Kazanlak is situated in the middle of the plain of the same name, at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, on the eastern end of the famous Rose Valley. The natural geographic centre of Bulgaria is here, where the crossroads of domestic travel and international tourism are situated. The city is the capital of rose oil extraction in Bulgaria and the oil-bearing rose of Kazanlak is one of the symbols connected with the name of Bulgaria by people from different parts of the world.
The first settlement within the territory of the city emerged during the Neolithic Era (6-5th millenium B.C.). During the 4th-3rd century B.C. the lands on the upper Tundzha River were within the dominion of the Thracian ruler Sevt III and took an important place in the historical development of Thrace during the Hellenistic era. The Thracian city of Sevtopolis was uncovered and thoroughly studied at the time of the creation of the Koprinka Dam. During the Middle Ages the valley became an administrative centre of the Kran region where the Bulgarian boyar Eltimir ruled. After 1370 Kazanlak was under Ottoman dominion. The modern town emerged at the beginning of the 15th century. During those first decades it was a military fortress and later became a town of craftsmen. More than 50 handcrafts were developed - tanning, coppersmithery, goldsmithery, production of thick wool fabrics, shoemaking, barrel-making and, of course, rose cultivation. The oil-bearing rose, imported from India via Persia, Syria and Turkey, found all the necessary conditions for thriving - proper temperature, high moisture and light, sandy, cinnamon-forest soils. The Kazanlak rose oil has won gold medals at expositions in Paris, London, Philadelphia, Antwerp, Liet, and Milan. After the Liberation the handcrafts declined due to the loss of markets in the huge Ottoman Empire. The textile, aerospace and military industries were developed. Kazanlak has a long, solid tradition in the area of culture and enlightenment. At the very beginning of the National Revival, the populace of Kazanlak was already opening school and cultural clubs - including the Pedagogical School of Kazanlak, which prepared teachers for the entire country. For many well-known Bulgarian artists and performers, this was the place where their physical and creative lives began.
• The Shipka-Buzludzha National Park and Museum, which includes several historical monuments:
• The Birth of Christ's Memorial Church, built near the town of Shipka in memory of the Russian soldiers and Bulgarian militiamen, who died in the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation 1877-1878.
• The Shipka National Park - a complex of monuments, recreations of positions, batteries and bunkers at the historical sites, connected with the defense of the Shipka Pass during the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation. The most impressive is the Monument to Freedom on the Shipka Peak, with 1878 steps (symbolic of the year of the Liberation) leading to the top.
• The Buzludzha National Park, connected with the battles of the rebel detachment of the leader Hadzhi Dimitar.
• The Iskra Historical Museum, which preserves 50 000 exhibits under its care. It consists of three independent halls displaying finds from the Thracian city of Sevtopolis.
• The Iskra Art Gallery, which has already been in existence for more than half a century. Besides the rich body of art work, icons, engravings, and products of decorative art and handcrafts, it also contains a collection of "ex libris" (bookplates) by foreign artists. These found their way here via the Valley of the Roses International Plenum of Art and the Ex Libris International Exposition hosted by Kazanlak.
• The Kazanlak Monastery. Founded by Zinovia Stancheva in the 1860s. In 1866 the monastery's church, the Holy Virgin's, was erected. The murals are the work of an artist native to Kazanlak, Petko Iliev. During the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation there was an infirmary for the wounded here. The Turks used it as a warehouse, which caused a deterioration in the condition of the frescoes.
• Chudomir's Literary Art Museum - a complex of exhibits relating to the life and creative work of the great Bulgarian writer and artist Chudomir (Dimitar Ivanov Chorbadzhiyski) and a gallery, which introduces this unique hero to us.
• House-museums of the famous Bulgarian artists Dechko Uzunov and Nenko Balkanski.
• The House-Museum of the composer Petko Staynov, who created some of the most popular and favorite horo songs, symphonies, suites, and ballads. He was blinded at the age of 11 in an accident. He overcame all the difficulties, learned to play the piano and the flute, received a musical education degree in Germany and took key positions in the musical life of the country during his whole life - not only as a brilliant performer and composer, but also as an instructor and community activist.
• The monument to Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the yard of the high school of the same name. It was created by Ivan Topalov and is the first Bulgarian monument to the brothers from Thessalonica.
• The Kulata History and Ethnographic Complex, which shows village and city lifestyles of the local population from the end of 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. Tourists can observe at the complex a selection of the handcrafts for which Kazanlak was well-known. They include: coppersmithery, violin-making, and primitive rose cultivation and processing. Visitors can also try products of the oil-producing rose - marmalade, liquor, and rakia (brandy).
• The Drama Theater, which is named after the great Bulgarian dramatic actor, Lyubomir Kabakchiev, who was born in Kazanlak.
• The Rose Museum, where the development of rose production and the trade in rose-based products is studied, for all of Bulgaria, from its beginning until today.
