Amidst the famous rocks of Belogradchik, which have already been nominated as a New Wonder of the World, the spectacular Kaleto Fortress nestles into the steep cliffs in northwestern Bulgaria.
The village of Belogradchik is located in the very northwest of Bulgaria. The settlement, which is hardly worth mentioning in terms of tourism, became widely known when its spectacular rocks were nominated as the New Wonder of the World of Nature. In 2011, the Belogradchik Rocks were not chosen after all, but this does not change the fascination of this natural wonder. Accordingly, they belong to our top 10 sights of Bulgaria.
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PICTURES: Belogradchik rock and fortress
The imposing sandstone formations stretch over a length of about 30 kilometers and surround Belogradchik on three sides with huge towers, pillars and rock needles. More than 200 million years ago, they grew at the bottom of an ocean, which dried up during the folding of the Balkan Mountains, revealing the stone formations colored pink by iron oxides.
The bizarre rocks today bear names like "The Castle", "The Horseman", "Adam and Eve" or "Madonna". Between the stone towers are the remains of countless walls and buildings. The best preserved bulwark of the Belogradchik rocks is the Kaleto Fortress in the southwest of the village.
Looking at the towering rocks, it is not surprising that the Romans built a fortress in the middle of these naturally grown defense towers. It also gave the village its name, because "belo grad" means "white castle". The fortress was built from the 1st century to protect the trade routes from the Danube to the Roman province of Thracia.
The fortress was often destroyed by the Byzantines, Bulgarians and Turks, but was always rebuilt. The fortress received its present appearance in 1850 under the rule of the Turkish Sultan Abdülmecit I. Even today, its fortress walls, equipped with embrasures, cover an area of over 10,000 square meters. 35 years later, during the Serbian-Bulgarian war, the fortress was used for the last time for defensive purposes. In 1965 the fortress was declared an architectural monument.
Visit to the Belogradchik fortress
Access to the Kaleto Fortress is via a narrow road that leads to two paid parking lots. A narrow path and some stairs lead to the highest and most beautiful part of the fortress.
In front of the entrance to the fortress, a path leads even further up the hill to another part of the fortress, the so-called "First Stone". This can be climbed through a somewhat dilapidated iron staircase and also explored. Worth seeing at this height is especially the spectacular panoramic view.
Tip: Visitors to the fortress of Belogradchik should be equipped with good footwear! Otherwise there is a risk of falling on the very slippery and partly slippery stones!
Sights in Belogradchik
Belogradchik itself also has some interesting destinations to offer. The best place to start a sightseeing tour is the central Vazrazhdane Square just as you enter the town. The first street on the left already leads to the art gallery, where among the approximately 200 works of art you can also admire paintings of the breathtaking landscape of the surroundings.
A little further on, in Ulitsa Knyaz Boris I, a small museum about the city's history can be found in a listed residential building from 1810.
Among the most visited sights of Belogradchik are also the Church of St. George from 1868, an observatory of the Astronomy Institute of the Academy of Sciences with one of the largest telescopes in Bulgaria and the Museum of Natural History southeast of the town, with 3,000 exhibits the largest in northwestern Bulgaria.
For cave fans, a trip to the Magura Cave about 25km from the village is worthwhile. The 2.5km long show cave is one of the largest and most visited caves in Bulgaria. The one-hour tour through the Magura Cave leads to fascinating rock paintings made of bat dung, which date back to various epochs.
The most famous scene is a solar moon calendar with 366 days, created in the 5th millennium BC. The tour of the cave ends with a magnificent view of Lake Rabisha, the largest inland lake in Bulgaria.