Divnogorie. Voronezh region. Chalk mountains and monasteries.

The only difference from other monasteries is the presence of a cave church in the chalk mountain.

Beautiful panorama of nature from the height of the chalk mountains, and for fans of the exotic – the cave church.

Divnogorie is one of the widely known attractions of Voronezh region. It is located in Liskinsky district, about 120 km from Voronezh. Attractions in fact, there are two: Divnogorsky Holy Assumption Monastery and Museum Reserve “Divnogorie”. The monastery and the reserve are located not too far from each other, but not next to each other. This is important to know for everyone who plans to visit Divnogorje on their own.

I have to admit: living in Voronezh and more than once being in Lisky (city, district center and a major railway hub of the region), I only visited the famous Divnogorye at the end of August 2019. Most of my friends and acquaintances visit this place almost annually.

You can get to Divnogorye by train, by sightseeing bus, having bought a tour in a travel agency, or by private car.

Initially we planned to go by car, but gathered for a long time, our plans changed and adjusted several times, and finally, in the last weekend of summer, we almost spontaneously got together and went to Divnogorye by train. It departs from Voronezh in tourist season (from May to September) once a week, on Saturdays, at 09:19 from the railway station “Voronezh-1”, and arrives at Divnogorskaya stopping point (the second name – Divnogorsky monastery) at 11:33.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Those who go to Divnogorje with the aim to visit the monastery, to go out exactly at this stop. The same I recommend to do and those who are planning to visit both the monastery and the museum-reserve. If you visit the reserve first – this is the next stop under the name of the stop. 143 km – you have to go back on foot, of course, and it is unlikely you will dare. The distance from Divnogorskaya stop to stop 143 kilometers the train overcomes almost instantly, for 4-5 minutes, but on foot you will go long enough, and in the summer in the heat is not easy trekking, especially if you are not a fan of this type of tourism.

Back to Voronezh, the train from Divnogorye departs at 16:00. However difficult it is to count that time in Divnogorye you will be limited to about 4 hours. Whether it’s much or little – everyone decides for himself. On Sunday (and all other days of the week) direct trains to Divnogorye from Voronezh are not available, but you can get with changing in Liski (the time of departure is conveniently combined, so the critical difference to get a direct train or with changing I did not notice).

Travel time is 2.5 hours one way, that is, on the road during the day – there and back – will have to spend 5 hours. The ticket price for the train one way – 250 rubles, there and back, respectively, 500 rubles (per 1 person). I’d say it’s a bit expensive for a commuter train.

For those who rode the train on this route for the first time, as we did, the appearance of the monastery outside the window of the carriage was a definite surprise. None of us had expected that the monastery would be adjacent to the railroad and that a large part of its fence would stretch literally along the railroad bed.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

When we got out of the train – we were about 10 pilgrim passengers – we immediately saw two monks standing on the platform. They greeted us joyfully, we were surprised a little that on the eve of September 1st, in a busy time for many, there were willing to make a voyage to Divnogorje. Then we were brought to the territory of the monastery and the program of the visit was announced, which consisted of the following points: 1. A short church service (a prayer service “For health”); 2. A tour around the monastery; 3. Also named a desirable amount of donations: 150 rubles for the tour and 150 rubles for lunch in the monastery dining room.

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I do not quite understand this ornateness (in fact a usual trick) in the names: what donations? We all know very well that in our time you have to pay for everything and everywhere, so it would be desirable to call things by their proper names – payment for services rendered, not donations. I remember when I bought a pilgrimage tour to Israel, the amount paid for it (tens of thousands of rubles) was also called a “donation. I was surprised, but knowledgeable people have explained to me: for so-called donations do not have to pay taxes to the state, and for the usual tours secular tour operators pay them. However, let’s return to the subject of the review – Divnogorsky monastery.

