The town of Blagoevgrad is the district center of the Blagoevgrad District and has a population of 71 000 inhabitants. It lies at a distance of 97 km south-west of Sofia. Blagoevgrad is a municipal center with 25 settlements. The town is situated 430 m above the sea level at the foot of Rila Mountain along both banks of the Bistritza river, which runs through Blagoevgrad. The region has been populated since the New Stone Age. Close to Blagoevgrad is discovered a settlement which was part of the empire of Philip II Makedonski.
The first settlers of Blagoevgrad are the Thracians who were attracted by the mineral springs which were later on target of the Roman conquerors. The name of the town at that time was Skaptopara. This settlement existed until VI c. when it was demolished by the barbarians. The survivals founded a new settlement which was included in the limits of Bulgaria in IX c. After the Ottoman invasion from XV c. onwards the town changed its name several times - Pazarishte (1502), Banya (1576), Gorna Dzhumaya and other names. It was a significant fortress, guarding the road along the valley of the Struma river. The inhabitants of the town obtained a sultan's decree for building a church there. The "Vavedenie Bogorodichno"/Holy Annunciation/ Church was consecrated in 1844. In 1913 Gorna Dzhumaya was liberated and became part of Bulgaria. Before World War II the town developed as a tobacco manufacturing center. Today in the town are manufactured tobacco products, measuring devices, acoustical apparatus, furniture etc. The town has two Universities - the Southwestern and the American Universities. In 1950 the town changed its name to Blagoevgrad.
Interesting tourist sights in the town are: the History Museum, Varosha quarter, art galleries, the "Vavedenie Bogorodichno"/Holy Annunciation/ church, monuments of national heroes who contributed to the Bulgarian liberation from the Ottoman yoke.
On the territory of the district are located the following natural landmarks: "Pirin" National Park, the Reserves "Parangalitza", "Tissata" (along the Struma river), "Ali botush" (Slavianka Mountain), "Orelyak" (near Gotze Delchev), "Kongura" (Petrich) "Konski Dol" (in Satovcha), "Temna Dupka" (in Kovachevitza).
The most famous rocky phenomena on the territory of the district are the Melnik Pyramids and the Kresna Defile.
The "Vavedenie Bogorodichno" (Holy Annunciation) Church in the town of Blagoevgrad was built in 1844. Its iconostasis was made to the likeness of the one in the Rila Monastery.
The Varosha Quarter in Blagoevgrad is a complex of well-preserved and restored ancient houses. It was built during the Revival Period.
The town of Sandanski has a population of 26 600 inhabitants and is the municipal administrative center with 53 component settlements. Sandanski lies at a distance of 64 km to the south of the district center Blagoevgrad. It is an ancient settlement developed around the mineral springs at the southwestern foot of Pirin Mountain in a picturesque valley along the Bistritza river. The town is well-known for its mineral springs, the favorable mild climate, its natural landmarks and its cultural heritage. The mineral springs have a capacity of about 21 liters per second and the temperature of the water is 33-83oC.
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The present town is the successor of an ancient Thracian settlement founded by the Medi tribe. The most prominent representative of the tribe is Spartacus. He was sold as a slave in Rome where he became a gladiator and afterwards the leader of the greatest slave rebellion of the Ancient times. The ancient settlement was known under the name Medius. During the period of the Roman Empire Medius was developed and urbanized. The healing springs were captured and a big public bath was built. The Romans called the settlement Dezudava. During the Middle Ages the Bulgarians gave it the name of Sveti Vrach in honor of the two brother-doctors Kozma and Damyan. During the Revival Period the small town grew into an economic and cultural center. Sandanski was liberated in 1913 and in 1929 it was proclaimed for a town. The town has had its present name since 1949 as a token of gratitude towards Yane Sandanski.
Among the tourist sights of the town are: the archaeological remains of the Thracian settlement Medius, ancient thermal springs, Turkish baths, remains of an Episcopal basilica, the "St. St. Kozma and Damyan" Church (1861), the "Popina Laka" resort and the "Popina Laka" waterfall.
