The Belogradchik Rocks (Bulgarian: Белоградчишки скали, Belogradchishki skali are a group of strangely shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations located on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) near the town of Belogradchik in northwest Bulgaria.
The rocks vary in color from primarily red to yellow; some of the rocks reach up to 200 m in height. Many rocks have fantastic shapes and are associated with interesting legends. They are often named for people or objects they are thought to resemble. The Belogradchik Rocks have been declared a Natural Landmark by the Bulgarian government and are a major tourist attraction in the region. They are the only habitat of the critically endangered Bulgarian endemic plant Hieracium belogradcense
The Belogradchik Rocks are spread over the western part of the Balkan Mountains and cover an area of 50 km2 (19 sq mi). They extend from the village of Rabisha in the west to the village of Belotintsi in the east.
The central group of rocks is situated just to the south and adjacent to the town of Belogradchik. Located here are several notable formations: Adam and Eve, the Mushrooms, the Schoolgirl, the Bear, the Dervish, the Shepherd Boy, the Lion, the Camel, the Madonna, the Horseman, the Monks, the goddess Bendida, the Rebel Velko, and many other stone figures.
The second group of rocks lies to the west of Belogradchik. The rocks are of the Alpine variety and are surrounded by steep precipices. The most famous of these rocks are Zbegovete, Erqupriya, and Boritch.
The third group of rocks lies 4 km (2.5 mi). to the east of Belogradchik and includes the rocks around the Latin Gate and the Lipenik Cave.
The fourth group of rocks lies between the villages of Borovitsa and Falkovets. These rocks include the Pine Stone, the Bee Stone, the Torlak, and the Maid’s Rock.
The fifth group of rocks lies between the villages of Gyurgich and Belotintsi.
The Belogradchik Rocks are a major tourist destination in northwest Bulgaria, along with the town of Belogradchik and the Belogradchik Fortress, which incorporates the rocks as part of its natural defense, and the nearby Magura Cave, situated near the village of Rabisha. Another tourist attraction in the area is the Baba Vida medieval fortress in the nearby town of Vidin on the Danube river.
The Bulgarian Committee of the Natural Environment declared the rocks as a natural monument in 1949, and the rocks were listed in the Bulgarian National Register of Natural Landmarks in 1987.
In 1984, the Belogradchik Rocks and the Magura Cave were both placed on the Tentative List of places to be named to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The Rocks are under consideration as a Geopark in the European Geoparks Network and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.
The Madonna – Once there were a monastery and nunnery amongst the Belogradchik Rocks. There lived a beautiful nun, who was secretly envied by all for her beauty. More than once, the old Mother Superior reminded the nun not to forget that even though she was young and pretty, that she had taken the veil and was vowed to God. During the Petrovden celebration, a young patrician came to the festival on his white horse. Immediately, when she saw him, the nun recognized the man of her dreams. She could not resist her heartache and secretly met him, but the nun’s illicit love was eventually discovered by the cries of her young child. The Mother Superior decided to severely punish the nun by all monastic canons, and even the monks from the monastery were summoned to pass judgment on her. It took a long time for the white bearded monks to draw a punishment, but at last they decided to expel her and her child out of the priory. The poor nun was doomed to a life worse than death itself. Ordinary people would treat her like a leper, and no one would dare talk to her, let alone give her shelter or food. The nun was ready to have her life taken rather than be chased out of the nunnery. As heartbreaking as her sincere plea for mercy was, it did not move the monks. As the nun was exiting the monastic gates, a miracle happened. The day became night and a frightening thunder was heard. The rocks opened up and the monastery and nunnery were both driven into the ground, and the Monks, on their retreat back to the cloister, the Madonna, bending over her child, and the Horseman, riding to his beloved on his white horse, were all turned to stone.