First there was a short service in the monastery church.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

After it, before the tour, we were given some time for personal needs. We spent it on our own sightseeing of the monastery territory. Divnogorsky monastery is not big, it is situated at the foot of chalky mountains (hills). This part of them is called Small Divas – divas are chalk pillars (residuals), created by nature:

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

In the monastery in total, lives, serves or works no more than 20 people: 11 monks and a varying number of novices and laborers (volunteers).

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

The territory of the monastery is well-groomed, landscaped, although, as you know, there is no limit to perfection, so the work is boiling, something being repaired, something new is being built.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

The monastery has a modest hotel for pilgrims. We were not invited to see its interior, but judging by the reviews of those who stayed there, the facilities on offer leave much to be desired. The entrance to the hotel building:

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

I was very impressed with the monastery’s vegetable garden – you can see by all the abundant fruit and vegetables growing there. At lunch, we were fed cucumber and tomato salads and sweet watermelons grown in the monastery. And when we were walking around the monastery, I saw that there were ripe grapes on the top of our heads – I felt like picking one berry and trying it on, but I didn’t dare – my conscience woke up and wouldn’t let me))).

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

If we had not had a trip to the museum-reserve ahead of us I would have probably asked the monks to sell us at least a couple of kilos of wonderful bunches of grapes. But walking several kilometers and carrying an unplanned load is inconsiderate and difficult, in my opinion.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

When our impromptu group got back together, the tour began. It was led by a volunteer, not a monastic minister. We even took him for one of us, because he was dressed in civilian clothes – jeans and a shirt.

The volunteer guide gave us a general overview of the history of the monastery. It was founded in the middle of the 17th century, and its first inhabitants were Ukrainian monks, who had to leave their homes because of the oppression of the Polish Catholics. Over the centuries the monastery has had a lot of troubles. During the Soviet years, it was closed, and a tuberculosis sanatorium was located on its territory. In the post-Soviet era, the ROC returned its property, and now the monastery lives and grows.

CAVE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

After the excursion to the history we climbed the high metal stairs to the cave church – it is for the main reason that pilgrims and other tourists come here.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

The white, unusual building with a golden dome on the mountain draws the eye from afar.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Rules to follow when visiting the cave temple:

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Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

When you look at this handmade bulk, the first thought occurs – how much physical labor and strength of mind you should have to hollow out in the chalk mountain with primitive tools, we can say, with bare hands a temple-cave! Of course, chalk is not granite, but still, what a great and selfless work!

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Visiting the cave church is possible only with a guide. By themselves, without a tour, outsiders are forbidden to enter it. Inside the cave is an almost empty and rather narrow space, divided by chalk walls into small rooms-kelts connected by narrow corridors.

The most spacious part of the temple is the vestibule.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

Most of the cave is dark; we lit our way through its corridors, some with a flashlight on a cell phone and some with a candle. There were no strict regulations about this, although I read in other reviews that some visitors were forbidden to use their cell phones for illumination purposes.

I heard a lot about that, despite the hot weather, you should take a warm jacket, because in the cave in any case it will be cold. I did not feel that way. On the contrary, the coolness of the cave was a relief from the heat of the streets.

We did not stay long in the cave church, maybe 20 minutes. After leaving the church, we all took a photo session. A beautiful place, a picturesque view opens from the height of the mountain on the monastery and the neighborhood.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

The visit to the cave church was the end of our tour of the monastery. It seems to me, on the whole, it took no more than 40 minutes. Yes, more is not necessary – we looked the main sites, and enough.

I do not know in what direction some of the sightseers went, maybe to the church shop for souvenirs or religious items, but most – for lunch in the refectory of the monastery. We hesitated – to have lunch now or put off till the museum-reserve, but nevertheless we joined the majority. And we were right, we had no time for lunch in the reserve.

THE ROAD FROM THE MONASTERY TO THE MUSEUM-RESERVE

Having strengthened our forces and asked people who lived in the monastery how to get to the museum-reserve, we started our way. There were no willing to follow our example.