The town is a starting point for the town of Melnik and the Rozhen Monastery.
The Archaeological Museum in Sandanski possesses precious exhibits from IV-VI c. related to the history of the town.
The "St. St. Kozma and Damyan" Church in Sandanski is a cultural monument. It was built in 1861.
The town of Melnik has a population of 269 inhabitants. That makes it the smallest town in Bulgaria located at a distance of 18 km southeast of Sandanski. Until 1914 the town had a population of 14 000 inhabitants. It is located at the southwestern foot of Pirin Mountain at an altitude of 380 m. The settlement is proclaimed for an architectural reserve. The town is a unique combination of natural and architectural landmarks. Its houses are arranged amphitheatrically along the steep slopes of the Melnik Pyramids.
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The present settlement dates back to the Thracian times. Afterwards it was inhabited by Roman, Byzantine and Bulgarian people. Melnik entered the limits of Bulgaria in IX c. At the beginning of the XIII c. it was an inaccessible fortress, the capital of the domain of Aleksii Slav, nephew of King Kaloyan. The town was liberated from the Ottoman yoke in 1912. Apart from its history, nature and architecture the town is famous for its red wine. The wine cellars are dug in the soft sandstones which are more than 70 around the town. In these wine cellars is kept the famous Melnik wine made from a special wine sort, typical for this region only. In the past the Melnik wine was exported to Vienna, Genua, Venice, Budapest, France, Spain and England.
The tourist sighs of the town are: The History Museum, the "St. Antonii" Church from the middle of XIV c., the "St Peter and Pavel" Church from 1840, the "St.Nikolai Chudotvoretz" bishop's church from XVII c., a Byzantine house from XIII-XIV c. and the Kordaopulov's House from 1758.
The Melnik Pyramids are rocky formations from sandstone. Nature has created miraculous figures with the shape of Gothic towers, mushrooms, 100 m high swards, occupying an area of 50 m2.
The Kordopulov's House in Melnik was built in 1754. It is the biggest Revival house from the Revival Period of Bulgaria. The guest room of the house has 24 Venetian windows of stained glass. On the ground floor there is a big premise about the wine which is dug into the sandstone.
The "Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno" /Virgin Mary's Birth/ Monastery in Rozhen is situated at a distance of 5 km from Melnik. It is one of the Bulgarian monasteries which has been preserved intact until present times. It was established in 1220 and it acquired its present outlook at the end of XVIII c. The monastery has the form of an irregular hexagon with housing buildings which surround a beautiful yard in the middle of which there is a church. The monastery is famous for its mural paintings, stained-glasses and wood-carvings. The monastery has its own miraculous icon - that of Virgin Mary. The monastery is well- kept and open all the year round.
The town of Bansko has a population of 9 000 inhabitants and is a municipal center with 7 component settlements. The town is situated on a plateau at the northeastern foot of Pirin Mountain at an altitude of 925 m. Bansko lies 59 km southeast of the district town of Blagevgrad. The town is a famous winter resort with a unique Revival architecture, lifestyle and culture. More than 150 houses in the town are proclaimed for architectural monuments. The archaeological findings in the region show that it has been populated since the Ancient times. As a separate settlement Bansko appeared in the registry books for the first time in 1576. During XVII-XVIII the town had an economic growth and turned into a craftsman's and trade center.
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The tourist sights of the town are: the church "Sveta Bogoroditsa" / Holy Virgin/ with a wood-carved iconostasis from XVIII c., "Sveta Troitza" /Holy Trinity/ with a bell-clock tower (1835), the Velyanov's house, the Benin's house, the Sirleshtov's house, the Todev's house and the house-museum "Nikola Vaptzarov"
The Bansko art school appeared at the end of XVIII c. Its founder is Toma Vishanov (The Moler). Representatives of the Bansko art school work in the Rila Monastery, the Aton's Monasteries (in present Greece), Bansko, Razlog and the adjacent villages.
