Did you know that Bulgaria is famous for their ROSE VALLEY and the production of ROSE OIL??!!
You might know that rose oil is an essential oil used in the making of many perfumes…but it is also a fact that Bulgaria is one of the main exporters of Rose oil in THE WHOLE WORLD!!
With that being said, Bulgarian Damascaus Rose oil is one of the most expensive floral essential oils in the world costing close to $7000 per LITER in recent years. It’s no wonder they call it “Liquid Gold”. Another fun fact…To make just 1 ounce of oil you have to distill about 500 pounds of petals. That’s a lot of roses!!!
Of course living in Bulgaria, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit The Rose Valley this year during the annual ROSE FESTIVAL which celebrates the rich tradition of the rose industry here in Bulgaria. The festival is held in the city of Kazanlak, and the surrounding area, just to the south of the Balkan Mountains and features various parades, picking demonstrations and even the choosing of a local Rose Queen.
When we first arrived at the festival we were greeted by Bulgarians dressed in traditional Bulgarian outfits that served us homemade bread as a snack to enjoy while waiting for the events to begin.
The event we choose to attend was called the “rose picking ritual”. It began with a brief speech (in both Bulgarian and English) about the traditions surrounding the picking of the roses. We learned about the importance of picking roses just before sunrise for maximum oil retention before they are dried out by the sun, the importance of distilling the petals the same day they are picked for maximum freshness and how in most places the roses are still picked by hand!
After the introduction we were able to see the traditional distilling process in action (on the left), the making of edible rose jam (center) and a reenactment of the historical version of the choosing of the Rose Queen (on the right). According to the tradition the title of The Rose Queen went to the woman who picked the most roses on any given day but now it is more of a formal beauty competition that is held in various towns throughout the Rose Valley.
One of the best parts of the day was that they then allowed us to go into the field and pick as many roses as we wanted! We loved smelling all the flowers but then determined that we had no idea what to do with the roses once we picked them 😂! In any case it was nice to enjoy the beauty of the rose valley even if our friend’s car smelled of roses for the rest of the day 😉.
Of course no trip would be complete with the option to buy souvenirs of which there were plenty of both homemade and commercial options to choose from. It is amazing all the ways in which Bulgarians use the rose oil whether it is for perfume, soap, syrup, candy, home remedies, etc. Bulgarians even claim that applying rose-water to your face will help you look younger and eliminate wrinkles which is why all of their women are so beautiful!
While we only had one day to experience a portion of the festival, the events last for about two weeks and it is a great way to see a beautiful part of the Bulgarian countryside! If you want to know more about the festival (and especially if you ever want to visit for yourself) feel free to check out this Rose Festival Website that we found to be very helpful! Also just to note, if you are planning to visit the Rose Valley at some point, do be aware that the rose picking season is very short so you must be sure to visit between the end of May and the middle of June.
Thanks for joining us on this brief journey to the Bulgarian Rose Valley and maybe next time you can join us in person 🙂 !