Kazanlak: Where History, Roses, and Adventure Collide


Kazanlak Valley Bulgaria

If you’re in Bulgaria and want to immerse yourself in the fragrant and colorful beauty of roses, and explore ancient ruins, you must visit Kazanlak. It is in central Bulgaria and is situated in the Kazanlak Valley at the foot of the Balkan Mountains.

Modern-day Kazanlak emerged in the late 14th century, but the first settlement in its location dates back to the Neolithic period (8000 BC). About 5 kilometers from the present-day city, during the 5th to 4th century BC, stood the Thracian city of Seuthopolis, named after the Thracian king Seuthes I.

The area around Kazanlak is renowned for the production of rose oil, which is used by globally renowned perfumery companies. Experts claim that it is the highest quality rose oil in the world. Bulgarian rose oil has been an indispensable ingredient in European perfumery since 1720.

Kazanlak is often referred to as the European Kashmir or the Turkish Gülşehir. It is here that the oil-bearing rose variety Rosa damascena is cultivated, originally brought to Bulgaria from India. The climatic conditions for its cultivation here are very favorable. The entire valley surrounding the city is known as the Rose Valley.

Today, Kazanlak and the Rose Valley are among the largest producers of rose oil in the world. In just 2023, Bulgaria exported 1,370 kg of rose oil, with an average price of 9,168 euros per kilogram.

Witnessing the Rose Harvest and Festival

If you want to witness the full beauty of the Rose Valley, it’s best to visit around May 20th to June 20th. During this time, the roses are harvested, and rose oil is produced.

During the rose harvest, the Rose Festival is held, during which a beautiful girl is chosen as the Rose Queen. The program includes numerous events and masterclasses on traditional crafts. During this time, there are also fairs and photo exhibitions, as well as folklore programs in the city and its surroundings.

Immerse Yourself in History and Culture

Whenever you find yourself in Kazanlak, you can always become part of the history of rose oil by visiting the unique Rose Museum. It boasts an exceptionally rich collection of objects, photographs, and documents. Notable in the museum’s exhibition is a vessel for rose oil (konkuma), last used in 1947, but still carrying its fragrance. At the museum, you can purchase rose oil and various products made from the oil-bearing rose.

Its building is located in the Rose Garden Park, where there are dozens of types of trees and decorative roses, areas for relaxation and children’s play, sports facilities, outdoor fitness areas, colorful pergolas, and a fountain.

Visit the Historical Museum and the Art Gallery. They are located in a shared building. The Historical Museum houses over 70,000 original exhibits reflecting the rich material and spiritual culture of the Kazanlak region. Тhe golden mask of Teres and the bronze head of King Seuthes III are part of the Thracian relics, which have been discovered in the area.

This bronze head is part of a life-size statue of a full-grown man. It was discovered in 2004 in the ‘Golyama Kostnatka’ burial mound in the Kazanlak valley near Shipka, Stara Zagora region.

The head is on display at the National Archaeological Museum (Sofia, Bulgaria) in the treasure room.

The Art Gallery in Kazanlak, founded in 1901, is among the oldest art collections in Bulgaria and has valuable works by prominent Bulgarian artists. Kazanlak is the birthplace of some of the greatest Bulgarian artists and writers. Here, you can visit the house-museums of Dechko Uzunov and Chudomir.

Visit the Kazanlak Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a continuously active, female monastery. You can also see the first Orthodox church in the city, St. Prophet Elijah (Kulenska Church). Built around 1812, only its roof was visible above the ground, while access inside was through twelve steps downwards.

The Historical-Ethnographic Complex “The Tower” is also intriguing. Located in the old part of Kazanlak, it houses the only Museum of Photography and Contemporary Visual Arts in Bulgaria.

A Journey through Time: From Ancient Cities to Thracian Tombs

Your journey through time in Kazanlak can begin even before the Thracian era.  Buried beneath the waters of the Koprinka Reservoir, just 7 kilometers from the city, lies the ancient Thracian city of Seuthopolis. Founded by Thracian ruler Seuthes I in the 3rd century BC, the city flourished for centuries before being submerged during the construction of the dam in the mid-20th century.

