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Kazanlak and the Rose Valley

At the foot of the Balkan Mountains in the stunning Valley of Roses lies the town of Kazanlak. Here the beauty of the mountains is combined with the fertile lands of the Tundzha River valley. The region attracts tourists from all over Bulgaria and abroad, drawn by the beauty of the area and the hot mineral springs of Pavel Banya, Ovoshtnik and Yagoda. The aromatic Bulgarian rose has been grown in the Kazanlak area for many centuries. The essential oils from the rose are produced here, adding to the attraction of the region. Peppermint, lavender, sweet basil and marigolds are also grown here.

Kazanlak town and its surrounding area are located in the western part of the valley. The town lies 200 kms east of Sofia and 108 kms north-east of Plovdiv. The Kazanlak valley is one of the most scenic in Bulgaria. It begins at Mezhdenik Hill in the east and stretches to Strazhata Hill in the west. The valley covers an area of approximately 780 sq.kms and is 350 m above sea level.

The valley forms a rectangular shape, 94 kms long and 10 kms wide. To the north there are the steep slopes of the Stara Planina Mountains (Kaloferska, Shipchenska, Trevnenska and Eleno-Tvardishka), and to the south there are the lower slopes of the Sredna Gora Mountain. The Tundzha River runs lengthways through the valley. The tributaries of the Tundzha River include the Tazha, Leshnitsa, Eninska and Maglizhka Rivers. The steep valleys of these rivers are particularly beautiful.

The Kazanlak Valley has three distinct parts – the western area is wild and hilly and sits up to 500 m above sea level, the middle part is narrow and low, and the eastern area has a varied landscape.

Forests cover 10% of the Kazanlak valley, but this is due to be enlarged around the slopes of Tyulbeto Hill and along the Tundzha and Eninska Rivers.

The area is rich in wildlife and birds. Species found here include hedgehogs, bats, hares, squirrels, sloths, various mice and rats, hamsters, pole cats, badgers and wild boar. Bird species include turtle doves, ring doves, stock doves, pigeons, cuckoos, various woodpeckers, larks, swallows, martins, crows, various geese, imperial eagles, falcons, and peregrine falcons.

The rivers and water courses contain fish such as pike, grey mullet, carp and sheat fish. Reptiles and amphibians found in the area include tortoises, mud turtles, various lizards, water snakes, grass snakes, salamanders, newts and various frogs.

The region has a mild winter, not much snow cover and only for a short time. It receives less winter precipitation than the rest of the country. Summer in the area is relatively warm and rainfall can be quite high. This gives the area a long period of vegetation. Maximum rainfall usually occurs in June, and the minimum in February-March. The weather is usually driest during late summer and early autumn. The average annual temperature is 10.7°C, summer being cooler here than on the Thracian plain.

A Dip Back in Time

Evidence of a settlement here dates back to the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The area on the upper course of the Tundzha River contains lands that were occupied by Seuthes III, a Thracian King. The Thracian town of Seuthopolis was excavated and preserved during the construction of the Koprinka Dam. Research has shown that a large Thracian population inhabited the area, reaching its peak around the 5th-3rd centuries BC.

The area became the administrative centre of the Kran region in the Middle Ages under the Bulgarian Boyar Eltimir.

Kazanlak was a fortress town, but later developed into an important craft centre with over fifty crafts and trades being prevalent here – coppersmiths, goldsmiths, tailors, shoemakers, leather-working, and rose production are just a few!

During the Crusades, in 1270, Count de Gruye brought the Damascus rose from Syria to the valley. Conditions in the area proved perfect for its growth – temperatures are ideal in February when the roses form buds, then later in May and June, when the humidity is high, the rose blossoms are picked. The soil in the valley is also well-suited to the cultivation of this rose.

The rose merchant, Doncho Papazov, established the first store house in 1820. Kazanlak has been the centre of Bulgarian rose growing and rose oil manufacture since the 1800’s.

The Kazanlak region fell to the Ottomans, as did the rest of Bulgaria. The region was a centre of many heroic battles led by Bulgarian volunteer forces and the Russian army during the Russian-Turkish War in 1877-78.

Following the Liberation, the textile industry developed rapidly in the area. After the Second World War, many industries developed in Kazanlak – hydraulics, arms production, food production, essential oils, perfumeries and cosmetics – giving the town and region a strong position in Bulgaria’s economy.

Important cultural and educational traditions are associated with Kazanlak. Neofit Bozveli introduced the mutual method of teaching at monastery schools in 1836, where older students teach younger students; the first school opened in 1860; and the Iskra Chitalishte reading club was established in 1973. The reading clubs became popular in almost every town and village, giving the communities venues for arts, education an culture.

