How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is full of amazing places and destinations, from pink lakes to the Black Sea, UFOs and flower fields, there are plenty of things to do in Bulgaria. So if you are in or near Plovdiv, plan a day trip to Assenowgrad (Асеновград), including Asen’s Fortress and Bachkovo.

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How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Why You Should Visit Assenowgrad

History of Assenowgrad

Assenowgrad (or Asenovgrad) is a cultural gem at the foot of the Rhodope mountains. It dates all the way back to 300–400 BC when the Thracians established a settlement. The Romans later claimed it as did the Goths, who demolished the entire town and rebuilt it to their liking. The Slavs wreaked some more havoc and flooded the area. It became a military standpoint in the wars between the Bulgarian Empire as well as both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The latter won. Assenowgrad really had it rough!

Maybe that’s why there are so many religious buildings to be found in this Bulgarian town. Faith has always been important in hard times (and Bulgaria is quite religious). In total, there are 5 monasteries, 15 churches and 58 chapels. As a result, Assenowgrad is also known as “Little Jerusalem”. You can learn more about Asenovgrad’s history and culture at its local museums. Fun fact: Assenowgrad used to have one of the first Bulgarian discos. Those, however, have permanently shut down.

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Top 10 Things to See in Assenowgrad

  • Asen’s Fortress (Асеновата крепост)
  • Bachkovo Monastery
  • St. Petka Monastery (Света Петка)
  • Arapov’s Monastery (Араповски манастир)
  • St. Kirik Monastery (Свети Кирик)
  • 40 Springs hunting and fishing resort (40-те извора)
  • The Museum of History in Asenovgrad
  • Palaeontological Museum Dimitar Kovachev
  • Parakolovo District (Параколово)
  • Restaurant “Салаша”
How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Why You Should Visit Asen’s Fort

Not far from Asenovgrad, in fact not even a two hour hike away (3km), lies Asen’s Fort. It is a major tourist attraction in the area and can be seen from afar. It’s well worth a visit even though not much of it remains. All you can see are cut down walls on top of a mountain and in their midst stands the nearly untouched St. Bogoroditsa Petrichka Church.

What makes Asen’s Fort so special is the beautiful landscape, with the river below and the gentel mountains all around. It’s best to be admired on the hiking trail from the southern tip of Asenovgrad towards Smolyan. First you walk through the town’s parks and then slowly make your way up the mountains, passing mountain churches on the way. It’s not a difficult hike.

Since Assenowgrad had been under constant fire throughout history, Asen’s Fortress played an integral part and seemed almost impregnable. It can’t be reached from three sides at it stands on a near vertical cliff. It has been part of the town from the beginnings of its first settlement, which is why it has so much historical and cultural value even today. You can learn more about its history of occupation by the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Bulgarians, and Ottomans in the historical museum in Asenovgrad.

Even though it was constantly added to and used both as a means of defense as well as administrative hub, the Fortress was demolished in 1402 to prevent exactly this from happening (it was part of two brother’s fight for power). The still standing Medieval Christian church is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox churches.

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

How to Get from Plovdiv to Asen’s Fortress

To get from Plovdiv to Asenovgrad, you can take a car or taxi for a 22 minute ride (around $12), get on the train for a little over $2 or take the bus for around $2 and 40 minutes. In this scenario, trains are the best option. Check railway times online and then pay at the station.

Drive By Car

Driving to Asenovgrad from Plovdiv, you take boulevard alled “Asenovgradsko shoes” past Bus Station South and out of town along road № 86. Once you have driven through Asenovgrad town, you will see the fortress up on the cliff to your right and can take the road up. (Watch for the sign saying Асенова крепост.) There are parking spots.

Drive By Bus

Plovdiv has multiple bus stations, for Asen’s Fortress you have to head to Bus Station South on bul.“Hristo Botev “ № 47. You can buy the ticket at the station or from the driver. According to Free Plovdiv Tours, the schedule on workdays to Assenovgrad bus and train station is 20 and 50 past every hour starting from 6:50Am to 8:20PM. On weekends, there is no bus at 14:50, 16:20, 18.50 and the last two buses leave at 7:40PM and 8:10PM.

