My very first trip to Bulgaria was visiting Belogradchik. I actually ended up there by mistake 🙂 I heard that Bulgaria had a great canyon that was worth visiting. Some friends went there and said it was delightful. Sure, I looked it up on the internet. Sure, I looked at the pictures. Yes, I even read once the name of the town. Did I ever reach it? No. But I’m not sorry for that!
If you are planning on visiting at least one ancient fortress while travelling, then you’ll find plenty to choose from in Bulgaria. For something truly special, with a great touch of nature, you should head northwest to Belogradchik and see Belogradchik; a fortress that has been standing strong for centuries. The name for the fortress literally translates to “White Construction”, a reference to the shining fortress rising high above the town. The official name for the fortress is Belogradchik Kale, with “Kale” being the Turkish for “fortress”.
When was the Belogradchik Fortress Built?
Historians believe that the construction of the fortress happened some time during the Roman Empire. The Romans were smart enough to find a place where they could build the fortress without too much effort. The natural rocky terrain of the area meant that they only had to build the walls from only two sides – on the southeast and northwest. The rest of the fortress was made with rock verticals up to 230 feet tall. When the Belogradchik Fortress was first built, it was primarily used as a lookout point.
The Recent History of The Belogradchik Fortress
There came a time during the reign of Tsar Ivan Srastimir in the 14th century when the fortress needed to be used for a harder military purpose. The Ottoman empire were gaining ground in Europe and they forced many rulers across Europe – including Bulgarian leaders – to bolster their defences. The fortress became the second-most important fortress for Bulgaria at the time, second only to the castle of Sratisimir himself, the Vidin Fortress.
When the Ottoman Empire was ruling the region, they had the fortress reinforced and reconstructed once again due to the rebel activity at the time. In terms of recent history, the fortress was last used as a military site during the Serbo-Bulgaria War of 1885.
These days the area of the Belogradchik Fortress is over 100,000 square feet (10,000 square meters). The walls are around 6.5 feet (2 meters) thick at their base and up to 40 feet (12 meters) high. The incredible rock formations around the fortress are called the Belgradchik rocks and they were formed over 200 million years ago having once been at the bottom of the ocean.
Tips for visiting Belogradchik Fortress
- The fortress is open to the public from 9AM to 6PM. There is an entrance fee, but it is minor. It’s only BGN 3 (or less than $2 USD). Be sure to have Bulgarian Lev.
- Don’t be afraid to eat out or have drinks – everything is cheap. You can have a great meal under $15 USD.
- Dress sporty. Have comfy shoes, you will need to hike a little and be in perfect shape – there are lots of stairs! Well, not THAT many 🙂
- Wear sunscreen if you go there in summer, like I did. The temperatures are usually high in summer, reaching even 40C on a hot day.
- Opera of the Peaks – the scene is a splendor and the acoustic is fabulous!
- Venetsa and Magura cave – are quite near Belogradchik Fortress and very interesting to visit. Please dress accordingly, as the temperatures there barely reach 12C. Oh, and be careful, it can be slippery!
Ever plan on visiting Belogradchik? Bulgaria? How about the canyon I never reached? Emen Canyon that is 😀 How was it?