St. Ivan island is one of the five islands close to the Bulgarian Black Sea shore. The island is situated 2 km north of Sozopol and is the tallest Bulgarian islands.
In 1993, St. Ivan was named a protected territory in order to preserve a number of endangered bird species nesting there. Over 70 types of birds inhabit the area, making locals come up with the name The Bird Island. Some of the birds are included in the Bulgarian Red Book of Endangered Species.
Apart from the beautiful nature, St. Ivan is known for its historic landmarks. A Thracian sanctuary dating back to the 7th and 6th centuries BC was situated there.
Upon their arrival, Greek colonizers destroyed the sanctuary and constructed a temple honoring Apollo. A 13-m statue of the god appeared on the island. It was later on moved.
A Christian church was constructed over the remains of the Greek temple in the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century AD. In the second half of the 10th century, the monastery complex St. Bogoroditsa Kaleosa turned into one of the biggest cultural centers in Bulgaria.
When Sozopol was conquered by Ottomans, the monastery was destroyed. A monk reconstructed it in 1471.
St. Ivan turned into a military infirmary site during the Russo-Turkish war of 1828 and 1829.
A boat will take you to the island today. You will like it especially if you happen to be bird lover. A number of eco paths and shelters for bird observation have been set up there.
If you prefer diving, St. Ivan island has something to offer you. A petrified forest is situated between St. Ivan and Sozopol at a depth of 18 to 20 m. The forest sunk into the sea approximately 70 million years ago.