Since the Belogradchik Rocks are so far away from everything else in Bulgaria, most travelers don’t make the effort to visit. They are really missing out on one of the most beautiful places in all of Eastern Europe and for me, it is certainly one of the best destinations in all of Bulgaria.
T: +359 936 5 30 01
I arrived in Belogradchik last night to find the hotel I was booked in was overbooked, so a lady near the bus station let me stay in her guest house. I’m the only one in the whole building. She gave me a key to get in and out and I feel completely strange staying in an entire building by myself.
BUT BELOGRADCHIK!! OH… EM… GEE!! I can not believe that this is not on everyone’s bucket list… or at least in their top 5 things to do in Bulgaria. But the location is so far up into a very extreme part of NW Bulgaria, that I imagine many backpackers and tourists tend to dismiss it as too far out of the way. At the moment I think I am the only tourist IN THE ENTIRE TOWN and in my travels so far I don’t know of anyone else that was planning to come here or who had even heard of it.
The Belogradchik rocks are spread over a massive area, and the feeling is kind of like Sedona on a massive amount of steroids. Then throw in some ancient bronze age and Roman fortifications, with some rolling, surreal landscapes, and you have Belogradchik. Also, just about every rock formation in the area had a name and an ancient legend of how it came to be.
The Belogradchik rocks form a 3 km wide and 30-kilometer long massive area, and the rock formations reach some 200 meters in height. They began, 230 million years ago, as compressed sediment at the bottom of a sea, after the sea receded, and with a healthy dose of erosion over the last 45 million years, these rocks were carved into these amazing structures. These tall pillars of stone are made largely of limestone and also hold hundreds of caves, including Magura Cave where the bones of prehistoric species including a cave bear and cave hyena have been discovered alongside cave paintings dating from 10,000 BC – 600 BC.
Each rock formation bears a name: Adam and Eve, The Schoolgirl, The Bear, The Shepherd boy, The Dervish, The First slab stone, The Camel, The Mushrooms, The Cuckoo, The Red wall, The Madonna, The Horseman, The Monks, The Mental stone, Rebel Velko, The Pine stone and so on, and each one comes with a fantastic story.
Among two of the most famous and most curious legends surrounding the rocks are that of the Madonna and the Schoolgirl. In the legend of the Madonna, a beautiful nun falls in love with a man on a white horse, gets pregnant, is cast out by the monks and as she is leaving the nunnery, day turns to night and all, Madonna, monks, man on the white horse are turned to stone forming the rocks.
The schoolgirl’s legend is remarkably similar to other stories here in Bulgaria of people being suddenly petrified. There are many variations of this one though I have heard from several different people.
SCHOOLGIRL LEGEND VERSION 1: This story also concerns a beautiful girl (who seem to be especially prone to turning to stone), being lustfully chased by a schoolmaster, who is being chased a bear, when POW! … they turn to stone.
SCHOOLGIRL LEGEND VERSION 2: Another version of the Schoolgirl story is that she is being chased by an Ottoman soldier who is trying to rape her, the solder is being chased by a bear, the girl prays to god to turn her to stone so as not to be raped, god turns her and the solder into stone (the bear just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). You can find all three rock structures in Beolgradchik, but ‘the schoolgirl’ actually does look like a schoolgirl with a backpack. The rest of the rock structures, you really need to use your imagination to see the images.
There are several amazing hikes in the area that last 4 to 9 hours, but I will only have time to do one 6 hour hike today, then I leave tomorrow for Romania. So that means even more photos of rocks from this city.
Belogradchik is such an ‘secret’ gem, and it deserves to have several pages on Tramposaurus Treks. I hope I get to go back some day soon.
Receive weekly travel news and special offers.