Humble mountainside Shipka has stirring monuments that span the breadth of Bulgarian history. Forbidding Shipka Pass, the one good route through the Stara Planina, was where the Russian army and Bulgarian volunteers decisively thwarted an Ottoman counter-attack in the 1877 Russo-Turkish War. In their memory, a stone monument now crowns the pass, while an exquisite Russian-style church shines out of quiet Shipka village, 13km south.
Shipka also boasts a seam of tombs, dating back to the 4th century BC. The countryside between Kazanlâk and Shipka has been dubbed 'Valley of the Thracian Kings', thanks to hundreds of grass-topped burial mounds and archaeological sites. Shipka makes an excellent day trip from Kazanlâk, though staying a night or two allows you to tomb-hop and visit the offbeat Buzludzha Monument ruin.