Church in Sofia, Bulgaria

Explore the unique side of fascinating Bulgaria

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Bulgaria is a fascinating Balkan nation offering diverse landscapes, including its Black Sea coastline, mountainous interior and beautiful rivers. The country is also a cultural melting pot with Slavic, Greek, Persian and Ottoman influences. These influences have produced a wonderful heritage of music, traditional dance, crafts and costumes. Bulgaria also has historic cities, such as its capital Sofia, nestled at the foot of Vitosha Mountain and dating from the 5th century BC. Here, we explore just some of the unique attractions of this Balkan nation, including the rainbow shades of the Snail House, Chudnite Skali (Wonderful Rocks) and the stunning Ascension Cathedral.

Snail House, Simeonovo, Sofia

The Snail House, Simeonovo, Sofia, Bulgaria

In the Simeonovo neighbourhood on the outskirts of Sofia stands a colourful and unique building. The neighbourhood isn’t exactly a popular tourist spot in the historic city, but the Snail House is definitely an unusual attraction. The building is literally shaped as a gigantic snail, decorated in rainbow colours. The five-story building is said to have no straight walls, edges or corners and is painted in hues of red, green, orange, blue and brown. It may look like a daycare centre for toddlers, but it is actually a residential building.

Simeon Simeonov was the architect of the Snail House and included curved windows, a door painted as the snail’s mouth and two tentacles on top of its head. Even the chimney is unique, as it is shaped as a large yellow bee on the snail’s back. The bee’s horns also double as night lights and lightning rods on the building. The eyes of the snail are ventilators and radiators in the Snail House are cleverly disguised as ladybugs, frogs and pumpkins.

The Snail House, Simeonovo, Sofia, Bulgaria

One of the best aspects of the Snail House is that it is constructed from lightweight, eco-friendly material and is truly energy efficient. When driving through the Simeonovo neighbourhood of Sofia, pass by Boulevard Simeonovsko Shose, 187 to get a look at this bizarre and colourful sight.

Wonderful Rocks (Chudnite Skali), Tsonevo Dam

Wonderful Rocks (Chudnite Skali), Tsonevo Dam, Bulgaria
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This fascinating geologic formation is known as Chudnite Skali, or Wonderful Rocks. It stands on the shore of Tsonevo Dam, close to Asparuhovo. Wonderful Rocks consists of 10 stone spires, rising up to heights of 130-160 ft (40-50 m). The unique rock sculptures were created by wind and water erosion from the Luda Kamchia River, which carved the soft limestone rock over time. Some of the peaks have their own names, including Knight, Wolf’s Head, Giant and Hand.

Wonderful Rocks (Chudnite Skali), Tsonevo Dam, Bulgaria
Image by Anvisuals/Flickr

The Wonderful Rocks are best seen from across the dam and the view has a mystic and fairy-tale feeling to it. The area has been declared a natural landmark in order to protect the unusual and attractive spot.

Ascension Cathedral, Veliko Tarnovo

When strolling uphill within Tsarevets Fortress, visitors may spot what looks like any other medieval church. However, Ascension Cathedral is unlike any other church of a Byzantine design. This hilltop was the site of a Roman basilica in the 5th century, and the cathedral was built in the 11th and 12th centuries, during the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire. This and other buildings were made into a stronghold for political and religious activity.

Ascension Cathedral, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Image by MrPanyGoff/Wikimedia Commons

However, by 1393, troops of the Ottoman sultan conquered the Tsarevets Fortress and destroyed the cathedral. Almost 600 years later, the cathedral was rebuilt in the same position. However, at that time, the government was communist and atheist, so it was not consecrated. The construction was complete in 1981 and opened to visitors in 1985. However, it was not for religious services. It was opened to celebrate the frescoes and murals painted by Bulgarian artist Teofan Sokerov that decorate the interior.

Ascension Cathedral, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Images by Mike Rowe/Flickr

The paintings depict the history of the Bulgarian state. While the political situation in the country has changed, Ascension Cathedral still has no altar and has not been consecrated. It now remains as a beautiful museum rather than a church. Besides this cultural landmark, the complex itself gives excellent views over the town.

Visit Bulgaria to experience these and other spectacular and unusual sights.

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Latest update: May 5, 2021