Bulgarian contribution to world heritage

Monuments included in the UNESCO Indicative List

• Founded in 1979, the Neolithic Dwellings Museum in the town of Stara Zagora, Central Bulgaria, is a typical in situ museum. It was built on the site of the archaeological excavations that exposed the ruins of an ancient settlement inhabited for a long time: from the Neolithic Age (sixth millennium BC) to the Bronze Age (third millennium BC). Two Neolithic dwellings with all characteristic elements have been conserved on site. Today they are considered globally as well as nationally to be the best preserved dwellings from that period. There are also finds of cult sculpture, notably bone and marble statuettes. All museum exhibits are original and illustrate the way of life and the beliefs of people from the remotest antiquity.
The site is open for visits all year round.

• The Magoura Cave is located in the Vidin Region, in Northwestern Bulgaria, 17 km from the town of Belogradchik. It is one of the biggest caves in Bulgaria, with a total length of 2,500 metres, including the tunnels discovered so far. The prehistoric drawings carved on the rock in one of its halls are evidence of human presence dating back to ancient times. They depict silhouettes of dancing women and men, hunting and ritual scenes. There are also many drawings of animals, stars, tools and plants, dating back to different ages between 3100 and 900 BC.
The cave is accessible for visits.

• Nicopolis ad Istrum is an ancient Roman town located 18 km north of the town of Veliko Tarnovo, North Central Bulgaria. The town was founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan (98–117 AD) in honour of his victory over the Dacians (106 AD). Located on the left bank of the Rositsa River, it was designed according to the architecture of the time: with rectangular fortified walls and four main gates, an orthogonal system, residential areas (insulae), a central square (agora), a town council (bouleuterion) and a small theatre (odeon). The rich architectural and sculptural ornamentation of the town reveals similarities to the ornamentation of towns in Asia Minor, e.g., Ephesus, Miletus and Palmyra. The Nicopolis ad Istrum complex also includes the necropolis and Roman villas found outside the walls. Archaeological excavations are still underway.
The town has been turned into an open-air museum, visited annually by thousands of Bulgarian and foreign tourists and scholars.

• The Late Antiquity Tomb near Silistra is one of the most famous Bulgarian monuments from Antiquity, popular abroad as well. With its unique frescoes, the monument is among the most beautiful and valuable Bulgarian monuments in terms of design and architecture, dating back to the 4th century AD. According to historians and archaeologists, the tomb belonged to a Roman aristocrat.
The opening hours are limited with a view to the preservation of the frescoes in the tomb.

• The Bachkovo Monastery dedicated to Assumption (Uspenie Bogorodichno) is the second biggest Bulgarian monastery. It is located in the Western Rhodope Mountains, 10 km south of the town of Assenovgrad, Southern Bulgaria. Constructed in the 11th century, it is one of the oldest monasteries in the Balkan Peninsula. Its two-storey monastery ossuary, dated to the 11th-12th centuries, decorated with frescoes, is unique in the Eastern Orthodox world.
The monastery frescoes are of great value. Apart from the Doomsday and the paintings of holy monks, there are also scenes illustrating the history of the Christian Church, e.g., the seven Ecumenical Councils. The icon of the Virgin Mary, believed to be miraculous, is of particular interest, too. In the 1930s, 103 manuscripts and 252 old print books were found in the monastery, which were rightfully called “a treasury of literature."
Apart from the main monastery Church of Our Virgin, there are two smaller chapels: the Church of the Holy Archangels (13th-14th century), located in the northern churchyard next to the main church, and the Church of St. Nicholas, built between 1834 and 1837. The church was erected in the southern section of the inner yard, with preserved frescoes from 1841, painted by Zahari Zograf, believed to be the most famous painter of the Bulgarian National Revival (who painted his self-portrait among these frescoes, too). There is also a monastery museum exhibiting ritual objects and examples of goldsmith"s art from different periods.
The Monastery is free to all visitors.

• Melnik, the smallest town in Bulgaria, is located in the southern part of the country, in the south-western part of the Pirin Mountain. The houses nestle against a mountain area and carry the authentic character of the Bulgarian way of life. Melnik is known as the Bulgarian town of wine. It is surrounded by “sand pyramids" – imposing cliffs with unique cellars hewn into them for storing the famous Melnik wine.
In immediate vicinity is The Nativity of the Virgin Mary Rozhen Monastery. Founded in 1217, it is the only Bulgarian monastery that survived and was restored after destruction by fire and looting during the first centuries of Ottoman rule. The monastery is famous for its stained-glass windows, wood carvings and amazing mountain view.