Take the Train

The train from Plovdiv to Asenovgrad costs 1.30 BGN for second class and 1.70 BGN for first class. It departs30 past every hour between 6AM and 8PM. The first train leaves at 04:52 and the last at 22:20. There is no train at 10:30AM.

Walk to Asen’s Fortress

From the train/bus station in Assenowgrad the walk is approximately 3km, which takes under an hour.

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Why You Should Visit Bachkovo

Not far from Asen’s Fortress lies Bachkovo Monastery. Getting there on foot is much harder than getting to Asen’s Fortress from Asenovgrad. But it’s worth a visit. It is similar in style but somewhat smaller than Rila Monastery near Sofia. The original parts of the formerly Georgian monastery was founded in 1083 and added to in the 12th/13th and 16th century, including The Holy Archangels Church and The Assumption of the Virgin Cathedral.

Albeit not entirely certain, it is supposed that Bulgaria’s last patriarch was exiled to the Bachkovo Monastery in the late 14th century. What is also magnificent about Bachkovo are its wonderful murals and icons, such as The Holy Mother of God Icon said to hold miraculous powers. To see some of the oldest artifacts, you can get a ticket for the onsite museum. Otherwise, it is free to walk around.

Entrance fees:

  • Monastery Complex –1 BGN
  • The original refectory –6 BGN
  • The museum –3 BGN
How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Can You Stay at Bachkovo Monastery?

It is totally possible to stay overnight at Bachkovo. The monks offer a few rooms to rent for the night. If toilets and bathrooms are shared, beds cost 10 BGN per night. Ensuite rooms are 20 BGN and are provided to married couples only. (You can have a look here.) Note that you have to arrive before 6:30PM, which is also when dinner is served in case you booked that in advance. Alcohol is strictly forbidden.

How to Get Around

How to Get From Asen’s Fortress to Bachkovo

To get from Asen’s Fortress to Bachkovo, it takes less than 10 minutes by car/taxi. There usually aren’t taxis waiting at the fortress, so you would need to call or schedule one in advance. If the driver has trouble understanding English, don’t be too shy to ask a local tourist to help you out. Bulgarians are very friendly. Alternatively, you can try to hitch a ride. Bulgaria is quite safe. I got offered a free ride when I asked for directions.

How to Get From Bachkovo to Plovdiv

From bus station “Rodopi” in Plovdiv to Bachkovo and back, you can take a local bus that goes to Smolyan (Смолян). The bus will stop at Asenovgrad bus station as well. Buses leave Plovdiv hourly between 6Am and 7PM every day (note that the bus for 3PM leaves at 3:30PM instead). One ride takes roughly 40 minutes.

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Helpful Bulgarian Phrases

Hello (General greeting) = formal Здравейте (Zdravejte) or informal Здравей (Zdravej)
Hello (on phone) = Ало (Alo)
Good morning = Добро утро (Dobro utro)
Good afternoon = Добър ден (Dobãr den)
Good evening = Добър вечер (Dobãr večer)
Goodbye = formal Довиждане (Doviždane) or informal Чао (Čao)
Excuse me = Извинете! (Izvinete)
Sorry = Съжалявам! (Sãžaljavam)
Please = Моля (Molja)
Thank you = Мерси (Mersi)
How much is this? = Колко струва? (Kolko struva?)
Where’s the toilet / bathroom? = Къде е тоалетната? (Kade e toaletnata?)
Where is… = Къде е… (Kade e…)
How can I go to…? = Как да стигна до…? (Kak da stigna do…)
Where can I find a taxi? = Къде да намеря такси? (Kade da namerya taksi?)
For more helpful Bulgarian phrases, you can download this freebie.

What Is the Weather Like in Assenowgrad?