The town is a famous winter resort. The ski season is guaranteed from December till May thanks to the 30 cannons generating artificial snow. The perfect quality of the 56 km long ski slopes and the ski roads is obtained due to their treatment with 12 snow treading machines. 6 km away from Bansko is situated the village of Dobrinishte. In the region of Dobrinishte there are archaeological findings of a Thracian, Roman and late-Ancient period settlements (I-VI c). Dobrinishte is a climate and balneological centre with 17 mineral springs with a temperature of 30-43o C suitable for healing diseases of the locomotory system, the nervous system, gynecological, skin and other diseases.
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The "Sveta Troitza"/Holy Trinity/ church in Bansko was built in 1835. The mural paintings and the wood carving were done by representatives of the Bansko art school. In 1850 was built a bell-tower of 29,50 m height on which afterwards was mounted a clock. The church was finished in the XIV c. and was later on restored in XVIII c. The church has a precious iconostasis.
The Rila Convent in Bansko was built in 1794 and houses a permanent exhibition of icons.
The Velyanov's house in Bansko is a Revival period house with unique wood carvings and mural decoration. The house was built in XIX c.
The Benin's house in Bansko is a typical house for the region from XVIII c. Here lived the famous Revival benefactor Neofit Rilski.
The Museum of Nikola Vaptzarov in Bansko represents the lifestyle of the family with exhibits of the poet's personal belongings. Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov is a well-known Bulgarian poet. He creates humanitarian poetry. His poems have been translated to more than 30 languages.
The town of Razlog has a population of 13 000 inhabitants. The town is located at the valley having the same name among Rila, Pirin and Rhodope Mountains. The average altitude is 825 m. There are mineral springs in the valley. Until 1925 the town had the name of Mehomia.
In the vicinity of Razlog lie the remains of an ancient settlement, a fortress and a Roman road connecting Thrace to the region of the White Sea. The first inhabitants of the valley were the Thracian tribes of Satri and Dii. Later on Celtic and Bulgarian people settled in the region. The town was described with its present name in a deed of the Bulgarian patriarchate in 1020. The settlement entered the limits of the Ottoman Empire in 1382. During the Ottoman yoke the town was an administrative center. The region around Razlog is mentioned in the Ottoman registry books from 1491.
Razlog is the starting point for tourist routes leading to Rila and Pirin Mountains. One of the tourist attractions of the town are the Mummers celebrations held on January 1st every year. The local museum offers mummer dances demonstrations.
There are 41 ancient houses in Razlog which are architectural representations of the typical houses of the region from XX c.
The History Museum of Razlog is in the Parapunov's House in the town center. There are precious exhibits in the museum.
The remains of the Thracian settlement in the Stolvatetz site are located at a distance of 5 km northwest of the town.
The remains of the late Middle Age "Saint Katerina" Church in the Katarino site are located at a distance of 7 km west of the town.
The village of Dabarsko is situated along the southern slopes of southwestern Rila Mountain. The village is well-known for its churches "St. St. Teodor Tyron and Teodor Stratilat" and "Sretenie Gospodne". The "St. St. Teodor Tyron and Teodor Stratilat" church was built in 1614 and has remarkable murals and icons while the "Sretenie Gospodne" church (1860) has a unique wood carved iconostasis made in the style of the Bansko art school.
The town of Petrich has a population of about 30 000 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 93 km south of Blagoevgrad. The town is a municipal administrative center with 56 settlements. Petrich is an agricultural region specialized in the manufacturing of vegetables, vineyards and technical cultures.
