Asen's Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery - Day Trip from Plovdiv
If you are visiting Bulgaria and you are traveling to Plovdiv for a few days, you should dedicate a day for a trip towards the Rhodope Mountains, in order to see some of the best attractions around Plovdiv.
We visited Plovdiv for a weekend during the Easter holiday in 2019 and we had a great time and lovely T-shirt weather (I suppose we were pretty lucky, since it was only the last weekend of April).
Day Trip From Plovdiv To Asenovgrad
Asenovgrad is a small city located 20 km away from Plovdiv, a gateway for the Rhodope Mountains, where you have loads of hiking trails, caves and waterfalls, an ideal destination to explore in Bulgaria if you love nature and outdoor activities.
- Distance from Plovdiv: 20 km
- Time to get there: 30 minutes by car
Fun fact about Asenovgrad: as you travel through the city by car you may notice many shops selling wedding dresses. We actually found out that most of the wedding dresses in Bulgaria are created here in Asenovegrad and brides to-be from all over the country come here to buy their dream dress.
You can easily find day tours from Plovdiv to Asenovgrad that will include a visit the most important attractions in the area: Bachkovo Monastery and Asen's Fortress. These tours usually only take half a day (3-4 hours), as the distances are short and you get from one attraction to another very quickly.
- Distance from Asenovgrad: 10 km
- Time to get there: ~ 20 minutes by car
The Monastery is located only 10 km away from Asenovgrad and it is considered one of the most important Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Bulgaria, only second to Rila Monastery (the largest and most well known monastery in the country).
Bachkovo Monastery was built in 1083 by Prince Gregory Pakourianos but it was destroyed during the Turkish invasion of Bulgaria. The monastery was then restored near the end of the 15th century and the only original part that has survived is the ossuary.
The Museum at Bachkovo Monastery
The ossuary is now part of the museum inside the Monastery's grounds and can be visited. The museum also displays old artifacts, church plates, vestments and other belongings of the monastery.
The museum is located in a dedicated building inside the monastery complex.
- Museum ticket: 2 BGN (aprox. 1 Euro)
- Refectory ticket: 4 BGN
- Entrance to the Bachkovo Monastery is free for anyone.
In the courtyard of the monastery you can see an impressive fresco, which is actually the biggest fresco in Bulgaria dating from the 19th century. This shows the history of Bachkovo monastery in pictures and you also get a. It provides a bird’s eye view of the monastery complex and the nature around it.
What we liked at Bachkovo Monastery:
- the monastery is located in a beautiful location, surrounded by mountains and forests. This is a nice area to explore if you like hiking and exploring nature on foot, as there are many waterfalls and streams nearby, so you have plenty of things to do in the Rhodope Mountains.
What we did not like at Bachkovo Monastery:
- the path that leads from the car park to the monastery is filled with terraces, bars and stands which sell cheap stuff and souvenirs. It's like a country fair atmosphere, nothing like you would imagine from such a Holy place. Unfortunately this is due to the monastery's popularity and great number of visitors (both from Bulgaria and foreign). But in my opinion the Monastery should limit the number of stands and keep the atmosphere more quiet (when we visited on Easter day it was full-on music from the terraces and it smelled only like barbecue).
Asen's Fortress - Best Place To Visit in Asenovgrad
- Distance from Bachkovo Monastery: 11 km
- Time to get there: ~ 17 - 20 minutes by car
- Distance from Asenovgrad: 5 km
- Time to get there: 10 minutes by car
From the city there is also a scenic route and you can go up on foot, but it quite the walk to get there. If you are on a day tour from Plovdiv the bus will take you to the car park and from there you can easily buy your tickets and go in to discover the fortress.
- Asen's Fortress Tickets: adults: 4 BGN; students, retirees - 2 BGN
There are signs that the area of the fortress has been inhabited since the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine period, but the fortress gained attention in the Middle Ages.
Tsar Asen II (reign 1218-1241) completed the largest expansion of the fortress and this why the citadel was later named after his name. Much later, in 1934, the city nearby the fortress was also renamed as Asenovgrad, formerly known as Stanimaka.
Nowadays the fortress is in ruins and there's barely anything left from the old walls, except for a small church known as the Church Of The Holy Mother Of God.
The renovation works on the church have finished in 1991.
You can walk around the grounds of the old fortress, observe the old kind of stones they used back then and admire the gorgeous views of the valley and the mountains.
- Explore more of Bulgaria: Stara Zagora - Best places to visit
The views from Asen's Fortress are actually best reason to visit this attraction in Asenovgrad. We visited the Asen's Fortress in late spring and the mountains were covered in green and it looked beautiful from every point you stopped to look.
But there is an iconic shot, the one with the Church and the mountains in the background, that you can see almost everywhere someone talks about Asen's Fortress. This shot is done when you climb close to the top of the fortress and although it may be a cliche already, it's hard to help yourself when you get there, since the view is so incredibly beautiful.
Visiting Asen's Fortress doesn't take long, maybe around 1 hours, depending on your fitness level (there are a lot of steps to climb) and how many pictures you take.
Accessibility at Asen's Fortress
Unfortunately, Asen's Fortress is not accessible for people in wheelchairs or with mobility problems, since there are many stairs to climb right from the entrance to the complex.