Dryanovo is a small town in the Gabrovo region in the heart of Bulgaria. It is most known for its monastery, a cave in which they found some of the oldest human proof, and for its clean air.
But what is it like to visit Dryanovo on a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo? It will probably blow your expectations. After you see it, you will wish to spend there one more day to get to properly experience all that Dryanovo has to offer.
To put it in a simple sentence: British consider moving here, to enjoy the slow and plentiful lifestyle, and the Chinese are amazed by it.
As a Romanian, I can’t really say I haven’t seen anything like it. Far from it. That’s because Romania has many similar villages and towns. But when it comes to Bulgaria and tourism, they sure know how to tap in everything they’ve got and do exploit it as a source of tourism.
Nature, traditions, history and overall culture is the magical mix which brings people to these lands, and Bulgarians never stop to improve their services. And this is the main thing that lacks in Romanian tourism.
How to get to Dryanovo, Bulgaria?
As I said in the 4-day road trip Bulgaria itinerary, I would recommend driving there, or renting a car from Sofia, if you arrive there by plane.
The next best thing you can do is to take a bus from Sofia or from Ruse if you are coming from Romania.
From Sofia to Dryanovo directly, the bus will take a little under 4h (~10 Eur according to BusRadar.com), and from Veliko Tarnovo less than 1h. I used http://www.avtogararuse.org Bulgarian website before for bus tickets, you just need to use Google Translate plugin on your browser to translate it (bc the English version of the website isn’t working). That Bulgarian website it’s useful to see the bus schedule and buy your tickets online. However, for this particular short route (~30 min), online purchase isn’t available.
As for my past experiences travelling by bus in Bulgaria, try to ask locals to help you, double-check, or go to the bus station to ask face-to-face all the details you need. Then be patient, not everyone speaks English in Bulgaria.
Why visit Dryanovo, Bulgaria?
At first, I didn’t think much of this town, as their city hall is right in front of a WWII monument. The kind of monument communists would put up.
But then, I saw more of it, and as much as I would like to say it is just a village, it comes with too many cute stories to be ignored.
They say they found some of the first traces of life around this area, from the Palaeolithic times. As the land was populated since then, many have built their settlements here. The Thracians, the Romans, and the Byzantines, all left traces.
On top of the hill that rises behind Dryanovo monastery, an old Thracian fortress stood, called “The Town”. The fortress was used in turns by the Romanians, Byzantines, Slavs and Bulgarians, because of its geographical position which ensured natural guard against enemies. This place was an essential spot in the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom.
Because of its geographical position, tourism is favourable all year long. Dryanovo is also a mountain resort.
And today, one friend of mine told me he knew about this place already. So Dryanovo is a place for the romantic, nature lovers, history seekers and those who are too tired of the everyday city life.
Where to stay in Dryanovo?
Dryanovo has a few hotels and restaurants, but I recommend Kentavar Hotel. It is a nice hotel, with pretty much everything you would expect from a hotel. I was surprised to discover that they have a baby crib in every room, but nobody ever complained about having too many amenities in the room.
What to visit in Dryanovo?
If you are impatient, like I am most of the times, then you will quickly ask yourself: “What are the things to do in Dryanovo?”
As you will see below, there is more than it first meets the eye.
- Dryanovo Historical Museum
- Lafchieva House – Ethnographical Museum
- “St Nikola” Church
- Ikonomova House
- The Clock tower
- The Relief map of Bulgaria
- The old street
- Kolyu Ficheto Bridge
- Dryanovo monastery
- Bacho Kiro Cave
- The hilltop over Dryanovo monastery
I arrived by car from Bucharest around noon and I didn’t have enough time to visit all of the above. I wish I did, but the museums close at 5 pm.
I think that you can visit all of them if you have an entire day in the town, or 2 days to make everything more relaxed and to have time to actually enjoy your time in Dryanovo.
If you need any help, make sure to visit the tourist information at the municipality. They have an English speaking guide and can offer at least one brochure about the attractions in the city.
Dryanovo Historical Museum (Kolyu Ficheto Museum)
This is the main building of the Dryanovo Historical Museum and it’s also called Kolyu Ficheto House. Part of the museum is also the Lafchieva House, the Ikonomova house and the Dryanovo Monastery.
You will notice that this building is one of the newest in the city because it was renovated in 2010, due to the 210th anniversary of the great master Ficheto.
Who was Kolyo Ficheto?
Kolyo Ficheto was a Bulgarian born in Dryanovo in 1800, who started to learn the craft of building at the age of 10. He began travelling young, to seek work and perfect his craft. Today, it is believed that Kolyo Ficheto is the greatest Bulgarian Architect, who influenced the national architecture and helped with its development.
Kolyu Ficheto’s statue stands tall in the old square of Dryanovo, in front of the Historical Museum.
