10 best Bulgaria historic sites to visit in 2022
Bulgaria is rich in history and tradition. As one of Europe’s oldest inhabited nations, it no wonder why there incredible ruins and ancient sites in Bulgaria to visit. These ancient sites of Bulgaria are comprised mostly of Thracian, Roman, and Byzantine ruins, each possessing its own unique story and historical intrigue.
And so with that in mind here are 10 suggestions for your 2022 planning!
1. The old city of Nessebar
Beach resort Nessebar, Bulgaria is one of the oldest European towns. The summer holiday venue is situated on a small peninsula, 37 km northeast of Bourgas and 429 km east of Sofia. Nessebar has best beaches on the Black Sea coast, reasonably priced hotels, many aqua parks and it ideally suits tourists who love cultural tourism.
Nesebar Architectural-Historical Reserve is located in the Old Town and takes the form of an 850 m long and 350 m wide peninsula. The Old Town was declared an architectural-historical reserve of national importance by virtue of Ordinance No 243 of the Council of Ministers of 18 July 1956.
In 1983 Old Nesebar was included in the List of World Cultural Heritage Sites of UNESCO.
2. Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery is the most gorgeous, peaceful and authentic place in Bulgaria.
Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. His ascetic dwelling and tomb became a holy site and were transformed into a monastic complex which played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. Destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862. A characteristic example of the Bulgarian Renaissance (18th–19th centuries), the monument symbolizes the awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation.
3. The Roman Theatre in the city of Plovdiv.
The Antique Theater in Plovdiv is situated in the Old Town, in the saddle between the two hills – Dzhambaz and Taksim Tepe. It was built in the beginning of the 2nd century AD during the ruling of Emperor Trayan (98 – 117 AD). It is one of the best preserved antique theaters in the world. It was declared an archaeological monument in issue 6 of the State Gazette of 1995.
It was found during archaeological excavations conducted in 1968-79 by the Archaeological Museum of Plovdiv. Its visible part (the theatron) is amphitheatrically situated and separated into two ranges – each consisting of 14 rows of seats, made of marble. The seats are divided into sectors by the staircases, descending to the stage. The two ranges are divided by a wide horizontal path (diazoma). A two-storey construction called skene (a dressing-hall for the actors) with side wings that rise from the side of the stage. Inscriptions and exquisite statues which are now included in the building architecture were found. This antique theatre was used to accommodate 5 to 7 thousand viewers.
4. Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo
The inescapable symbol of Veliko Târnovo, this reconstructed fortress dominates the skyline and is one of Bulgaria’s most beloved monuments. The former seat of the medieval tsars, it boasts the remains of more than 400 houses, 18 churches, the royal palace, an execution rock and more. Watch your step: there are lots of potholes, broken steps and unfenced drops. The fortress morphs into a psychedelic spectacle with a magnificent night-time Sound & Light Show.
In the 9th century, a Bulgar settlement was founded there, which grew rapidly. The construction of the defensive wall, which still stands today, started in the 12th century. The wall was 1,100 meters long, up to 3.40 meters thick at certain places and over 10 meters high. The fortress had three entrances, the outlines of which can be traced today.
5. The Roman Rotunda Saint George in Sofia.
The Roman Rotunda /the church “St. George”/ is the oldest preserved structure which still serves its original purpose in Sofia city. It was built in the 4th century by the Romans according to a fairly complex plan: a vast, circular central chamber, surmounted by a dome and surrounded by four semi-circular apses. The temple has been significantly changed since then. First, it was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt as a church, then turned into a mosque by the Ottomans. The Roman Rotunda has been recently restored, it is worth seeing due to its simple, but still exquisite architecture, remarkable remnants of frescoes and the entire complex of ruins behind the altar.
6. Belogradchik Fortress
The Belogradchik Fortress is situated at a distance of 1.5 km from the town of Belgradchik among the renowned Belogradchik rocks. The fortress has existed since Roman times. In 1st – 3rd century AD the Romans built roads in the new provinces of the empire on the Balkan peninsula, as well as fortresses to guard them. The mission of the Belogradchik Fortress was to control the road from the town of Ratsiaria. The Romans constructed the highest part of the fortress, called The Citadel. There are remains of another fortress at a distance of a few meters from it – Latin Stronghold, which served as an assisting fortification. Upon the separation of the Roman Empire in 395 the Balkan lands entered within the borders of Byzantium. At the end of the 7th century, the Belogradchik Fortress fell within the territory of the newly created Bulgarian state.
7. Thracian Sveshtari tomb
Discovered in 1982 near the village of Sveshtari, this 3rd-century BC Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. The tomb has a unique architectural decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals.
The 10 female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decoration of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands. It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getes, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers.
8. Ancient Villa Armira
Villa Armira is one of the earliest and most accurately dated villa complexes from the Roman era, studied in Bulgaria. She is an outstanding architectural monument from 2000 years ago. This is the most sumptuously decorated private house (palace) of the Roman period, discovered in the Bulgarian lands. The villa was a center of land tenure, founded by Thracian rich aristocratic family.
Excavations of the mound near the village of Great Svirachi in 2001-2002 contributed greatly to the proof of Thracian origin of the founding her first its ruler was the successor of a Thracian king (bazilevs). He received for service to the Roman power status of a Roman citizen and thus has acquired the right to create a holiday farm which is still organized in the 50 ~ 70 years of the first century A.D. That is only about twenty years after the final conquest of Thrace of Rome.
9. Rock hewn churches in Ivanovo
The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are Bulgaria’s closest equivalent to Cappadocia. A cave labyrinth of rock churches, monasteries, chapels and monastic living quarters high above the valley of the Rusenski Lom River, the complex was the home of religious hermits (Hesychasts) in the 14th century.
The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo’s curiously-named caves (“The Buried Church”, “Lord’s Ravine” and “The Demolished Church”) house religious murals in the late Byzantine style as well as medieval graffiti. Together with the scenic natural surroundings of the river gorge, this is a site that will send you on a fairytale journey to the Bulgarian Middle Ages.
10. The village of Kovachevitsa
Kovachevitsa is an architectural reserve located in the southwest of Bulgaria, some 220 km from Sofia and 22 km from Gotse Delchev. There is no direct public transport to Kovachevitsa – you can travel to Ognyanovo or Gotse Delchev and then hire or share a taxi. The reserve of Kovachevitsa represents a typical old Rhodope village architecture and includes the Sveti Nikola church, 2 schools, 112 houses and 5 outdoor constructions (such as barns and storage rooms). 56 of the buildings have been restored and renovated and the rest are preserved to a certain degree.
The general look is from the period of the National Revival, with a stone laid narrow streets and beautiful 2 to 4 floors tall houses with high stone walls and quaint tiny courtyards. The Dishlyanova, Shumareva, Pilareva, Gyuzleva, Sarafova and Koyuvi houses are only a few of the Kovachevitsa houses with unique architectural and artistic qualities which have attracted many tourists and film projects to the small Rhodope village.