Category Archives: UNESCO Bulgaria

Bulgaria – UNESCO – Pirin Mountains

Pirin National Park

Spread over an area of over 27,000 ha, at an altitude between 1008 and 2914 m in the Pirin Mountains, southwest Bulgaria, the site comprises diverse limestone mountain landscapes with glacial lakes, waterfalls, caves and predominantly coniferous forests. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1983. The extension now covers an area of around 40,000 ha in the Pirin Mountains, and overlaps with the Pirin National Park, except for two areas developed for tourism (skiing). The dominant part of the extension is high mountain territory over 2000m in altitude, and covered mostly by alpine meadows, rocky screes and summits.


Bulgaria – UNESCO – Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak



Discovered in 1944, this tomb dates from the Hellenistic period, around the end of the 4th century BC. It is located near Seutopolis, the capital city of the Thracian king Seutes III, and is part of a large Thracian necropolis. The tholos has a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both decorated with murals representing Thracian burial rituals and culture. These paintings are Bulgaria’s best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period.

Bulgaria – Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari


The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is a 3rd century BC tomb that reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. It was discovered in 1982.

The tomb’s architectural decor is considered to be unique, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals.

It differs from the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak as it is a hypogeum, not a construction with a cupola. With its origins in the culture of the Getae, it fits a Hellenistic model that was common in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Egypt.

Bulgaria – Ivanovo Rock Monasteries

The Ivanovo Rock Monastery is situated 21km south of the town of Rousse. In fact, the rock monastery is completely different from the other monastery complexes to be found in Bulgaria. In contrast to the traditional monastery complex which consists of 1-2 churches and a residential part, the Ivanovo cloister represents a network of small churches, chapels and cells hewn into the rocks, 32m above the waters of the picturesque canyon of the Roussenski Lom River. This cloister is the most famous one of the group of built-in-rock shrines around for its beautiful and well-preserved wall paintings.

The caves were inhabited by monks from the 13th century to the 17th century (some of the most popular and preserved ones being the Gospodev Dol Chapel and the Buried-Under Church). As if striving to be closer to God, hermit monks started to settle here in the 13th century, digging cells, churches and chapels into the rocks. During the apogee of the religious complex, the rock churches are believed to have been about 40, while the cells of monks – about 300. Unfortunately, most of these are no longer preserved.

The Ivanovo Monastery owes its unequalled cultural and historic value predominantly to the mural paintings dating from the 13th and 14th century and preserved in five of the rock churches. Talented artists pained them with realistic frescos, exquisite in color and composition, and turned them into a true treasure of Bulgarian medieval painting. The murals abound in antique motives – nude caryatids, columns atop lions, masks. They are an example of the revived attention towards antiquity and its culture, which in the 14th century can be noticed in Christian Orthodox art.

Of the churches still preserved, Gospodev Dol (to be found in a place of the same name) is the richest in wall paintings, while the monks’ cells keep the secret of passionate confessions, carved in the walls. From one of these wall scripts, one learns that Tsar Ivan Terter (1279-1292) spent the rest of his life and was buried in the monastery. Another impressive church, the so-called Buried-Under Church, is to be found in the Letters place. Despite its name and the raids of natural forces, the frescoes of this church still have high quality. One of the church donors was Tsar Ivan Assen Second, who loved to visit the place and spend treasured moments of solitude. This is evidenced by the portrait of the tsar, found in the Buried-Under Church, on which he holds a model replica of the church – a typical feature of church donor’s portraits. The third noteworthy church, called by the locals simply “The Church” is believed to have been founded by Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). It also has valuable frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible in a locally-modified style of the Emperor Justinian’s Renaissance. Unfortunately, the monastery’s valuables still remain subject of repeated raids of treasure-hunters.

The monastery’s rock churches are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and are one of the 9 such objects in Bulgaria.


Bulgaria – Nessebar

The city of Nessebar and the resorts on its territory are located in the southeastern part of Bulgaria.

The present-day town is the successor of a Thracian fishermen’s settlement named Menabryia (meaning literally ‘the town of Mena’), the foundation of which dates back to the 2nd century BC. Later it remained the only Doric colony along the Black Sea coast, as the rest were typical Ionic settlements. The Greeks named it Messembria (which was later transformed into Nessabar by the Slavs), and it grew into a big and well-fortified town-state. The town benefited from natural protection from both the land and the sea. Remains suggest the existence of aqueducts, a sewerage system, fortified wails, an amphitheatre and numerous cult edifices (including an impressive temple of Apollo) at that time. The town became a popular commercial centre as a variety of goods from the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions were traded there and it also minted its own coins in the 5th century BC. Two centuries later, it founded its own colony called Navlohos near Obzor. The whole land between Nessebar and Obzor used to be a granary that supplied the two colonies with food as well as goods of exchange. In the 1st century BC the town surrendered to Marcus Lukulus’ legions and was subjected top Roman domination, during which the construction of a second colony of Messembria began and was finished. The second colony, built to the south of Nessebar, was named Anhialo (present-day Pomorie).

In the early Middle Ages the town rebuilt its fortress walls and stayed part of the Byzantine Empire until 812 when the protobulgarian Khan Kroum conquered it, including it in the territory of Bulgaria. During the reign of Ivan Alexander the town went thorough a cultural and economic boom, and occupied substantial territories beyond the stretch of the peninsula. It was around that period when most of the churches of Nessebar, remains of which are to be found in the present-day town, were built. In 1366 the knights of Amadeus of Savoy conquered the town, and then sold it to Byzantium for 15,000 golden ducats. In 1453, shortly after Constantinople fell under Turkish domination the town was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and went through a period of decay. The Liberation found Nessabar as a small fishermen’s settlement, with well-developed viticulture on the hills above the town.

Due to the unique natural surroundings and the well-preserved monuments from various historic periods, at the 7th session of the World Heritage Committee in Florence in 1983, the Old Town of Nessebar became the only Bulgarian town included in the World Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO.

Bulgaria – Rila Monastery

The Rila monastery lies in the very Rila mountain, at 1,147 meters above sea level. It is situated 117km away from Sofia to the south.

The monastery is believed to have been founded by a hermit, John of Rila, in the 10th century, during the reign of the Bulgarian Tzar Peter (927-968). St John of Rila, whose relics are exhibited for pilgrims in the main church, in fact lived in a cave about half-an-hour walk away from the present-day monastery complex. The monastery itself is considered to have been built by his scholars, who came to the place to be taught by him.
Similarly to other Bulgarian monasteries that survived during Ottoman times, the Rila monastery has acted as a centre of spiritual and cultural life for the Bulgarian nation during the foreign rule. During that time, the monks created new works and made copies of medival Bulgarian authors, representing mainly the Turnovo and Mount Athos schools.

The monastery was declared a national historical monument in 1976, while in 1983 it was inscribed in UNESCO’s list of world heritage.

Bulgaria – Madara Rider

The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara.

The monument is dated back to circa 710 AD and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. The dating means the monument was created during the rule of Bulgar Khan Tervel, and supports the thesis that it is a portrayal of the khan himself and a work of the Bulgars, a nomadic tribe of warriors which settled in northeastern Bulgaria at the end of the 7th century AD and after merging with the local Slavs gave origin to the modern Bulgarians. Other theories connect the relief with the ancient Thracians, claiming it portrays a Thracian god.