From the monastery to the reserve you can go by two roads – the upper mountain road or lower road, which lies between the railway track and the small river called Tihaya.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

and a small river called Tikhaya Sosna (right tributary of the Don). We chose the second option. But it was hard to see the creek behind the coastal bushes, so we had to turn off the road and go down to the Tichaya Pine through the green barrier. It would be better not to see it: sad sight – the drying up river.

Divnogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery (Russia, Voronezh region) photo

We did not linger at the reservoir and continued to the museum-reserve. The monks told us evasively that we should walk about 1.5 or maximum 2 km, but in fact it turned out to be much more. Only later we realized that the word “nature reserve” in our case was an ambiguous concept, but this is the subject of another review.

Divnogorie – an amazing nature reserve in the Voronezh region

Connoisseurs of unique landscapes, history, archeology and ancient architecture lovers will be interested to visit the farmstead Divnogorie, located near Voronezh. The settlement and the natural architectural and archaeological museum-reserve owe its beautiful name to the chalk pillars, which the inhabitants of these places called “divs”. The main attractions of the complex, which occupies 11 square kilometers, are the ancient settlement and temples felling in the chalk sediments.

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

Map of Divnogorye Museum Reserve

Let’s start our story with a map of the reserve’s objects – it will immediately give you a list of attractions and their location (click to enlarge the map).

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Map of Divnogorye Reserve

  1. Administration and cash desk
  2. Divnogorskoye Podvorye
  3. Divas
  4. Start of excursions
  5. Cave Church of Sicily Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  6. Mayak ancient settlement
  7. Geological and paleontological exhibition “Childhood of the Earth
  8. Divnogorsk Canyon
  9. Archeological park
  10. Paleolithic site and remains of ancient horses
  11. Source
  12. Recreation area
  13. Tikhaya Pine River
  14. Don River
  15. Paleolithic workshops

Divnogorye Sights

Big and Small Divas

On the steppe plateau rise chalk remnants in the form of fanciful pillars. Now there are only six of them left, although there used to be more than twenty. The pillars (divas) were destroyed during the Great Patriotic War and later, during the construction of the railroad.

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

The Large Divas are near the administration of the museum complex, and the Small Divas are on the lands belonging to the men’s monastery, north of the reserve.

Malye Divy - cave temple

There is another pillar, the Lonely Diva, located on the east side; there is no road or path to it.

Church of the Sicilian Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary

According to monastery legend the image of the Sicilian Mother of God on Divnogorsk plateau was brought by two Orthodox monks, who fled from Italy to Russia from persecution by Catholics. According to legend, the icon itself ascended to the pillar, marking the place it would protect. Unfortunately, the original Sicilian icon was lost, but there is a copy of it made in Divnogorie in the XIX century.

Church of the Sicilian Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God

Pay attention: inside the caves is cold even in the hottest summer day (about 10-12C), so you must have warm clothes.

Church of the Sicilian Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God

Mayak ancient settlement

The oldest buildings discovered by archaeologists within the boundaries of the museum-reserve Divnogorie in Voronezh region are fortress walls, workshops of potters and burial site of Mayak Hillfort. A rectangular fortress of chalk with six-meter ramparts was built on a high promontory at the confluence of the Don and Tikhaya Sosna rivers in the IX-X centuries. The white-stone walls were an excellent landmark or lighthouse for the whole area, hence, perhaps, the name of the fortress came from.

Mayak Hillfort

The studies here began in the late XIX century, the scientists found out that in Mayak fortress lived Khazar aristocrat with his soldiers and personal guards. In the museum Divnogorje you can see the found cooking utensils, weapons, beads, and on the rocks were found still not deciphered runic inscriptions. The cape where the site of the ancient settlement is located is an excellent viewing place. It offers wonderful views of the surrounding area.

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

Divnogorsk Canyon

At a small distance from the Mayak Hillfort there is a large canyon with chalk slopes. Streams of water have cut its slopes with deep wrinkles. The canyon looks very picturesque.

Divnogorsk Canyon

Divnogorsk Canyon

Archeological park

Near the settlement there is an archaeological park, which is a reconstruction of a medieval village with earthen huts and various household items.

