Becoming an Islander – a journey to Saint Anastasia Island, Burgas, Bulgaria

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How to reach Saint Anastasia island and what to see there

Going to Burgas and not visiting St. Anastasia Island is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope. The small island near the beautiful seaside city has become a top attraction since it opened for visitors in 2014. It is a wonderful place indeed, but in the summer it is really crowded and in the winter it is almost inaccessible. We were lucky to be in Burgas in late September and make the trip to the island in a sunny afternoon, avoiding the crowds.

Tickets to Saint Anastasia island

Every trip to Saint Anastasia island starts from the Port of Burgas – passenger terminal. First we checked the island’s website carefully and headed to the Burgas Sea Passenger terminal to board the ship. The line is operated by the state-owned Anastasia ship which can carry up to 100 passengers.

However, after the end of the active season, the transport to the island is not very regular and it all depends on the weather and also how many people are willing to travel. We arrived at the port shortly before 1 pm but we had no success in boarding the Anastasia ship. It appeared that all the seats were pre-booked so we had to wait until 15 h for the next boat.

Boat Anastasia, Burgas port

Boat Anastasia

Information for season 2019  – until 31 August 2019:

Timetable: 10:00 h, 13:30 h., 17h. Stay on the island – 2 hours. Ships are only sailing in good weather. Ship “Anastasia” contacts: phone number +359 882 004 124, e-mail: reservations@gotoburgas.com

The ship departs from “Magazia 1” – near the entrance of the Public access area of Port of Burgas which is 5 minutes away walking from the entrance of the Port

More information about the transport and prices find on their official website

Saint Anastasia Island

The ship “Cook” took us to the island in about 20 minutes. There were no crowds on board this time and we were already thinking of having lunch at the island restaurant bearing the name “100 years back”. We were really lucky to have boarded this late afternoon ship because we found the island unusually calm. There were even free tables in the restaurant and we couldn’t wait to try some local fish meal. Despite the lack of any local competition, the food was very delicious, with normal prices and perfect service.

From monastery to prison and hotel

St. Anastasia Island is located around 6,5 km southeast of Burgas. Its total area is only 8,5 decars and for centuries it was hosting a monastery. It is thought that is was first inhabited around IV – VI century. In the 15th century was established the monastery of St. Anastasia the Pharmakolytria. During the years the monastery was attacked by pirates numerous times. There are also many legends about those years. One of them says that when pirates tried to attack the island, St. Anastasia sent them a furious storm and they drowned in the sea.

In the last century the monastery suffered a lot. It was flourishing during the Ottoman rule but after the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1978 it was not a favourite of the new leadership. In 1923 it was turned into prison hosting 132 political prisoners, mostly communists. In the meanwhile, the name of the island was changed to Bolshevik.

St. Anastasia island, Bulgaria

St. Anastasia island, Bulgaria

It was functioning as a prison until 1944 and then turned into a tourist attraction and retreat for local poets. In this period the former prison has turned into a hotel, though not a very classy hotel. The guests used to sleep in the old prison cells, on the same prisoners’ beds, only on clean sheets.  There were no regular transport and one go could go there only by hiring a private boat. During the last 20 years the island was somehow abandoned and only renovated in 2014 to start accepting visitors.

What is to see on Anastasia island today?

Saint Anastasia island landscape

Saint Anastasia island landscape

The first thing to see on the island when getting off the ship is the small beach and the little quay. Walking up the path leading to the former monastery, we enjoyed the preserved natural landscape. The old monastery and prison buildings are now a hotel and a museum. You can still spend the night in a monk’s cell but today’s cells are offering some additional extras like comfortable beds and a private bathroom. There is also a new guest house offering apartments for couples and families willing to feel the island’s romantics.

You can walk around the tiny island in just 10 minutes but if you want to see everything it hides, 2 hours will not be enough. However, you should be very careful because your time is limited and you should go back with the same boat that brought you there.

The beach of St. Anastasia Island

The beach of St. Anastasia Island

The church on St. Anastasia island

The monastery church “Assumption” was built around the 15th -16th century. It is small but with stable stone construction and wooden props. One of the most remarkable parts of the temple is the iconostasis, dating back to 1802. Almost in every detail of the iconostasis, between the baroque elements, can be seen Bulgarian plants. The panels are covered with charming flowers of the Bulgarian gardens.

Photo from my friend Nikolay Pandev - follow at: www-pandevonium-com

Photo from my friend Nikolay Pandev – follow at: www.pandevonium.com or Instagram

The monastery church “Assumption”

The monastery church “Assumption”

Unfortunately, not many of the wall paintings survived but there can be seen preserved paintings from 10-11 and 12-14 centuries. Miraculously an icon of Saint Anastasia survived until nowadays. It can be seen in the Burgas church “St. Virgin Mary”.

Today the church is a place of worship but also a popular place for weddings and christenings.

The lighthouse

The island’s lighthouse is another landmark, dating back to the 17th century. It is known that back to those days local people used to raise an iron basket full of burning coals to serve as a lighthouse. In 1889 a French company delivered and mounted a real lighthouse which could be seen from 10 miles into the sea. The current lighthouse on the island was mounted in 1914.

