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Stara Zagora: Exploring the Hidden Gem of Bulgaria – From Archaeology to SPA

Sightseeing in Stara Zagora

Nestled in the heart of Bulgaria lies a city brimming with history, culture, and charm — Stara Zagora. Often overshadowed by more prominent destinations in Europe, this hidden gem deserves a spotlight of its own. From its rich archaeological heritage to its vibrant cultural scene, Stara Zagora offers visitors a unique and unforgettable experience.

A Journey Through Time – Sightseeing in Stara Zagora

Neolithic-Dwellings-Museum-Stara Zagora

One of the most fascinating aspects of Stara Zagora is its deep-rooted history, dating back thousands of years. The city boasts an impressive array of archaeological sites, including the Neolithic Dwellings Museum, which showcases remnants of one of the oldest Neolithic settlements in Europe (late VII – VI millennium B.C.). Visitors can wander through reconstructed houses and gain insight into the daily lives of prehistoric inhabitants. This small museum will truly impress you. You will see a number of amazing masterpieces of pottery, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic sculptures, ornaments and tools made by neolithic artists. And they were the creators of the first European civilization. “The Birth of Europe” this is the title of a BBC documentary, dedicated to the unique prehistoric cultural heritage of Stara Zagora region.

Archaeological- Museum-Stara-Zagora

Stara Zagora’s history is further illuminated by its Roman-era ruins. The Ancient Roman Forum Complex of the ancient city is situated on area of about 7 acres. You will see the Western gate of Augusta Trayana, Parts of the two fortified walls, the first of which was erected in the end of II century, and the second – the end of V and the beginning of the VI century. A stone square with a pedestal for a statue and Amphitheatre auditorium with nine rows of stone seats are really impressive. Regional History museum is another site worth a visit. It displays amazing artifacts form the Roman period.

Roman Theater

Architectural complex “Museum of religions” – consider including it in your bucket list, too. It is a unique cult place in the center of Stara Zagora.  It was a sacred place for different religions, starting from the early Stone Age (X – IX c. BC). The whole complex is strong evidence of uncommon continuity throughout the ages.


Exploring these sites is like taking a journey through time, offering glimpses into the city’s diverse past.

Cultural Delights

Beyond its historical treasures, Stara Zagora is a cultural hub with much to offer. The city’s lively arts scene is evident in its theaters, galleries, and annual festivals. The Opera House presents a variety of performances, from classical operas to modern productions. On February 09,2024 famous Metropolitan Opera voices participated in Verdi’s Otello. The famous Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, as Desdemona, together with Željko Lučić (Yago) and Matin Iliev as Otello, created an unforgettable night for thousands of opera fans on stage of the Stara Zagora Opera.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the array of galleries and exhibitions scattered throughout the city, featuring works by local and international artists. The Stara Zagora Art Gallery is a must-visit should you be an art fan

Natural Beauty

Surrounded by picturesque landscapes, Stara Zagora is an ideal destination for nature lovers. The nearby Sredna Gora mountain range offers ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and exploring pristine wilderness. The Bedechka and Zagorka Reservoirs provide tranquil settings for picnics and water-based activities, while the Rose Valley, located just outside the city, is renowned for its fragrant rose fields and annual Rose Festival.

Gastronomic Delights

No visit to Stara Zagora would be complete without indulging in its culinary delights. All in all, the city’s diverse culinary scene reflects its cultural influences, blending traditional Bulgarian flavors with international influences. From cozy taverns serving hearty stews and grilled meats to trendy cafes offering artisanal coffee and pastries, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

You will find a variety of options – from budget-friendly bites to more sophisticated local gourmet places. Note the outdoor seating, which is vital for a nice summer evening out with friends. Some of the most popular places, for instance, are “Buchchevata Kashta”, “Shtastliveca“, „Uniquto” and “Forum”.  In brief, Stara  Zagora will not leave you hungry or thirsty.

Beer’s Museum “The World of Zagorka” is the only beer museum in the country. It awaits you with doors wide open and glasses full to the brim.

The founder of this museum was Dr. Konstantin Kozhuharov, back in 1902. The Museum owns the only collection of personal items of the first Braumeister (the first licensed brewer in Bulgaria) in the country. You can see the first beer bottle (1902) and more that 15 kinds of beer glasses, used throughout the years And “Zagorka Vita”- is the first Bulgarian non-alcoholic beer, exported to the Middle East.

