Bulgaria’s Flower Festival: Stop and Smell the (Kazanlashka) Roses
Kazanluk, Bulgaria is home to one of the most fragrant roses – and one of the most expensive rose oils – in the world. Generations of locals and visitors have been stopping and smelling the roses – the Kazanlashka rose in particular – grown for 300 years in the fertile fields and gardens known as the Valley of the Roses.
The Kazanlashka rose is a key ingredient in many of the world’s most desirable and pricey perfumes. It’s precious, too: Kazanlashka rose oil is three times more expensive than gold, making it a key ingredient in the local economy.
When’s the best time to “stop and smell the roses?” No time is better than during Bulgaria’s Kazanluk Rose Festival in early June.
The Kazanluk Rose Festival
Visitors from around the world set their GPS on Kazanluk’s fragrant festival of roses, where homes, windows, streets and people are decked out in fresh roses. They’re a colorful backdrop to the festival’s week-long celebration of folk dancing, singing, feasting, and parades topped off with a beauty pageant. The festival began in 1903, a simple celebration of this heritage rose with its sweet-scented white and pink varieties. More than a century later, the Kazanluk Rose Festival has blossomed into a multi-day international celebration.
Experience the Rose FestivalYou can stop and smell the roses for yourself on the June departure of MIR’s Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses, a small group tour which stops at the Kazanluk Rose Festival. This itinerary is also offered in September, with a stop at the Kazanluk Rose Museum rather than the festival.
The festival coincides with this heritagerose’s three-week harvest time in late May and early June, when you’ll find women dressed in traditional costumes singing Bulgarian songs as they pick roses from dawn’s earliest light. The flowers must be gathered up before the day warms up, since the oil quickly evaporates from their fragrant blooms.
How do you pick these roses? Carefully. Each one is picked by hand, gently laid in baskets, then taken to the local rose distillery for processing.There’s a lot of picking to do, since it’s estimated that it takes 200,000 roses to make just one liter of rose oil. Price: $3,000 and up. No wonder Kazanluk rose oil is dubbed “liquid gold!”
Kazanluk’s roses are used not only in perfumes, but also as a precious ingredient in rose honey, rose-flavored chocolates, rose liqueurs, rose jams, rose water, and pharmaceuticals.
Rose Festival Traditions
The Kazanluk Rose Festival features men dressed in Bulgarian costumes performing kukers, rituals to ward off evil and bring good luck to all. Youth from several Balkan countries perform folk dances and songs, while artists display their hand-made treasures and locals cook up regional foods such as grilled lamb (cheverme), cucumber soup (tarator), and salad filled with tomatoes, onions, peppers and white brine cheese (shopska). A favorite highlight is crowning the festival’s Rose Queen, traditionally a young Kazanluk girl from the graduating class of high school seniors.
Travelers can watch troupes perform Bulgarian folk dancing, known for its complex asymmetrical patterns which require dedication, skill, and hours of practice to master. MIR Tour Manager Michel Behar captured this video of high school students performing their fancy footwork.
Travel to the Kazanluk Rose Festival with MIR
MIR has more than two decades of Bulgaria travel experience, offering on-the-ground support and quality you can trust, and guides and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
You can stop and smell the roses for yourself on the June departure of MIR’s Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses, a small group tour which stops at the Kazanluk Rose Festival. This itinerary is also offered in September, with a stop at the Kazanluk Rose Museum rather than the festival.
Or, discover Bulgaria’s highlights for yourself on a custom, private tour through Bulgaria. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.
Contact MIR today at email@example.com or 1-800-424-7289 to learn more.
(Top photo credit: Michel Behar – Even when picking them, it’s hard not to stop and smell the roses!)
PUBLISHED: November 17, 2014