The island’s lighthouse

The island’s lighthouse

Photo from my friend Nikolay Pandev - follow at: www.pandevonium.com 

Photo from my friend Nikolay Pandev – follow at: www.pandevonium.com or Instagram

The monastery

The old monastery building today hosts both the hotel and the museum. The entrance fee to the museum is 6 BGN (3 EUR). The museum itself is somehow interesting but quite weird and contrasting to the landscape around. There were almost no real artefacts but many screens showing different movies about the island. We felt more like in a cinema than in a museum but I am not saying we didn’t like it. Upon entering the museum, we received certificates of becoming Islanders. Everyone who visits St. Anastasia is officially declared Islander.

The old monastery building at St. Anastasia island

The old monastery building

The last thing to see in the island was the Lekarna (healing house). Saint Anastasia was called by the name “Farmakolitriya”, which in Greek literally means “saviour from suffering”. Historical data show that Anastasia was a famous healer. Nowadays the Lekarna is a place where you can enjoy a cup of aromatic tea or buy local herbs. The Lekarna, which is actually a café, also offers hot and cold drinks, cookies, jams and other specialities.

Lekarna and the sea

Lekarna and the sea

Rocks surrounded by legends

Despite the island is pretty small, it features numerous attractions not only on it but also around it. There are several very interesting rock formations just around the island, among them The Mushroom and The Rock Ship. One of the legends say that centuries ago a pirate ship tried to attack the island. But the monks from the monastery prayed to Saint Anastasia to help them and she sent a huge storm. Then all the pirates drowned and their ship became a rock near the island.

The rock formation known as The Ship

The rock formation known as The Ship

We would have probably stayed longer at the beautiful island but unfortunately we had to board our ship around 5 pm. If you decide to visit the island, you need to follow the strict schedule of the boat you arrived with. It usually lets the visitors stay around 2 hours on the island and then travels back to Burgas. Otherwise you might be forced to spend the night there.

St. Anastasia island, Burgas, Bulgaria

St. Anastasia island, Burgas, Bulgaria

A walk around Burgas Sea Passenger terminal

If you have arrived at the terminal early, you should not expect a boring waiting. The Port of Burgas proved to be much more welcoming than we imagined and we spent more than 2 hours exploring it. The Free Access zone of the port, where the passenger terminal is located, is not less interesting than the Seaside Park for example. It features a long promenade, a playground, a restaurant and numerous seating zones with benches and flowers. We did not miss the opportunity to visit the lighthouse, which looks really beautiful from close distance. So the two hours of waiting were not boring at all and shortly after 3 pm we boarded our ship.

The lighthouse of Burgas

Reaching the passenger terminal could be a little bit tricky if you are new in the city. The entrance to the free access zone is just behind Primoretz hotel, at the end of the Seaside Park. Upon entering you need to walk around 5-10 min to reach the terminal itself. There is also a regular shuttle service from The Pier to the port and also to the Salt Pans.

Where to eat at the port of Burgas

We had a small walk around the port of Burgas, the open zone around the sea passenger terminal. It was at sunset and we had already missed the last boat to Saint Anastasia island. We only wondered where is the best place to have dinner in Burgas. Well, one of the best places is exactly on the port – Dalyana restaurant.

Dalyana is a famous restaurant in Burgas

Dalyana is a famous restaurant in Burgas

Dalyana is a famous restaurant around Burgas. The first restaurant was located outside the city in the Otmanli area but it was recently moved to Burgas port. A wonderful seafood restaurant with very reasonable prices and amazing view to the sea.
Horse mackerel at Dalyana, Burgas

Horse mackerel at Dalyana, Burgas

My first recommendation if you are planning to visit Dalyana is to book a table in advance. It is very difficult to find one on site and you might need to wait for some time for a table to be freed. Well, we were lucky and we had a wonderful dinner with Black sea fish and fish soup.

The Sunset at Burgas port

The Sunset at Burgas port

What else to see and do in Burgas

Burgas is a wonderful city and spending some time there is totally worth. We love its modern look, its charming atmosphere, the flavor of the sea everywhere around. If you have just arrived in Burgas, you could spend hours exploring the beautiful pedestrian streets in the centre, enjoying the fountains and flowers all around. Burgas features a really large pedestrian area along the streets Alexandrovska and Bogoridi, leading to the Seaside Park and The Pier.

We started our walk from the Court of Justice – the notable white building that used to be the headquarters of the Communist party during the Socialist era. This area is known as Troikata square and nowadays it is a beautiful walking area with attractive fountains.

Then we kept walking along Alexandrovska street to the building of Burgas Municipality. Just against the Municipality is one of the symbols of the city –The Clock. It has been a place for meetings for local people for decades. From The Clock, which is located in front of another symbol of the city – Bulgaria Hotel, starts the other main walking street – Bogoridi. With its many shops and cafes on both sides, it is a crowded place every summer evening.

Vasil Aprilov street, Burgas

Vasil Aprilov street, Burgas

The Sea Casino

After a 10-minute walk, the street takes you to the Seaside Park – the romantic gardens where you could just walk, drink beer or have dinner in one of the many restaurants and cafes. After a minute walk, you reach another two symbols of Burgas – the Sea Casino and the pier. Currently the former casino is a scene of concerts, theatre plays, film showings, book readings, etc.

Legendary Sea Casino, Burgas

Legendary Sea Casino, Burgas

The panorama from The Pier

The Pier of Burgas is probably the most popular spot in the city, both for locals and tourists. A romantic place for lovers, it keeps the memories of thousands of first kisses, embraces and tender moments. You can also climb to the 22m-high terrace and enjoy the marvellous view to the city and the sea.

The pier in Burgas

The pier in Burgas

Burgas pier, Bulgaria

Burgas pier, Bulgaria

 


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