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A trip to Varna, Bulgaria is not complete without taking the one day trip to their famous Stone Desert, and natural landmark, Pobiti Kamani. It is also known as The Stone Forest in Varna. It’s the only desert in Bulgaria (and one of few found in Europe) and the rock phenomenon located on the north west Varna Province border is not to be missed.

I had the opportunity to go on a guided tour with the local owner of a city center hostel in Varna, Yo-Ho Hostel. Check out the highlights from my excursion to Bulgaria’s Stone Forest.

When I arrived, my first thought was that I was seeing the ruins of an old structure or temple, but to my amazement, the stone pillars are all natural formations (in fact, Pobiti Kamani was named a natural landmark in the late 1930s). You will find lots of stone columns as you walk around. They are sort of grouped together and their heights vary from 5 to 7 meters tall, with thickness ranging from 30 centimeters to 3 meters across. My tour guide pointed out how some of them had certain shapes that resembled specific objects. For example, one of them is believed to guard over Pobiti Kamani and is called ‘The Soldier’ since it stands tallest above the rest.

Walking around sort of transported me back to The Imagination Valley, in Cappadocia Turkey, since it also has amazing natural formations that look like different animals and shapes. The most interesting part, and what makes them totally different, is that the pillars in the Stone Forest have an empty space inside which is filled with sand. The foundation is not solid like those in Turkey. They really look as if someone hand placed them there and somehow attached them to the earth. Fun Fact: Pobiti Kamani in English translates into ‘Hammered Stones.’

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During the old Bulgarian Empire, people believed that these columns/stones occupied a sacred space, that it had some sort of energy and supernatural force found there. The real origin is still sort of a mystery…maybe there is something supernatural about that! Over the years, many legends have been told. In 1854, The Stone Forest was visited by British geologist William Hamilton. Hamilton was the first to assume that there was a marine origin for the stones, “The work of the sea” was his contention. He was not that far from what later Bulgarian geologists (brothers Peter and Stefan Bonchev Gochev) stated. Our guide explained that their theory makes the most sense up until now. They presuppose that the columns date back to the Cenozoic Era, about 50 million years ago, when much of Eastern Europe was covered by ocean. In simple words, they noted that over long periods of time the sediment of the seabed was compressed to form limestone layers. Some time later, gases from ancient deposits were released from the sea bed and started making their way up, rising through the limestone layers of sludge as bubbles. Over a period of millions of years, these eventually created a series of stone column ‘chimneys’ hammered into the earth. It is a rare natural phenomenon and totally worth a visit. The entrance was a few bucks (like 2 or 3) and it makes for a very good and interesting day trip excursion outside of the vibrant Varna City.

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Overall, I suggest for you to start planning your visit to Bulgaria. This natural landmark, Pobiti Kamani / Stone Forest in Varna is not the only special place found in this beautiful country. There are so many other monuments, historical and cultural places to visit and much to do which makes this country so special and sort of underrated, especially by American tourists.

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