The next festival is just around the corner, a lot of people contact us asking various questions about the event so we decided to create a detailed guide for the 2018 Rose Festival in Kazanlak, Bulgaria.
If there is something we missed, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below or our Facebook page!
Table of Contents
How to Get to the Festival?
Dates and Detailed Program
Finding a Place to Stay – Hotels, Guest Houses and Other
Tickets and Reservations
What to Eat?
Museums and Galleries
Tips from the Locals
Short Introduction to the Rose Festival of Bulgaria
The Festival has been organized annually since 1903 in Kazanlak. It celebrates our deep connection to the Rosa Damascena – the Bulgarian oil-bearing rose and all the gifts it has blessed the Rose Valley with for centuries.
Cultural, dance, music, artistic, social and sports events happen across Kazanlak and the surrounding villages in May-June. Attend concerts, workshops, expos, parades and other activities for all individual tastes with the Festival parade and the Rose Queen coronation being the culmination of it all.
Apart from all the events specifically organized for the Festival, the Rose Valley holds hidden gems such as the Valley of Thracian Kings, where hundreds of Thracian tombs, shrines, and treasures have been discovered.
Moreover, beautiful nature and locations of national importance such as the Shipka Monastery, Shipka monument and museum as well as the communist monument on Buzludza peak are at a close distance for the history and sightseeing enthusiasts. Explore the most beautiful scenic locations in the Valley, there is a lot you can see throughout the year.
We wish you an amazing and exciting adventure into Bulgaria’s Valley of Roses!
How to Get to the Festival?
From abroad, your most convenient choice would be to take a plane to either Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna or Burgas, depending on your country of origin and choice of airline. Of course, you can come by bus or car if you live in a nearby country.
The city of Kazanlak (postcode 6100) is located in the heart of Bulgaria, at a 200km distance both from the capital Sofia and Burgas (located on the seaside). You can get there by bus, train, rent-a-car or if you feel adventurous – hitchhiking.
Here is our detailed guide on what transport to choose on your way to the Rose Festival, check it out!
Dates and Complete Program of the Rose Festival in Kazanlak
The 2018 date of the festival begins on the 18th of May and ends on the 10th of June.
The Main Event happens on the 1st weekend of June (1st-3rd June) – Festive concert Coronation of the Rose Queen (Friday) and the Rose Festive Parade (Sunday). The complete program of all events (in Bulgarian and English) can be found here or here.
Here are our must-visit events during the Rose Festival
There are numerous events throughout the festival, you might not be able to attend all, but we strongly advise to attend at least the following:
- Rose-picking rituals, organized in various locations around the Valley. Enjoy Bulgarian folklore dancing, traditional customs, crafts and taking pictures in a rose field. The most visited ritual event is the one near Kazanlak and happens on the first Sunday of June every year in the fields north of the city, near Kran village.
- Rose Festive Parade (Carnaval) – it is the biggest parade in Bulgaria with over 3000 participants joining the march. Folklore dance and music groups from Bulgaria and abroad, local arts, dance and music formations as well as students from the municipality march through the center showing their creative abilities.
- Rose Coronation – the new Rose Queen will be crowned, accompanied by a magnificent triad of traditional dancing and singing from various folklore groups.
- Rose Museum, History Museum ‘Iskra’ and the Kazanlak Thracian Tomb (UNESCO site)
Finding a Place to Stay During the Festival – Hotels, Guest Houses and More
During the weeks of the Rose Festival, there will be more than 100,000 tourists pouring in, which makes it hard to find a place to stay if you book late.
You can choose from reserving a hotel, guest house or if you are more adventurous and free-spirited, you can come with a caravan, camp or find a host through websites like Couchsurfing. If you don’t find a room in Kazanlak, don’t worry, there are many options at the nearby small towns and villages.
Tickets and Participation in the Festival
All the outside events of the Rose Festival apart from the rose-picking rituals are free to enter. However, if you wish to reserve a seated-spot for the parade or attend the Rose Queen and Mini Rose competitions, you should reserve a ticket.
Tickets for the rose-picking rituals cost 10-20 levs (5-10 euro) depending on which date and location you choose.
There are various packages (20-50 levs) which include visiting museums, rose-picking ritual, Kazanlak Thracian tomb, Festival Parade and other.
Complete information about the prices of the different packages can be downloaded here(document from the Municipality of Kazanlak, in Bulgarian).
Buying tickets can be done online by sending a reservation form to this e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (before 25.05.2018) or physically at the Tourism Information Center in Kazanlak (see map below).
Instructions for reservation can be downloaded here (document from the Municipality of Kazanlak, in Bulgarian). If you are not part of a big group, we suggest buying tickets on the spot from the Tourist Information Center.
What to Eat in Kazanlak
If you haven’t tried Bulgarian cuisine yet, there are a few must-try dishes that you need to get your hands on asap!
Shopska Salad / Шопска Салата
A fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, onions, white cheese, and spices
Banitza / Баница
A type of savoury cheese pie made of filo dough and layers of eggs, white cheese, butter. There are many variations, for example with onions, or a sweet variation with pumpkins. Every Bulgarian loves banitza and every household has its own way of preparing it. There is also a fast-food type of banitza which all local bakeries sell.
Moussaka / Мусака
A widely spread meal on the Balkans, moussaka is made of potatoes, ground meat and an overlay of eggs with spices.
Filled Peppers / Пълнени Чушки
Another common meal for Bulgarians – fresh or dried peppers are filled with ground meat (pork, beef, veal), rice and spices such as paprika and savoury. The vegetarian version is an important addition to our New Year’s Eve meal.