Petrich is the successor of the ancient settlement Petra which lies not far away from the present town of Petrich. The ancient Petra town was situated at the foot of the extinct volcano Kozhuh. The town was demolished and the survivals settled along the river where the present town is situated. The town entered the limits of Bulgaria in IX c. During the Middle Ages the town was a strong Bulgarian fortress which played a key role against the Byzantine invasions. In 1014 in the narrow pass between Belasitza and Ograzhden Mountains was waged the Belasitza Battle between Bulgarian and Byzantine soldiers. During the Ottoman yoke the town had the name of Petridzhe and is mentioned in the tax registry books from 1491. Until 1913 Petrich was part of the Ottoman Empire.
The tourist sights in the region are: The churches "Sveta Bogoroditza" /Holy Virgin/(1857), "Saint Georgi", "St. Nikola", "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/, ancient buildings, monuments of culture, the remains of the ancient settlement Petra, the Samuil fortress, the extinct volcano Kozhuh and the "Rupite" site.
10 km north-east of Petrich lies the village of Marikostinovo. There are mineral springs with a temperature of 38-62oC in this village. The water is suitable for healing diseases of the locomotory system, the nervous system and others.
The Samuil fortress is located at a distance of 18 km from the town. Here was waged the Belasitza Battle from 1014 between the Bulgarians and Byzantines in the narrow pass between Belasitza and Ograzhden Mountains. The Bulgarians at the village of Klyuch were attacked from behind and were defeated. More than 14 000 soldiers were captured and blinded by the enemy. At every group of 100 blinded soldiers was left one single-eyed to lead them. Seeing his blinded soldiers King Samuil got a heart attack and died while the Byzantine emperor was called Vasilius-Bulgaroctone. The Samuil fortress is a park-museum with a monument of Samuil and his blinded soldiers inside. There is a panoramic square where one can see the whole historic site where the battle between the Bulgarian and the Byzantine soldiers was held. There is a museum exhibition as well.
The remains of the ancient Petra town lie at 8 km northeast of the town. Nowadays, only the main fortified walls and some public buildings have been preserved.
The "St. Petka Balgarska" Church is situated at a distance of 10 km northeast of the town in the "Rupite" site. The church is related to the activity of the Bulgarian prophet Vanga (1911-1996). The mural paintings of the temple were made by the famous Bulgarian artist Svetlin Russev.
The town of Gotze Delchev has a population of 20 000 inhabitants and is a municipal center with 12 component settlements. It is the biggest settlement along the Mesta River. It is located at the Gotze Delchev valley at the southeastern foot of Pirin Mountain along both banks of the Nevrokopska river at an altitude of 540 m. The town is named after the famous Bulgarian revolutionary Gotze Delchev. Until 1950 the settlement was known under the name of Nevrokop.
Thanks to the favorable climate the Gotze Delchev valley has been populated since ancient times. Close to Gotze Delchev in the vicinity of the Garmen village lie the remains of a Roman town - Nikopolis ad Nestum. It was founded by the Emperor Trayan after his victory over the Daks. Archaeologists discovered fortified walls, towers, buildings, ritual monuments and floor mosaics. The region entered the limits of Bulgaria in 837. The settlement is written as a town in the registry books from 1625. During the Ottoman yoke the town was a famous craftsman's and trade center. The town entered the limits of Bulgaria again in 1912.
The tourist sights of the region are: the museum, the church "Sveta Bogoroditza"/Holy Virgin/ (1835), the church "Sveti Arhangel Mihail" (1811), Prokopovata house ( 1877), the Revival complex, the "Momina Klissura" gorge, the "Popovi Livadi" resort, the "Orelyaka" reserve. Close to the town of Gotze Delchev are situated four villages proclaimed for architectural reserves - the villages of Kovachevitza (25 km away), Leshten (17 km), Dolen (25 km) and Delchevo (8 km).
The villages of Kovachevitza and Leshten near Gotze Dedlchev in the Garmen Municipality are architectural reserves situated in the Western Rhodope Mountain. The villages lie at a distance of 17 km northeast of the municipal center of Garmen. The villages have preserved Revival period houses with stone ground floors and white bay-window floors. The buildings have a unique architectural style and are built mainly of wood and stone. The villages of Kovachevitza and Dolen were registered in the Ottoman documents at the beginning of the XVII c.
