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Bulgaria

Main attractions

Belogradchik fortress and cliffs, Bulgaria
Belogradchik fortress and cliffs / Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Bulgaria is very rich with wonders indeed: both natural and man made and quite a few are without analogues in the world. Most interesting landmarks here are:

Natural arches in Devetashka Cave, Bulgaria
Natural arches in Devetashka Cave / Utar Sigmal, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Thracian heritage. Although Bulgaria has interesting prehistoric, Roman and Byzantian heritage, some of most interesting archaeological landmarks are remnants of the unusual Thracian culture. Unusual are Thracian shrines, such as the megalithic Beglik Tash and Tatul shrine, but outstanding monuments of art and architecture are the great Thracian tombs - such as Aleksandrovo Tomb, Kazanlak Tomb and the unusual Sveshtari Tomb.
  • Rock formations, especially natural arches. In Bulgaria are located such unsung "heroes" of Pinterest and Instagram as the fairy-tale rock formations in Devetashka Cave and "Eyes of God" in Prohodna but no less interesting are the weird Pobiti Kamani or Rititi cliffs.
  • Christian monasteries. There are many monasteries around Bulgaria but some stand out as a real treasuries of art and cultural values. Among the richest monasteries should be mentioned Bachkovo Monastery and Rila monastery.

Natural landmarks

Canyons and ravines

  • Trigrad Gorge - Smolyan. Beautiful gorge with 300 - 350 m high walls, in some places just 100 m wide, 7 km long.
  • Vratsata Gorge - Vratsa. Beautiful gorge with the tallest cliffs in this part of Europe which are up to 450 m high.
Marvelous Bridges, Bulgaria
Marvelous Bridges / Камен Ханджиев, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Natural arches

  • Bozhi Most - Vratsa. Beautiful and very impressive natural bridge, 20 m high and 25 m wide.
  • Krali Marko natural bridge - Lovech. Picturesque natural arch.
  • Marvelous Bridges - Smolyan. Two giant natural arches which have formed after the collapse of cave roof. One is longer - 96 m long, 15 m wide. 200 m below it comes the next natural bridge - 60 m long, up to 50 m high. After this the river goes underground and reappears after 3 km.
Pobiti Kamani, Bulgaria
Pobiti Kamani - natural columns / Vacaciones Bulgaria, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Other rock formations

  • Belogradchik Rocks - Vidin. Group of beautiful, strangely formed sandstone and conglomerate cliffs. These cliffs cover huge area and are up to 200 m high.
  • Pobiti Kamani - Varna. Unusual rock formations which resemble columns of ancient ruined city. Formations are located in the only desert of Bulgaria, with desert vegetation and fauna. Stone columns are up to 7 - 10 m tall.
  • Rititi - Vratsa. Several natural walls - limestone ridges which rise up to 80 m tall, up to 400 m long but only 3 - 7 m thick.

Caves

  • Devetashka Cave - Lovech. Impressive cave with unusual entrance part: cave starts with several massive natural arches. Total length of cave is 2,442 m. In the past this cave was was used as a place of human settlement, here live also some 30,000 bats and other rare animals.
  • Duhlata - Pernik. Longest known cave in Bulgaria, 18,200 m long. In the cave are flowing six subterranean rivers.
  • Prohodna - Lovech. Giant cave - 262 m long passage through te mountain which is world famous thanks to two openings in the ceiling - so called "Eyes of God" or "Oknata". The largest entrance in the cave has a height of 42 - 45 metres.
  • Rajchova Dupka - Lovech. Deepest abyss in Bulgaria, 387 m deep, length - some 1500 m.
Krushuna Falls, Bulgaria
Krushuna Falls / Elena Chochkova, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Waterfalls

  • Krushuna Falls - Lovech. Waterfall over travertine terraces, formed by a stream which comes out from a cave.
  • Skaklya Falls - Vratsa. Very tall temporary waterfall, 130 - 141 m high. It forms several impressive leaps through open air.

Trees

  • Belashtenski chinar - Plovdiv. Giant oriental plane (Platanus orientalis) tree with a trunk circumference of 13.7 m. Planted in the 915 AD, thus the tree is more than 1100 years old.