Wine Tourism in Stara Zagora

To start with, there are 6 wineries in the region. Actually, it seems that Stara Zagora is one of the most attractive wine tourism destinations in Bulgaria. Estates own hundreds of acres of red varieties – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Mourvèdre & Barbera. White varieties : Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, and Viognier. It’s a good idea to stop for a visit, a short wine-break en route to your next destination.

Stara Zagora Hot Mineral Baths – Starozagrski Bani

Bulgaria is famous for its mineral springs. And while Stara Zagora may not have as many as some other regions, there are still some springs in the vicinity that offer therapeutic benefits.

Thermal baths and spa resorts are located just half an hour away from Stara Zagora. Moreover, mineral water springs from a depth of 1,600 meters and is hot (400 С). All SPA hotels in the area offer

various wellness treatments, including hot mineral baths, massages, mud therapy, and more.

Certainly, Stara Zagora still offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to unwind, recharge, and connect with nature. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a combination of both, Stara Zagora has something to offer for every traveler.

In conclusion, Stara Zagora may be one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, but its allure is undeniable. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, nature lover, or foodie, this charming city has something to offer everyone. So why not venture off the beaten path and discover the magic of Stara Zagora for yourself?  You won’t be disappointed.


International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva” in Pernik

SURVA Mummer's Festival Pernik makes the city famous every January. Pernik is only 30 minutes’ drive from Sophia. Few people would recommend you to visit this city, unless you fancy decayed concrete industrial landscapes or Bulgarian trade unions’ legacy is close to your heart.

Yet there is one good reason to visit Pernik in January. And it is the International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva”. Above all, "Surva"  is the oldest festival in Bulgaria and among the most vivid local customs.

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Vine and Wine Culture of Bulgaria

First, vine and the wine culture of Bulgaria have deep roots in history. Then, through the generations, Bulgarian people have long since heard stories about elder women in villages up and down the country and their wine culture who, according to folklore, used to feed children “popara with wine” (bread soaked in wine). Finally, today people are not sure whether there is any truth to this. Maybe “popara with wine” is only a bedtime story for children. And maybe 100 years ago this was a common practice in Bulgarian provinces, who knows?

Thracian Valley Vines
Bulgarian-Wine-and-Wine-Culture-Thracian Valley
Bulgarian Wine-and-WineCulture-ZafreusWinery

Prof. Mutafchiev, the famous Bulgarian historian claims that the Black Sea region of Bulgaria is the home of the vine.  Moreover, Dionysus, the ancient God of wine, originated in Ancient Thrace. Ancient Greeks, who were the southern neighbours to the Thracian people, “borrowed” this God from the Thracians.  The Greeks, being one of the few literate peoples at that time, inscribed these stories.  Unfortunately, unlike the Greeks, Thracians had no alphabet then, so they were unable to document this knowledge. Thus making it difficult to prove that viticulture originated in Bulgaria. 

Bulgarian Wine-and-Wine Culture
Bulgarian Wine-and-Wine-Culture-Bessa-Valley-winery

Vine and Wine Culture of Bulgaria

Once upon a time Bulgaria was one of the top wine producers in the world. Things changed after the fall of communism in the late 1980’s.  Today, Bulgaria is one of the three biggest wine producing nations in Eastern Europe. Gradually, the Bulgarian wine industry has been transformed during the last two decades.  Different international projects have helped modernise and bring our wine industry up to global standards.  As a result, many new wine estates have been established throughout the country.  Rather than having grape brandy (known locally as Rakiya), people are increasingly opting to have wine with their Shopska salad. 

Bulgaria’s Wine regions

Bulgaria, with only 42 000 square miles of territory, has 5 wine growing regions. Here they are: the Thracian Valley, the Rose Valley, the Struma Valley, the Black Sea and the Danube River Plains.  Each and every one of these has its own unique local wine varieties.

First is the The Thracian Valley. It is the best known and oldest region of all. It produces the most wines, around 35%. The Thracian Valley wine region produces the famous red wine Mavrud. Then Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat and Pamid follow.

Second is the Rose Valley. It is famous for its production of Muscat, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Red misket made Sungurlare Valley sub-region notable for this red variety

The Struma River Valley which is a relatively small region, has unique climatic conditions which are quite similar to Mediterranean regions. It is famous for a variety of vines called “Broad Leaved Vine of Melnik”. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pamid varieties are among the most popular varieties in the region.

