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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?

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
Plovdiv European Capital of Culture

Plovdiv, My Love

Plovdiv -  European capital of Culture

The Charming city of Plovdiv is getting ready to be the 2019 European Culture Capital. It is the first Bulgarian city chosen to be European Capital of Culture. Construction is active and part of the city looks like a construction site. Plovdiv attracts numerous guests from all over the world,despite small inconveniences, and maybe due to the unusually warm fall of 2018.

Plovdiv European Capital of CultureWe all ask ourselves “Why”? Why do so many people come over especially on weekends. Presumably, it’s the romance of the narrow cobbled streets, and the silence, tranquility and history. Colourful facades of 19th-century houses carefully restored recently, tiny art galleries, small shops selling local artists’ works – all add authentic charm to this place.

Plovdiv - European Capital of Culture & Artistic Atmosphere

No matter how often I visit the city, Plovdiv always offers something new. The artistic atmosphere is in the air, and one feels this everywhere. It’s maybe hidden in the cultural memory of the city - almost 8000 years old.

Plovdiv Throughout History

Plovdiv is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, founded about 6000 BC on Nebet Tepe, one of Plovdiv’s hills. Expanding around Nebet Tepe, then fortified by the Thracians during the Iron Age, conquered by Philip II of Macedon in the 4th c BC, conquered again by the Romans in 45 AC - the history of Plovdiv is very long and eventful. Ancient ruins show the importance of the city: the Roman Theater (108-114 AD) accommodating up to 5,000, the Stadium (90 AD) with a capacity of 30,000 people, the Odeon and the Forum, defense walls (2 c AD). One can still visit the Roman sites, scattered in the heart of the modern city, all within a convenient distance.

Old Plovdiv - a must-see

Plovdiv European Capital of Culture

Depending on the time one spends in Plovdiv, the Old Town is a must-see. There are about 400 19-th century wooden-frame houses. Most of them are real architectural stars. It’s a difficult choice which one to visit. Balabanov’s house, Klianti House, House of Dimitar Georgiadi, housing the Ethnographic museum, Hindliyan’s House - they all tell a different and compelling story.

Centre of Art

Plovdiv is famous for being a centre of art with distinctive artistic and historical importance. We are all tempted to take pictures with the bronze sculpture of the Artist in Saborna Street. Zlatyu Boyadzhiev (1903-1976) is one of the most  famous and much loved Bulgarian artists. There are two art spaces also worth a visit – the art galleries of Encho Pironkov and Dimitar Kirov.

Plovdiv - European Capital of Culture & Art in Kapana

The artistic neighbourhood of Kapana is located centrally downtown. In less than a decade this place has turned from a shabby one into a brilliant example of cultural approach to the architectural heritage of the early 20th century. Art thrives in Kapana. It is the place of creative industries and artistic approaches. We were lucky to be there during two festivals – the June Festival and the Young Wine Festival in October. One must bear in mind that Plovdiv is the centre of the Thracian Plane Wine Region. Boutique wineries have been mushrooming lately.Therefore, finding the best red wines can be a bit of a challenge. You only need time and enthusiasm for wine-tasting.

Wine & Dine

Plovdiv's wine and dine culture is exquisite. Small restaurants are mushrooming as well. Some of them are so popular that booking a table in advance is advised. “Green” practices and health food here are a priority. Guidebook’s recommendations might be outdated, in order to find “your place” you should ask the locals. They are the unexpected hidden gem of Plovdiv. Plovdivians describe themselves as laid-back, always warm, smiling and ready to assist you at any time.


And last, but not least – Plovdiv is one of the best places for shopping. Some of the best shops are located along the main pedestrian street Alexandrovska (“Knyaz Alexander Battenberg I”).

Enjoy your stay and do come again.