The Pedagogue School of Kazanlak was opened in 1883, which provided well educated teachers for the whole of Bulgaria. Many famous artists and actors come from Kazanlak, including: Vidin Daskalov, Luna Davidova, Stefan Getsov, Lyubomir Kabakchiev, Todor Mazarov, Mara Penkova, and Porfirii Velkov.


Culture Vulture

The Festival of the Roses – the rose plays an important part in the lives of the people of Kazanlak and the surrounding region. Rose growing and the associated industries have been integral to the people’s lives for centuries, and they continue to keep this tradition today.

Kazanlak plays host to the annual Festival of Roses during the first week of June. The first festival, held in 1903, was dedicated to beauty and charity. Today the festival is one of the most beautiful events of the year in the region for local people and tourists.

There is a beauty contest, the winner being crowned ‘Queen Rose’, traditional rose-picking rituals, and rose distillation.

The festival culminates in a large street procession and is joined by people from the International Folklore Festival which is held at the same time.

A great tourist attraction is the Bulgarian custom of ‘Simi Zagovezni’ and ‘Koukerski Igri’ which are performed in Pavel Banya and some of the surrounding villages. The village of Tarnichene attracts a lot of tourists owing to its active rose distillery.

The Rose Industry Museum – the Rose of Kazanlak expo was opened in 1969 at the Institute of Roses. The museum shows how the various rose products are made – jam, toothpaste, perfume and essential oil. The development of the industry over the years is shown in various displays.

Thracian Tombs – during the construction of an air defence post in 1944, a Thracian tomb was discovered by accident. The Thracian tomb can be found in the northern part of the Tyulbeto Park. It dates back to the 4th or early 3rd century BC. The tomb contains a completely preserved painting of early Hellenistic art. The delicate frescoes are protected by a special protective structure which has been constructed over the tomb. Only researchers are allowed to enter the real tomb, but there is a replica 50 m to the east which is open to visitors.

Near Kazanlak, in recent years, a further ten Thracian tombs and mausoleums have been discovered. The most important of these are: Ostrousha (2 kms south of Shipka), Golyama Arsenalka (near Sheinovo village), and the Shoushmanets necropolis tombs near Shipka.

The Ostrousha Mound tomb is the largest covering an area of 100 sq.m. There are four halls – one round, and three rectangular – and a chamber resembling a sarcophagus. The tomb contains reliefs and paintings of people and animal figures. It is thought to date back to the 5th century BC.

The ‘Tomb with the Columns’ was constructed from polished stone blocks. It has a round domed burial chamber, and a rectangular ante-chamber with a half-cylindrical dome. In the middle of the chamber stands a Doric-style column. The tomb is believed to date from the 4th century BC.

The Helvetia Mound tomb is again thought to date back to the 4th century BC. It was constructed from big stone blocks that were clamped together with iron braces. The tomb is made up of a long corridor, ante-chamber and burial chamber. The walls are covered by a thin coat of mortar and are divided into rectangles meant to imitate marble blocks.

The Golyama Arsenalka Mound tomb consists of two chambers with an impressive façade. In front of the tomb lies a stone sarcophagus (next to which gold treasure was discovered) and a stone grave from neighbouring mounds. The tomb dates from the 4th century BC.

Public Mineral Baths – these can be found 5 kms south-east of Kazanlak and 2 kms west of the village of Ovoshtnik. They are close to the Tundzha River, and the water here is said to be good for curing diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system, locomotory system, and gastric complaints. Near to the baths there are two mineral water pools which are used in summer, and a beach.


Pavel Banya – this resort can be found 20 kms west of Kazanlak at the northern foot of the Sredna Gora Mountain.

The mineral water here has been used to treat diseases since ancient times. The water comes from seven natural and drilled sources. The average temperature of the mineral water is 49-56 degrees C.

The water is said to be good for healing joint complaints. The resort is believed to be one of the best for treating diseases of the nervous system and traumatic conditions relating to the spinal cord, and is a good centre for rehabilitation too. There are several modern facilities here – a hotel with water treatments, and other family hotels.

Shipka Memorial Church – this church was built as a monument to the Russians and Bulgarians who died in the War of Liberation. The church can be found 12 kms north of Kazanlak town at the southern foot of the Stara Planina Mountains, near to the town of Shipka.

It has a green and pink façade and golden domes on the roof, which easily grab your attention. The church was designed by the Czech architect, Tomisko, and is built along the lines of 17th century Russian architecture. The bell tower is a 50 m high spire, and the church contains 17 bells, the heaviest weighs around 12 tonnes.

Icons inside the church were painted by Russian monks from the St Pantaleimon Monastery in Greece. The church was consecrated in 1902.