The Black Sea Coastal Eastern region

Actually, about 53% of all white wine varieties are concentrated in this region (Dimyat, Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Gevürztraminer, Riesling). Long and mild autumns are typical for the region. And that helps the accumulation of sugars required to make fine white wine.

The Danube River Plains

The region produces around 30% of Bulgarian wines. Hot summers with long sunny days boost the traditional viticulture. The local Gamza is a popular style in the region. Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pamid are also produced here.

We all know that the wine world is extremely diverse and highly competitive. Bulgarian winemakers try to specialize in the niche of high-quality wines made of local vine varieties. Some of them even go one step further and claim organic status.

Vine Varieties – Vine and Wine Culture of Bulgaria

First of all, find some of the best-known local varieties here.

Let’s start the presentation with Mavrud, the most famous of all. It’s a local red grape variety, cultivated here since ancient times. Mavrud grapes are ripening very late, at the beginning of October. It is one of the best local Bulgarian varieties for making high-quality red wine. One can find Mavrud in the regions of Plovdiv and Pazardjik.

Next comes Rubin. It is a red variety, also a local original Bulgarian selection. This cross-variety between Nebbiolo and Syrah is used for producing dessert and table wines. As a result, Rubin wines have a ruby color and typical aroma of berries. Often blended with Mavrud to create a 100% Bulgarian blend.

Broad Leaved Melnik Vines

Thirdly,Broad-leaved Melnik Vine. It is an endemic. Actually, you won’t find this vine variety elsewhere, except in the region of Melnik. Melnik 55 is one of the hybrid varieties created from this grape variety. Local winemakers cultivate Melnik-55 for the production of dry and semi-dry wines.


This pink-skinned grape variety is another grape that is only native to Bulgaria. Winemakers use Pamid for producing light red table wines, designed for early consumption.


Gamza is a red grape variety. Bulgarians cultivate Gamza since ancient times. Nowadays, it is cultivated mainly in north-western Bulgaria. Gamza is rarely found in Southern Bulgaria. Gamza is a late-ripening variety – it ripens at the end of September or beginning of October.


A white grape variety cultivated mainly along the Black Sea coast. Wine-makers use it for the production of dry white wines.


Misket is another local vine variety, a mix of Dimyat and Riesling. It is cultivated in the region of Karlovo.

Vine and Wine Culture of Bulgaria: Wine Tours and Wine Destinations

In summary, as you can see, there are many varieties around the country. Therefore, this makes it hard to visit each region and sample all wines during one short trip.

The three regions are the most densely populated with new, boutique wineries. And that is the Thracian, the Rose and the Struma Valleys. It’s possible to visit 10-12 wineries within 4-5 days. Several wineries have created a Bulgarian version of a sparkling wine. For one thing, we believe that you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality, drinkability and price.

In the end, for that reason Wine tours are an excellent way to meet local people and immerse yourself in the local wine culture.  And, of course, to taste huge variety of Bulgarian wines.

The Festivals

All in all, the younger generation of Bulgarian winemakers are quite active. To put it another way, they created the annual “Young Wine Festival”, You can visit it, too, in the Old Town of Plovdiv at the end of October. So much so, 2021 was the first year of a new festival, the so called “Mavrud Days”. This is bringing a new start for promoting Mavrud local wine variety. In fact, every wine region organizes a local wine festival and some are really worth a visit.

Finally, it’s vital to keep in mind the ancient Latin phrase “In Vino Veritas” (In Wine, There is Truth).

Enjoy the wine. Наздраве!  (Cheers!)

Bulgaria Rose Valley & Bulgarian Attar of Roses

Bulgaria Rose Valley & Attar of Roses

Bulgarian Rose Valley is a brand name. The Rose Valley is the area between two mountains, in the heart of Bulgaria. Here you will find the biggest rose plantations and the main rose-oil distilleries.


Firstly, let’s start with the roses. Rosa Damascena is a rose variety. In fact, it is an oil-yielding rose. Rosa Damascena made Bulgaria famous for production of the best rose attar in the world. Rosa Damascena mill was brought to Bulgarian lands during the 17the century. Bulgaria then was part of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, this full of aroma rose bush found a second home in Bulgaria. It gave its name to a whole region – The Rose valley of Bulgaria. two mountain ranges surround the Rose Valley from North and South. They stop the cold winds in the wintertime and help create a specific climate. The combination of several factors makes this region a unique place for growing Rosa Damascena. As a result, the attar of roses is the best quality in the world. Therefore, the Rose Valley became a centre of rose oil production and export for centuries.