Man made landmarks

Prehistoric landmarks

Mysterious Fotinovo Turtles, Bulgaria
Mysterious Fotinovo Turtles / Filipov Ivo, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Bacho Kiro Cave - Gabrovo. Enormous cave - a gallery with four stories and total length of 3.6 km. Here have been found oldest remnants of modern human in Bulgaria - a fragment of human jaw which is some 46,000 years old (not proven - this could be also remnant of Neanderthal).
  • Bereketska Mound - Stara Zagora. Possibly the largest prehistoric settlement in Europe, an enormous mound which rises 17.5 m high and a diameter of 250 m. Around the mound there is cultural layer marking the site of prehistoric settlement. People started to live here in the 6th - 5th millenium BC and the site was inhabited up to the Middle Ages.
  • Fotinovo Turtles - Kardzhali. Unusual turtle-like reliefs, cut in cliffs by ancient culture. Largest is 7.6 by 5.35 m large.
  • Garlo Sacred Pit - Pernik. Unusual megalithic structure - underground structure with a corridor and domed room at its end. Constructed in the 11th century BC.
  • Kozarnika - Vidin. Cave which was used as a shelter since the first people entered Europe some 1.4 - 1.6 million years ago. The 210 m long cave has 21 geological layers from the Early Lower Paleolithic to the Late Medieval Age. Here has been found the oldest remnant of human species in Europe (outside Caucasus) - a molar teeth.
  • Magura Cave (Magoura Cave) - Vidin. Beautiful 2.5 km long cave with extensive cave rooms and many speleothems - stalactites, stalagmites. Here have been found remnants of extinct animals but the most important find is cave paintings from the late Neolithic, Eneolithic and Bronze Ages. Oldest paintings are made in the 8th - 6th millenium BC. Drawings depict sacred dance of women under the impact of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the oldest and most precise solar calendar in Europe and many other paintings.
  • Perperikon, Bulgaria
    Perperikon / Bin im Garten, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
    Perperikon - Kardzhali. Ruins of prehistoric, megalithic city. Most likely the development here started thanks to an important prehistoric shrine, this site was the possible location of the Temple of Dionysius. Construction started around 5000 BC. Around the Roman times here was built massive palace with several stories and massive fortification walls with up to 2.8 m thick walls. Ruins of ancient church, built around the end of 4th - early 5th century.
  • Solnitsata - Varna. One of the oldest cities in the world and most likely - the oldest in Europe. This small city flourished around 4700 - 4200 BC. Developed around salt mines and had some 350 inhabitants.
  • Stara Zagora Neolithic dwellings - Stara Zagora. Two extremely well preserved Neolithic dwellings newar the centre of Stara Zagora with a museum built over these dwellings. Both houses were built in the 6th century BC and all the home furnishings and utensils have been preserved in a very good condition, without analogues in Europe.
  • Varna Necropolis - Varna. Large graveyard from the Copper Age, from 4560 - 4450 BC. Here have been found 294 graves, often with rich hoards. Here was found the world's oldest golden treasure and world's oldest evidence of elite male people.
Fresco in Aleksandrovo Thracian Tomb, Bulgaria
Fresco in Aleksandrovo Thracian Tomb / KLMircea, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Thracian heritage

  • Aleksandrovo Thracian Tomb - Haskovo. Burial mound and tomb, built by Thracians in the 4th century BC. Chamber in the tomb is adorned with beautiful frescoes - rare example of Greek Classical and Early Hellenistic fresco paintings.
  • Beglik Tash - Burgas. Unusual megalithic shrine, using part natural rock formations, part - man made megalithic structures. This is considered to be a Thracian shrine, in use from the 14th century BC to 6th century AD.
  • Belintash - Plovdiv. Picturesque rock plateau, purported site of Thracian shrine. In the rocks is found a multitude of rock carvings, holes (some 300), trails. Here is located also the "inscription of Belintash" - group of petroglyphs of unknown age and origin which sometimes is considered to be Thracian writing in alphabet which predates the Greek alphabet.
  • Kazanlak Thracian Tomb - Stara Zagora. Beautiful monument of ancient art and architecture - a tholos tomb built from bricks in the 4th century BC. Interior is adorned with colourful frescoes of very high quality. In this area are found thousands of Thracians tombs.
  • Nenkovo Rock Vomb - Kardzhali. Natural cave which has been lengthened by Thracians to 20 m and partly reshaped to form a likeness to giant women's womb. At noon the sunlight forms a light shape which resembles phallus in the womb. In the past (and sometimes nowadays as well) cave was used for fertility rituals.
  • Reproduction of Sveshtari Thracian Tomb, Bulgaria
    Reproduction of the sculptures in Sveshtari Thracian Tomb / Nenko Lazarov, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5
    Seuthopolis - Stara Zagora. The best preserved Thracian town, an important administrative and religious centre which consisted mainly from administrative buildings. Founded around 325 - 315 BC in the site of an earlier settlement. Now the city is flooded and below the waters of Koprinka Reservoir.
  • Sveshtari Thracian Tomb - Razgrad. Beautiful Thracian (Getic) tomb made in the 3rd century BC. Interior of this tomb has unique ornamentation with numerous sculptures of cariatids and painted murals.
  • Tatul shrine - Kardzhali. Rocky mountaintop which may have served as a sacred site since the Iron Age. In the time period between the 4th and 1st century BC around the mountain was built a stone wall and sanctuary was built inside. Large stone sarcophagus was built here for an unknown Thracian nobleman.

