Petrich is situated at the northern foot of Belasitsa Mountain, 86 km south of Blagoevgrad. It is a balneological resort at an altitude of some 200 m. The population of Petrich is 28 000.
Petrich is a city where one can find everything: mountain ranges, fields, a river, a centuries-long history as well as culture. But it also possesses something unique: the fascination of southern Bulgaria, the spirit of Baba Vanga - the diviner - and the nostalgia after the ancient folk songs.
Petrich is a fine starting point for short outings to interesting sights.
The town was included in the Bulgarian territory under Knyaz Boris I (852-889). In the Middle Ages it was a significant Bulgarian fortress. Upon the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 the district of Petrich remained under Turkish domination in accordance with the Berlin Treaty and was liberated during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. The Church of the Holy Virgin dates back to 1857.
The Samouil fortress is be found 15 km west of Petrich, near the village of Klyuch. Built in the reign of Tsar Samouil (997-1014) it was part of the defence system of the Bulgarian state. The Fortress was Demolished in 1014 at the time by Emperor Basil II named Bulgaroctone. The remains of the fortress are included in a park-museum built in 1982.
Festivals and Fairs
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival is Bulgaria's largest gathering of traditional musicians and singers and is a cross between a pop festival and a medieval fair. It is a sight that knows no equal: thousands of musicians and singers making the hillside above the picturesque village of Koprivshtitza their home for a few days. Coupled with this you have the colourful stalls of the traders and the thousands of visitors who come for the festival.
This is Bulgarian music as it was always played, played by the ancestors of those who first played it. But perhaps it is what happens on the periphery that is the most authentic. Strolling players or soloists, simply playing for the sheer enjoyment. forming new bonds with other musicians or just letting their music ring out over the hillside.
The Bourgas International Folk Festival
The Bourgas International Folk Festival, held annually, attracts a host of Bulgarian and international artists and is held in the second half of August.
The Kazanluk Festival
The Kazanluk Festival of the Roses is held annually in early June, and has grown from a local to an international event. Not only are the roses, Kazanluk's main industry, in full flower. but the town itself blossoms while visitors enjoy the "Rose Picnic" and all the fun of a folklore festival, with its costumes, songs and dance. Should you still have the energy left, you can always visit the old factories where the rose oil is extracted.
St. Trifon's Day
In the agricultural calendar, St. Trifon's Day celebrates the pruning of the vines, and is held on February 14.
On the first Sunday before Lent, Kukerov Den celebrates the start of the agricultural year, and all over Bulgaria you can witness processions led by the dancing. leaping Kukeri dressed in colourful masks and costumes.
Baba Marta is celebrated on March 1 when peasant house-holds brush out the winter cobwebs with a traditional spring clean. and people offer each other tokens of good luck called martenitsas.
Like western countries. the Bulgarian calendar is dotted with important feast days and festivals. The festival of the Kukeri re-enacts ancient surovaki rites to ward off evil spirits and Kukeri fertility rites. Although only held once every five years, it brings together dancers from all over Bulgaria in a rainbow of colours and styles.
St. Lazarus Day
Lazaruvane is also celebrated in spring on St. Lazarus Day, and here village girls considered fit for marriage perform ritual songs and dances.
St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day
The coming of summer is traditionally celebrated on St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day on May 21, and in some of the remoter villages in the Stranzha hills fire dancing, dancing on heated coals, is still practised in celebration of summer's arrival. Ethnologists have suggested that this practice is directly descended from Dionysina rites of the ancient Thracian.