Shipka National Park – the park was founded on the land where the Liberation War battles were fought during the late 1870’s. The park contains a complex of monuments, memorial tablets, trenches and bunkers. The Monument of Freedom sits at the top of the mount in the park. It was built from the designs of Atanas Donkov, who was an architect, and Alexander Andreev, who was a sculptor. The monument was built from the donations of the Bulgarian people, and was opened in 1934.

In and around the park you will find several shops, bars, camping facilities, and a hotel with a restaurant.

Buzludzha National Park – On July 30, 1868, Hadji Dimiter fell in battle on Mount Buzludzha, making this an important place in Bulgarian history. Dimiter was the leader of a small group of rebels fighting against the Turks. An impressive marble monument was built to commemorate him in 1961. A stone relief close by commemorates the founding of the Bulgarian Socialist Party in 1891. The park itself has good opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts and tourists owing to its plentiful supply of chalets and hotels.

Choudomir Literature and Art Museum – this was the home of the famous Bulgarian writer and artist, Dimiter Chorbadjiiski-Choudomir. His home was declared as a museum in 1969, and in 1979 the complex including an art gallery, was opened. The exhibits on display include many original manuscripts, personal documents and photos from various Bulgarian writers, artists and art experts. Literature meetings, readings and film showings occur at the museum. A foundation in Choudomir’s name was opened in 1992 which aimed to popularise his works and give grants to young talented people from Kazanlak. The museum is located on Trapezitsa Street.

Koulata History and Ethnographical Complex – these restored Renaissance houses depict life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The complex demonstrates the atmosphere of the past with examples of Renaissance architecture and demonstrations of handicrafts. You can try some products from the rose industry – jam, liquer and brandy!

Iskra Town History Museum – the museum was established in 1901 and is one of the first of the Bulgarian country town museums. The museum was first located in a small room near to the Iskra club stage. In 1935 it moved to the top floor of the Library Club. The museum and art gallery were moved to a modern purpose built building in 1981. The museum houses over 50,000 exhibits depicting the history of the area dating from ancient times to the present day. Thracian finds from Seuthopolis are on display in three halls. During the tourist season there are also temporary exhibitions, some of which include loan items from other museums. The museum can be found on Slaveikov Street.

Iskra Cultural, Educational and Arts Centre – the opening of the library in 1860 signalled the establishment of the centre. The centre played an important part in the culture of the people of Kazanlak in the past – the foundations of the town’s theatre were laid there too. The town history museum’s foundations were laid here in 1901. This museum nowadays hosts one of the largest collections of exhibits in Bulgaria. Today the centre also houses a stage and auditorium with 400 seats.

Iskra Educational Municipal Library – the above centre also hosts the town library. There are over 301,830 objects in the library, including books, music, records, cassettes, films, slides, reproductions and periodicals. There are rare and valuable publications and early printed books from the 10th and 11th centuries. The oldest manuscripts here include the ‘Apostolski Text’ written on a piece of parchment and the ‘Colour Triod’ from the 16th century, amongst others.

Emanouil Manolov Arts School – this building can be found near to the Iskra Cultural, Educational and Arts Centre. Over 300 children study music, dance and art here. The school also encompasses an English Language School specifically for children under 7 years old. The Arts School is famous for the excellent results achieved by its pupils.

Choir School – the first Bulgarian composer, Emanouil Manolov, established a mixed choir in 1886. Petko Stainov, an academic and composer from Kazanlak, later carried on his work by extending and improving the choir’s activities. Petya Pavlovich established a choir school in 1970 with 350 singers. There are now over 80 children singing in two choirs. The Children’s Choir has joined in many competitions and festivals both at home and abroad, and has toured several countries. The Children’s Choir and the Petko Stainov Mixed Choir have both recorded songs for the Bulgarian National Radio, and perform a variety of musical styles from folklore, through to religious, through to modern popular songs.

Sports and Recreational Facilities in the Area – the region is popular during the winter and summer for sports and recreation. There are ski lifts and runs, and many chalets to stay in. The Koprinka Dam is popular in summer for fishing, water sports and its beach. The pine forest is popular with walkers.

The Parachutists Club operates out of a small airport 4 kms south-east of Kazanlak, and is popular with those interested in extreme sports. The Club offers training for amateurs or team participants.

Guides lead hiking, cycling, climbing and mountaineering tours in the area, giving great opportunities to explore the mountains and region.

There are also several football and basketball stadiums in and around Kazanlak, as well as swimming pools and recreation centres.

Getting There

Air - International flights to Sofia.

Buses - The bus and railway stations are near to each other in the southern part of the town. From here regular buses run to Gabrovo, Lovech, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv and Karlovo.

Trains - Kazanlak is situated on the main railway network.

Car - Kazanlak can be found just to the north of the main Sofia-Bourgas road, or south of Veliko Turnovo on the Gabrovo road.