Roman heritage

Kamilite gates in Hisarya, Bulgaria
Kamilite gates in Hisarya / Ramón, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Hisarya walled Roman town - Plovdiv. Best preserved Roman city walls in Bulgaria, some 2.3 km long. Hisarya was founded in prehistoric times and flourished in Roman times as a resort thanks to mineral springs. Site contains ruins of many public buildings including a small amphitheatre and some ancient churches.
  • Nicopolis ad Istrum - Veliko Tarnovo. Remnants of Roman - Early Byzantine town which was founded by Emperor Trajan around 101 - 106 AD and became rich and beautiful metropolis. Here in the 4th century was invented Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible to Gothic language.
  • Plovdiv Roman Stadium - Plovdiv. Enormous structure which was built in the beginning of the 2nd century AD, some 240 m long and 50 m wide. It had enough seats for 30,000 spectators.
  • Plovdiv Roman theatre - Plovdiv. One of the best preserved ancient theatres in the world, built during the times of Emperor Trajan (98 - 117 AD). Theatre has a capacity for 5 - 7 thousand people and is used up to this day. Theatre was rediscovered only in the 1970ies, excavated and renovated.
  • Silistra Roman Tomb - Silistra. A structure which was built in the middle of the 4th century AD in the Roman city Durostorum. It is well preserved and whole interior is adorned with Roman frescoes without noticeable impact of Christianity.

Historical cities and villages

Melnik, Bulgaria
Melnik / Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
  • Koprivshtitsa - Sofia Province. This town is very rich with authentic historical architecture - hundreds of ornate houses which were built in the 19th century in Bulgarian National Revival style
  • Melnik - Blagovegrad. The smallest city in Bulgaria with 385 inhabitants. Most buildings in the city are monuments of architecture, including some very old residential buildings from the 12th - 13th century, the ornate Kordopulov House with its extensive wine cellars (1754) and other interesting structures.
  • Nessebar Old City - Burgas. Well preserved ancient town on small peninsula of Black Sea. First built as a Thracian settlement, a Greek colony since the 6th century BC. Old town to a large extent has preserved its medieval feel, with the oldest structures from the times of Ancient Greece and Byzantine Empire and traditional woden houses from the 19th century. In the small city are 40 churches, most of them very old.
  • Plovdiv Old City - Plovdiv. Extensive historical city with narrow streets and numerous buildings in the beautiful Bulgarian Renaissance style.
  • Shiroka Laka - Smolyan. Picturesque village in mountains with the characteristic architecture of Rhodopi. Villagers have preserved many historical traditions.
  • Veliki Preslav - Shumen. Remnants of the medieval capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. This old Slavic settlement was fortified in the beginning of the 9th century and served as a capital in 893 - 972. The city was developed with great ambitions and skills and was important centre of culture, where was developed Cyrillic script.
  • Zheravna - Sliven. Well preserved, authentic etnographical village with more than 200 wooden houses (18th - 19th century) and cobblestone streets.
Shumen Fortress, Bulgaria
Shumen Fortress / Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Fortifications and castles

  • Baba Vida - Vidin. Impressive and well preserved medieval fortress with two concentric curtain walls and some 9 towers. Construction started in the 10th century and was rebuilt in the 14th century.
  • Belogradchik Fortress - Vidin. Impressive fortress in beautiful mountain setting. First walls were built already in the times of Romans, extended in the 14th century. Fortress is surrounded by strangely shaped rocks.
  • Shumen Fortress - Shumen. Large fortress on the top of hill, with massive walls and numerous foundations of structures insite the walls. Development of this fortress started already in the 4th century BC when a village was built here.
  • Tsarevets - Veliko Tarnovo. Enormous system of fortifications, the most important fortress of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the time period between 1185 and 1393. The entire mountaintop is surrounded by massive walls which enclose the castle and church.

