Belogradchik, Bulgaria

Belogradchik is a UNESCO and European Geopark in northwestern Bulgaria. The same region contains the Magura and Kozarnika caves.

Geologic Context

In the early to middle Triassic, the region was an subarid upland, flooded by a sea during the middle Triassic. For about 20 million years, rivers deposited sands and rounded cobbles into the sea, which cemented into sandstone-conglomerates. In the late Triassic, the sea retreated, exposing the deposits, and in the early Jurassic the first erosional forms emerged.

Deposition patterns.

Large faults create valleys within the formation, while smaller faults separate smaller blocks within the formation. Gently dipping strata combined with high permeability (and a total lack of impermeable clay layers) resulted in strong vertical erosion, eventually forming the distinct rock towers of the Belogradchik Rocks.

The proportion of conglomerates to sandstone varies within the region, with larger proportions of conglomerates resulting in stronger rocks more resistant to erosion. The red colour is a result of the high iron content, with some rocks within conglomerates exhibiting remains from the semi-arid climate during formation with a red-violet tint or desert varnish (metallic luster).

Historic Context

Inner Belogradchik Fortress.

Inner Belogradchik Fortress.

The Belogradchik rocks were an irresistible location to position lookouts and fortifications. Over the centuries, the Belogradchik Fortress was built, extended, occupied, and attacked by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Bulgarian rebels, Russians, and Serbians. The fortress encompasses several brilliant rock columns, and provides excellent views over the region.

Handrails on rock edges and barricades over water collection pits are frequent but incomplete, so keep your eyes open while walking. Bafflingly, several modern reconstructions of Russian-style buildings exist within the complex.

Access & Location

Location: 43.625, 22.686
The village of Belogradchik is approximately 115 km north of Sofia. The main roads are well-paved highways with only mildly terrifying traffic, but the smaller intra-village roads feature significant potholes that could easily cause flat tires or even broken axles to the unwary. Once reaching the town, the rocks are easily accessible from trails out of the village center, viewpoints along the roads, and incorporated into the Belogradchik Fortress overlooking the village. The caves are only accessible with guided tours; check schedules for departure times.

Related Reading

Detailed description of Belogradchik as part of the European Geoparks application.

This entry was posted in Geoscience and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *