Natural Wonders in Bulgaria
With its very varied relief and splendid scenery, Bulgaria is virtually like a continent in miniature. Called “the sleeping beauty of the Balkans” by the New York Times magazine, Bulgaria has a gorgeous landscape. Spectacular mountain lakes, sunny beaches, fantastic rose valleys, curative hot mineral springs and deep chilly caves coexist in harmony. Bulgaria is rich in sites that are true wonders of nature. Here are just some of them:
THE BELOGRADCHIK ROCKS are spectacular sandstone and limestone formations situated near the town of the same name in the northwestern part of Stara Planina (the Balkan Range). They cover an area approximately 30 km long and 3 to 5 km wide. Sculpted by nature into fantastic figures resembling animals, human heads, mediaeval castles and towers, some of them rise to heights of more than 200 m. Each rock is named after its characteristic form. The rocks vary in colour, most of them being in hues of red. The ancient Belogradchik fortress is also located among the rocks. The Belogradchik Rocks are one of the 260 entries (and the only Bulgarian entry) in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition.
CHUDNITE MOSTOVE (“THE WONDERFUL BRIDGES”) are unique rock formations near the town of Chepelare in the Central Rhodope Mountains. Covering an area of approximately 40 hectares, these two natural stone bridges overa no longer existing river were most probably the result of an ancient cave collapsing in an earthquake.The river carried away most of the smaller rock debris, and the forces of nature shaped what remained into two “bridges” of extraordinary beauty. The bigger bridge is 12 to 15 m in width and 96 m in length, with an opening 45 m deep and 43 m wide. The second bridge, about 200 m down the ravine, is 60 m long. At an average of 1450 m above sea level, the site is easily accessible all year round.
THE YAGODINA CAVE is the “gem in the crown” of the Rhodope Mountains. It is 10 km long and has 5 levels (equivalent to the height of 5 stories), with many galleries, labyrinths and pits inside. Visitors enter the cave through an artificially dug opening as the mouth of the cave is 30 m above the ground. A special path through the cave takes you into a fantastic underground world formed in the course of millions of years. The interior of the cave is lit by electric lights in different colours. In addition to amazing stalactites and stalagmites, there are many other fascinating rock formations, some of them resembling elephant ears, draperies, cave pearls and leopard’s skin. The uppermost level was inhabited by people in the Chalcolithic (Copper Age).
THE TRIGRAD GORGE is a canyon of vertical marble rocks in the Southern Rhodope Mountains. With walls reaching up to 350 m in height, it is a favourite spot for rock climbers. The region is home to more than 150 caves, the most famous of which are the Dyavolskoto Garlo (“The Devil’s Throat”) and the Yagodina caves.
POBITITE KAMANI (“THE STANDING STONES”, USUALLY TRANSLATED AS “THE STONE FOREST”), located 18 km west of Varna, are one of the most incredible natural formations in Bulgaria. They consist of scores of natural stone columns standing as high as 7 m. Some are up to 12 metres across at their base. Some columns resemble animals, and others look like frozen fountains. These strange formations were created around fifty million years ago when fragments of two chalk strata gradually bonded together in the intervening sand layer, by a process analogous to stalactite formation. Nowadays this is a popular spot for picnics and leisure hikes.