Atlas Obscura destinations in northeastern Bulgaria

The unexpected and obscure sites of Bulgaria – part II

Written and photos by Adriána Čigášová, edited by Mila Boshnakova

In our previous article, we showed you some obscure sites in central Bulgaria. Now, we want you to discover more unusual gems in the country, so this time, we are moving to the northeast. We hope you enjoy our selection of fascinating sites from our Atlas Obscura article series.

Even though the area around the city (as well as the city itself) has a rich history dating back to the Neolithic era, what attracts visitors to Shumen the most is the Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument. This memorial stands guard above the city on Ilchov Hill and is visible from almost any point in the city and beyond. Eight giant concrete blocks, designed in the cubism style, depict the rulers, language, and history of Bulgaria from the 6th to 10th centuries.

As if the monument itself wasn’t impressive enough, there, you can also find the largest mosaic of its kind in Europe. Finished in 1981, the monument was built to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the creation of the Bulgarian state, which is also symbolized by the 1300 stairs leading from the center of Shumen to the monument. After such a workout, you can treat yourself to a well-deserved, refreshing Shumensko beer - the Shumensko Pivo brewery was the first one founded in Bulgaria!

Madara Rider
Once in Shumen, you do not have to travel far to see another landmark on our list. Located just around 17 km away is the national historical-archaeological reserve “Madara.” You can reach the Madara Rider by bus or train to the Madara village and then hike to the monument, or to avoid the hassle, it’s easiest by car. The area has been occupied since the Neolithic Age, leaving behind as evidence rock sanctuaries, fortresses, temples, and dozens of monuments and artifacts from all epochs.

The most notable, however, is a 23-meter massive cliff depicting a horseman with a sword in his hand, a hunting dog running behind him, and a lion at the feet of the horse. The Madara Rider is an amazingly well-preserved masterpiece of Thracian artwork included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a great example of early Medieval Bulgarian artistry. It is also depicted on the back of the 1 stotinka coin. 

Rock Monastery of Shashkunite – Provadia
Situated around 30 meters above the ground, this monastery was carved and inhabited during the 12th and 13th centuries by local monks. It consists of ten caves cut into the steep vertical rocks, divided into two groups of five cells, with some of them connected by tunnels.

If you decide to visit the rock monastery, you must not be afraid of heights, as the only way to get there is by crossing a metallic suspension bridge above the forest. You can access it either by hiking from nearby Provadia or by walking from the Ovech Fortress.

Pobitite Kamani Rock Formations
The formation of these mysterious rocks located near Varna has been the object of much speculation. Also known as The Stone Forest, this natural phenomenon is an aggregation of stone columns up to ten meters high, all different shapes and sizes, resembling an ancient forest. Some formations have been given interesting names, so once you are there, try to spot the Camel, the Soldier, the Throne, and many more.

What makes the Pobitite Kamani area unique is that it’s considered the only naturally formed desert in Eastern Europe, and is also home to many rare species of flora and fauna.

We hope you got inspired for your next trip to the northern part of the country, and stay tuned for more Atlas Obscura sites in Bulgaria!

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