St. John of Rila (Pusti) Monastery in Bistrets

If you are in in Vratsa and have some time to spare, go visit the somewhat unknown but very well kept monastery of Saint John of the Desert. It is located 12 kilometres down Vratsa-Montana road, at the exit for Bistrets, just before the one for Beli Izvor. Founded at the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the monastery was destroyed by the Turks many times before it was finally rebuilt in its present-day state in 1894-1928. Some major restoration was also done in 2008. The monastery is overhung by rock caves, in which monks used to live. During the National Revival it served as an important centre of crafts and literature, and it also maintained a monastic school. In 1611 craftsmen from Chiprovtsi carved a gold-plated cross and a gemstone cross – two unique masterpieces of art that the monastery has kept to this day.

Day 1
Day 1 – Craiova - Calafat – Vidin - Belogradchik - Chiprovtsi

Visit to Madona Dudu Church, St. Demetrius Cathedral, Mântuleasa Church and the Church of the Holy Trinity, Craiova (optional)

Departure from Craiova

Visit to the Monastery of Maglavit or visit to the St. Nicholas Church, Calafat (optional)

Visit to the Museum of Art and Ethnography, Calafat (optional)

Departure to Belogradchik

Lunch in Vidin area

Departure to Belogradchik and visit to the Magura cave or Kaleto fortress in Belogradchik and The Belogradchik Rocks (optional)

Departure to Chiprovtsi, dinner and overnight accommodation

Day 2
Day 2 – Chiprovtsi – Monastery of Saint Ivan Pusti

Visit to the Chiprovtsi Monastery of St. John of Rila, town of Chiprovtsi

Free time in Chiprovtsi and visit to the Museum in the town

Lunch in the town of Chiprovtsi

Departure to the Monastery of St. Ivan Pusti

Dinner and overnight accommodation in the Monastery

Day 3
Day 3 – Vratsa - Cherepish

Departure to Vratsa

Visit to the Cathedral of Holy 12 Apostles, Vratsa

Visit to the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, Vratsa

City tour and visit to the Ledenika cave

Lunch in Vratsa

Visit to the Cherepish Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos

Visit to the Ritlite rock formation, Skoklya waterfall, the Cherepish rocks (optional)

Dinner and overnight accommodation in the area

Day 4
Day 4 – Vidin

Departure to Vidin

Visit to the churches of St. Pantaleon and of the St. Paraskevi, the Cathedral of St. Demetrius and the Church of St. Nicholas

Lunch in Vidin

Free time: visit to the Baba Vida Fortress, Krastata Kazarma museum and Historical Museum, Vidin (optional)

Dinner and overnight accommodation in Vidin

Day 5
Day 5 – Departure

Restaurant-complex „Dyado Yotso”
GPS coordinates: 43.087815 / 43°5’16” N – 23.473941 / 23°28’26” E
Address: D16, direction Lyutibrod-Svoge, deviation from the road to Ochin Dol Village, Vratsa District

„Hemus Hotel“, Vratsa

GPS coordinates: 43.20200 / 43°12’7” N – 23.548685 / 23°32’55” E
Address: 1 Hristo Botev Boulevard,  Vratsa, Vratsa District

Hotel “Chaika”
GPS coordinates: 43.191503 / 43°11’29” N – 23.537166 / 23°32’14” E
Address: at the exit of the town, D  1002, Vratsa, Vratsa District

St. Sophronius of Vratsa Ethnographical & Revival Complex
GPS coordinates: 43.202564 / 43°12’9” N – 23.550727 / 23°33’2” E
Address: 12 Dimitraki Hadzhitoshev Str., Vratsa, District of Vratsa
A must-see destination on your route is the Ethnographical and Revival Complex, which is part of the Regional Museum of History in Vratsa. This architectural and ethnographic museum exposition was created between 1972 and 1987. It is in the center of Vratsa and consists of three beautiful houses built in the typical for the Bulgarian National Revival period style. They are declared as architectural and historical monuments of culture. The visitors here enjoy the impressive statue of St. Sophronius of Vratsa, which rises spectacularly at the entrance of the complex. Several collections of tools, household items, ceramic objects, folklore costumes, carpets etc. present the most characteristic features of the traditional folk culture of the region.

Regional Museum of History, Vratsa
GPS coordinates: 43.200981 / 43°12’3” N – 23.547608/ 23°32’51” E
Address: 2 Boulevard “Hristo Botev”, Vratsa, Vratsa district

Another interesting destination on your route is the historical museum in the town of Vratsa, which is one of the 100 national landmarks of Bulgaria. The museum expositions are presented in separate halls, each of them tracking the different historical developments of the region.

Okolchitsa Peak
GPS coordinates: 43.154236 / 43 ° 9’15 “N – 23.584046 / 23 ° 35’2” E
Address: 22 km. from Vratsa
The Okolchitsa Peak is probably one of the most significant historical places in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian poet and national hero Hristo Botev and his detachment heroically fought against the Ottoman army here and met their end near this spot in June 1876. A solitary 35 meters tall cross in memory of the freedom fighter stands here. There is a chapel named St. George beneath the monument. An impressive nation-wide pilgrimage take place here each year on June 2, attended by thousands of people and government officials, who worship the memory of the great Bulgarian revolutionary and his struggle for independence from the Ottoman slavery.

Archeological complex “Kaleto”, Mezdra
GPS coordinates: 43.139870 / 43 ° 8’23 “N – 23.704888 / 23 ° 42’17” E
Address: at the exit of the south-west limit of the town of Mezdra, deviation from D1, town of Mezdra, Vratsa region

The archaeological complex “Kaleto” is situated on a rocky massive, over the riverbank of Iskar river, near the town of Mezdra, where major trade routes have been crossing since ancient times. The area around the complex was inhabited during the Stone and the Copper Ages and around 4 thousand BC. The Thracians settled here until the 1st century. In the 2nd century the area was conquered by the Roman Empire, and in the 7th century the Slavic tribes settled here. The Bulgarians settled here at the end of 7th century. In the 11th century the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Great conquered the Northwestern Bulgarian lands. Later they became part of the Ottoman Empire. In 2013, the whole complex was restored, and turned into a touristic attraction. The traces of fortified settlements from different periods as well as prehistoric pagan sanctuary, are preserved here. Plenty of archeological findings and remains from the different historical periods of the fortress are permanently exhibited in the complex. There is an ethnographic exhibition, also a souvenir shop and an information center housed in a separate hall.

Ritlite rocks
GPS coordinates: 43.107229 / 43 ° 6’26 “N – 23.624721 / 23 ° 37’29” E
Address: on the riverbank of Iskar, village of Luytibrod, road DN 16, village of Luytibrod, Vratsa district

The nature here is amazing. Ritlite area is a beautiful natural landmark, part of the Vratsa Balkan National Park. It is situated on the banks of the river Iskar, near the village of Luytibrod. The legends tell that there was an iron door for a long time that closed the way to the old Bulgarian fortress Serdika. Since 1938 the rock formations have been declared a natural landmark and a protected area and registered as protected area.

Trip Facts

  • 43.243510 / 43°14’36” N – 23.463407 / 23°27’48” E
  • exit of D1 then a few km away from the entrance of the town of Vratsa
  • DN1
  • Not required
  • Yes
  • 00359992661164; 00359992661207
  • 112

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