Divnogorje (photo: kladez-zolota.livejournal.com)

Archaeological park

Other caves of the reserve

There are a lot of different caves dug in the thick layers of chalky rocks on Divnogorje plateau. To escape from the raids and ruin in troubled times, the monks built underground tunnels of complex configuration, located on different levels, connected by passages and stairs. Many of the monastery’s inhabitants are buried in such dungeons.

The reserve also includes the following caves: Selyavninsky Cave Complex, Ulyana Cave, and Shatrishche Mountain. On Mount Shatrishche there is an unfinished cave church. To see it you need mountaineering training and special equipment.

Chalk remnant near the Shadrishche mountain

Holy Assumption Monastery

To protect the Russian lands from constant attacks of nomadic Tatars, in 1653 on the plateau Divnogorje was founded Monastery of the Assumption. All its rooms were placed inside the chalk mountain, and the main building was the cave temple of John the Baptist.

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

The monastery existed until the 20s of the last century, but then it was ruined and closed, and in its place was a rest home, then a hospital, then a sanatorium. In the 90s, the monastery was returned to the diocese, and services and restoration work began there, which continue to this day.

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Divnogorie - a monastery

Here you can see the caves that served as cells for hermit monks. Now Divnogorje monastery is working, its inhabitants maintain the cave churches in good condition and conduct services there.

Note: Holy Dormition Divnogorsky monastery is not included in the reserve. Excursions and visits are organized there separately. The application can be left on the official site of the monastery Divnogorsky-monastery.rf or by phone +7 920 436 3257.

Divnogorie - a monastery

Nature

According to geologists, the surface of the Divnogorsky steppe plateau is a hard chalk layers (in some places up to 100 m thick) and a thin layer of soil. This relief originated in the Miocene (more than 5 million years ago), when there was an ancient sea on the territory of Voronezh region. Later its waters dried up, and the bottom, on which the remains of plankton and other living organisms accumulated for thousands of years, became a hilly plain. Now the Don and Tikhaya Sosna rivers flow here.

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

A special microclimate was formed on the steppe plateau. Weather in Divnogorye is usually hotter and drier than in other areas of the area, due to the fact that the elevated surface of the plateau is quickly heated, and the warm air rising up, disperses the clouds.

The Divnogorye nature is very diverse. Here grow flowers and herbs of alpine meadows and several species of steppes, there are representatives of Mediterranean fauna and relict plants. The plateau is inhabited by many species of insects, more than 20 of which are included in the Red Book.

Feather-grass steppe

How to get there

Official address of the museum-reserve:

  • Voronezh region, Liskinsky district, the farm Divnogorye, per. Divnogorye Lane, 27.

You can get here by bus, electric train or car. The distance from Voronezh to Divnogorye in a straight line is 79 km, by highway – 123 km.

  1. By car. The trip by car from Voronezh will take 1 hour 45 minutes in the south direction, about half of the route is on the M-4 freeway.
  2. By electric train. From May 4, 2019 on Saturdays from Voronezh to Divnogorye you can go by direct train. It departs at 9-19 am and returns to the central station Voronezh 1 at 18-20. For 2 hours 15 minutes electric train arrives to Divnogorskaya station, where Holy Dormition Monastery is, and then 5 minutes more to go to 143 km stop, where museum- preserve is located. The electric trains Voronezh-Lisky and Liski-Divnogorie go all year round, with a change you can get in 2.5 hours. From Voronezh trains leave every three hours, from Lisok three times a day: in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening.
  3. By bus. The bus runs through Divnogorje from the square next to the railway station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an interval of 2-3 hours.