Your journey through time can continue with a visit to the Thracian tomb in the city, known as the Kazanlak Tomb. It belonged to the Thracian ruler Roigos and was buried under a mound, part of a large necropolis. Discovered accidentally on April 19, 1944, by soldiers digging trenches, its world fame is owed to its unique frescoes—some of the best-preserved frescoes from the Hellenistic era.

The Kazanlak Tomb dates back to the first half of the 3rd century BC. It is the first Bulgarian site inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979. This beehive-shaped tomb is remarkable for its architectural style and particularly for the murals adorning its walls.

The murals depict scenes from Thracian funerary rituals and daily life. They are rendered in a vibrant and expressive style, with a focus on geometric patterns and stylized figures. The murals offer a valuable window into Thracian culture and beliefs about the afterlife.

Delve Deeper into the Valley of the Thracian Kings

Tomb of Seuthes III: Located about 12 kilometers from Kazanlak, this grand tomb is dedicated to the Thracian king Seuthes III. Unlike the Kazanlak Tomb, it wasn’t buried and was discovered during archaeological excavations. Inside, archaeologists found a wealth of treasures, including a golden wreath, a golden kylix (wine cup), and a golden mask.

Other Tombs: The Valley of the Thracian Kings boasts several other tombs worth exploring. Each has its unique architectural style and may contain artifacts offering clues about Thracian rituals and beliefs.

Expand Your Exploration:

The Archaeological Complex “The Valley of the Thracian Kings”: This tourist attraction near Shipka offers a recreated Thracian throne room and a model of the ancient Thracian capital, Seuthopolis. It allows visitors to experience a more immersive and interactive exploration of Thracian culture.

Museum of History Iskra – Kazanlak tomb: This museum offers additional information and artifacts related to the Kazanlak Tomb and Thracian culture in the Kazanlak region.

Relaxation and Rejuvenation in Mineral Springs

After your historical explorations, unwind and rejuvenate at the natural mineral springs near Kazanlak.

Ovoshtnik:  Located just 10 kilometers away, Ovoshtnik is a popular destination known for its Waterland water park. This water park offers a variety of slides, pools, and water attractions, perfect for a refreshing and fun break.

Pavel Banya: A national balneological center located about 25 kilometers away, Pavel Banya offers a haven of relaxation with its healing waters flowing from 9 natural thermal springs.Further Adventures Await

If you have more time, consider venturing to Stara Zagora, 30 km away, to explore the impressive ruins of Augusta Traiana, an ancient Roman city.  For a more adventurous escapade, head south to Perperikon, an ancient Thracian city featuring a sanctuary complex, a necropolis, and a fortress.

Combining Past and Present: Buzludzha Monument

While the Thracian Tombs and Seuthopolis offer a glimpse into the distant past, a short drive from Kazanlak takes you to a monument that embodies a much more recent chapter in Bulgarian history – the Buzludzha Monument.

Atop Buzludzha Peak stands a monument that has become an enduring symbol of Bulgaria’s turbulent past. Once a grandiose ode to the country’s Communist era, the Buzludzha Monument now stands in ruins, a haunting reminder of a bygone ideology.

The monument’s construction began in the 1970s and was completed in 1989, just as Communism was starting to crumble across Eastern Europe. Its design incorporates a “sacrificial tray” and a towering column, vaguely resembling the Montreal Olympic Stadium. Inside, a grand ceremonial hall was once adorned with mosaics depicting Communist imagery.

Following the fall of Communism, the monument was abandoned and fell into disrepair. However, its unique architecture and desolate beauty have attracted a new kind of visitor – explorers, photographers, and even filmmakers. Documentaries and science fiction films featuring Hollywood stars have been shot here, and Buzludzha has even been included on lists of “The Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World.”

Every summer, the OPEN BUZLUDZHA festival takes place near the monument, featuring music, art installations, and historical talks.

Plan Your Trip

If you’re interested in experiencing the contrasting historical narratives of Bulgaria, you can easily visit both the Thracian Tombs and Buzludzha on a day trip from Kazanlak. While the tombs offer a guided tour experience, visiting Buzludzha requires independent exploration, with proper precautions due to the abandoned state of the monument.

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