Bulgaria is a small Balkan country that hides so many secrets even Bulgarians can’t reveal them all, let alone foreign visitors. Most of the mystical spots around the country are connected with the ancient Thracians and their rituals, but some are influenced by local legends or more recent UFO theories. Here’s our pick of the best destinations in Bulgaria for mystery hunters.
If you are up for something unusual to do in Bulgaria, go to the town of Kazanlak, in the heart of the Rose Valley, and climb all the way up to the Sun Gate megalith in the nearby village of Buzovgrad. It is believed to have been the place where the ancient Thracians performed rituals dedicated to the sun. It is also the place where the ashes of one of the most prominent Bulgarian archaeologists and Thracian professionals, Alexander Fol, were spread. Be there at sunrise on the day of the summer solstice to take part in ancient rituals re-enactment.
Strandzha is one of the mountains in Bulgaria related the most with Thracian sanctuaries and the rituals of these ancient tribes. All over the mountain there are megaliths (Markov Stone), sanctuaries (Mishkova Niva), and places considered as sacred and possessing healing powers by the locals (the Cave of Saint Marina). There is even a cave with an entrance sealed with concrete believed to be the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess. The cherry on the pie is the annual Nestinari ritual (walking on live coals) held on June 3 when dancers perform an ancient dance, barefoot on hot embers. Although the mountain is relatively low, it is pretty easy to get lost as there are no reference points, so it’s a good idea to hire a guide – contact Strandzha Nature Park for assistance.
The Seven Rila Lakes
At the beginning of the 20th-century, a movement combining esoteric cults, meditation, breathing exercises and bits of Christianity was created by a Bulgarian called Peter Deunov, also known by his spiritual name Beinsa Douno. The Universal White Brotherhood exists until today and every year its followers gather in the middle of August at the Seven Rila Lakes in Rila Mountains, at more than 2,000 m (6,500 ft), to perform their spiritual Paneurhytmy Dance in big circles. They believe the area around the lakes is a source of powerful natural energy.
Belintash Rock Sanctuary
Belintash is one of the most famous rocks in Bulgaria that is wrapped in mystery. It is known that the enormous flat rock was used by the Thracians as a sanctuary to the gods and even today you can see the stairs cut in the rock and the channels where the doors of an ancient temple used to be locked. There is also a legend that a gold treasure was hidden somewhere between the rocks, attracting treasure-hunters from all over the country. Rumours from the latest decades include a theory that the rock was used by aliens to land their UFOs.
The Belogradchik Rocks
The stunning Belogradchik Fortress was built back in Roman times using the natural protective role of the rocks in the area. What has impressed people more than the stronghold, however, are the strange shapes of the rocks. Imagination and local folklore were combined to create a legend for almost every rock – from a girl-shaped one to animals and whole groups of people with stories about them. The fortress is open for visits and from its top you can see the best panorama of the area.