Bulgaria's Grand Canyon
Rock formations and an ancient fortress overlook the town of Belogradchik
7 October, 2017
The Fortress of Belogradchik is a true fortification masterpiece.
Belogradchik's museum of history.
The fortress’s main gate.
The Red Church is among the most fascinating local landmarks.
The scenic attractions and the rich historical heritage of Belogradchik place the town among Bulgaria’s most fascinating tourist sites. Nestled in the picturesque western part of the Balkan Range, the town was founded under the Romans in the 3rd-4th century. It was preceded by a fortress, built under the rugged beauty of the rocks to guard the strategic roads crossing the region. In the late antiquity, the Fortress of Belogradchik was part of a defence system of the Roman and the Byzantine Empires, used later by medieval Bulgaria. Its significance grew with the founding of the Kingdom of Vidin in the 14th century and it was among the last to be captured by the Ottomans at the end of the century.
Initially, Belogradchik was called Belgrad (literally “white town”) as the houses of that time were built of wattle, mud and lime, lending the town a distinctive white look. Later, to distinguish it (in sound) from the Serbian city of Belgrade, it was renamed to Belgradin (little Belgrad). The fortress retained its significance throughout the period of the Ottoman rule. It was reconstructed in the 19th century by French and Italian engineers, who added European elements to it. The last time it was used in military action was in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885.
The greatest attraction of the region, however, is the Rocks of Belogradchik. The rock formations are a unique natural phenomenon – stunning stone sculptures shaped by nature for 200 million years. They stretch for approximately 30km along the Belogradchik fault line and are often referred to as the Bulgarian Grand Canyon.
The rocks' reddish hue, a product of ferric oxide, creates a whimsical aura around the large number of shapes of people, castles and animals. Human imagination has given names to many of the rock formations, wreathing them in local legends – the Madonna, the Horseman, the Monks, the Schoolgirl, the Dervish, the Lion, the Bear, Adam and Eve, Rebel Velko, the Castle, the Dinosaur.
According to the most romantic of the stories, centuries ago a monastery and a nunnery towered from the highest cliffs. A beautiful young nun, Sister Vitinia, lived in the nunnery and even the cassock could not hide her beauty. A Roman patrician, Antonio, fell in love with her and after a year of secret dates their love could not stay hidden any longer. A baby's cry sounded in the nunnery. The monks from the nearby monastery, called upon to hear the case, ruled that the offender and her child should leave the nunnery. As the sentence was being passed, Antonio appeared over the hill riding a white horse. At that very moment the earth shook, the nunnery crumbled and the whole scene petrified. And that, the legend goes, was how the rocks of the Horseman, the Monks and the Madonna with her Child were formed.