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Kazanlak Rose Festival, Bulgaria: Blooming traditions in the Valley of Roses
6 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Planning a trip to Bulgaria? Consider visiting this fantastic destination during the Kazanlak Rose Festival. This enchanting celebration, which takes place in the picturesque Valley of Roses, is a mix of Bulgaria’s culture, heritage, and nature's beauty.

This article will delve into the rich history of Bulgaria's damask rose, explore the art of rose oil extraction, and uncover the key events that make the Kazanlak Festival unique.

Whether you're a flower enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, read on to discover why the Kazanlak Rose Festival should be on your travel bucket list.

kazanlak rose festival

Bulgaria's blooming heritage: The story of the damask rose

The star of the Kazanlak Rose Festival is the fragrant damask rose, known scientifically as Rosa damascena. This remarkable flower has deep roots in Bulgarian history and culture, dating back over 300 years, with origins from Ancient Persia.

The Valley of Roses in central Bulgaria boasts the ideal climate and soil conditions for cultivating these beautiful blooms. This makes Bulgaria one of the world's largest producers of rose oil, extracted from the damask rose's petals. The rose oil, often referred to as "liquid gold," is renowned for its therapeutic properties and as an ingredient in many perfumes and cosmetics.

Festival visitors can learn about the fascinating history of the damask rose, witness traditional rose-picking ceremonies, and even try their hand at harvesting these delicate blossoms.

From bud to bottle: The art of rose oil extraction

The Kazanlak Rose Festival also offers a unique opportunity to learn about the process of extracting rose oil. This craft has been passed down through generations, with local artisans meticulously preserving the traditional methods.

In ancient times, the production of rose oil was a relatively simple single distillation process that produced only small amounts of the highly valued rose oil, which was greatly prized during that period.

However, the evolution of rose oil production can be traced back to the 17th century when a more sophisticated double distillation method was introduced. Since then, the extraction of Rosa Damascena oil has profoundly impacted Bulgarian lives, culture, and traditions.

The delicate petals are hand-picked in the early morning when their scent is most potent. These petals are then carefully distilled in copper stills to produce the precious rose oil.

The process is as much an art as it is a science and festival attendees can observe demonstrations and even participate in workshops to gain a deeper appreciation for this ancient craft.

According to Bulgarians, the oil has the following therapeutic properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Antimicrobial

  • Antidepressant

  • Promote relaxation

  • Aphrodisiac

Color, music, and dance: The cultural displays of Kazanlak

Traditional music and dance performances are an integral part of the festivities during Kazanlak Festival. Visitors can witness traditional dances and listen to Bulgarian folk songs that have been passed down over time. The colorful costumes worn by the performers add to the visual spectacle, with embroidery and vibrant hues that reflect the festival's spirit.

Art lovers will appreciate the various exhibitions featuring local artists' works, many of which are inspired by the Valley of Roses and the damask rose.

The festival also hosts craft fairs, where you can purchase handmade souvenirs, jewelry, and textiles, providing a unique opportunity to take home a piece of Bulgarian craftsmanship.

Celebrations in the valley: Key events of the Kazanlak Festival

The festival that celebrates rose production and oil has the main event on the first Sunday of June every year, but the festivities last for three weeks. Among the many activities, these are the ones you can’t miss:

  • Queen of Roses beauty contest: A beauty pageant showcasing a captivating spectacle in which the "Queen of Roses" is awarded her crown. The most enchanting contestant claims this prestigious title.

  • Rose-picking ritual (Rozober): Held amidst the fragrant rose gardens near Karlovo, this ritual celebrates the impending rose-picking season. The Rose Queen bestows awards upon the most skilled rose-pickers while adorning festival guests with wreaths and garlands made of roses.

  • Rose Festive Parade (Carnaval): Witness a vibrant parade through the streets of Karlovo, featuring a display of blossoms with over 3000 participants. Folklore groups and dance ensembles fill the procession with traditional music and dance, creating a lively and colorful spectacle.

  • Traditional art crafts bazaars: Explore an exhibition and bazaar showcasing the rich heritage of traditional art crafts held at numerous places during the event. This is an excellent opportunity to admire and purchase handcrafted items that reflect local traditions.

  • Holiday children's concerts and musical performances: Enjoy children's concerts filled with joy, accompanied by the sounds of brass orchestras featuring marching girls known as "majoretki". Additionally, revel in the performances of renowned Bulgarian artists, adding a musical touch to the festivities.

Check the entire program on the Kazanlak Festival website.

Planning your visit: Tips for a memorable festival experience in Bulgaria

The Rose Festival is the best time to visit Bulgaria! Here are some valuable travel tips to make the most of the festival of roses:

  • Accommodation: Book your accommodations well before your trip, especially if you plan to stay in the Kazanlak region. Accommodations fill up quickly during the festival.

  • Workshops and tours: Participate in workshops and guided tours to get a better understanding of rose oil production, traditional Bulgarian cooking, and local folk traditions.

  • Bulgarian language: While many Bulgarians in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic Bulgarian words or carrying a translation app to facilitate communication with locals is always helpful and appreciated.

  • Transportation: Plan your transportation to and within Bulgaria, whether by car, bus, or train. Public transportation can be a convenient and cost-effective way to get around.

  • Currency: Familiarize yourself with the Bulgarian currency (Bulgarian Lev, BGN) and have some cash on hand for small purchases, as not all places may accept credit cards.

bulgaria kazanlak travel

Bulgaria: Explore beyond the Rose Festival

When you think of Bulgaria, the Rose Festival in Kazanlak might be the first thing that comes to mind. However, Bulgaria has so much more to offer beyond this fragrant celebration.

From a national historical-cultural landmark like the Kazanlak Thracian tomb to the breathtaking landscapes of Rose Valley, the country has much to offer. Let's delve into some hidden gems that showcase the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of this Balkan nation.

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Venture beyond the bustling Rose Festival grounds and discover the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak. This remarkable site is part of Bulgaria's ancient history, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tomb is believed to be the final resting place of a Thracian king and is adorned with captivating frescoes that tell the stories of a bygone era.

Shipka Memorial Church: A testament to sacrifice

The Shipka Memorial Church is a symbol of gratitude and remembrance. This stunning Russian Orthodox church is a tribute to the soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War. Its golden domes and intricate architecture make it a spiritual and architectural marvel.

Balkan Mountains: The gateway to Kazanlak Valley

The Balkan Mountains, with their rugged beauty and scenic vistas, are a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. This mountain range encompasses the enchanting Kazanlak Valley, known for its fertile soil that nurtures the famous Bulgarian roses.

Take a leisurely drive through this picturesque region, and you'll understand why it's called the ”Rose Valley”.

Rose Museum: A fragrant journey through time

While the Rose Festival celebrates the present, the Rose Museum in Kazanlak offers a journey through the past. Learn about the history of rose cultivation in Bulgaria and how it has shaped its economy and culture. Explore exhibits showcasing traditional rose oil production methods and the significance of roses in Bulgarian folklore.

Iskra Town History Museum: Uncover local heritage

For a deeper understanding of Bulgarian history at the regional level, visit the Iskra Town History Museum. Located in the charming town of Iskra, this museum provides insight into the broader context of Bulgaria's history.

Contact us for more info about traveling to Bulgaria

If you have questions regarding the Bulgarian Travel Declaration or any other travel document, don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team! Reach out to us via our online chat or at [email protected]. We’re here to help!

  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This site does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. The source of information: https://www.mfa.bg/en/services-travel/consular-services/travel-bulgaria/visa-bulgaria
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