The Rose Valley (also called The Valley of Roses) is a region in central Bulgaria, where the famed Bulgarian oil-bearing rose grows. The Rose Valley is not strictly defined geographically. Most often, the term Rose Valley refers to the rose fields around the cities of Kazanlak and Karlovo, located 30 miles apart. The elevation of the Rose Valley is between 990 and 2300 feet. The mild climate, particularly the spring weather, with its frequent rainfalls in June, soft sunshine, humid winds, cool nights and cloudiness, provides the perfect conditions for oil-bearing plants, especially roses, and for distillation of high-quality oils.


Every year during the first week of June the city of Kazanlak celebrates the Festival of Roses. One of the festival’s traditions is the gathering of roses early in the morning by people dressed in traditional costumes. Folk dancers, singers and musicians perform in the fields. Tsaritsa Roza (Queen Rose) is chosen in a beauty contest among all Kazanlak girls graduating from high school that year.

Children participating in
a rose gathering ritual

Kukeri (folk dancers) in the Parade of Roses

Queen Rose and her court watching
the parade




Rosa Damascena

Bulgaria's tradition of producing essential oils dates back to the 17th century and is a source of national pride for the country. The first roses were brought to Bulgaria by the soldiers of Alexander the Great, long before distillation first started. These roses were from the region of the town of Kashan in Persia. The climatic conditions in Kazanlak, however, proved more favorable for the cultivation of roses than the conditions in Kashan. The roses grown around Kazanlak had high percentage of oil, which contained less stearoptene (the paraffin or waxy substance, which solidifies when the oil is left in cooler temperature) than the oil from the Kashan region roses and was therefore of superior quality.

Traditional alembic for
distiling rose oil

An original Bulgarian technology for rose planting, called kesme, was eventually adopted as a general practice. In addition to being less labor consuming, this cultivation method produced roses of a higher propagation factor, while preserving the original character of the rose and the quality of the oil. No other cultivation method has been able to preserve the character of the rose almost unchanged for over three centuries. This fact explains why there were no attempts at cultivating other rose varieties in the Rose Valley. The technology proved so good that rose bushes were even exported to the Russian and the Turkish empires of the time. Today, the Bulgarian oil-bearing rose is recognized as a unique type of rose with different properties from roses cultivated elsewhere. The rose oil produced from this rose is widely considered as the finest in the world. The Bulgarian government imposes strict regulations and testing on all rose oil production to ensure quality and continued superiority.

Here is a brief history of the Bulgarian essential oil industry:

Contemporary distillery

circa 1664: Rose cultivation and oil distillation begins in the Rose Valley. Traditional alembics are used for distilling. A unique technology using multiple distillation is developed for obtaining rose oil.

1902 - 1918: Distillation technologies improve. The steam still is introduced. Distillery capacities and rose fields expand.

1919-1945: Distilling and growing cooperatives are established. Analysis of all rose oil is conducted at the Agricultural Institute. Lavender production begins.

1945-1990: All rose production and oil distillation is monopolized by the state.Private distilleries are absorbed by the Bulgarska Rosa Company, which is founded and owned by the government.

1990-Present: Independent farming and gathering is reinstated. Private distilleries are established. Growers and distillers strive to expand plant yields and improve distilling technologies.