunch, although we had a little trouble deciding what to eat. The menu was only in bulgarian, and the waiter spoke only bulgarian! But we managed to eat some decent food.
About 29 km southwards of Plovdiv, at the foot of Rhodope Mountains, is situated one of the oldest and richest Bulgarian monasteries - Bachkovo Monastery. It was established in 1083 by the brothers Bakouriani, who were military commanders in the army of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis Comnenus. The church in the yard of the monastery was built in 1604, while the icon of the Holy Virgin was dated back to 1310. The icons, frescoes and the monastery crypt arouse special interest.