Bulgaria Sights

Shiroka Laka & Gela

Shiroka Laka or "wide meander" is a picturesque village in the south of Bulgaria. It is a proclaimed architectural and folklore reserve and lies in the central Rhodope Mountains at 1,206 m above sea level. The village has existed at this place since the 17th century and was founded by Bulgarians fleeing from the forcible Islamization conducted by the Ottoman authorities of the time in the Rhodopes. Shiroka Laka is famous for its authentic Rhodopean houses set in tiers on both banks of the local river.

Shiroka Laka is known not only for its old Bulgarian architecture, but also for its singing tradition and the kaba gaida, a local type of bagpipe. Some of the most prominent singers of Rhodopean music stem from the village. On the first Sunday of March, the village hosts one of the best known kukeri festival. On that day, people dressed as folklore monsters, carrying wooden swords and painted red, dance around the village to drive the evil spirits out of the homes and the peoples' souls.

 

Nessebar Old Town

Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea, the more than 3,000-year-old site of Nessebar was originally a Thracian settlement (Menebria). Situated on a small, rocky island, connected to the mainland by a narrow, artificial isthmus, pretty-as-a-postcard Nesebar is the one of the most visited palces on the Bulgarian Black Sea cost. Famous for its surprisingly numerous, albeit mostly ruined, medieval churches and designated by Unesco as a World Heritage site, the town has a handful of interesting museums, remains of fortress walls, authentic medieval Roman and Greek street pavements, fortifications of different epochs.

Originally a Thracian settlement known as Mesembria, the town became a Greek colony at the beginning of the 6th century BC, It was one of the most important strongholds of the Byzantine Empire from the 5th century AD onwards, and was fought over by Byzantines and Bulgarians. The town became a popular commercial centre as a variety of goods from the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions. It minted its own coins in the 5th century BC. The capture of the town by the Turks in 1453 marked the start of its decline, but its architectural heritage remained and was enriched in the 19th century by the construction of wooden houses in style typical for the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast during this period. UNESCO Site

 

Rila Monastery

Rila monastery - the biggest and most spectacular in Bulgaria and one of Europe’s oldest monasteries. It is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m above sea level. This is a place for massive pilgrimage for people coming from all over the world - an outstanding and vivid spiritual, cultural and religious center with impressive historic, architectural and artistic values of world significance. The sanctuary was found by Ivan of Rila in the 1st half of 10th century. Ivan of Rila is honoured as the patron saint of the Bulgarian people and as one of the most important saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The monastery acted as a depository of Bulgarian language and culture at the ages of the Ottoman rule. The entire complex is quite impressive for its size. The 4-floor residential part consists of no less than 300 monks’ cells, 4 chapels, an abbot’s room, a kitchen, a library and guestrooms for donors. Rila monastery  is regarded as one of the foremost masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

 

Asen's Fortress

Asen’s Fortress is a medieval fortress in the Rhodope Mountain. It is situated some 30 km from Plovdiv on a high rocky ridge on the left bank of a beautiful mountain river. According to the Statute of Bachkovo Monastery Asen's Fortress existed before the 11-th century. In the past the stronghold of Asenovgrad was often a guard for the Bulgarian national traits and for the Slav's culture in general. Because of its inaccessibility from the west side, also from the north and south, the fortress served as a means of natural protection. In the Middle ages it served as a border watchtower. It was considerably renovated in the 13th century during the rule of king Ivan Asen II as to serve as a border fortification against the raids of The Latin empire. As as evidence here we find an eight-line rock inscription. The fortress was turned into a church in 1991 and is often visited by pilgrims of various nationalities. Asen’s Fortress is one of the most interesting and often visited medieval monuments in Bulgaria.

 

Etar Ethnographic Complex

The Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex is an open-air museum in northern Bulgaria. It is located on the northern edge of the Bulgarka Nature Park, between the park and the city of Gabrovo. It presents the Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship. It spans over an area of 7 ha and contains a total of 50 objects, including water installations and houses with craftsmen's workshops attached.

The park features typical Bulgarian revival houses with two floors, bay windows, a clock tower, and many beautifully decorated houses. Using original instruments and following the old traditions, locals represent around 20 characteristics of the regional crafts such as wood-carving, pottery, coppersmith crafts, furriery, cutlery making, needlework etc. There are shops for souvenirs; tourists can enjoy the luxury of a local three star hotel with a bar and a restaurant. There are numerous restaurants in the park where tourist could enjoy the delicacies of local Bulgarian cuisine. There are visitors to the park, from all over the world, all the year round, especially during the annual Christian festivals celebrated in the park, namely, Palm Sunday and Easter. A tourist can become a first-hand witness of these festivals, and observe local traditional rituals.

