Ancient sanctuaries around Velingrad

The Thracian tribes were the main inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula in the antiquity. In the lands around today’s Velingrad, the Thracian tribe of Besi left their traces.

The objects – most often, rock massifs were chosen for sanctuaries – are with good view and a large horizon. In fact, the character of rock cults is typical of most rock sites on the high parts of the mountains in ancient Thrace. Such cults are characteristic of a number of other rock-cut sites from the eastern Mediterranean region. According to archeologists, these objects are typical places of initiation. Therefore, they can be thought of as an entrance-exit through which the believer comes into contact with the divine mind.

But those in the Velingrad region have certain specificities.

  • The presence of a large number of fragments of broken pottery, laid between the rocks, as well as the absence of traces of animal bones, points to a fairly early religious code related to the veneration of the rock and its specific roles as a gateway to the afterlife.
  • Shrine Features: Most Thracian sanctuaries around Velingrad are of the monolithic type. This means that there is a large rock that is in the center of the shrine. The main sign that suggests their cult character, in most cases, are the rocks themselves and the possible traces of human intervention on their surface. Such as carvings, which in all probability are related to sacrifices.
  • all sanctuaries have a very large and wide view many of them communicate visually with each other in the hollow.

During the tour expeditions of the Historical Museum, Velingrad in 2009, excavations of various shapes were recorded in the area of ​​Slaveevi skali and Ulichkite, also at Kerachin kamak, Marina church, Bozhkov Grob, Dimov kamak and Pecheneshki rocks.

The most impressive sanctuaries around Velingrad are:

  1. Slaveevi Skali – this is perhaps the most spectacular of all the rock sanctuaries around Velingrad. It is a monolith, with a height of 8-10 meters. It resembles a crown in shape. From the top of the rock there is a wide panorama of Velingrad and the surrounding villages.
slaveeli skali
Slaveevi skali from the above

2. Marina Church – is a rock sanctuary, located at the foot of Mount Arapchal. It is an imposing rock about 20 meters high, on top of which there is a large altar. It is located on the highest point of the rock.

марина черква
Marina cherkva monolit sanctuary

Top 10 Ancient sanctuaries around Velingrad

3. Ulichkite – is a rock phenomenon located at the foot of Elin Peak. This is a particularly interesting area on the outskirts of Velingrad. 7-8 meters high, 4-5 meters wide and 30-40 meters long rocks of granite and gneiss, arranged with a small offset from each other. The word Ulichkite – directly translated from bulgarian – means the alleys. The labyrinth they form resembles streets and that is where the name of the area comes from.

Ulichkite from above
Ulichkite – some of the rock

Top 10 Ancient sanctuaries around Velingrad

4. Panichki – is a rock in which has small holes all ofer it. Presumably they have been cut for som kind of ritual. Panichki in bulgarian mean “small cups”. That’s where their name comes from. It is dated V-I century BC. It is located in the mountain hill above Chepino district.


5. Alkov Kamak is located 2 km from the town of Kostandovo. Ancient tablets of the goddess Hera, ritualistic pottery and other artifacts were found there.


6. Pobit kamak – is located south of Velingrad, near the village of the same name. It is most likely a sanctuary, but due to a lack of archaeological work, it cannot be characterized, neither properly dated.

побит камък
побит камък

7. Sveti Spas is located at the foot of the Ostrets peak, from archaeological research in 2002. it turns out that St. Spas is a site with a cult purpose from the Iron Age. It is located near the mineral springs in Chepino. It has an area of ​​about 1 decare. Most likely, this cult place began to be revered by the Thracian population /the Besi tribe/ as early as the 5th century. BC to the 4th century BC .

Sveti spas

Top 10 Ancient sanctuaries around Velingrad

8. Ostrets – this Ostrets sanctuary is believed to have served the cult of the god Dionysus. There are ruins of old buildings. Archaeological excavations were carried out in 2009. Its significance in the thracian culture is to be cleared out.

Ostrets peak from the above

9. Byalata skala – besides the place where the bulgarian heroine Vela Peeva, met her death, the White Rock was also a Thracian sanctuary. It dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC. There are incisions in the rock and ritual objects have been found.

бялата скала 2
Byalata skala

10. St. Iliya – above Kleptuza Park. Coins and pottery of the Cepina type have been found. It is believed to communicate visually with other shrines.

свети илия
The ruins of the Sveti Illiya sanctuary


11. Gradishte – Located above the village of Draginovo and is of the type of sanctuaries that is located above Kleptuza, near the chapel of St. Elijah. They show foundations of buildings. In terms of purpose and structure, it strongly resembles that of St. Elijah. Unfortunately, in-depth archaeological work is lacking.


12. Varbitsa – Characteristic carvings in the area of ​​Varbitsa, near the village of St. Petka.

One of the rocks in the Varbitsa area.

Since the Rhodopes are the center of centuries-old history there are a lot more intresting sightseeings. Here we have shown some of the most significant of them. There are many more around Velingrad. Stay in tune 😉



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