Bulgaria enjoys a mild climate with pleasant temperatures throughout the year. Winters aren’t particularly cold and summers aren’t too warm. This also applies to Asenovgrad. Since the city is close to the mountains, there isn’t a dramatic change in temperature and you can expect cooler summers than in the city of Plovdiv, for instance.

July and August are the hottest and sunniest months with temperatures of up to 30°C (86 F) and as low as 16°C (60.8 F). January is coldest, ranging between 5°C and -4°C (41 to 24.8 F). June is the wettest and August the driest month.

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

What to Pack for Asenovgrad

Depending on the season you visit, you might want to wear a different wardrobe. However, one thing that applies at any time is the fact that you should wear layers. During your hikes, you might get quite sweaty and temperatures increase halfway through, so you would need to take off your jacket, for instance.

Hiking shoes are a definite must as the path is small and uneven. I always wear my trusty Lowa boots, almost every day. If you aren’t hiking at all but drive to Asen’s Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery, then you can wear a regular city outfit.

Essentials to bring along on a hike are a water bottle, sun lotion, maybe a sunhat and snacks. There aren’t any restaurants or shops along the way. Only at Bachkovo can you get food and souvenirs. Don’t forget to check bus schedules and have a taxi number on you, just in case.

In Bulgaria, you also need to travel with cash; don’t expect credit cards to be accepted everywhere. Also, if you are catching the bus or taxi, you can only pay in cash. Have it exact for local buses. Intercity buses, you can pay for online and then print the ticket. (Screenshots aren’t usually accepted.)

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

Where to Stay

Plovdiv Accommodation

Your best bet is to stay in Plovdiv as it is a much larger city and has so much to offer in terms of sightseeing food and sunset spots. If you can, stay in Old Town. Even if you are not a major fan of hostels, I can recommend Guest House Old Plovdiv with its super cute and vintage decor. Breakfast is included and the staff are super nice. It’s only a few minutes walk to the nearby ruin with amazing views over the city, the traditional restaurant Rahat Tepe and historic museums.

Hotel prices in Bulgaria aren’t overly expensive, so for only $70 per night, you can stay in the lap of luxury at Hotel Evmolpia or Landmark Creek Hotel & SPA. For mid range hotels for less than half the price, try Villa Antica or Alliance Hotel.

Asenovgrad Accommodation

Right in the city centre and along the river front, is Central Guest Rooms. It offers the best value for money, according to Booking. An alternative with a great panoramic view from the rooftop over the mountains is Alexander Hotel.

Is Visiting Assenowgrad and Bachkovo Worth It?

I really enjoyed my day trip from Plovdiv to both Assenowgrad and Bachkovo. Combining the two can be hard if you rely solely on public transport. But taxis in Bulgaria aren’t expensive as is renting a car. If you are staying in a hostel, you might want to ask fellow travellers to join you and split the costs.

Would you plan a trip to Assenowgrad?


Read next:

Magical Sunsets on the Plovdiv Hills and Their History
How (Not) to Do a Bulgaria Roadtrip – A Travel Horror Story
How (Not) to Celebrate July Morning in Bulgaria
Black Sea Salt & Pink Lakes in Burgas
How to Get Around Bulgaria Without a Car
The Beginner’s Guide to Travelling Bulgaria by Bus

How to Plan a Day Trip to Assenowgrad & Bachkovo in Bulgaria

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It had to happen, after ditching the 9-5 for a prolonged break, Annemarie's wokaholic tendencies led her to start a daily blog about her adventures. Realising how much travel has helped rebuild her confidence and and general #GirlBoss-iness, Travel on the Brain released a book about her adventures in Down Under and New Zealand and creates quirky video series focusing on story telling in destinations around the globe.
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Comments

  1. Reply

    Gorgeous photos as usual. I really enjoyed reading about the history as well, you have given a great insight into these places. I have only ever been skiing in Bulgaria, but I am now really inspired to explore more of Bulgaria. xx

    1. Reply

      Awww, thank you so much, Portia. I haven’t been skiing in Bulgaria (or any other place) yet. Need to do that one day. You’ve got that on me.^^

  2. Reply

    This is an area of Bulgaria I have never heard of before, so it was really interesting to read about it. So much amazing history here. We really enjoy visiting churches and monasteries for the architecture even though we are not religious

    1. Reply

      Hi you two, it really is super underrated and well worth a visit. Plus, since not many tourists know about it, you can enjoy quiet hikes. ANd the churches in Bulgaria are absolutely beautiful. You can easily appreciate them no matter your religious (non) beliefs.

