The town of Kazanlak is located in the center of Bulgaria, in the western part of the Kazanlak basin. The town’s population is around 82,000. Kazanlak is the center of the Valley of the Roses, the home of the Thracian kings, and an attractive tourist destination. The country’s largest and best-preserved Thracian tombs are found here, and they are included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, along with the Museum of Roses. There are two nature reserves and five protected areas in the vicinity of Kazanlak, preserving natural wonders and age-old forests. The town neighbors on the largest and stunningly beautiful reserve in the Stara Planina mountain range, Dzhendema, which is part of the Central Balkans National Park. The park extends almost to the Kazanlak’s western town limits.
The Rosa Damascena, known as the Damask or Castile rose, is the greatest treasure in the region of Kazanlak. The rose was imported into Bulgaria centuries ago, and today it is one of the nation’s symbols. Under the influence of the country’s unique climate and soil, this rose gradually developed into a Bulgarian strain distinct from Damask roses elsewhere.
That is why at the beginning of the 19th century this rose was named the Kazanlak Damask rose and the valley to the south of the Central Balkans came to be known as the Valley of the Roses.
Along with the production of rose oil, a leading role in the economic development of the region was commerce related to the roses. The first official records of rose oil exports refer to trade with Germany and Austro-Hungary beginning in 1771.
The Museum of Roses was founded in 1984 with the support of the city’s Museum of History. The exhibits are arranged in three separate halls, and they include original photographs and documents related to the cultivation of roses during the Bulgarian Age of Awakening (18th -19th centuries) and in the 20th century. There is a display of tools used to cultivate the rose gardens, along with vessels used to store and transport rose oil and rosewater. The museum had been pleased with the unstinting interest shown by both Bulgarian and international tourists. More can be learned about the region’s rose cultivation at the Kulata Ethnographic Complex, which is just a kilometer away from the city center. Here visitors can arrange in advance to observe the practice of traditional local customs and sample food and drink made from Kazanlak roses.
These days the rose harvest is one of the most important activities in the Valley of the Roses, undertaken with a great ceremony. The Festival of the Roses is one of the most notable Bulgarian holidays, festooned with the beautiful roses in bloom. The festival was first held in 1903, and it has become a tradition to hold it the first weekend in June since this is when the Kazanlak roses bloom. The festival has become an international attraction and the city is glad to host thousands of guests. The festival program includes the crowning of the Rose Queen and the ritual gathering and distilling of roses. There are other celebrations, such as the carnival and the international folk festival “Youth of the Balkans.”
Among the town’s more interesting attractions is the house of the acclaimed Bulgarian writer, artist, and activist Dimitar Chorbadzhiiski, whose pen name was Chudomir (1890-1967). The house was declared a museum the year after his death, in 1968, and now has the status of a national historical-cultural landmark, as confirmed by Protocol 15 of the State Records for December 3, 1968. The museum complex, remodeled and reopened in 1979, now includes the artist’s house and an art exhibition and related documents housed in three halls, covering an area of 300 square meters. Here, there are more than 15,000 original manuscripts, paintings, sketches, letters, books, and personal effects that belonged to Chudomir and his wife, the artist Mara Chorbadzhiiska. This is the only museum in Bulgaria dedicated to both literature and art, and it is also the headquarters of the respected Chudomir Cultural Foundation.
Visitors can experience much in Kazanlak – from rest and relaxation to exploring the region, to enjoying the pleasures Kazanlak offers. The Kazanlak Valley offers a wide range of options to make your stay a comfortable one – from the professional service of hotels in the city and surrounding area to the warmth of a family atmosphere and unpretentious accommodations of guesthouses in neighboring villages, to excursions in pristine solitude to mountain lodges and shelters.
Local restaurants offer rich and varied fare, and the region’s guesthouses serve home-cooked meals straight from the hosts’ pastures and gardens.
Kazanlak serves as the base for numerous tourist itineraries, such as “From the Valley of Roses,” “History”, “From Kran to Buzludzha,” and others.
Tours may also be booked to the Valley of the Thracian Kings – including visits to the tombs of Ostrusha, Kosmatka the Great, Arsenalka the Great, The Gryphons, Helvetia, Shushmanets, and Svetitsata. The unique finds from these tombs are now on display at the Iskra Historical Museum.
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