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UNESCO sites in Bulgaria

Not only is Bulgaria great value for money, but there are many sites of cultural and historical importance to explore. If you're visiting the popular Black Sea Coast, head to the old town of Nessebar, an area affiliated with numerous civilisations. Many other UNESCO World Heritage Sites are scattered throughout the country, so take a look at our top picks below.

The old town of Nessebar

Historic Nessebar dates back some 3,000 years and boasts old towers and fortifications, striking medieval churches and a small wooden windmill. It's a designated UNESCO World Heritage Centre for being an outstanding testimony of multilayered cultural and historical heritage.

The town's ever-changing history has come through many challenges to its sovereignty. Nessebar was a Greek colony at the beginning of the 6th century BCE, Roman-rule followed, then the Ottoman's took over until its liberation in 1878.

Nesseber lies on a peninsula, which was once an island. Today it's only attached to the mainland by a small, narrow piece of land called isthmus, which is where the mill is located. Isthmus is an ancient Greek word meaning passageway, providing evidence of the area's Greek history.

Home to many beautiful beaches, Nessebar is located in the popular tourist destination of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, with the tourist hotspot Sunny Beach being just to the north.

The hub of culture, art and religion – Rila Monastery

Located at the foothills of the Rila Mountains in the valley of the River Rilska is this monastery, which rates high on the list of culturally important sites in the Bulgarian region. It's also the largest Eastern Orthodox Monastery in the area.

The monastery's walled complex contains a collection of buildings, including a residence with chambers, four chapels and a library, as well as an impressive museum. The main church was built in the 19th century and boasts frescos that are something to behold.

The complex first came into existence under the patronage of Hermit Ivan of Rila, the national saint during the reign of Tzar Peter in the 10th century. He originally lived in a cave and students who visited him for tuition built the monastery. It was just prior to Ottoman rule in the 14th century that the large stone tower of Hrelyo, the bishop's throne and the beautifully engraved gates of the monastery were constructed.

The monastery has had a turbulent past, being ravaged during Ottoman rule and then by a fire in the 19th century. However, thanks to its significance in the hearts of Bulgarians – who consider it an important place where culture, art, religion and spirituality converge – there has been continued reinvestment by wealthy locals.

A place of mourning – Thracian Tomb of Kazaniak

One of Bulgaria's most important cultural monuments, the Tomb of Kazaniak is located in central Bulgaria near Kazaniak Town and the ancient Thracian capital of Seuthopolis. Thracians' were one of the first ever settlers in Bulgaria and their contributions to this country cannot be diminished. They brought with them rich traditions, which are depicted in this site and others nearby. There are in fact over 1000 tombs of kings and members of Thracian aristocracy throughout this area.

At the Tomb of Kazaniak you'll discover domed tomb structures that resemble a beehive - a style of building that in other parts of Europe might have been used as a home or fortification. These tombs are most notable for the beautiful frescos adorning the interior, created by an unknown artist who used black, yellow, red and white paint to represent horsemen and aristocrats.

The tomb displays some of the best-preserved art from that particular period and, as such, to ensure the long-term preservation of these paintings, a life size copy of this monument has been constructed nearby for tourists to visit.

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