Bakota once used to be the capital of the whole region, the location of one of the oldest monasteries in Ukraine, later – the tragedy of thousands of people, and now it is a place where travelers will feel peace.
Bakota is located in the south of the Khmelnytsky region, 55 kilometers from the city of Kamyanets-Podilsky, which is a great travel destination itself. Until 1981, there used to be a village here, from which the name of this territory comes, but now the waters of the Dniester river have turned this place into a majestic bay.
You can see Bakota on our tours:
- Kamianets-Podilskiy, Chernivtsi, Bakota (3 days/ 2 nights);
- Western Ukraine 6 days tour (6 days/ 5 nights);
- Relax-tour ‘Dzhurynskyi waterfall and Bakota’ (2 days/ 1 night).
Bakota – historic settlement
Bakota is first mentioned in the chronicle of 1024, although excavations show that there were much older pagan settlements in this area. Already in the first half of the 13th century, Bakota became a large city and the most important center of the Ponyzzia region which was part of the Galicia-Volyn principality. The rapid boom ended in the no less rapid decline after the Mongols took over the city in 1255 and kept it for a century.
Later, the territory came under the rule of Lithuania, in particular the Koriatovych brothers, who rebuilt the Bakota castle destroyed by the Tatars. (They also contributed to the development of Palanok Castle in Mukachevo, Kamianets-Podilskyi and other fortresses.)
In 1431, the area around Bakota was recognized as a neutral border zone between Poland and Lithuania, leading to an uprising of inhabitants who forced local feudal lords out and declared independence. But in a few years, Polish troops brutally suppressed the uprising, destroyed the castle, and the city lost its significance as an important administrative center.
As for the origin of the name ‘Bakota’, there are two main versions. The first connects it with the Romanian word “bokota”, which translates as “piece”. The second, much more beautiful version says that translated from the Old East Slavic language, the name means “desirable, wonderful place.”
Bakota – Cave Monastery
At the same time with the development of the settlement, the oldest cave monastery of the Podoolia region has appeared nearby. It is located inside the 120-meter White Mountain, consisting of soft sandstone, which is easy to gid and make caves in it.
Studies indicate that the site of the monastery was used as a temple by pagans in pre-Christian times. The monks came here in the 11th century, there are even versions that the founder of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, St. Anthony, visited here.
During the Mongol invasion in the middle of the 13th century, not only monks but also peasants from nearby villages hid in caves. According to a legend, they were offered to renounce their faith, and after receiving a refusal, the attackers blocked the entrances to the caves with people inside.
Data on the following history of the monastery is very limited. In the middle of the fifteenth century, the monks left the place, and several landslides destroyed many of the caves.
Bakota – a tragedy for the inhabitants
Since 1918, the village of Bakota has become a border town – the border with Romania is very close. The population declined significantly during the Holodomor genocide of 1947, and more alarming news came in 1973 – information about the future flooding of the village to build the Novodnistrovska Hydroelectric Power Plant.
Residents were given eight years to leave their home and start a new life, and in 1981 the level of the Dniester began to rise gradually. The water level kept rising for six years and submerged several dozen villages.
Bakota – a tourist destination
Today, the territory and outskirts of Bakota Bay on the Dniester are called Bakota. It covers an area of 1,590 hectares, and thanks to the rocky shores has a warm and mild microclimate.
Tourists are attracted by the fantastic scenery, a few beaches, and, of course, the remains of the cave monastery. Several caves and niches where monks used to be buried have been preserved here. There are three springs with healing water nearby one of which is said to cure eye diseases. The water is cool and very tasty, and the road to the springs is decorated with ribbons and icons from hundreds of visitors.
Visit Bakota on our tour Kamianets-Podilskiy, Chernivtsi, Bakota (3 days/ 2 nights).
Taras Gorbnyak, a native of the flooded village of Bakota, guides travelers in the monastery. For many years he has been researching the history of this area, as well as telling it to the whole world. The stories of how villagers had to destroy their own houses, cut down trees in their gardens, and leave their family homes are shocking. The area to be flooded was completely cleared. There are Internet stories about the dome of the church which peeks out of the water, but they are far from the truth. Even the cemeteries were moved from here.
How to get to Bakota
The car ride from Lviv to Bakota will take about six hours. You can go through Svirzh, Berezhany, Terebovlya, and Kamyanets-Podilsky visiting several castles along the way, or through Ternopil and Khmelnytsky.
Note: when building a route, do not confuse the place with the village of Bakota in the Ternopil region. A local guide shares stories of inattentive tourists who are taken by navigators to a village on the Horyn River.
It is not so easy to get to Bakota without a car. From Khmelnytsky and Kamyanets there are buses only to the neighboring villages – Horaivka and Stara Ushytsya. And from there, you still have to walk four and eight kilometers, respectively. But believe us – it’s worth it!
And for those who like to travel with comfort and interesting excursions, we offer to go with us on the tour Kamianets-Podilskiy, Chernivtsi, Bakota with departures every two weeks. We also offer a comprehensive Western Ukraine 6 days tour and in summer, you can participate in Relax-tour ‘Dzhurynskyi waterfall and Bakota’.