Bulgaria’s Valley of the Roses, nestled at the foot of the Stara Planina mountains, is thought to produce almost two-thirds of the world’s rose oil. When flowers bloom in the valleys each May and June, visitors flock to Kazanlâk, the dusty town at the core of this fragrant industry. Roses are Kazanlâk’s main lure, but Thracian history has also left a powerful mark. A major 4th-century-BC tomb is here, while the so-called ‘Valley of Thracian Kings’, a chain of ancient burial mounds, extends north towards Shipka.
Modern Kazanlâk has a working mosque and sizeable Turkish and Pomak Muslim populations, making it one of Bulgaria’s more multicultural cities. The town itself doesn’t compete with the loveliness of its surrounding valleys, with a jumble of Soviet-style buildings and shabby marketplaces flowing from the well-groomed main square. But it has pockets of great beauty, especially in the 19th-century buildings along its riverbank.