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5 captivating dark tourism locations in Bulgaria

The concentration camp on Persin Island
Photo: Veneta Nikolova

Can tourism be dark and gloomy and even evoking painful memories and emotions? The answer is clearly seen in the great interest shown in possibilities for visiting abandoned old factories, administrative buildings, hospitals, churches, and depopulated villages. Bulgaria is a gold mine for the lovers of dark tourism with its neglected infrastructure from the times of communism and the crumbling buildings, stadiums, and schools from this era. It is no coincidence that this country is among the top locations listed in foreign sites specializing in this type of tourism.

See our list of 5 interesting dark tourism locations in Bulgaria:

1. Buzludzha Monument

It has been included in the international ranking of "33 most beautiful abandoned places in the world" and is visited by thousands of tourists every year. The concrete structure of The Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party was erected back in 1981 and is crowned by a 70-meter pylon, on top of which two five-pointed red stars are seen. These days this architectural structure that looks like a flying saucer that landed on a mountain peak, has been crumbling apart waiting to be restored under an international project.

2. Concentration camp on Persin Island

During the communist regime in Bulgaria, more than 8,000 Bulgarians (according to unofficial data), who were mostly members of the intelligentsia, faced their death in a concentration camp situated on the Danube island of Persin. A pontoon bridge, donated personally by Stalin, still connects the coast of the town of Belene to the island, where the remaining traces of what the communist regime used to call “labor-educational camp” still stand. The dark location is accessible to visitors.

3. Submerged church of Zhrebchevo

There are nearly 3,000 large and small dams in Bulgaria built during the period of socialism. Hundreds of Bulgarian settlements with beautiful architecture and rich history were wiped out forever by the rising waters. One of them was the village of Zapalnya with its magnificent church of "St. Ivan Rilski”. The only thing that recalls of the village that once flourished in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley is the half-submerged church that remains to this day.

4. Marble lake near town of Brezovo

Its color has a light blue-greenish tint and the water is flat like glass. But this is not a natural creation. The lake, located in the region of Sredna Gora, is an abandoned marble extraction pit, which has been gradually filled up by clear rainwater. Its depth reaches 20 meters. The place is a magnet for lovers of dark tourism and seekers of unusual views.

5. The village of Gorno Lukovo

Bulgaria hides other real treasures for fans of dark tourism - there are hundreds of deserted villages with old churches and stone houses, overgrown with ivy. One such magical place is the village of Gorno Lukovo in the Eastern Rhodopes, which seems to have been frozen in time. Depopulation here started during the socialist regime, when people needed to move to nearby cities in search of a livelihood.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: Veneta Nikolova

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