Orheiul Vechi is arguably Moldova’s most visited tourist site. It is located an hour outside of Chisinau, and on Saturday I went there with a small group of volunteers and mentors.
Getting there is a little tricky. While we thought that there were buses going to nearby villages every thirty minutes from 7am, it turns out that the first bus to Orheiul Vechi actually departed at 10:20am. But luckily we didn’t get to the bus terminal too early, and so we didn’t have to wait too long before the bus left – just long enough for a cup of tea at Andy’s!
Orheiul Vechi is a valley, filled with different rock formations (for example limestone), as well as ancient monuments and fortresses dating from the 10th Century BC!
The valley walls themselves are full of small caves, and while these caves have been marked with graffiti over the years, they are still impressive (and a little daunting).
After exploring some of the caves we found a nice walking path on the top of the valley. This path led us to an orthodox church, as well as a small stone cross which you could touch to make a wish.
While the church seems to hold the place of honor on top of the valley, what Orheiul Vechi is most famous for is its monastery. This unassuming monastery is carved by hand into one of the limestone cliffs, and was made by Orthodox monks in the 13th century. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed inside the monastery, but I did get one on the outside ledge. Fun fact: I’m fairly sure that there are priests living within the caves to this day.
Beyond the historical structures and tourist sites that Orheiul Vechi has to offer, the local towns are also very beautiful. As Easter is coming up, many of the houses were freshly painted with a coat of bright blue paint.Walking through the village we were lucky enough to see many shops, fully functional wells, and of course, people. What with the tour groups and the local children, the latter offering to share all of the monastery’s secrets with us for one leu, it was a fairly busy day!
Overall, Orheiul Vechi was spectacular and is definitely one of my favorite places in Moldova so far. I will definitely be returning!
Bonus: As this was a small country town, I got to see a ton of horses, cows, and geese! I got some weird looks for taking so many pictures (I guess horses aren’t that cool if you see them everyday), but I wanted to show you all some of the neat things I got to see! What particularly interested me were the horse-drawn carts, which are actually quite common once you leave the city.