Where to stay

There are three ways of accommodation in Divnogorje:

  1. Hotels and guest houses. Recently opened the hotel of the museum-reserve “Divnogorye” for 28 places is located on the farm, Podgornaya Street, 48. You should make reservations in advance, especially during the summer. You can walk to the main places of interest in a few minutes. The cost of living is 600-700 rubles per person per night. Phone: +7 960 133-91-79, coordinates: 50.958774, 39.301365.
  2. Частные гостевые дома. Жители хутора Дивногорье сдают приезжим домики или комнаты по цене от 500 руб. с человека за ночь. Если не устраивает отдых в Дивногорье, можно остановиться в гостевых домах или гостиницах Лисок и Острогожска. >> Гостевой дома «Трава-Мурава» — чистый и уютный домик в деревенском стиле в 500м от гостиницы «Дивногорье» Посмотреть цены >> «Дом на хуторе» — гостевой дом на ул. Подгорная недалеко от заповедника. Узнать цены и забронировать можно по тел. +7 920 426-06-77 >> Мини-отель «Гранат» в городе Лиски (40 км от Дивногорья) — в каждом номере кондиционер, WI-Fi, собственная кухня и ванна. Посмотреть цены >> There are also other hotels in Liski. You can choose the appropriate one here:
  3. Tents. Near the museum administration there is a camping site where you can pitch a tent. There is water, electricity, a toilet, a summer shower and a large table with a canopy. The fee for camping is 100 rubles per day per person. You need to make a reservation before visiting the camping site. If the weather allows, travelers stay in tents in the floodplain of the Tikhaya Sosna river, where the tourist and recreation zone is allocated. There is no infrastructure, but you can swim, sunbathe, fish and listen to birds singing. You do not have to pay money for accommodation.
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There is a free guarded parking lot and a summer cafe in the museum-reserve. There are two grocery stores near the complex, on the farm, but it is better to bring drinking water and food with you or buy it in Lisky. There are no ATMs here, you need to stock up on cash.

Excursions

Mode of work of the museum-reserve Divnogorje in 2019 – from April 27 to November 5. During this period it is possible to order an excursion from Voronezh:

It is also possible to order excursions on site. Visitors are offered a basic tour – a two-hour tour of the Mayak settlement and the caves located in Bolshiye Divy.

You can also buy the extended tour that lasts for 3 hours. In additional time the guide will lead guests through the plateau and tell about the geological features, fauna and flora. For children of primary and secondary school age there are two-hour group tours called “Journey to the kingdom of the chalk.”

Divnogorye - voronezh36.com

From May through September, the “Childhood of the Earth” exhibit is open. Here you can see the original archaeological finds and 3D models, get acquainted with the process of formation of the modern natural landscape of Divnogorye. Excursions are held on weekends and holidays by advance request at 14-30 for groups of 10 to 30 people.

From May to August we offer a three-hour tour “Steppe flora of Divnogorye”, and from May to mid-July you can get acquainted with insects, lizards, snakes, birds and marmots during a three-hour tour “Old-timers of Divnogorye. In the world of animals”.

Another thematic tour is devoted to archeology, it is called “The necklace of antiquity” and includes a visit to the archeological park “From nomadic settlements to cities”.

Full cost of the three-hour tour is 380 rubles per person, two-hour tour is 260 rubles. Schoolchildren, pensioners and students must pay for 3 hours respectively 195 rubles, 200 rubles, 205 rubles, and for 2 hours – 135 rubles, 140 rubles, 145 rubles. There are privileges for the participants of Great Patriotic War, children from orphanages and boarding schools, large families, disabled people, conscripts, Suvorov and Nakhimov military men.

The excursion schedule for individual travelers is posted on the official website of Divnogorye Museum Reserve. Organized groups must order a tour in advance.

On the territory of the museum-reserve you can walk on your own without a guide. But the visit of the archaeological park and caves in Bolshiye Divy will not be available in this case.

After the end of the tourist season (after November 5) you can order a tour in advance for a group of 7 or more people.

Conclusion

Divnogorje is a unique place. If you have an opportunity to go there or on the way, for example if you are going from Moscow or St. Petersburg to the South, we strongly recommend you to find time to visit the museum-reserve and the Holy Dormition Monastery – you will not regret it. And if you have already been here, share your impressions in the comments!

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