Best places to visit in Bulgaria – St. Anastasia Island
St. Anastasia is one of the seven Bulgarian islands in the Black Sea and the third largest in size. Its area is only 22 acres, which can be crossed in no more than 10 minutes. Bigger than it are only the islands of Saint Ivan (180 acres) and Saint Kirik (80 decares), which are located near Sozopol. However, they are not adapted to longer escape from civilization. And they do not have such an interesting and dramatic story as St. Anastasia. So if you are still wondering where to spend one day of your vacation in our villas, you may want to go to this island. We can support you for the transportation and provide you with a map or main places to visit there. The trip to St. Anastasia is about 40 min. by boat from Burgas harbor and sea station.
Over the centuries the island has changed its purpose several times. In the Middle Ages, there was a monastery here, which was burned and attacked by pirates several times. In the middle of the complex is the church Ascension of the Lord, which has remained untouched until today.
Interestingly, the monastic cloister has survived through all the centuries of Turkish slavery, but is left non-maintained in the first years after the Liberation, when the place was disfavored by the new political power in Bulgaria. It is reported that King Ferdinand wanted the place for his residence but received a refusal by the local authorities in Burgas. As a result, the donations for the church were stopped and the monastery began to slowly turn to ruins.
There are many legends about pirates who tried to rob the island of St. Anastasia but were taken away by a cruel storm. Even today, during a storm, huge waves flood the island and turn it into a creepy place, but the old lighthouse continues to illuminate the sailors’ way. The building of the former political prison, in which many have found their death, though is still preserved.
“The Bulgarian Alcatraz“
In the first half of the last century, three times the island became a prison. Part of the monastery premises became cells in which political prisoners were locked for several months when the Bourgas prison was overcrowded.
In August 1925, 90 antifascists and opponents of the political regime back in those days were locked. Some of them receive death sentences. A few days before being sent to the gallows, they managed to organize a riot. The watch was locked in the lighthouse, and 43 Communists managed to escape with the help of two boats and swimming to the opposite land at Cape Chukalya. The group then passed through Strandja and arrived in Istanbul, from where a ship transfered to Odessa.
The irony is that part of the escaped prisoners found their death later in Stalin’s camps. Others succeeded in completing their higher education in Moscow and returned to Bulgaria as heroes of the “People’s Power”. In honor of their rebellion, the island was renamed to Bolshevik in 1945.
Also in honor of the fugitives, the island was water-supplied and electrified. From the nearby Otmanli military base there is now a power line and plumbing that passes through seabed pipes. That’s why a big sign – an inverted anchor – is on the island’s quay. It warns vessels not to throw anchors in the area, as it is likely to interrupt coastal communications on the island.
More recently, the island became a refuge for the Bourgas intelligent class. Poets, musicians, writers and filmmakers have visited it many times to get inspiration for their art.
Today St. Anastasia is the only Bulgarian island turned into a tourist attraction. It has a governor elected after a public voting that personally welcomes guests on the island and takes them around its sights. The island also has a restaurant with the romantic name “100 Years Ago”, where you can taste seafood specialties and dishes prepared according to old Burgas recipes, such as “island fish soup“, “home tarama caviar“, “fish meatballs” and many others.
Homemade lemonade with pomegranate juice and lemonade from figs are another interesting offers here. There is also herbal tea made from over 10 types of herbs that grow on the island. If you want to taste the flavor of freedom, you can also order some of the cocktails reminding of the dramatic events on the island during the dark 1925s. They have thematic names such as “Prison Break” (liquor mint, soda, lemon) and “Free Bolshevik” (vodka, grapefruit juice, pomegranate concentrate). The feeling of a sudden break from your everyday life is guaranteed.
This island is among the places that our team highly recommends you to visit. Bourgas is really close to your villas, so traveling to the city will not take you much time. And the boat trip afterwards is a ‘must do’ for every adventurer. Don’t hesitate to ask us additional questions on this trip to the St. Anastasia you may have.