St. Anastasia Island in Burgas, Bulgaria
Did you know that Bulgaria has islands? This is a question we asked some of our friends and most of them were surprised to hear that you can actually visit some of the islands in the Black Sea. Dedicated to showing you cool places that are not overcrowded with tourists, we knew where our next destination would be! While Bulgaria doesn’t have nearly as many islands as our southern neighbour Greece, we’ve managed to hop on two of them in our one-week seaside adventure. Let us tell you about a not so hidden gem called St.Anastasia island and why you should visit it before the summer ends.
If it is your first time exploring the Burgas region, you can find a lot of useful information about cultural, historical and natural sites, tours and events on the website of Go To Burgas.
(Тектът на български можете да прочетете на втората страница.)
St. Anastasia island is located only 7 km from the center of Burgas and it is open for visits to all the curious travellers out there. Its history dates back to the IV-VI century with an information about a religious brotherhood of monks. During the XIV – XVI century an impressive monastic complex was built on the island including a church dedicated to St.Anastasia. In 2014 the complex was renovated and turned into a touristic site in order to tell the story of the island to the visitors of Burgas.
A boat with the same name can take you to the island every day. You can check the schedule on their website. The journey is a very pleasant one (if you don’t suffer from motion sickness, of course) and lasts about half an hour. Our trip began from the yacht harbor in Burgas where a white boat was already waiting for its first passengers for the day. Without a second thought, we chose the open upper deck, where you could enjoy the fresh air and sea breezes while looking at the vast blue sea blending with the sky.
Who is St. Anastasia?
St. Anastasia is the patron of the island. She lived during the reign of Diocletian and she had Roman origin and a noble descent – born in one of the most popular aristocratic families in Rome at that time. She is widely known as a healer, protector of the innocent, the sick and the poor, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Putting her fortune to good use, she travelled from one city to another to help and heal the captivated Christians and even bribe the guards of the jails in order to release them. Over time, she mastered the healing craftsmanship, becoming a legendary physician and people began calling her “Deliverer from Potions”.
Not abandoning her strong Christian faith, St. Anastasia was captured and was sentenced to 60 days in prison without food. However she remained alive thanks to her faith and strong will, but after a few more tries to kill her, she lost her life on December 22nd. This is the day when the Orthodox Church honours her name nowadays.
We were truly amazed by the authentic atmosphere of the island and how well preserved but renovated were all the buildings with a simple modern touch in the interior. There is also an open event space where often concerts or conferences are organized – from everlasting Bulgarian performers to charity causes. Besides the beautiful church, you can also find a restaurant with traditional Bulgarian cuisine, cafe, an interactive museum and accommodation rooms.
The “Lekarna” (old-fashioned for a healing center), located right next to the shore, definitely stands out with its modern architecture among all the other old authentic buildings on the island. Its name comes from the healing powers that Saint Anastasia was believed to obtain. You can purchase different herbs drink a cup of aromatic hot or ice tea while enjoying the sea view from the balcony. Be sure to check out the roof of the building – they are actually growing the healing herbs there!
From pirate adventures to political prisoners
One of the many legends tells a story about pirates attacking the island. After wrecking the nearby island St. Ivan (located next to Sozopol with a monastery there as well), the pirates headed to St. Anastasia to pillage a long ago buried treasure. The monks closed the church and started praying to Saint Anastasia who sent a severe storm and saved them from the attack. The shipwreck can be still seen next to the rocks in the seawater. Well, you have to use your imagination for this one or just stand a little bit under the hot sun. It is a fun story for the little ones, though! Thanks to the sea water and the waves crashing on the island, there is a variety of rock formations, each of which has its own name – Dragon, Mushroom, Petrified Ship.
Far more true and chilling is the story of the neglected monastery of the island which became a prison in 1923. There were sent around 130 political prisoners, mainly communists, but also anarchists and farmers which explains why the island is also called Bolshevik (the left extremely radical wing of the former Russian social democratic party). The bloody attack of St. Nedelya church in Sofia led to another wave of prisoners to the island. After an organized escape some of them managed to reach the closest shore and from there to Istanbul that was a convenient place for a hideout at the time.
A room with a view
Besides day trips, the island also offers an accommodation. Far from the packed with tourists resorts and traditional accommodation options, here you can truly relax with everything you might need and on top of that – have a lovely sea view. Albeit the concept of the rooms or the “cells” as they call them, being to imitate the old monk life, they are actually pretty modern with all wooden interior and plenty of light coming through the windows. You can wake up fully energised with the sea view and finish the day with a traditional dinner in the restaurant downstairs.
The island has its own European worthy museum which impressed us with a detailed historic information and especially with the interactive installations made by the artist Venelin Shurelov. The team made sure to retain the young visitors transforming them into pirates and treasure hunters, as well as the adult ones with re-creating the life in an isolated cell where the prisoners only could hear the rattling chains and the waves crashing on the shore. There is a gift shop next to the museum entrance with souvenirs made by disabled people, a project of the Burgas municipality. You can also find these in other tourists attractions in the region.
The standard ticket to the boat taking you to the island is 6 euro and you can buy it from the Port of Burgas. For students and retired people it costs 3.50 euro and for kids up to 7 years old is free. The entrance for the museum is 3 euro or 1.50 for a discount ticket.
For accommodation, other services or additional information you can visit the website.
Note: We visited the island as guests of Burgas Municipality. As always all opinions, recommendations and photos are our own.