Bulgarian Traditions & Ethnography

Roots & customs

Bulgaria has traditions dating back over two millennia. The country has a wealth of mysterious Thracian treasures and burial tombs, magnificent frescoes and many brilliant examples of ancient arts.

Ethnographic museums in almost every town store and study hundreds of thousands of exhibits of the ancient past of Bulgaria – folk costumes, fabrics, intricate embroidery, superbly fashioned jewellery, finely ornamented woodcarvings and fretwork, hammered ironwork, etc. Small craftshops sell crafts, costumes and musical instruments from all over Bulgaria.

The well-known Samovodene market in Veliko Turnovo, the Pottery museum in Troyan, the Woodcarving museum in Tryavna, the Etura architectural and ethnographic museum near Gabrovo and the Open-air museum in Zlatograd are but a few of the places to visit and see the revived beauty of the original Bulgarian handcrafts. Watch our Bulgarian Ethnography and Traditions virtual tour (video clip, 06:35).

Embark on one of our folklore & traditions tours across Bulgaria, around the historic heart of the Balkans, and explore the special highlights that this region of Eastern Europe is famous for.

Bulgarian Basilicas & Fortresses

Bulgarian strongholds


Foundations of the Christian faith, the early Christian basilicas were built upon the ruins of antique Thracian and Roman settlements. In the recently established Bulgarian state (7th – 10th centuries) some of the Bulgarian basilicas were built to be the most important places serving as places for coronations, for charismatic anointment of the sovereigns and their successors, or as burial places for the members of a ruling dynasty, and sometimes, as their premises. Some other were built to symbolize the Bulgarian Kingdom reaching the peaks of its power.

Grandiose monuments, these splendid cathedrals were constructed in a very specific architectural style of Eastern-Byzantine synthesis. Little is known today about their appearance. There is a reason to believe, however, that they were richly adorned as were the neighboring palaces.

In the 18th – 19th centuries, during the Bulgarian National Revival, the Bulgarian church went beyond its prime objective and became a part of the nationwide movement for political and cultural liberation. The erecting of churches in prominent places in towns and villages became a matter of national prestige. Ironically, many Bulgarian basilicas had served along the centuries several religions: Paganism, Christianity and Islam. Abandoned or destroyed, they were reconstructed and reinstated as churches or mosques depending on the turns of History.


The fortresses – impressive monuments of the fortification architecture on Bulgarian lands have gone through times of grandeur and fall. Swimming out of the darkness of forgetfulness, having survived the stormy tumult of the centuries, these strongholds are silent witnesses of blood-shedding battles and fateful events in Europe on a very important crossroads, the Balkans – an arena of fierce hostilities along the millennia.

Usually erected upon the ruins of Thracian settlements, in the times of the Thraco-Roman civilization they were rebuilt as military, administrative and religious centers to form a system of Roman borderline fortifications.

During the Great Migration of Peoples the fortresses were maintained in efforts to stop the destructive pressure exerted by tens of peoples coming either from the ice-frozen steppes and marshlands of present-day Russia or from the deserts of Asia (Bulgarian historians have counted as many as 54 peoples assailing those lands between 3rd – 5th centuries AD).

Already an European super-power, during its seven-century presence on the European political stage the medieval Bulgarian state had balanced or countered the ambitions of the Holy Roman empire in the West and Byzantium in the East. The Bulgarian fortresses, on the other hand, were a barrier to withstand the waves of barbarians dashing at Europe and to the onslaughts of Muslims invading it, thus guaranteeing the development of the European West.
The Bulgarian fortresses – silent symbols of consolidation, might and agony, and surrounded with countless legends, remain deeply in the souls of Bulgarians, reminding for the times of the medieval Bulgarian Kingdom.

Embark on one of our cultural tours across Bulgaria, around the historic heart of the Balkans, and explore the medieval highlights that this region of Eastern Europe is famous for.

Bulgarian Churches & Monasteries

The cradle of Bulgarian faith

Early Christian churches were built on Bulgarian lands even before Bulgarians converted to Christianity in the 9th century. The realistic style of painting of the frescoes of Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage site), world masterpieces dating back to 13th century, surpassed the Italian Renaissance by a century.

The hundred Bulgarian monasteries and churches have preserved the unique example of the Bulgarian iconography, icon-painting and wood-carving. All of them are part of the Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage of the past and cradle of faith.

Watch our Bulgarian Monasteries Impressions virtual tour (video clip, 05:00).


Formally known as the Monastery of Saint John of Rila, the world-famous Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage site) is the largest and most beautiful Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria with original architecture and brilliant frescoes and iconostasis. A miniature model of Bulgaria’s most renowned cultural site, was added to the collection of the Mini-Europe park in Brussels in March 2009.

Watch our Rila Monastery Impressions virtual sightseeing tour.

Bachkovo Monastery, the second largest Bulgarian monastery, is treasuring the wonderful icon of the ‘Holy Virgin’ dating back to 1310.

The Troyan Monastery is not only our third largest but is unique with the rich paintings of both the interior and the exterior.

Amazing icons and woodcarvings can be seen in Rozhen Monastery, Preobrazhenski Monastery, Sokolski Monastery and many others…

Whether you look for a one-day tour to Rila Monastery, for example, or for a deep dive in a comprehensive tour of monasteries – in Bulgaria alone or on a combined itinerary with Romania, Albania, or else in the Balkans, please click here with your query.

Thracian Tombs & Treasures

The Thracians – powerful and wealthy civilization

The Thracian gold and silver treasures are among the most famous Bulgarian historical and cultural heritage dating back to ancient times. These treasures are unique in their variety of shapes, figures and details. Watch our Bulgarian treasures impressions virtual tour (video clip, 03:20). Bulgaria is Europe’s earliest inhabited areas and the Thracians are among the first settlers in the Bulgarian lands. The Thracian civilization is evidenced by the numerous archaeological finds, uncovered tombs and treasures.

The Thracians believed in life after death. The Thracian kings and nobility were buried in monumental stone tombs together with their weapons, jewellery and even horses. Places for funeral rites honoring the deceased rulers, the imposing tombs also served as temples featuring grandiose sculptural and artistic decoration – Kazanluk and Svestari tombs (UNESCO Heritage sites). Excavations have revealed charming paintings and carved furnishings in the tombs chambers.

More than forty amazing burial tombs have been discovered in Thracian mounds in Bulgaria up to the present – evidence of Thracian funeral rites and burial services. There are over 1,000 mounds nestling in the Valley of the Thracian Kings – still keeping the secrets of the Thracian civilization…

Our luxury treasure tours represent a perfect mix for a cultural holiday for small groups or individual tourists.

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