• Rosarium Park with many spots for recreation.
The Kazanlak tombs
• The total number of Thracian mounds in Bulgaria is approximately 60 000. Just in the region of Kazanlak they are more than 500. The discovered remains of the ancient Thracian culture - objects, jewelry, and vessels of gold, silver, bronze and clay - have long since become part of the world's historical legacy. The Thracians did not have a written language, but the preserved architectural and artistic monuments speak of a highly developed civilization with great artistic, technological and building skills. The most Thracian tombs have been discovered in the Rose Valley and, for this reason, more and more people call it the Valley of Thracian Rulers:
- The Thracian shrine in the Shushmanets Mound. A unique architectural monument from the 5-4th centuriy B.C. with its anteroom and main chamber, supported by a Doric pillar. The walls and floors are covered with a thick plaster in brilliant white and red. In the anteroom, four horses and two dogs were buried.
- The Griffons' Mound conceals the best example of a domed, stone tomb - a Thracian shrine from the 5-4th century B.C. The floor is covered in a thick layer of plaster. The crypt is across from the double-winged stone entrance door.
- The Helvetica Mound contains a Thracian shrine from the 5th-3rd century B.C. The floor and chamber are covered in a thick layer of white plaster. Two horses were sacrificed and buried outside the entrance.
- The lone Thracian tomb, discovered so far untouched by robbers, is in the Sashova Mound (3rd-2nd century B.C.) between the town of Shipka and the village of Yasenovo.
- The domed tomb-mausoleum in the Golyama Arsenalka Mound. It has a square, domed room built with well-cut, completely intact stone blocks.
- The tomb-mausoleum discovered at the Ostrusha Mound near the town of Shipka, across from the Svetitsa Restaurant, is an example of a hitherto unknown type of religious complex. Its six rooms make it one of the largest monuments found in Thracian lands.
- Near the village of Kran, in the Sarafova Mound, is a magnificent tomb with a corridor and two rectangle rooms, whose walls are covered in gorgeous multicolored friezes.
- The Thracian mound near the village of Gabarevo.
- The Kazanlak Tomb - one of the most remarkable monuments of Thracian culture from the end of the 4th century B.C. It consists of a round burial chamber with a hive-shaped cupola, looming 3.25 meters above with a diameter of 2.65 m (10 ft. 7 in. and 8 ft. 8 in., respectively). It is connected with the entrance via a narrow, rectangle corridor and a pointed arch. The tomb is unique with its murals. They are of a fresco technique, using encaustica and tempera. Scenes of the military life of the person buried here are depicted upon the corridor's arches. Compositions of a man (the deceased nobleman), seated at a table set for a feast, and his wife, as well as a group of servants, flutists and stablemen are depicted in the arched section of the burial chamber. According to their decisive composition, undeniable mastery and aristocratic affect, these murals are among the most significant accomplishments in picture painting from the antique world. The Kazanlak Tomb is among the monuments under the protection of the UNESCO. An exact replica has been constructed next door which is open to visitors every day.
- Thracian tomb near the town of Maglizh (3rd century B.C.), which also has exquisite murals.
- The tomb in the Slavchova Mound (4th century B.C.) near the road between the villages of Rozovo and Kanchevo.
- Several massive finds were discovered by the TERM (Thracologists' Expedition for the Research of Mounds) and its leader Dr. Georgi Kitov during the period of June-October 2004:
- Five tombs in Maglizh.
- Stone and mortar tomb in the Svetitsa Mound with works of true art, one of which being the gold mask of Teres. It weighs more than 600 g (21 ozs.).
- The tomb in the Golyama Kosmatka Mound near Shipka with a 13-meter-long (42 ft.) corridor and three other rooms around 3 m (9 feet) each. The heavy sarcophagus contains an inconceivable amount of objects from gold, silver, bronze, iron and ceramics, among which a gold wreath of Dionysius in the form of ivy leaves and a negro's head. According to archaeologists, proof exists that this is the tomb of Sevt III - the great Thracian ruler of the Odrisi kingdom, whose capital is situated at the bottom of the Koprinka Dam. It is the only Thracian city that has been completely excavated, preserved and studied.
• The Maglizh Monastery. It is situated 2 km north of the town of Maglizh. According to the oldest legends, it was founded back at the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The earliest extant monument is a marble tablet with a relief image of St. Nicholas from 1490. After the Ottoman conquest, the monastery was destroyed more than once. The final resurrection of the monastery came during the 1830s. In 1834 St. Nicholas' Church was renovated. The main icons are from the middle of the 19th century. The burning of the monastery in 1878 destroyed part of the residential wing and left the library, full of manuscripts and old printed books, in ashes. The reconstruction of the destroyed sections of the complex was begun immediately after the Liberation from the Ottoman Rule. Through its wooden verandas and beautiful yard the monastery has succeeded, to a large extent, its revival spirit from the 19th century.