18 Oct 2013

Discover 6 Hidden Secrets of Bulgaria

Besides the many well known places to visit in Bulgaria such as the Rila Monastery, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia and of course the Black Sea Coast resorts, this diverse and interesting country is also home to numerous hidden gems, less known to the many annual tourists, but just as worth seeing as the main attractions.

Join us now as we take you through 6 of these magical attractions we think you should experience on your next holiday to Bulgaria...

1. Belogradchik Rocks

The stunning Belogradchik Rocks are a group of oddly shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations found on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains near the town of Belogradchik in north west Bulgaria. The rocks vary in colour from red to yellow with some of the rocks reaching up to 200m in height. Many of the rocks have fantastic shapes and are linked to interesting legends. They have also been named after people or objects they are believed to resemble. The Belogradchik Rocks have been declared a Natural Landmark by the Bulgarian government and in 1984, the Belogradchik Rocks and the nearby Magura Cave were both placed on the Tentative List of places to be named on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The Belogradchik Rocks are also under consideration as a Geopark in the European Geoparks Network and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. In September 2008, Belogradchik was voted as one of twenty finalists by the European Commission as a “European Destination of Excellence.” In January 2009, the Belogradchik Rocks were named as Bulgaria’s nomination in the campaign for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.


2. Shipka Pass

The Shipka Pass is a picturesque mountain pass through the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. It marks the border between the Stara Zagora province and the Gabrovo province. The pass is part of the Bulgarka Nature Park. The pass is 13km by road north of the small town of Shipka and is crossed by a road and rail road, which run from Ruse on the Danube River to Stara Zagora and then on to Edirne in Turkey. A road also leads from the pass to the summit of Buzludzha, 12 km to the east. During the Russo-Turkish War in 1877 & 1878, the Shipka Pass was the scene of a series of battles collectively named as the "Battle of Shipka Pass" fought between the Russians, aided by Bulgarian volunteers and the Ottoman Empire. The Shipka Memorial on the Stoletov Peak can be reached by a flight of steps or a short road from the pass. The memorial was built to honour those who died for the Liberation of Bulgaria during the Battles of Shipka Pass. It was opened with a ceremony in 1934 and designed by architect Atanas Donkov and sculptor Aleksandar Andreev.


3. Devil's Throat Cave

The Devil’s Throat Cave is located in the Western Rhodopes, 17km from the city of Devin. Although not a cave that offers visitors the dazzlingly exquisite rock formations one may expect, the cave offers you the opportunity to embark on a journey of discovery in a mysterious and awe-inspiring underground kingdom. The cave’s entrance resembles a devil’s head and down its throat rushes a huge waterfall that since ancient times has captivated the imaginations of those who see it giving birth to numerous legends. The cave descends straight down without branching out in either direction. The Trigrad River water falls from a height of 42 meters down the cave's “throat”, making it the highest underground waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula. Because of the muffled roar of the waterfall, the cavern into which it falls is known as the Hall of Thunder. It is an interesting fact that nothing carried into The Devil’s Mouth Cave by the river emerges from it with many attempts having been made to track pieces of wood and other materials through the cave, but they all vanish without a trace on the underground river, arousing curiosity and tantalizing the imagination. Experiments performed with coloured dyes have shown that it takes more than 1.5 hours for the water to traverse the short distance from one opening to the next, fueling speculations about an extensive system of underground streams in the cave.


4. Asen's Fortress (Asenova Krepost)

Asen's Fortress is a medieval fortress in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains, approximately 3km south of the town of Asenovgrad, on a high rocky ridge on the left bank of the Asenitsa River. The earliest archaeological findings date from the time of the Thracians, the area of the fortress being also inhabited during the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine period. The fortress gained importance in the Middle Ages, first mentioned in the statute of the Bachkovo Monastery as Petrich in the 11th century. The fortress was conquered by the armies of the Third Crusade. It was considerably renovated in the 13th century during the rule of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Asen II to serve as a border fortification against Latin raids, as evidenced by an eight-line wall inscription. The foundations of fortified walls, a feudal castle, 30 rooms and 3 water repositories have been excavated from this period. The best preserved and most notable feature of Asen's Fortress is the Church of the Holy Mother of God from the 12th-13th century. It is a two-storey cross-domed building with a wide narthex and a large rectangular tower, and features mural paintings from the 14th century.


5. Buzludzha Monument

The Buzludzha is a historical peak in the Central Stara Planina, Bulgaria and is 1441m high. In 1868 it was the place of the final battle between Bulgarian rebels led by Hadji Dimitar & Stefan Karadzha against the Turks. The Buzludzha Monument at the peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement. It was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse. Although the monument is now abandoned, vandalised, and devastated it is still worth visiting due to the unique design and interesting history the monument offers. Buzludzha can be reached by a 12km side road from the Shipka Pass.


6. Perperikon

The ancient Thracian city of Perperikon is found in the Eastern Rhodopes, 15km north east of the present-day town of Kardzhali, Bulgaria, on a 470m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place. The village of Gorna Krepost is located at the foot of the hill and the gold-bearing Perpereshka River flows near it. Perperikon is the largest megalith ensemble in the Balkans. It is thought that the famous Temple of Dionysius is located at this location. Human activity in the area dates back to 5000 B.C. The first traces of civilization on the hill date from the Bronze Age, while the ceramics found on the place date from the Early Iron Age, as well as the impressive round altar, almost 2m in diameter, carved out of the rocks. Dating from the time of the Roman Empire, archaeologists have uncovered a giant multi-story palace and an imposing fortress built around the hill, with walls as thick as 2.8m. Temples and quarters of residential buildings were also constructed in the fortress.


You can book or find out more about our wide range of holidays to Bulgaria departing throughout the summer and winter from many UK airports by visiting our Balkan Holidays website.