Tipova and Saharna Monasteries
Seven kilometers south of the small town of Rezina is the Orthodox Saharna Monastery. Founded in 1495, the church standing today dates from the 19th century. The valley has several walking trails, offering picturesque views of the monastery complex, and one leading to the Virgin Mary’s footprint in rock (protected by a glass covering). Nearby is a charming waterfall tumbling off an overhanging cliff. The Day of the Holy Trinity (8 September), a holiday throughout Moldova, is particularly lively here, including evening concerts.
Twelve kilometers further south is Tipova Monastery. While it’s Eastern Europe’s largest cave monastery, it doesn’t hold a candle to Orheiul Vechi, so if you’re gonna visit both, go here first. It dates from the 10th to the 12th centuries, and is famous as the place where Stefan cel Mare got married. The caves are burrowed into the cliff and are more accessible than most of the caves at Orheiul Vechi, however this has allowed bus-loads of tourists and visiting school children to leave behind unsightly graffiti inside the caves, sullying what would have otherwise been a perfectly lovely area. If you continue down the path you’ll eventually find a small, picturesque waterfall nearby. Services resumed at the nearby church in 1994 after the monastery was closed and partially ruined during the Soviet period.
Both of these monasteries are in a remote corner of the country on the western banks of the Dniestr River. I suggest you secure private transport to visit both places, though Saharna alone can be access by bus, but it’s a full day trip. Follow the turn-off to Lalova from the main road. The monastery is 4km past Horodiste at the far end of the village.
It’s technically possible to get to Tipova by taking a bus from Chisinau to Rezina and getting off 20km before Rezina at the turn-off to Lalova, but then you’re faced with a 12km hitchhike (or just plain hike) from there. Be sure to get an idea when buses pass by on the way back to Chisinau or risk spending the night on the side of the road.