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There are a huge variety of landscapes in Bulgaria, which form mountains, hills and plains. The Northern part of Bulgaria, about one quarter of the whole territory, is a hilly area. In this region, close to the Black Sea, there is the Dobrudja valley. In the southern part is the mountain chain of the Stara Planina, which divides the country in two equal parts, from east (Black Sea) to west (Serbia). The southern part of the country is characterized by three mountain massifs: the Rila, which includes the highest peak of the country (Musala) and the mountain chains of the Pirin and Rhodopes.


Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. The country was founded in 681 BC. According to the archaeological finds, the first settlers were Thracians. The remains of this period, such as the tombs in Kazanlak or the gold objects that can be seen in the country’s museums, give us clear proof of this sophisticated civilization. Between the VII and VI centuries BC the ancient Greeks started the colonization of the Black Sea coast. The Romans (I century BC) divided Thrace into three provinces: Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. The following four centuries were characterized by the development of large cities, the construction of important military roads and the foundation of new settlements. From the IV century AD the whole Balkan Peninsula was occupied by the Byzantines. From the V to VI century, Slav tribes settled in the Balkan Peninsula and merged with the existing peoples. During the second half of the VI century, the region near the Danube delta was overrun by Proto-Bulgarians who came from central Asia. During the VII century three kingdoms were founded in Eastern Europe and each of them was named “Bulgaria”. The first was the Great Bulgaria of Khan Kubrat, located between Russia and the south-eastern part of Ukraine which disappeared soon after the death of its founder. The second kingdom was founded by Kubrat’s son, Kotrag, between the River Volga and its tributary Kama. The capital was Bolgar (now Kazan) and the kingdom existed, as a separate country until the XIII century. The third kingdom was founded by Khan Asparuh, the third son of Kubrat. At the beginning, the Bulgarians were allies of the Slavs, until the year 680 when Bulgaria was founded. Over the years the Proto-Bulgarian aristocracy merged with the Slavs and the rest of the Thracian communities. In the IX century the official language of the country was Slav and the Cyrillic script was applied throughout the Balkans.

The First Bulgarian Empire existed from 681 until 1018 (during this period Bulgaria accepted the Christian religion as the official religion in 865), when Emperor Vasilii II invaded Bulgaria and made it a province of the Byzantine Empire. The second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1396) was born in Veliko Tarnovo after the revolt against Byzantine rule. In a few years Bulgaria became the most powerful empire in the Balkans under the rule of Ivan Asen (1218-1241). In 1396 Ottoman rule began and continued for almost five centuries. The Bulgarian aristocracy and administrative structure were destroyed and the National Church fell under the control of Constantinople. Hundreds of Bulgarians were deported to Asia and were sold as slaves; a lot of churches and monasteries were burnt and people who had refused to accept Islam were often killed. In the XIX century, this situation favored the birth of the new period of the Bulgarian National Revival. The Orthodox Religion and the sense of Bulgarian cultural heritage became stronger in sections of the population, particularly in the commercial classes, which started to be rich and closer, for commercial relations, to Western Europe, so in April 1876 riots broke out and a large part of the country was involved in the first uprising. In a few days the Turks repressed the riots, due the disorganization of the rebels. The balance of the uprising was terrible: over 30,000 Bulgarians were killed and 58 villages were destroyed. These and other atrocities led to many protests throughout Europe and was one of the reasons that led Russia to declare war on Turkey. The Treaty of St. Stefan (March 1878) gave Bulgaria 60% of the territory of the Balkan peninsula, but with the following Treaty of Berlin (July 1878) Bulgarian borders were redrawn. In September 1908 the independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire was declared. During the First War (1912), Bulgaria’s borders expanded to the south and included the Aegean Sea and a large part of Macedonia, but with the defeat in the Second Balkan War (1913), the country obtained its present borders. In October 1915 Bulgaria was an ally of the Central powers. In September 1939, Bulgaria declared its neutrality in the conflict. But in 1941, when Germany decided to invade Greece, the Bulgarian government allowed German troops to cross the country in order to avoid a German invasion.

In September 1944 the National Front, dominated by the Communists, took power. The members of the previous government were arrested or executed. The National Front won the 1945 elections. In November 1989, the Central committee of the Communist Party forced Todor Zhivkov, prime-minister from 1962, to resign and decided to change its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The BSP won the first free elections. Bulgaria was the first country in the Soviet block which returned ex-communists to power. One year later the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) took control of the country. This caused a long period of political instability until June 2001 when the newly formed National movement Simeon II, led by the last king of Bulgaria, surprisingly won the elections. Although Simeon did not participate in the elections, he became prime-minister. He claimed that he didn’t want the return of the monarchy. In his words his only aim was the fast modernization of the country through the implementation of the project called “the 800 days program”. Bulgaria became a European Union member in 2007.

Bulgaria Unesco Sites

Nessebar Ancient City

Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea, the more than 3,000-year-old site of Nessebar was originally a Thracian settlement (Menebria). At the beginning of the 6th century BC, the city became a Greek colony. The city’s remains, which date mostly from the Hellenistic period, include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from the Thracian fortifications. Among other monuments, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica and the fortress date from the Middle Ages, when this was one of the most important Byzantine towns on the west coast of the Black Sea. Wooden houses built in the 19th century are typical of the Black Sea architecture of the period.

Boyana Church

Located on the outskirts of Sofia, Boyana Church consists of three buildings. The Eastern Church was built in the 10th century, then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two storey building to be erected next to it. The frescoes in this second church, painted in 1259, make it one of the most important collections of medieval paintings. The ensemble is completed by a third church, built at the beginning of the 19th century. This site is one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art.

Rila Monastery

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.

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.

Srebarna Nature Reserve

The Srebarna Nature Reserve is a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube and extending over 600 ha. It is the breeding ground of almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. Some 80 other bird species migrate and seek refuge there every winter. Among the most interesting bird species are the Dalmatian pelican, great egret, night heron, purple heron, glossy ibis and white spoonbill.