Churches

Frescoes in Ivanovo rock cut church, Bulgaria
Frescoes in Ivanovo rock cut church, Bulgaria / Klearchos Kapoutsis, / CC BY 2.0
  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - Sofia City. Ornate cathedral, one of the largest Neo-Byzantine style structures in the world, built in 1882 - 1912.
  • Boyana Church - Sofia City. Medieval church which was built in the late 10th - 13th century. Interior of the church is adorned with numerous frescoes and especially valuable are the frescoes made in 1259 - this group of paintings is one of the most impressive piece of medieval art in this part of Europe.
  • Great Basilica in Pliska - Shumen. Remnants of Easly Medieval church, the largest Christian cathedral in Europe at the time of its construction around 875.
  • Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo – Ruse. Group of some 350 rock-hewn structures – churches, monasteries, chapels. Developed since the 13th century, contains well-preserved medieval frescoes.
  • St. George Church in Sofia - Sofia City. One of the oldest churches in this part of Europe, constructed in the 4th century by Romans. central dome is adorned with very old frescoes from the 10th - 14th centuries. Around the building have been preserved elements of ancient Roman city - streets, drainage and remnants of some other buildings.
Frescoe in Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Frescoe in Rila Monastery, Bulgaria / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Monasteries

  • Aladzha Monastery - Varna. Rock-cut caves - monastery which was made in 25 m high cliff. Monastery was active from the 12th to the early 18th century, but nearby are remnants of cave monastery from the 5th century. Monastery contains remnants of murals.
  • Bachkovo Monastery (Petritsoni monastery) - Plovdiv. Important site for Bulgarian, Georgian and Armenian culture, established in 1083. Contains valuable frescoes and other art values of high importance. Interesting is the "Panorama" mural which represents the history of Bachkovo monastery.
  • Rila Monastery - Kyustendil. Largest monastery in Bulgaria, founded in the 10th century, spiritual and cultural centre of Bulgarian nation in medieval times. Rebuilt several times. Includes numerous interesting structures such as Hrelyo Tower(1335) - fortified tower house, the oldest structure in the monastery.
  • Rozhen Monastery - Blagoevgrad. Large medieval monastery in Pirin mountains. Its church was built before the 15th century. It was adorned with frescoes in 1597, part has been preserved up to this day. Monastery contains numerous other art values.
Madara Rider, Bulgaria
Madara Rides/ Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Covered bridge in Lovech - Lovech. The only covered bridge in Balcans. This bridge is 106 m long and was first built in 1874. Current bridge was rebuilt in 1981 - 1982. On the bridge are located 14 shops.
  • Madara Rider - Shumen. Enormous rock carving, made in live rock in the late 7th or the early 8th century. Carving is made in a vertical cliff 23 m above the ground and depicts a horseman which is thrusting a spear into a lion. Near the monument have been found remnants of a pagan shrine.
  • Vrana Palace - Sofia City. Complex of two royal palaces - beautiful stately homes. The smaller one - hunting lodge - was built in 1904. The largest one - palace - was built in 1909 - 1914. Buildings are built in Ecclectic style, with influence of Byzantine, Bulgarian National Revival, Art Noveau and other styles.

List of described attractions by provinces

Bulgaria is divided into 27 provinces and metropolitan capital province - Sofia City.

Blagoevgrad
Burgas
Dobrich
Gabrovo
Haskovo
Kardzhali
Kyustendil
Lovech
ArrowProhodnaCaves
Montana
Pazardzhik
Pernik
Pleven
Plovdiv
Razgrad
Ruse
Shumen
Silistra
Sliven
Smolyan
Sofia City
Sofia province
Stara Zagora
Targovishte
Varna
Veliko Tarnovo
Vidin
Vratsa
Yambol

Map of Bulgaria

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