  3. Reply

    I had the chance to visit the Bachkovo Monastery a few years ago as I was backpacking around Bulgaria but said no to it. Looks like I missed out big time but I do plan another visit to that part of the Balkans soon, so I will try and fit it in. Great advise here on planning the trip also.

    1. Reply

      Hi Danik, were you in Plovdiv at that time? Maybe you can visit next time. It’s not all that spectacular but it’s a nice day trip.

  4. Reply

    Reminded me of our week in Razlog and Bansko. Assenowgrad & Bachkovo are pretty with the Fortress and the Monastery.

    1. Reply

      Haven’t been to those two places. How did you like them?

    • Ann
    • 29/07/2018
    Reply

    It would be Bachkovo monastery that would be the must-see for me. What a lovely Romanesque building — and the site on that rocky hill is breathtaking. I’ve never tried staying at a monastery, but it’s sure to be a memorable experience!

    1. Reply

      Hi Ann, it really is very lovely. It has architectural features of various centuries as it was constantly added to. Very pretty!

  5. Reply

    That architecture is beautiful! I need to explore Bulgaria more!

    1. Reply

      Hi Kelly, thank you so much! I hope you get to go.

  6. Reply

    I don’t know a lot about Bulgaria,so it was great to learn about Assenowgrad on this post. I would love to plan a trip here. The photos of Assen’s Fort look spectacular. And I would love to spend at least one night at the monastery in Bachkovo. Thanks for all of this information.

    1. Reply

      Hi Alouise, I’m happy that I could show you a little bit more about Bulgaria.

  7. Reply

    Pink Lakes? UFO’s? Flower Fields? I’m in! Asen’s Fortress looks like a great place to explore, it is the perfect amount of worn to let your imagination run wild with what all has happened in those walls

    1. Reply

      Hi Sherianne, haha, yeah Bulgaria is pretty spectacular.

  8. Reply

    It’s incredible to me how such old buildings, constructed with limited resources, have withstood the hands of time and mother nature. I have a fascination with old churches/monasteries/architecture. Not so much because I am religious, but because of the historical significance. I’d love to visit Assenowgrad with one of my Bulgarian friends … and will def have to refer to your list of helpful phrases :)

    1. Reply

      Hi Susan, it really is fascinating how such old buildings can endure and how architectural knowledge back then really was that good.

  9. Reply

    What an amazing detailed post it is. The Assenowgrad seems to have a lot of history attached to it and is so picturesque. Your pictures are gorgeous. We would like visiting Asen’s fort and Monasteries.

    1. Reply

      Hi Suruchi, thank you so much. Assenowgrad really has a lot to offer.

  10. Reply

    Talk about a turbulent history! I’d love to visit both Assenowgrad and Bachkovo. I’ve only been to Sofia. I did visit Rila Monastery near there and it was astounding so I really think I’d really enjoy Bachkovo, especially the murals.

    1. Reply

      Hi Carol, turbulent discribes it well! How was the Rila Monastery? I haven’t made it there.

  11. Reply

    Both the fortress and the monastery look pretty cool so I am all for visiting the two places on a day trip. Bulgaria looks a lot like Georgia to be honest, if I did not know what I am reading the post about Bulgaria and had only the pictures as reference, I would’ve thought its Georgia! I love cities and countries which have a lot of history and Bulgaria seems like it will not disappoint me!

    1. Reply

      Hi Medha, I’d love to hear how it went once you visited. I haven’t ben to Georgia yet, so I have to go take a look now.^^

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