Kyufte (meatball) and Kebabche (small kebab) / Кюфте и Кебабче
Both made of minced meat and spices and go perfectly with shopska salad, french fries, and lyutenitza as garnish. They can be fried, baked or grilled.
Shkembe Chorba (Tripe Soup) / Шкембе Чорба
One of our favorites, it might sound strange to you, but Bulgarians love it. It is made of veel tripe, overlayed with milk, flour, and spices. It is a total must to add minced garlic and hot paprika to your soup when it is served to you. Shkembe Chorba is well known to help you sober up after a long night of partying.
Kavarma / Каварма
Traditionally made with pork or chicken meat in a clay pot called gyuvetch (гювеч). A warm and strong meal, a Kavarma has potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic and other ingredients.
Local Foods and Drinks
There are a few foods specific to Kazanlak and the region such as the Gyulova Rakia – a liquorish alcoholic drink made from roses (yes, roses!) Kazanlak locals like to give a bottle of Gyulova rakia as a present.
Kazanlak Doughnut – small doughnuts with various toppings like chocolate or fruit jams:
Rakia is the most widely spread and loved alcoholic beverage in Bulgaria, think of it as the whiskey of Bulgaria. It can be made of various fruits, usually grapes or plums, but as mentioned above, you can even make it from the fragrant Rosa Damascena rose. Be careful, rakia has more than 40% alcohol, drink responsibly!
Tarator and Ayran / Таратор и Айран
Tarator is a cold, refreshing soup we like to eat/drink in the hot days of summer. Served as a first course, it is made of fresh, finely chopped cucumbers, garlic, yoghurt, and dill. Add salt, vinegar or oil to taste. It goes well with a glass of Rakia.
Ayran is a drink made of 50/50 water and yoghurt, often times spiced with salt. It is also perfect for refreshment during the summer.
Bulgaria is known for producing a wide range of quality wine due to its favourable, fertile lands. During the Rose Festival, there is a Wine Expo organized in the halls of Kazanlak Theater, for all wine lovers.
Museums, Theaters, Galleries
Rose Museum (see map)
Opened in June 2016 and located in the beautiful park Rosarium, the Rose Museum hosts a multitude of pictures, artifacts, tools and creative works which represent the history and traditions of the Kazanlak region with a core theme – the oil-bearing Rosa Damascena and its major impact on the livelihood of the local population.
History Museum ‘Iskra’ (see map)
Opened in 1901, the museum is one of the oldest and richest in Bulgaria, it encompasses the Kazanlak Thracian Tomb and the Thracian tombs of the ‘Valley of Thracian Kings’, the Rose Museum, the historico-ethnographic complex ‘Kulata’, house ‘Petko Staynov’, Kazanlak Art Gallery located inside the history museum, with over 270 paintings and sculptures)
Literature and Arts museum ‘Chudomir’ (see map)
A complex with an artistic and documentary exhibition of the life and creative works of our famous Bulgarian writer and painter Dimitar Chorbadzhiiski – Chudomir.
Birth House-exhibition of ‘Acad. Dechko Uzunov’ (see map)
Rich exposition of paintings from different life periods of the painter – graphics, illustrations, scenography and decorative-monumental painting. Forty-two watercolor paintings and the final auto portrait of the painter are also presented in his birth house.
Museum of Photography and Modern Visual Arts (see map)
Opened in June 2015, it is the only photography and visual arts museum in Bulgaria with information and emblematic cameras from the past.
National Park-Museum ‘Shipka-Buzludzha’
Founded in 1956, it is a national memory complex and includes the Shipka peak and its Freedom Monument, National park ‘Buzludzha’ and park of freedom near Sheynovo village.
Shipka Memorial Church
Also known as Shipka Monastery, it is located in the northern part of Shipka town and was built in the late 19th century and commemorates the Bulgarian, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish liberation war in 1877-78.
The Thracian Heritage of the Rose Valley
North of Kazanlak lies the Valley of Thracian Kings where the remains of many Thracian rulers and members of the Thracian aristocracy have been discovered. Over 1500 mound-like tombs are concentrated in the area.
The ancient city of Seuthopolis – the Thracian capital, is situated 5 kilometers west of Kazanlak, although the city lies beneath the water of Koprinka lake. Visit the History Museum to see artifacts from Seuthopolis.
Numerous gold, silver and bronze treasures were discovered in the valley, the most famous ones being the bronze head of Seuthes III and the Golden mask found in Svetitzata mound, made of 690 grams of pure gold.
Kazanlak Thracian Tomb (see map)
Other Thracian tombs
Many of the tombs are excavated and restored and truly worth your visit, especially ‘Golyama Kosmatka’ (the tomb of King Seuthes III), ‘Golyama Arsenalka’, ‘Shushmanetz’, ‘Griffins’, ‘Helvetia’ and ‘Ostrusha’.
Thracian Shrine – Megalith ‘Portal to the Sun’
Located on a hill south of Kazanlak, the Megalith is an ancient shrine from the late eneolit and early bronze era. It is often called the Bulgarian Stonehenge
Tips from the locals
- On the 3rd of June, the Kazanlak Center and nearby streets will be closed for cars, there will be thousands of tourists in the city so if you travel by car, make sure to find a parking spot earlier so you have time to find a good spot for the parade.
- The weather during May-June will be around 15-25 degrees, prepare an umbrella or a raincoat if the weather cast shows a chance of rain.
- If you don’t speak Bulgarian, you might experience a language barrier with the locals as few might speak good English, even police officers, shop owners, taxi drivers etc.
If our guide helped you, don’t forget to like our Facebook Page where we will post amazing pictures of the Rose Valley and the Festival. Leave us a comment below and share your experience in the Valley of Roses. See you there!