 

Madara Rider

The Madara Rider - UNESCO Site - representing the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion, is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara in north-east Bulgaria. Madara was the principal sacred place of the First Bulgarian Empire before Bulgaria’s conversion to Christianity in the 9th century. The inscriptions beside the sculpture tell of events that occurred between AD 705 and 801. It is outstanding not only as a work of Bulgarian sculpture, with its characteristically realist tendencies, but also as a piece of historical source material dating from the earliest years of the establishment of the Bulgarian state. The inscriptions around the relief are, in fact, a chronicle of important events concerning the reigns of very famous Khans: Tervel, Kormisos and Omurtag. The Madara Rider is a unique relief, an exceptional work of art, created during the first years of the formation of the Bulgarian State, at the beginning of the 8th century. It is the only relief of its kind, having no parallel in Europe. It has survived in its authentic state, with no alternation in the past or the present.

 

Kazanlak Thracian Tomb

The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak - UNESCO Site - is a unique aesthetic and artistic work, a masterpiece of the Thracian creative spirit. This monument is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. The exceptionally well preserved frescos and the original condition of the structure reveal the remarkable evolution and high level of culture and pictorial art in Hellenistic Thrace. The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak is a unique aesthetic and artistic work, a masterpiece of the Thracian creative spirit. This monument is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. The exceptionally well preserved frescos and the original condition of the structure reveal the remarkable evolution and high level of culture and pictorial art in Hellenistic Thrace.

 

Plovdiv Old Town

Plovdiv Old Town is probably the most charming and well preserved city sight and living area in Bulgaria. As you enter you will find yourself in a labyrinth of cobbled streets, art galleries and bohemian cafés. Here the remains of the past are scattered all over the old town, making it a fascinating mixture of cultures. An ancient fortress, underground stadium, old churches and the best preserved Roman amphitheater on the Balkans – all that amongst the finest examples of traditional 19 century architecture. Plovdiv is also famous for its vivid art scene and a number of international festivals that take place here every year.

 

Rock Churches of Ivanovo

In the valley of the Roussenski Lom River, in north east Bulgaria, a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells developed in the vicinity of the village of Ivanovo. This is where the first hermits had dug out their cells and churches during the 12th century. The 14th-century murals testify to the exceptional skill of the artists belonging to the Tarnovo School of painting. The frescos of the Ivanovo churches - UNESCO Site - reveal an exceptional artistry and a remarkable artistic sensitivity for 14th century painting and Bulgarian medieval art; they are an important achievement in the Christian art of South-Eastern Europe. Neo-classical in spirit and in elements of their subjects, the frescoes represent a departure from the canons of Byzantine iconography. They show close ties with expressive Hellenistic art and a clear preference for the nude, the landscape, an architectural background in a composition, drama, an emotional atmosphere - qualities which combine to make an exceptional masterpiece of the Tarnovo school of painting and monumental art.

 

Bachkovo Monastery

Bachkoovo monastery – the second largest Bulgarian monastery, risings like a medieval castle in the middle of a picturesque Assenitsa river valley and flanked by rugged peaks on all sides. Situated in the beautiful Rhodopi Mountain, rich in history and ancient spirit, this is one of the oldest and most visited monasteries in Bulgaria. The Bachkoovo monastery is known and appreciated for the unique combination of Byzantine, Georgian and Bulgarian culture, united by the common faith. A Byzantine military commander of Georgian origin founded the sanctuary in 1083. Remaining from that time is the bone-vault built some 300m to the east of the present-day complex. The murals of Bachkovo monastery rank among the most valuable works of Orthodox art of the 11th –12th centuries. Particularly impressive is the huge fresco in the dining hall, finished by an unknown master in 1603. In the main church is kept the famous wonder-working icon of Virgin Mary –gifted to the monastery by unknown Georgian missionary at the beginning of 14-th century. A long queue of pilgrims waiting to touch the miraculous image is often seen far outside the entrance of the church.

 

Pirin National Park

The Pirin Mountains are e a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria . It is the second highest mountain range in Bulgaria after the eighth highest in Europe. The highest peak is Vihren (2,914 m). The mountain is named after Perun, the highest god of the Slavic pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning. Pirin has rich and varied flora and fauna. More than 1,300 plant species. Tere are more than 2,000 invertebrates 250 vertebrate species.

Pirin is known with its abundance of water. Many rivers take their sources from the mountains. One of the most picturesque parts of Pirin's landscape are 176 crystal-clear mountain lakes which are called the eyes of the mountain in the Bulgarian folklore. All of them have glacial origin and are usually situated at the bottom of spectacular cirques surrounded by rugged marble slopes and snow-capped peaks. Pirin National Park - UNESCO Site

 

Boyana Church

The Boyana Church - UNESCO Site - is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in the Boyana quarter. The church owes its world fame to its magnificent frescoes from 1259. They form a second layer over the paintings from earlier centuries and represent one of the most complete and well-preserved monuments of Eastern European mediaeval art. The east wing of the two-storey church was originally constructed in the late 10th or early 11th century, then the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire, the whole building being finished with a further expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church. The frescoes are genuine masterpieces with a flawless technique, psychological depth, complexity and realism