The Only Desert in Eastern Europe is Located in the Region of Pobiti Kamani in Bulgaria

Do you know where the only desert in Eastern Europe is located? The answer is – in Bulgaria, very close to the “sea capital" of the country – the city of Varna. The region is well-known as Pobitite kamani. Named after a natural phenomenon, the area is located just by lake Beloslav. The fastest and easiest way to reach the desert is by following the old Varna-Sofia road. Getting on the Hemus highway is not a problem either; just pay attention to the signs and make sure to not miss the exit.

A forest of giant petrified columns, reaching up to 12 meters height, stand guard in the hostile desert climate

A large part of Pobiti Kamani desert is accessible without entering the official tourist area, but we recommend make visiting it.

Most of the Pobiti Kamani desert is accessible without purchasing a ticket. However, many of the more interesting natural formations will be found there, so we do recommend checking out the official tourist area. The limestone stone columns rise up to a height of 12 meters, fixed as if by magic in their places. No one has yet figured out how the bizarre rock formations were formed. Several ideas have been explored, but none have yielded definitive proof. According to the most popular theory, 50 million years ago and 18 km west from modern Varna was an ancient sea instead of a desert. When its waters receded, the rocks at its bottom remained exposed to the mercy of the wind and the sun. Under nature’s influence the bizarre stone figures were formed.

According to another theory, the stony forests are coral remains. The proponents of a third idea believe the hollow columns, a fraction of all formations, originally formed around petrified tropical trees. As the trees decayed, the columns gradually hollowed out. Some are certain that the structures formed on top of natural gas springs, while others suspect the stone columns are the remains of an ancient mountain or cliff.

Various legends exist about Pobiti Kamani. According to one of them, giants carried the stones here for the construction of the first Bulgarian capital, Pliska. Another fairy tale tells of a young man to whom God revealed his own name and granted the young man immortality. But God also warned him that if he shares the name with anyone, the young man will become mortal again. However, one day on the beach, the young man fell in love with a beautiful girl. So the young man asked the sea titans to help him win the beautiful girl’s heart. They agreed, but in return they asked the young man to reveal them the name of God.

The young boy, who was hopelessly fallen in love, could not refuse. The next morning he lined up the titans where the desert is nowadays and wrote the sacred name with their bodies. God, moved by the love of the young man and his self-sacrifice, turn the bodies of the titans to stone, and to this day they remain as guards in Pobiti Kamani. So, the name of God remains a secret. Some people say if you can figure out how to read the sea titans’ bodies’ positioning, you can figure out the true name of God.

The first protected areas in the country, since 1938, are the impressive stone formations named “Center-South”, “Beloslav-West”, and “Sunny-Southeast”, all found within the desert. The only place in Bulgaria where evidence of human life and society dating back to the Mesolithic Era (9600 BCE – 5800 BCE) were discovered, was within Pobiti Kamani’s borders.

Many myths, stories, and real facts mix when it comes to Pobiti Kamani. All are part of its charm. Proximity to some of the more popular Bulgarian seaside destinations makes Pobiti Kamani an attractive holiday destination for day trips and outings with the whole family.

The entrance fee to visit the tourist area is BGN 5 for adults, BGN 3 for students, pensioners, and students, and free for children under 6 years of age. Please note that the official area is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except for advance requests for groups.

This content has been prepared as part of a project of the Ministry of Tourism.

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My greatest pleasure in life is to travel. Undoubtedly there are a lot of amazing places around the world worth visiting at least once in life. However, Bulgaria is such a place where you will wish to come back again and again. In every season and every region of this small country, you can find unique wonders. So share my travels.