The village of Dolen near Gotze Delchev is an architectural reserve on the territory of the Satovcha Municipality. The ancient houses are built on a steep terrain with bay-window storeys hanging above narrow cobblestone streets, complex crossroads and passes under the houses. The village was described in the Ottoman tax registry books in XVI c.
The village of Delchevo is a small village in the Municipality of Gotze Delchev with preserved authentic Revival period architecture.
The ancient town of Nikopolis ad Nestum near the village of Garmen was founded by the emperor Trayan to commemorate his victory over the Daks. Nikopolis ad Nestum was a significant crossroads center. It was demolished in the VI c. Only the fortified walls and the towers of the ancient town are preserved.
Popovi Livadi (Papazchair) is a mountainous resort at an altitude of 1 400 m in Pirin Mountain. The resort lies at a distance of 16 km away from the town of Gotze Delchev.
The town of Kresna has a population of about 4 000 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 41 km south of Blagoevgrad. Kresna is a municipal center of 9 component settlements. Within the territory of the municipality there are remains of an ancient settlement, a Roman road and the ruins of a Middle Age church. Part of the territory of the municipality falls in the limits of the "Tissata" Reserve.
The town of Simitli has a population of 7 000 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 17 km south of Blagoevgrad. The town is an administrative center with 17 component settlements. There are mineral springs in Simitli. The Municipality is specialized in the growing of tobacco, vineyards, orchard trees and vegetables. Within the region of Simitli there are remains of an ancient fortress used in the Middle Ages.
The town of Belitza has a population of 3 300 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 71 km southeast of Blagoevgrad. Belitza is a municipal center of 11 settlements. Within the territory of the municipality there are archaeological findings of a medieval fortress. Belitza is a national mountainous resort.
The Municipality of Strumyani has 20 component settlements with the village of Strumyani as its municipal center. The village of Strumyani is located along the Struma River at a distance of 52 km south-east of Blagoevgrad. Strumyani has a population of 1 000 inhabitants. Within the region of the village there are remains of an ancient and a medieval settlement.
The town of Yakoruda has a population of 6 000 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 86 km east of Blagoevgrad. The town is a municipal center with 7 component settlements. Yakoruda is located along the Mesta river on the border line between Rila and Rhodope Mountains. The town is a mountainous resort with a combination of mineral springs. There are 30 preserved Revival period houses in Yakoruda. Within the territory of the municipality there are findings of Thracian ceramics and remains of medieval fortresses. The mineral springs lie at a distance of 2 km south-west of the town.
The Municipality of Satovcha has 13 component settlements with the village of Satovcha as its municipal center. The village is located along the Satovcha river on the southwestern spurs of the Dubrash hill in the Western Rhodopes. Within the region of the village there are remains of Thracian mounds, ancient and medieval settlements. The village was mentioned in the Ottoman registry books in 1678. Within the territory of the village fall parts of the "Konski Dol" and the "Tamna gora" Reserves.
The Municipality of Garmen has 15 component settlements with the village of Garmen as its municipal center. The village of Garmen has a population of 1 700 inhabitants. It is located along the western slopes of the Rhodope Mountains 113 km southeast of Blagoevgrad. In the vicinities of the village are located the remains of the ancient town Nikopolis ad Nestum developed close to a Thracian settlement. Within the region of the municipality there is a mineral spring near the village of Ognyanovo. The spa resort is suitable for healing neurological, gynecological and kidney diseases.
The town of Hadzhidimovo has a population of 3 000 inhabitants and is located at a distance of 120 km southeast of Blagoevgrad. Hadzhidimovo is a municipal center with 14 component settlements. Until 1934 the town was known under the name of Dolno Singartia.
Tobacco, fodder, orchard trees, vegetables and other cultures are grown in the region. Within the region of the municipality are discovered findings of ancient and medieval settlements. To the south of the town is located the "St. Georgi" Monastery built in 1864.