Lafchieva House (the house without nails) – Ethnographical Museum
The Lafchieva House is in the same square as the Historical Museum and it will strike you like the most strange house on that street.
You don’t need to be told which one is it, it will be pretty obvious. The 3 story house is now regarded as a national cultural monument and it is considered to represent the traditional architectural style from the revival period. It was built by a Dryanovo master, without using any nails or metal clamp.
Inside the Lafchieva house, you will find the second part of the Historical Museum exhibition, called “Way of life from the end of XIX and the beginning of the XX century”. At the first floor is a small photo workshop where, for a fee, visitors can take pictures dressed in traditional Dryanovo closes
“St Nikola” Church
The St Nikola church is one of the first buildings of the Kolyu Ficheto master, and it is an excellent example of revival architecture. It was built on the grounds of an old church. The facades are a signature of the master. The church is the home of icons painted by famous Bulgarian painters from the Revival period.
“St Nikola” Church has been declared a cultural monument of national importance.
The Ikonomova house is one of the master’s best-preserved houses. The other one is in Veliko Tarnovo, and it is called “The house with the monkey”.
Ficheto built this house for his friend, a priest. Today we can visit an impressive collection of icons inside, from the revival period. The icons were painted by masters and students from the school from Tryavna. The collection is an excellent example of the creative development of icon painting in the region and the transition to contemporary urban art.
The clock tower
Right next to the Ikonomova house, you will see the clock tower. The first tower was actually built here in 1778, and the tower we see today is actually the third tower ever built.
The relief map of Bulgaria
Across the street from the Clock Tower, lies the first and largest relief map of Bulgaria. The map was built in cement on a 1:100 000 scale and it was built in 1962.
The old streets
AS you walk down the street from the Clock tower, turn right on Пенчо Черковски, and you will find yourself on one of the oldest streets in Dryanovo.
The first house on the right is now the mayor’s house. I recommend walking down this street as it is a good example of Bulgarian architecture from the 19th century revival period.
The houses were recently restored, the cats complement the gates and cute dogs wiggle their tails as people walk on the street. There is even a restaurant on this street.
At the end of this street, is a small architectural park called “The eternal stone” which is built to show the 3 different kinds of roofs locals used to use for their homes. The stone roof is specific to Gabrovo area.
The Kolyu Ficheto Bridge
This bridge is a famous work of the master Ficheto from the mid 19th century. On the right side of the bridge, a beautiful mural is painted.
The story of Dryanovo monastery is full of misfortunes. The monastery is called “St. Archangel Michael” Monastery and it was destroyed 3 times, was used as a fortress by the Bulgarians when they were fighting the Ottomans, had the largest libraries during the Bulgarian Revival.
In 1876 the monastery was completely destroyed and the church was heavily damaged. The entire library was burned to the ground. Today, this is the third version of the monastery, and it is considered a national cultural monument and one of the tenth most preferred sanctuaries by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
The Church was recently renovated, as the roof was damaged last year by the rain and most of the artworks inside were damaged. That’s why it is forbidden to take photos inside now.
Next to the church is a monument for the revolutionaries who have died here. On top of the monument, stands the statue of Bacho Kiro, the famous leader and hero of the Bulgarian National Revival.
From the monastery, you will see a rocky hill behind it. There is a nice trail that takes to a cave and to a lovely viewpoint from the top, and the difficulty isn’t as bad as it first looks. The hike is about 20 minutes from the monastery to the viewpoint.
Bacho Kiro Cave
On the way to the viewpoint from the hill, you will find this cave, which is an archaeological site of national importance in Bulgaria.
It was the first electrified cave in Bulgaria and has a four-storey labyrinth of galleries and corridors with a total length of 3,600 m. The countless stalactites and stalagmite formations of great beauty which people have funny names because of their appearance.
The site has yielded the oldest human remains ever to be found in Bulgaria and some of the oldest in Europe. There are two paths available to visit, one is about 30 min and the other one is 60-70 min. The locals suggest taking the second one if you want to see something spectacular.
The people working there don’t speak English and you can only visit once they form a group. It is a guided visit. Locals have warned that the guide isn’t that friendly and the cave is cold, wet and full of mud. It is not recommended for those with disabilities, young children or anyone not properly dressed.
From the cave, you continue the trail to the viewpoint for about 10 more minutes. The view is worth it.
Right under the highest point is another stop. This is where the bench of love is. The volunteers that take care of the area built this bench here because of the awesome view in front of it.
Next to the bench is a mailbox where you can leave your contact, or take one of the notes and contact the author. Maybe you both fall in love with each other. Many couples got engaged in this spot and you will see some of the names scratched on the bench.
I find this idea beautiful and worth spreading. It reminded me how deep down, we are all the same, secretly hoping to have someone to share with all our experiences.