Bulgaria has eleven sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List – seven cultural sites of exceptional value, recognized as unique in the world, and two natural sites – and two elements on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The current Director General of UNESCO is Mrs Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, who was elected to this position on 15 October 2009. Her election is a recognition for Bulgaria’s great contribution to the world’s cultural and historical heritage.
The Madara Horseman: This is a relief (2.60 by 3.10 metres) carved 23 metres above the ground on an almost vertical 100-metre-high cliff. It depicts a majestic horseman stabbing a lion with his spear, with an eagle flying in front of the horseman and a dog is running behind him. The monument dates from the 8th century. It is unique in Europe and one of the oldest monuments in Bulgaria. Located near the village of Madara, Northeast Bulgaria.
The Thacian Tomb of Kazanluk: Dating from the 4th-3rd centuries BC, this is the oldest tomb with completely preserved frescos depicting the life of a buried Thracian noble and his wife. The building is impressive and fully preserved. The tomb is located near the town of Kazanluk and the Valley of Roses.
The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari: This tomb was built of stone blocks without mortar in the 3rd century BC. The tomb is richly decorated with sculptures and wall paintings. It is a unique combination of art and architecture. Located at the village of Sveshtari, Northeast Bulgaria.
Rila Monastery: Founded in the 10th century, Rila Monastery was built in its present form in the 19th century. This is Bulgaria’s largest and most beautiful Orthodox monastery, with impressive architecture and priceless icons and religious books. Located 120 km south of Sofia, in the Rila Mountains.
Boyana Church: This is one of Bulgaria’s most significant and valuable mediaeval monuments, erected and decorated in different periods between the 11th and the 13th century. Its international fame comes from its unique wall paintings, executed in 1259 by an unknown master painter who dared to add realism and humanity to canonical iconographic images. These images are now considered as a pre-Renaissance phenomenon in European art of the 13th century. Located in the former village of Boyana, now a suburb of Sofia.
Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo: In the valley of the Roussenski Lom River, in Northeast Bulgaria, a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells developed in the vicinity of the village of Ivanovo. This is where the first hermits had dug out their cells and churches during the 12th century. The 14th-century murals testify to the exceptional skill of the artists belonging to the Tarnovo School of painting. Located 20 km from the city of Rousse on the Danube.
Ancient City of Nessebar: Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea, the more than 3000-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. Located 45 km from the town of Burgas in immediate proximity to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria’s biggest seaside resort.
Sreburna Nature Reserve: This 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. Located by the Danube river in Northeast Bulgaria, 20 km from the town of Silistra.
National Park Pirin: Extending over an area of 27,400 ha and lying at an altitude of 1,008–2,914 m in the Pirin mountains, in Southwest Bulgaria, Pirin National Park has a limestone Balkan landscape, with lakes, waterfalls, caves and pine forests. The rugged mountains, with some 70 glacial lakes scattered throughout them, are home to hundreds of endemic and rare species, many of which are representative of the Balkan Pleistocene flora. The mountains also have diverse and unique landscapes of great aesthetic value.
Bistritsa Babi: The traditional dances and polyphonic singing found in the Shoplouk region of Bulgaria are still performed by a group of elderly women, the Bistritsa Babi. This tradition includes diaphony, or what is known as shoppe polyphony, ancient forms of the horo chain dance. Although the social function of the polyphonic singing has changed over the twentieth century, as it is now primarily performed on stage, the Bistritsa Babi are regarded as an important component of the region’s cultural life, promoting traditional expressions among the younger generations. The women are among the few remaining representatives of traditional polyphony and the village of Bistritsa is one of the last areas in Bulgaria in which this cultural expression has been maintained over the centuries.
NESTINARSTVO the Nestinarstvo fire-dancing rite is the climax of the annual Panagyr ritual on the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helena (3 and 4 June) in the village of Bulgari, in the Mount Strandzha region of south-east Bulgaria. The ritual is held to ensure the well-being and fertility of the village. The festival culminates in a fire-dance in the evening as the highest form of veneration of the Saints. Nestinarstvo remains today in Bulgari, a village of only a hundred persons. During the Panagyr, however, thousands crowd the village, including in recent years many Greeks who join the ritual.