This weekend I finally got to see the Rose Festival in Kazanlak! I’ve been wanting to visit this festival since the first time I heard about it a few years ago.
Around 70% of the rose oil in the world is produced in Bulgaria and this takes places in a region called the Valley of Roses. This beautiful region in central Bulgaria is where you will find the town of Kazanlak and the most famous rose festival. The surrounding towns of Karlovo, Pavel Banya, Kalofer and Sopot are also producers of rose oil and have their own rose festivals from May-June each year.
All the towns in the region have lots of things going on throughout May and early June but you can check our events calendar to find out exactly when the main festivals take place. The main parade in Kazanlak this year was on Sunday 7th June and was opened by President Rosen Plevneliev at noon.
We had stayed the night before in Pavel Banya so we arrived nice and early in Kazanlak as it was just a short drive. I recommend you do the same as the streets were quiet at 10am but extremely crowded just before the festival began! Plus, if you stay for the weekend you get the opportunity to visit all the other towns in the Rose Valley.
When you arrive in Kazanlak you’ll need to go to the main square. If you’re driving you can find parking in the side streets which are just a short walk from the centre. The roads in the centre will be closed in preparation for the parade. We went first to look at all of the stalls that had been set up along the edge of the square. There were so many lovely things for sale, including, of course, lots of rose products! I noticed that everyone was wearing pretty rose headbands and was delighted when I found a stall selling them for just 2 leva! Wearing my new accessory the next stop was the Rose wine expo that was taking place inside a building next to the market stalls. Here you can sample Rose wine from all over Bulgaria and despite being only 11am I had to have a couple of sips, just to try it, obviously!
Just before 12 we went to find a spot next to the main road to watch the parade. We left it a little late as it was already busy so we had to edge our way through the crowd to get a view. If you’re tall this is no problem, but, if you are small like me, I suggest you go find a space at the front before it gets too busy!
I stood on tip toes and managed to see most of the parade. The opening was very impressive with the Queen of Roses arriving in a horse and cart followed by a display of fighting by Thracian warriors! There were some cool effects too, such as explosions of pink smoke coming from the rooftops and a glider flying above dropping rose petals and spraying the crowds with cool rose water! This was very welcome as we were standing directly in the hot sun!
The parade lasts around 2 hours in total and after that there are plenty more shows and activities taking place in the main square.
This was a really enjoyable and well organised festival and I highly recommend you visit both this and the region of the Valley of Roses.