The location of the city of Plovdiv has been a seat of human activity for more than 8000 years, since the Neolithic period, with rapid development during the Thracian kingdoms, and after the conquest in 4th c BC by Philip of Macedonia and later on its inclusion in the Roman empire, and subsequently in the Byzantium and the Bulgarian kingdoms.
The city became a centre of the Bulgarian Revival in the late 19th c. Many monuments certify the rich history of the city, many of them located in a small hill often referred to as the Old Town, among them the antique theatre from the time of Emperor Trajan and still in operation, a Roman stadium, the two hundred or so meticulously renovated colourful buildings – private merchant houses, orthodox churches and chapels dating back to the 18th and 19th c.
The City of Plovdiv is European Capital of Culture in 2019 and is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.
The monastery was founded in 1083 by two Georgian brothers Bakuriani, it is one of the oldest monasteries on the Balkan Peninsula and is linked to three distinct yet contemporaneous cultures: Byzantine, old Georgian and old Bulgarian. It has preserved unique and highly valuable monuments of architecture and painting, representagive of the Eastern Orthodoxy.
Over the centuries it developed into the second most important Orthodox religious centre in Bulgaria, after Rila Monastery – an UNESCO World Heritage List, which can also be visited on on a day trip. Bachkovo Monastery prominently features in the relations between the Bulgarian, Russian and Greek orthodox churches during medieval times.
Among the places and artefacts of interest, it is worth noting the miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin, the frescos in the main church and its iconostas, the monastery museum, the refectory and the ossuary. The monastery ossuary (11-12th century) is a two-storied chapel with murals in both stories and is unique in the entire Eastern Orthodox world. The refectory (17th century) contains a picturesque ensemble wholly and splendidly preserved which could be compared to only one or two similar monuments in the territories of the Eastern Orthodox regions.
Bachkovo Monastery is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.
The tomb dates back to the 4th c BC and consists of an impressive entrance, a long corridor and a rectangular chamber with a circular dome.
The dome features unique frescos representing a wild boar hunt – while not as sophisticated as the frescos of the Thracian Tomb at Kazanlak, on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it nonetheless impresses with its realism and raw power.
Among the artefacts found in the womb are gold objects dating back to the 4th Millennium BC.
The Thracian tomb at Aleksandrovo is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list.
(15 min drive)
The village of Shiroka Laka dates back to the 17th c. AD and was founded by Bulgarian Christians fleeing the Ottoman army. Today it is an architectural and folklore reserve.
Shiroka Laka is famous for its authentic Rhodopean houses set in tiers on both banks of the local river. The old houses were designed in the characteristic architectural style of the Rhodopes by the noted local building masters, and feature two storeys, built-in cupboards and a small cellar with a hiding place. The thick white walls surround a small slab-covered yard with a traditional stone drinking fountain in the middle.
The ancient Thracian city of Perperikon – the largest megalith ensemble on the Balkans, lies in the Eastern Rhodopes, on a 470 m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place: the famous Temple of Dionysius may well have been located there.
The first traces of civilization on site date back to 5,000 B.C. and can be traced through the Bronze and Iron Ages. An impressive round alter, almost 2 m in diameter, hewn out of the rocks was discovered on top of the hill. The pulpit was probably built at the end of the 4th century AD or the early 5th century during the reign of Byzantium’s Arcadius and coincided with the period of the christening of the Thracians in the Rhodope region.
The megalithic complex has been laid in ruins and re-erected many times throughout history. Among the remnants which can be seen today are a giant multi-story palace and an imposing fortress built around the hill, with walls as thick as 2.8 m, dating back to the Roman Empire. Temples and residential quarters were also constructed in the fortress.