During the Rose Festival, Kazanlak has a lot to offer in terms of cultural, historic and social events across the town and the surrounding villages.
View our detailed guide to the Rose Festival
However, in order to enjoy the beauty of nature and the amazing scenery around, we must embark on a few short trips across the valley, starting with:
Buzludza Peak and The Abandoned Communist Monolith (1432 masl)
The view from the monument and the peak itself is breathtaking. It is located at the almost exact geographical center of Bulgaria, and as there are mostly valleys to the north and south of it, on a perfectly clear day, you can theoretically see as far as Greece (our southern neighbor) and Romania (our Northern neighbor). The 360 degrees scenery is a view not to miss! Here is a short video by the Tech Insider about the monument and its history.
The monument has a saucer-like main structure and a 70m tower with a red-crystal star on top. From the valley, it looks like there is a UFO landed on top of the Balkan peak.
It is located on the Buzludza peak and was constructed between 1974-1981 to celebrate 90 years from the creation of the first organized socialist movement in Bulgaria which is the predecessor of the Bulgarian communist party which took control over the government later on.
Buzludza peak is also known for the final battle (18th July 1868) between the remains of the rebel forces of Hadji Dimitar and Stefan Karadza (famous Bulgarian freedom fighters) and the Ottoman army.
CC BY-SA 4.0 – Les JohnstoneOver 6000 Bulgarians took part in the construction of the monument, which cost around $35 million dollars (in today’s rates). All of the needed budget was collected from selling commemorative stamps.
Over the last three decades, the monument has been abandoned, yet more and more tourists visit it as it is one of the biggest and highest-built communist monuments and has its own charisma. It often reaches the top charts for most staggering communist buildings and is also a famous destination for dark tourism.
Many musicians and directors have chosen Buzludzha as a shooting location.
Here are a few honorable mentions:
Kensington – Riddles
And this amazing video from Berg Audio – Idealist – Time Lapse
Location of Buzludzha Monument and How to Get There
Buzludzha peak is visible from anywhere in Kazanlak, just look up north towards the Balkan mountains and you will be able to see it. It is 24km from Kazanlak, you can either go there by car, take a tour for tourists to Buzludzha, or take a bus to one of the villages in the vicinity of the mountain (Shipka, Kran, Enina) and hike up the mountain on one of the hiking routes (3-4 hours).
Make sure you prepare for high-altitude weather even during the summer! You should know, entering the monument might be hard as the entrances are closed and security is appointed to guard it.
Below, you can see the directions from the Sevtopolis square in Kazanlak to Buzludzha monument.
Shipka – The Monument of Freedom on Shipka Peak
It was built to commemorate those who died in the battles for the Liberation of Bulgaria at the peaks of Shipka pass during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. Four battles were held at the peaks of Shipka pass.
With the Russian general Stoletov leading 7500 defenders of which 5000 Bulgarians, he managed to repel the Ottoman army of 38000.
The monument is 32 meters high, a truncated pyramid with a 4 meters high bronze lion guarding its entrance. The monument has a museum inside with relics, weapons, flags, letters, uniforms and other objects used by Bulgarians during the late 19th century. Read more about on its official page.
Same as Buzludzha, the Shipka peak, and the surrounding peaks are on top of the Balkan Mountain, overseeing both the north and south of Bulgaria from a height of 1150 meters above sea level.
How to get to Stoletov monument?
In order to reach the peak, you can either take the Kazanlak – Gabrovo road, drive from Buzludzha peak towards Shipka peak (the road is not maintained so I do not advise using it unless you have a 4×4 car) or you can hike from Shipka town towards the peak, the hike is approximately 1.5-2 hours, depending on your pace. If you haven’t got your own car, there are tours for tourists from Kazanlak. See the map below for directions from Kazanlak:
There are a few restaurants and villas nearby if you plan to spend the night in the mountains. Don’t forget to try the best Shkempe chorba (veal tripe soup, I know it sounds bad, but you should try it!) in the region offered at the restaurant closest to the stairs of the Shipka monument. Spice the soup with garlic and vinegar. A fun fact is that shkembe chorba is often used by Bulgarians as a way to cure a hangover, combine it with a beer and you’re a star!
Koprinka dam is situated 5 kilometers west of Kazanlak and can be reached by walking, cycling, taking a bus, taxi or driving. It is the perfect place to have a walk and enjoy the scenery of the Balkans (tot he north) and the Middle mountains (to the south).
Most visitors take a walk on the dam’s wall as it has the best view. However, if you plan to stay for longer, you can go fishing, windsurfing, canoeing or have a barbeque.
The wall of Koprinka has an electricity-generating facility.
Both Buzludzha and Shipka peaks are visible from Koprinka (look closely at the furthest peaks on the picture below and you’ll see Shipka on the left and Buzludzha on the right)
Below the waters of the dam lie the remains of the biggest Thracian city – the capital Sevtopolis where the famous king Sevt III lived.
The city was discovered in the 50s, sadly archeologists couldn’t fully research its secrets as the communist regime had different plans for this area – to build a dam. What is known about the city is that it is the only Thracian city fully build in a valley, making it the crossroads for trading and settlement in the region. 2000 coins were found with 800 of them with the figure of Sevt III. The city was established in 325 BC and remained until 270 AD.
There are plans to uncover the remains of the city as seen in the picture above.
The monument of Georgi Dimitrov (a famous figure during the communist regime) can be seen on the left side of the picture above. The previous name of Koprinka dam was named after him: Georgi Dimitrov dam.
Thracian Sanctuary – Megalith
The sanctuary is located 5 km south of Kazanlak, above the Buzovgrad village. You can easily reach Buzovgrad by car, bus, taxi or cycling.
The hike from Buzovgrad begins from its southern end and lasts approximately 30 minutes.
The shrine is oftentimes called “the Bulgarian Stonehenge” and is believed to originate somewhere around the late eneolith and the early bronze era.
The sanctuary consists of the “Door of the Goddess Mother” and the “Father’s Stone”, two stone structures located near each other. The Door of the Goddess Mother has a 1.8-meter high ‘door’ where the sun enters it during sunset. For the Thracians, the sunset is a symbol of death while the sunrise – a symbol of birth. There are a few theories on what the sanctuary was used for.
- Burial rituals for Thracian priests and aristocrats.
- Calendar, only during the summer solstice (21 June), when the sun sets, it shines its light through the ‘door’ and onto a big stone located at the farther end of the sanctuary.
- Watch and signal tower – Thracians could communicate with other settlements on the Balkan mountain using mirrors during the day and bonfires during the night.