Thracian sanctuary at Tatul: one of the 10 wonders of Bulgaria

The sanctuary near the village of Tatul is an ancient megalithic complex, mentioned as one of the most significant in Bulgarian lands. Some researchers believe that 3,500 years ago a Thracian king was buried there, and his tomb later began to serve as a place of worship for the Thracians. According to others, it was a sanctuary of Orpheus, the ancient mythical singer of the Rhodope Mountains. In 2011 the Thracian sanctuary at Tatul was chosen by a national vote as one of the wonders of Bulgaria at the initiative of the Standard newspaper.

The Thracian sanctuary near the village of Tatul: the rock with the tombs and steps
The Thracian sanctuary near the village of Tatul: the rock with the tombs and steps

This sacred site is surrounded by fascinating scenery and it is definitely shrouded in mystery. It will give you a deep glimpse into the rich culture and complex religious rituals of the Thracians.

In my humble opinion, the tourist site Tatul is among the best made and maintained in Bulgaria. I have been there twice in a period of 7 years, so I dare say that I saw it in development. Both times the place was well arranged and managed. This article is devoted to it, how to get there, and what you can see. At the end I will give you an idea where you can stay.

How to get to Tatul sanctuary

The sanctuary is located on the southern outskirts of the village of Tatul near the town of Momchilgrad, 27 km from the city of Kardzhali and 306 km southeast of Sofia. The place can be reached by car. There are well-visible signposts in the area.

Coordinates: 41.542167, 25.545622.

A few tips:

  • you will need at least half an hour to explore the sanctuary;
  • go there with comfortable shoes;
  • if you visit it in the summer, avoid the hottest hours.
The sanctuary in the village of Tatul: panoramic views
The sanctuary in the village of Tatul: panoramic views

Short information about the Rock sanctuary near Tatul

The megalithic complex near the village of Tatul consists of an ancient pagan sanctuary and the remains of a fortress. The sanctuary was formed around a massive monolithic rock in the shape of a truncated pyramid, in which two rock tombs were cut. Massive stone steps lead to them. The fortification was built much later on the site of the sanctuary.

The Sanctuary at Tatul: the fortress and the alley to the site
The Sanctuary at Tatul: the fortress and the alley to the site

The period of use is quite extensive – from about the second millennium BC. until the middle of the 13th century. The main part of the rock sanctuary arose during the late Bronze Age, XVII-XI centuries BC. In the second half of the 3rd century, the sanctuary was destroyed during the invasion of the Goths. The next period of active use was VI-XII, when the site was used as a fortified Roman aristocratic villa. The life of the hill near Tatul ended in the 13th century. A medieval necropolis has been explored there since this period.

The Thracian sanctuary near the village of Tatul: the fortress
The Thracian sanctuary near the village of Tatul: the fortress

What you will see at Tatul sanctuary

Already at the beginning of the complex, you pass by the remains of the fortress. They are protected under a massive canopy. The central part of the sanctuary is occupied by two sarcophagus-shaped graves – a large and a small one, cut into the rock in the highest part of the terrain. Well-shaped stone steps lead up to them.

The Thracian sanctuary at Tatul: a view of the entire sacred site
The Thracian sanctuary at Tatul: a view of the entire sacred site

On the surrounding rocks of the Tatul sanctuary, there are also shaped altars, gutters and steps to them. A sacred rock well can be seen in the lower part. In addition to these sacred antiquities, the place offers beautiful panoramic views.

Information signs have been placed around, so you understand what you see.

Tatul: surrounding rocks with ritual pits and gutters
Tatul: surrounding rocks with ritual pits and gutters

Other interesting places you can see near Tatul

Harman kaya

The entire area around the village of Tatul has been considered sacred since ancient times. The surrounding places that can be visited prove this. Most significant among them, in my opinion, is the Harman kaya shrine. It is located about 14 kilometers north of the Tatul sanctuary and less than 2.5 km as the crow flies. The sanctuary was built on a low rocky plateau around a small cave, whose entrance is in the shape of a womb. The central part is occupied by two sites cut into the rocks, which are believed to have been places for observing the sun.

The Petrified Forest

The Petrified Forest is a cluster of rocks that look like petrified trees. The place is very close to the Tatul Shrine

The Big and Little Cauldron

These are two canyons with interesting rock formations.

Where to stay near Tatul

Tatul is close to the Momchilgrad town. I have stayed in the Momchilgrad area twice and I can recommend Konak Hotel. The rooms there are spacious and welcoming and the food in the restaurant was very good when we stayed there. The price per night is also quite acceptable. The hotel’s overall Booking.com rating is currently 8.9 based on 353 reviews, which is pretty good.

See here for available dates and current prices at Konak Hotel.

Another option is to stay in Kardzhali or Glavatartsi village. In the block below you will find the possible options.

Booking.com

Final thoughts

The Tatul sanctuary is part of the treasures of the Eastern Rhodopes and one of the must-see tourist places in Bulgaria.

Day trips from Sofia.
See here!

If you want to visit some of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria via organized daily tours, have a look here for several options from the biggest Bulgarian provider for day tours from Sofia.

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