Rocks of Belogradchik

Date of Submission: 10/10/2011
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Environment and Water
State, Province or Region:
Vidin District, Belogradchik Municipality
Coordinates: N43 36 45.3 E22 41 00.4
Ref.: 5640
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The rocks of Belogradchik are rock sculptures, situated west of the town of Belogradchik, in the fore hills of the western Balkan mountain range. They contain groups of rock figures resembling people, animals, fortresses, pyramids or different objects with imposing sizes - from a few meters to several dozens of meters. 

With their red color they contrast beautifully with the green broadleaf forests below and the lush meadows and small vineyards around the site.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

From geological point of view the rocks of Belogradchik are phenomenon with global significance. They are a World standard for extraordinarily beautiful landscape, where nature has created number of original, unique rock sculptures.

The rocks of Belogradchik were nominated to the World "New 7 Wonders of Nature" campaign in 2007 and long time they were leading in their category "Caves, rock formations and valleys".

Criteria:

(vii) The rocks of Belogradchik are exceptionally beautiful and exquisite nature phenomenon, unique to the Balkans and an important feature in Europe.  The rock figures are remarkably varied and picturesque with extraordinary aesthetic, educational, scientific, ecologic and social value. The rocks of Belogradchik are astonishing, not only with their age of over 230 million years, but also with the dozens of legends for the bizarre natural forms named after many of the rock formations. Examples include:  the Madonna, the monks, the horseman; the school girl, the dervish, the bear, Adam and Eva, the fortress, the cuckoo, the Leo, the camel, Orpheus and the petrified wedding procession, as well as  many others.   

For millions of years nature has molded these rock sculptures of mythical creatures, people, animals and different objects. The prevailing reddish color of the rocks is due to the ferrous oxides and hydroxides. In the sandy and calcareous rocks more than 100 caves have been developed. .

The rock formations create a natural fortress with a high defensive potential that has been used by humans for ages. Together with the natural assets, the property contains historical treasures. Between the first and third centuries Romans built their first fortress here. This site was reconstructed and enlarged in 1805-1837 for the last time and it has been preserved in this form until now.

Special historic and educational value has also the cool mining gallery in the property, which is the first of its kind in Bulgaria.

In 1843 the French traveler Blanqui, amazed by the beauty of the rocks of Belogradchik, exclaimed, "The narrow gorges of Oliul in Provence, the Pankorbo pass in Spain, the Alps, the Pyrenees, the most astonishing mountains of Tirol in Switzerland do not possess anything to be compared with this."       

From geomorphologic point of view the rock sculptures contain three main geologic types:

  • Massif sheer columns and blocks with straight, vertical or almost vertical walls that rise up to 20m and more.
  • Rocks similar to the first group as general shape, but the walls of the big blocks are rough due to horizontal coves. The columns have rings with narrow parts and turgidities, often connecting the near vertical walls.
  • Figures that consist of horizontal or slightly inclined slabs positioned one over the other and shaped in asymmetrical vertical columns.

Some of the figures include only one of the three morphological types; other formations are often combinations of these types.

(viii) The "Rocks of Belogradchik" are located in Western part of Belogradchik anticlinorium of Fore-Balkan morphotectonic zone. The region consists of sedimentary, intrusive and metamorphic rocks, diverse in age and petrographic content and integrated in complex structure of Belogradchik anticlinorium. The Belogradchik anticlinorium reflects the development of the region from Precambrian period, during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.

The rocks of Belogradchik sculptures are created by natural forces - water, wind, sun, climatic characteristics, and vegetation. There are features that relate to the Triassic period layers and the Paleozoic period. These geologic features can be used to date Paleozoic period tectonic processes and are unique for Bulgaria and the region.

Several late Paleozoic plant species and fish species have been found in the rock outcrops of Belogradchik and are described in the literature. This is the first finding and first locality of fossil vertebrate species in Bulgaria.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The territory inscribed in the tentative list includes the Natural monument "Belogradchik Rocks", a protected area, designated according to the Bulgarian legislation - protected areas Act. For full representation of the most characteristic features and preservation of the group, containing the most numerous, exquisite and elegant rock formations, the territory of the protected area is being currently enlarged in line with the legislative procedures, thus reaching the total area of about 6319.313 dka.

At present, the site does not include a buffer zone, but the property falls completely in an area, designated as Natura 2000 site, declared according to the 92/43/EEC Directive. Natura 2000 site delineation serves as a buffer zone and provides for the better protection of the property. 

Comparison with other similar properties

There are rock formations in the World that can be compared to the rocks of Belogradchik in terms of geologic forms, type and origin, but as beauty, variety of shapes, impressiveness and scale they are important to Europe and among a handful of unique natural phenomena on the Earth.

The rock formations in the Arches National Park (USA), the Three Sisters Hanging Rock in the Greater Blue Mountains Area (Australia) and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (Turkey) are similar. The Greater Blue Mountains and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The importance of the geological natural object was thoroughly analyzed by Wimbledon (1996), the Executive Secretary of the European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage (ProGEO). According to him, the category of the Objects of Global Importance includes both, sites that are vitally important for the demonstration of the main evolution stages of anorganic and organic matter on the Earth, and "the places of poetical inspiration, such as the Nigardsbreen glacier (Norway), Dinosaur National Park (USA) or the sandstone towers of Belogradchik (Bulgaria)".