Bulgarian Attar of Roses

Did you know that:

  • One of the world’s most beautiful rose oil today comes from Bulgaria.
  • The Rose Valley of Bulgaria produces one of the highest per cent of the world’s attar of roses.
  • 3,5 tons of rose petals go into the making of one kilogram of rose oil, which has the price of  gold.
  • The Bulgarian “attar” of roses is an important component in the perfumery business throughout  the world.
  • Bulgarian rose oil  – they use it even in space industry, as a greasing component in space equipment. Therefore, due to its resistance to any temperature changes, Bulgarian attar of roses is unsurpassed.

International buyers pay for the Bulgarian product prices reaching 14,000 € a kilo organic rose oil. (2019). Covid pandemic, unfortunately, caused a drop-down and 2021 price was 5,500 €. Rose attar prices went up in 2022, reaching 9,000 €.

Finally, the best period for visiting the Rose Valley is during the rose blooming season. It starts in mid-May throughout Mid-June. Don’t miss these 20-25 days and visit Bulgarian Rose Valley with one of our tours. We will gladly design a private bespoke tour for you. So, please just let us know.

Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Welcome

Bulgaria Rose Festivals and Celebrations

Bulgaria Rose Festivals

Bulgaria Rose Festivals and festival celebrations are popular all over the world. Rose Festival in Kazanlak has a history of more than a century. It was founded in 1903. Since then, it gained popularity all over the world.

Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Welcome
Bulgarian Rose Festivals Celebrations
Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Celebrations
Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Celebrations

Several villages in the Rose Valley organize local festivals. The oldest one is the one in Kazanlak. Karlovo is the second village to attract guests for a local Rose Festival. Karlovo Rose Festival takes place usually one week prior to the festival in Kazanlak. And Pavel Banya and Strelcha also hold local Rose Festival. In fact, all local Rose festivals are worth a visit – annually, between May 25 and June 7.

Bulgaria Rose Festival Celebrations

Bulgaria Rose Festivals Celebrations attract hundreds of visitors. Local people love Rose Festivals. It’s their festival – colourful, full of aroma and smiling faces. In other word – it’s time to celebrate, once the hard work is done.

Three main events of the Bulgaria Rose festivals deserve a visit. The climax of the festival in on Sunday in Kazanlak. It is the day of Queen Rose’s elections. Early morning harvesting ritual in the rose fields starts at sunrise. Then, the electing of Queen Rose follows. Her Majesty the Queen Rose leads the parade. The processions and the celebrations last for two days.  And festival parade takes place along the main streets.

Colourful cultural events add value to the festival’s weekend. Certainly, guests enjoy the variety – choir a cappella or folklore concerts, art shows, local wine presentations, wine-tasting sessions.

Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Celebrations - Queen Rose
Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Celebrations
Bulgaria's Rose Festivals Celebrations
Bulgarian Rose Festivals Celebrations Dance

Bulgaria Rose Valley and Rosa Damascena Bush

In fact, Rose Damascena is the name of the oil-yielding rose. And Rosa Damascena made Bulgaria famous for production of the best rose attar in the world. Rosa Damascena mill was brought to Bulgarian lands during the 17th century. Bulgaria then was part of the Ottoman Empire. This full of aroma rose bush found a second home in Bulgaria. It gave its name to a whole region – The Rose valley of Bulgaria. Two mountain ranges surround the valley. They stop the cold winds in the wintertime and help create a specific climate. The combination of several factors makes this region a unique place for growing this rose variety. The oil extracted from it is the best quality in the world. Therefore, the Valley of Roses became a centre of rose oil production and export for centuries.

Roses Booming Season

The rose bushes flower for about 25 days a year, from mid-May to mid-June. The blooms require hand-picking early in the morning. The aroma is strongest before sunset. Then rose petals are transported in small quantities to the distillery. Seedlings come from the Rose Research Institute at Kazanlak, which has developed several Damascena rose varieties suited to conditions in the valley.

In short, Bulgaria Rose Festivals and the fame of the Bulgarian oil-yielding rose attract numerous visitors from all parts of the world. Guests from Japan, Taiwan and France are among the most devoted fans. Therefore, Rosa Damascena blooming season is one of the best periods to visit Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Rose Festivals The Rose Valley
Bulgarian Rose Festival Shopping Organic Rose Water
Bulgarian Rose Festivals Celebrations Guests