Blog WHS Visits

WHS #746: Kazanlak

Kazanlak is a fairly nondescript city in the center of Bulgaria. I drove there directly from another WHS – Pirin National Park. It’s a 4 hour drive. They don't really advertise the fact that they hold a true World Heritage Site within the city limits: a painted Thracian Tomb from the 4th century BC. There are signs here and there, but I mainly had to trust the navigation on my phone. The drive ended at the foot of a long staircase in a residential neighbourhood. So this is it?

The visitor experience of this tomb has changed considerably over the years if we look at the reviews that go back to even before 2009. People used to be still allowed into the original tomb for an extra / unofficial fee. That “tomb”, discovered in 1944, now is no longer recognizable as a tomb: a chapel-like building has been placed around it. It is hermetically sealed. There is a helpful sign next to it that says “Thracian Tomb. Original”. It is worth to peek through the iron bars at the front as the WHS plaque is visible from there.

The replica with a more tomb-like appearance lies next to it. A lady is selling tickets (6 Lev / 3 EUR) and some souvenirs. I was the only visitor. I read about guided visits, but the only thing that I got was being directed to an information panel on the wall in Bulgarian and English. And then you have to enter the tomb: there is a narrow corridor a few meters long, the vault of which is also already covered with murals.

The most beautiful, however, is the domed burial chamber itself. This is completely covered with scenes of Thracian dignitaries at court and on the road. People and horses are depicted in action. The images of horses especially are captivating.

However - before you know it you'll be outside again. It would be very hard to spend more than 5 minutes in there. I found it hardly worth the long drive. The good news however is that the intention is that in time this WHS will be extended to include 8 more Thracian royal tombs. They are on Bulgaria’s Tentative List as The royal necropolis of the Thracian city of Seuthopolis. They can be found along the road between Sjipka and Kazanlak. They stand out easily in the flat landscape.

Together they comprise an extension that for once would make an existing WHS stronger. First because the original tombs are accessible here in the “Valley of the Thracian Kings”. Second because the many burial mounds in the landscape remind of the time when the royal city of Seuthopolis was located here. And third because they show a variety in architectural design that is less prominent in the Kazanlak Tomb. None of them has the great murals, but there are still great original works to be found in situ such as the the carved white marble doors at the Tomb of Seuthes III and the decorated gates of Shushmanets. Some of these tombs were only discovered in 2004, so 25 years after the WH inscription of Kazanlak. It is about time that they are added.

Els - 4 July 2021

Leave a comment


Zoe 4 July 2021

"Thracian Tomb Original" lolz