The town of Kardzhali is situated in the Eastern Rhodope mountains, on both banks of the Arda river. It is situated at a distance of 259 kilometers from Sofia, 90 kilometers from Plovdiv, 50 kilometers from Haskovo and about 15 kilometers from the ancient town of Perperikon. The population of the town is about 76,000 people. The climate here is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean. The average temperature in the winter is 0°С and in the summer +24° С.
Many are the legends and the stories about Kardzha Ali – an ordinary man, a holy warrior, whose name the town of Kardzhali has taken. According to the legend, when the Ottoman Turks attacked the Rhodope mountains at the time when Sultan Murad I ruled (1360-1389), the army was guided by the warrior Kardzha Ali. He was killed in a battle and the new settlement was called in his name.
One of the landmarks of Kardzhali is the Regional History Museum. It is located in a beautiful building, built in the early 1920s. The cultural artifacts, exhibited there, have been collected for almost 50 years and are presented on three floors with a total area of 1,300 square meters. The museum is situated in a beautiful park, where about 30 unique Bulgarian plant species can be seen.
One of the most important medieval monuments is located in the town of Kardzhali – the temple “St. John the Baptist”, located in Veselchane residential section. It was restored in 2000. It was a part of a medieval monastery complex of the 11th – 14th century when the monastery fortress became an Episcopal residence.
Another interesting landmark of the city is the Art Gallery, the building of which was built in the middle of the 19th century and was planned to be a Turkish town hall. The gallery preserves a unique collection of icons, made by distinctive artists from the Rhodope mountains and Thrace, along with artworks of three generations of Bulgarian artists and sculptors. The building is an architectural and cultural monument of local importance.
Another monastery complex is situated in Gledka residential section – “St. Mary’s Assumption”; the complex consists of a church and a monastery. Interesting for the tourists is the fact, that the church keeps a small piece of Christ’s cross, which was found in a relic site, during the excavations of Perperikon in 2002.
15 kilometers of Kardzhali is located the rock city Perperikon – one of the most ancient monumental megalithic monuments, all carved in the rocks. The holy town is unique in archaeological, historical, natural and multi-religious aspects. It is one of the Bulgarian and World Wonders. In the recent years Perperikon is one of the most visited tourist sites in the country.
11 kilometers east of Kardzhali, near the village of Shiroko pole, is located the Monyak fortress. It was built in the 12th – 13th century and is one of the highest-located medieval fortresses in the Rhodope mountains. It has a protected area of over 50 decares.
Another interesting landmark is situated near the village of Dazhdovnitsar, 10 kilometers northwest of Kardzhali – the Rock niches. They date back to the period between 1,200 and 550 years BC. The Rock niches have a straight trapezoidal profile, a height of 70- 90 meters and a width of 30-50 centimeters, which is also their depth. Various hypotheses exist about them. According to some people, the niches are places, where urns with the ashes of common people were placed in ancient times, while the rich and senior people were buried in carved rock tombs, which can be seen in many places in the Rhodope mountains. Other people say that the niches used to have small doors, and small statues of gods were placed in them. A third group of people claims that the young people, who were dedicated to the Orphic Thracian cult, carved the niches at difficult to reach places, and in this way they were proving their manhood.
The Utroba (Womb) cave is situated at a distance of about 17 kilometers from Kardzhali. It is called this because of its shape, resembling a woman’s womb. Water constantly flows on the walls of the cave; an altar is carved in the southern inner end of the cave. A complete ritual complex of sharapanas (rock niches for wine) is situated near the cave. It dates back to Thracian times. The wine was used during rituals in the Utroba cave.
The numerous attractions of the town of Kardzhali and its vicinity attract thousands of tourists throughout the year. The town and the vicinity offer hotels and other accommodation, as well as restaurants. Two large dams are located in close proximity to Kardzhali – Studen Kladenets and Kardzhali, which are preferred fishing destinations for people from all over the country.
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