4. From Sofia: Rose Valley Tour & UNESCO Site Kazanlak
Kazanlak is located in the very central part of Bulgaria, right in the heart of the Valley of Roses, also known as the Valley of the Thracian Kings. The oldest settlement in the area of the modern-day city dates back to the Neolithic era (6th to the 5th millennium B.C.). During the 4th and 3rd centuries BC the Thracian ruler Seuthes 3rd took an important place in the historical development of Thrace during the Hellenistic era. The Thracian city of Seuthopolis was discovered near Kazanlak, and thoroughly studied at the time of the construction of the Koprinka Reservoir.
Kazanlak is the center of rose-oil extraction in Bulgaria, and the oil-producing rose of Kazanlak is one of the most widely recognizable national symbols. Bulgaria is the major supplier of rose oil in the world for the cosmetic industry, and Kazanlak's rose gardens are the largest rose gardens in the whole world. It is one of the very little places in the entire world that can grow this particular rose (Rosa Damascena or Rose from Damascus).
Kazanlak is located 200 kilometers east of Sofia along the Balkan range, so youshould start off your tour at around 8:30. The recently renewed road brings the journey down to a 3-hour scenic drive. You will start your visit with Shipka Memorial Church, built in a beautiful 17th century Russian style after the liberation from Turkish occupation in 1878, in honor of the Russian and Bulgarian victims. From there you will go to Goliama Kosmatka, the tomb of Seuthes 3rd. After a quick lunch in a nearby restaurant, you go to Kazanlak to visit of the UNESCO world heritage tomb. The monument dates back to the 4th century B.C. and its murals are memorable for the splendid horses and especially for the gesture of farewell, in which the seated couple grasp each other's wrists in a moment of tenderness and equality. On the way back you will make a visit to a local rose garden and distillery, where you will see how rose essence is extracted and be able to buy some rose-scented souvenirs. You will return to Sofia at around 18:30. Please note this is a fast-paced tour.