Rose Valley

Rose Valley is the region south of Stara Planina Mountain, famous for rose growing practiced for centuries and from where comes 85% of the rose oil production of the world. The geographical center of Bulgaria – between the Stara Planina Mountain and Sredna Gora mountains is known as the Rose Valley, where for centuries the fragrant Bulgarian rose has been grown.

The Rosa Damascena, known as the Damask or Castile rose, is the greatest treasure in the region of Kazanlak. The rose was imported into Bulgaria centuries ago, and today it is one of the nation’s symbols. Under the influence of the country’s unique climate and soil, this rose gradually developed into a Bulgarian strain distinct from Damask roses elsewhere. That is why at the beginning of the 19th century this rose was named the Kazanlak Damask rose and the valley to the south of the Central Balkans came to be known as the Valley of the Roses. Along with the production of rose oil, a leading role in the economic development of the region was commerce related to the roses. The first official records of rose oil exports refer to trade with Germany and Austro-Hungary beginning in 1771.

The Museum of Roses was founded in 1984 with the help of the city’s Museum of History. The exhibits are arranged in three separate halls, and in include original photographs and documents related to the cultivation of roses during the Bulgarian Age of Awakening (18th -19th centuries) and in the 20th century. There is a display of tools used to cultivate the rose gardens, along with vessels used to store and transport rose oil and rosewater. The museum had been pleased with the unstinting interest shown by both Bulgarian and international tourists. More can be learned about the region’s rose cultivation at the Kulata Ethnographic Complex, which is just a kilometer from the city center. Here visitors can arrange in advance to observe the practice of traditional local customs and sample food and drink made from Kazanlak roses.

These days the rose harvest is one of the most important activities in the Valley of the Roses, undertaken with great ceremony. The Festival of the Roses is one of the most notable Bulgarian holidays, festooned with the beautiful roses in bloom. The festival was first held in 1903, and it has become a tradition to hold it the first weekend in June, since this is when the Kazanlak roses bloom. The festival has become an international attraction, when the city is glad to host thousands of guests. The festival program includes the crowning of the Rose Queen and the ritual gathering and distilling of roses. There are other celebrations, such as a carnival and the international folk festival “Youth of the Balkans.”

Nature has been benevolent to this area, which combines the beauty and majesty of the Balkan with the fertility of the Tundja River valley. The picking season in the Rose Valley lasts from May to June. During this period, the area gives off a pleasant scent and is covered with multi-colored flowers. Bulgaria is one of the biggest producers of rose oil in the world and it is a symbol of the country. The Festival of Roses is celebrated in the first weekend of June every year in the Rose Valley near the town of Kazanlak (at the foot of the Balkan Range). The hot mineral springs of the region, located in the town of Pavel Banya and in the villages of Ovoshtnik and Yagoda, make the region an attractive tourist destination. Renowned for its healing and beautifying properties, the fragrant rose elixir of the marvelous power of natural extracts flows from the heart of Bulgaria to the whole world. Kazanluk is the center of the rose oil industry with festival celebrating roses held every year. Kazanluk lies in the Kazanluk Valley, the eastern part of which is world known as the Rose Valley, about 200 km away from Sofia. The Rose Festival combines the rose blossom picking activity with a number of typical local cultural rituals and events. These evolve from several centuries of tradition and have played a vital role in shaping identity of Bulgarians. It used to be an additional source of income for mining families in the past and nowadays it is a single source of income for many. Therefore, rose growing is considered a local cultural value and its traditions are to be preserved and further improved.

Pazardzhik is one of the biggest towns in southern Bulgaria, situated in the western part of the Thracian valley, on the bank of Maritsa River. The distance from Pazardzhik to Sofia is 100 km and to Plovdiv – 35 km. The area was populated in ancient times. Many mounds and necropolises were found there. The settlement appeared in the 15th century and acted as a merchant center on the road from  Singidunum /Belgrade/ connecting Europe to Asia Minor. In the coming century, the town became an Ottoman administrative unit and kept this status up until the time of the Liberation from the Ottoman rule in 1878. Travelers often wrote about the Pazardzhik and mentioned it as a hectic place with large markets. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Pazardzhik was one of the main Maritsa harbors. The storehouses near the river held wheat, rice, tobacco and timber from the nearby Rhodope Mountain region. Locals grew vegetables, tobacco and rice and practiced various crafts. Craftsmen and merchants comprised nearly 70 percent of the local population.

As every major town, during the Bulgarian revival, Pazardzhik turned into a cultural center. The first school appeared there in 1823 and the first modern school, featuring classrooms, opened doors in 1845. After the liberation, the town’s population reached 15 000 people. Craftsmanship lost its power and factories appeared there. In the coming decades, the town developed as an industrial center. One of Pazardzhik’s landmarks is the Sv. Bogoroditsa cathedral, constructed in 1836 and 1837. Its iconostasis and the woodcarvings are considered some of the most beautiful on the Balkans. Konstantin Velichkov drama theater is among the oldest in the country. It merged with the town’s puppet theater. Pazardzhik features various other landmarks. The Pazardzhik History museum was created in 1911 and today is one of the oldest in the country. A separate building of 1200 sq m was constructed to host it. The museum has its restoration room and photo lab. An ethnographic collection can be seen alongside the other artifacts. The town’s art gallery carries the name of the famous revival-period artist Stanislav Dospevski. The gallery has rich collection and its room host works representing all art styles.