• The Rocks of Belogradchik are unique rock formations located in the Western Forebalkan (the northern Balkan Mountain Range) and they cover an area of about 30 km in length and 15 km in width. This breathtaking natural phenomenon has been sculpted by rains and winds over a period of 200 million years, modelling the shapeless stones into sculptures resembling mythical creatures, human silhouettes, animals and birds. Rock columns rising up to 200 metres form a natural fortress, whose defence potential had been used since ancient times. The fortifications were built and rebuilt over three periods in history: Roman (1st-4th century), Mediaeval (17th-19th century) and Ottoman (1805-1837).
The Rocks of Belogradchik gained global popularity with their nomination in the New7Wonders of Nature contest.

• The Vratsa Karst nature reserve was established in 1983. It covers a karst massif of the Vratsa Mountains, part of the Western Balkan Range, 10 km in length and with a total area of 1,409 hectares. The reserve boasts one of the most diverse combinations of caves, precipices, vertical cliffs (up to 450 metres high) and cave fauna. Today 43 caves have been registered on the territory of the nature reserve, and the number of the caves not registered yet is undoubtedly considerable. The following caves are the most popular ones among speleologists: Mechata Dupka, Ledenika, Ponora and others. The reserve is listed in Category I – “Strict Nature Reserves" – in the Protected Areas Categories System of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

• The Central Balkan National Park is one of the most valuable and one of the biggest protected territories in Europe, established to safeguard the unique nature of the Central Balkan Range and the traditions and types of livelihood related to it. Covering an area of 716 sq. km, the National Park preserves the original habitats of rare and endangered species, ecosystems of unique biological diversity and global scientific and cultural importance. The Park includes nine nature reserves: Boatin, Tsarichina, Kozya Stena Peak, Steneto Canyon, Severen Dzhendem, Peeshti Skali, Sokolna, Dzhendema and Stara Reka, covering one-third of its territory. It is a preferred destination of tourists and nature lovers.

• Rusenski Lom National Park is one of the ten Bulgarian natural parks. It is located along the canyon-type Rusenski Lom river valley – the last right tributary to the Danube River. Proclaimed as a protected territory in 1970, it covers an area of 3,408 hectares. The park is recognised as an interesting and valuable site of high aesthetic value due to its picturesque riverside terraces, meanders, steep rocks, areas of rich flora and fauna, caves, rock formations, historical monuments of national and global importance.

The Pobiti Kamani Natural Monument represents a combination of rock formations located in Northeastern Bulgaria, between the towns of Devnya and Varna. This unique natural phenomenon looks like a stone forest and consists of 14 groups of irregular, cylindrical or cone-shaped rock columns surrounded by desert sands and scattered in the western end of the Varna lowlands. Various animal species and birds inhabit these rocks.

• The Ancient Plovdiv is a unique living urban organism consisting of archaeological sites, museums, galleries with precious exhibits, archaic buildings, functioning churches with diverse painted and wood-carved ornamentation and church utensils, cosy cafés and restaurants, schools, old and modern residential buildings with romantic courtyards, and picturesque cobbled streets. The Three Hills area has preserved significant monuments from the Antiquity: ruins of the Acropolis, the Ancient Theatre, the Ancient Stadium and the Ancient Forum. In the Ancient Plovdiv one can trace the development of housing architecture from the time of the Bulgarian National Revival after the 19th century. In 1979, the Ancient Plovdiv received the European Gold Medal for conservation of monuments from the past.

• The Thracian Tomb near Alexandrovo village was discovered in the year 2000, some 20 km northeast of the town of Haskovo, Southern Bulgaria. It dates back to the 4th century BC and is one of the most significant Thracian cultural monuments. Its extremely well preserved frescoes on which 23 human figures can be discerned provide new data about Thracian religious rituals, cult practices, weapons, way of life and clothes, and reveal the excellent artistic skills of the Thracians.
An exact replica of the tomb with its unique frescoes can be seen at the specially opened Museum of Thracian Art next to the tomb. It houses a rich exhibition of Thracian art found in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains.

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