Bulgaria is the oldest country in all of Europe that hasn’t changed its initial name ever since it was first established in the distant 681 AD. It’s not surprising that some of the oldest archeology sites in the world have been discovered on its territory – such as the gold treasure reserve in Varna and the numerous Thracian tombs scattered all over the country. If you’re ever on Bulgarian soil, here are the top archaeological landmarks you should check out.
The once Thracian settlement of Plovdiv was conquered by Greeks for centuries and as such, has a plethora of antique sites that speak of its former glory. The remains of a Roman aqueduct – the only such sighting across Bulgaria – are notably well preserved. According to historians, the aqueduct was constructed around the 2nd-3rd century AD and was providing nearly 43,000 tons of water on daily basis with a flow of 480 liters per second!
Starosel Thracian Tombs
The area around the village Starosel is filled with old Thracian tombs. The temples and the burial complex consist of several sites, only two of which are open to the public. It’s believed that the oldest Thracian tomb is located on these grounds. Adorned with statues, symbolic inscriptions, rock carvings, columns and various pedestals, the décor found in these tombs has immensely helped historians understand the customs of our ancestors.
Plovdiv’s Ancient Amphitheater
The most distinctive feature of Plovdiv, the official European Capital Of Culture for 2019, is without a doubt the ancient Roman amphitheater perched atop the Old Town, dating back to 1st century AD. Back in the days it had a capacity of 7,000 attendants. In present day the well preserved ruins of the amphitheater are still used for grand performances such as open theater plays, concerts, ballet, opera, dance spectacles and so forth.
Sofia’s Serdika Ancient Amphitheater
Another ancient amphitheater with Roman origins was discovered in the capital Sofia during the construction of a hotel in 2004. The excavations hint that the theater was used for gladiator competitions, as well as for animal fighting between bulls, bears and even crocodiles! While some parts of the ruins were taken to museums, the bigger portion of the excavations can still be seen in the underground foundations of the Arena di Serdika hotel.
Madara Rider Complex
No one really knows how 7th century Bulgarians managed to carve a life-size horse rider with astonishing details and an entire pagan shrine in the hard rocks surrounding the Madara village’s plateau. In theory the rider represents the pagan deity Tangra. The complex under the rider carving is made out of temples, ritual grounds, royal private dwellings and the remains of what is supposedly a basilica. In 1979 UNESCO listed the Madara Rider as an official World Heritage Site.
The seaside resort of Pomorie is famous for its beehive tomb – an ancient mausoleum from the 2nd-3rd century AD. Preserved to near perfection, the tomb has been the study case of worldwide acclaimed archaeologists from all over the globe ever since it was first discovered a century ago. Cylindrical, spacious and nearly 5.5 meters high, the building is made out of stone and brick and it’s the only tomb of its kind on the territory of Bulgaria.
Regardless of the fact that it’s ruined, the royal Tsarevets complex still speaks of its ancient splendor. Believed to be constructed in the 1100s, this castle complex was able to house hundreds of citizens within their ruler’s castle, countless craftsman shops, many churches and nearly 400 residential homes. Needless to say, the complex is visited by flocks of tourists from near and far all year round.
A mixture between a residential city and a sanctuary, Perperikon’s ruins may not look glamorous, but they do bear a cultural and historical significance. This is the largest megalith ensemble on the entire Balkan Peninsula and a popular theory claims that the long lost temple of Dionysius was actually built here. Dating back to the Bronze Age, Perperikon’s history is colorful and filled with many legends.
The Great Basilica Of Pliska
Last, but not least, comes another archeological site from the late 800s. Located in the former capital of the First Bulgarian Empire is the Great Basicilica of Pliska. The site used to house a school, a scriptorium, two baths equipped with a hypocaust for heating, a cathedral, an archbishop’s residential building, a necropolis and other minor residential buildings. Its vast area covers nearly 3,000 square meters, which classifies it as having one of the largest Christian cathedral grounds on the continent.