Bеcause Bulgaria lies on a vital European crossroad, its history has inevitably bеen a string of battles and wаrs. Romаns conquered Thrаcians, Bulgarians fought Byzantines, Ottomаns fendеd off wеstern crusaders, you name it. As a result, throughout the agеs majestic castlеs and fortifications popped up throughout the Bulgarian lands.
And whilе few of these have beеn fully preserved, even those that have beеn ruined are imprеssive with thеir sheer grandeur. From thе formidable medieval capital of thе Bulgarian Empire to the Balkan version of a Disney castle.
Tsarevets Fortress – The inescapable symbol of Veliko Tarnovo, Tsarevets must be Bulgaria’s most famous medieval fortress. For some 200 years, this spacious and well-guarded castle was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It housed the palaces of the emperor and the patriarch as well as Bulgaria’s most holy patriarchal cathedral and its dungeons were the resting place of Latin emperors and petty criminals alike. Watch your step: there are a lot of potholes, broken steps and unfenced drops.
These days, Tsarevets is famous for the Sound and Light audiovisual show, which relies on powerful lasers and searchlights to bring the historic castle to life to the tourists’ delight. Head to Veliko Tarnovo on official holidays (like 22 March, the town’s own holiday) to witness this captivating spectacle!
Kaleto Fortress – Almost blending in with the surrounding rocks, the Kaleto Fortress was originally built by the Romans and later expanded by the Byzantines, Bulgarians and Turks. Most of what you see today was completed in the 1830s. You can wander round three courtyards and explore the defensive bunkers; accessing the highest rocks involves a precarious climb up steep ladders. The fortress lies about 1km west of the centre of Belogradchik. The location is signposted.
Baba Vida Fortress – Baba Vida, reportedly named after the legendary grandma who personified the fortress, is the best preserved medieval castle in Bulgaria. With its walls from the First and Second Bulgarian Empires and additions by the Ottomans and Austrians, this majestic fort is an absolute delight to tour. At the northern end of the park lining the Danube, the marvellously intact Baba Vida Fortress is a 17th-century Turkish upgrade of 10th-century Bulgarian fortifications, which in turn were built upon the ruins of the 3rd-century Roman fort of Bononia. There’s little to see inside, but it’s an atmospheric place. Watch out for uncovered holes and drops from the top.
Kaliakra – Kaliakra loosely means “beautiful headland”, which happens to be the perfect description for this castle’s setting. Set on the steep cliffs rising 70 metres above the depths of the Black Sea, the scenic fortress of Kaliakra may have been briefly been the capital of the independent Principality of Dobruja in the 14th century.
If you go through the castle gate and reach the very end of the headland, you’ll discover a picturesque Orthodox rock chapel. And if the sea vistas of Kaliakra have had you dreaming of a pleasant swim, then finish the day with a visit to the sheltered nearby beach of the Bolata Cove!
Tsari Mali Grad Fortress – Although it was built in the 4th century, Tsari Mali Grad is one of the country’s newest tourist attractions. This Roman fortress in the southwestern village of Belchin was only reconstructed and opened for visitors in 2013.
Nested on the Hill of the Holy Saviour, Tsari Mali Grad is accessible through a small but scenic funicular railway. And on top of the hill you will find a rich exhibition detailing the site’s history, meticulously restored Roman fortifications and a medieval church.
Asen`s Fortress –
Set among the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains near Asenovgrad, Asen’s Fortress is best known for its gorgeous fortress church that is around 700 years old. Surrounded by thick stone walls and steep cliffs, this incredible Byzantine-style church looks like a true religious bastion.
The castle bears the name of the Asen dynasty, the Second Bulgarian Empire’s founding family, and specifically that of Tsar Ivan Asen II who reconstructed the fortress in the 13th century as the conquered it from the Byzantines.
Ravadinovo Castle – Just a few kilometres from the Black Sea, the village of Ravadinovo hosts an unlikely sight: a castle that looks like it came straight out of Disneyland! In construction over the last two decades by a local man of wealth, the Ravadinovo Castle is as kitschy as it is eye-catching.
With its sharp-pointed towers, swan lake and extensive landscaped park, the castle is surely worth a visit if you feel like jumping from Sozopol’s sandy beaches straight into a modern Balkan fairytale park.
Source: kashkaval-tourist.com /a tourism blog about Bulgaria and the Balkans/