Primorsko: Rock formation “Lion’s Head” and the ancient fortress “Valchanovo kale”

The “Lion’s head” (“Lavskata glava” in bulgarian) is located in Ropotamo Reserve near Primorsko, Bulgaria. It is a rock formation composed of syenite blocks and declared as a natural landmark. Its age is 65-70 million years, it rises 80 meters above the Ropotamo River in a stretch where the trunk road Sozopol – Primorsko runs parallel to the river. It has great popularity, because it is noticeable by traveling cars on the road. In proximity to the “Lion’s head” (300 meters of it) you can go by one of the hiking trails in Ropotamo Reserve. The place attracts tourists because of the beautiful forest nature, rugged relief, panoramic views of the surrounding area, as well as the opportunity to see objects of archaeological significance. This place is suitable for hikers, came for vacation at the Black Sea coast. In the early Iron Age it was built an ancient city and its fortress was used until the 19th century when was named “Valchanovo Kale” (“Valchan’s fortress” in bulgarian)

A view of the “Lion’s Head” from the trunk road Sozopol – Primorsko
The “Lion’s head” closer
View from another angle

Compared to all the other hiking trails in Ropotamo Reserve, the path leading to the “Lion’s Head” hill is the most difficult and requires more endurance and adventurous spirit. In some places there are steep climbs and downhills, passing through tall shrubs and smooth rocks, so suitable equipment for this route are: hiking shoes or sneakers, long trousers and anti-bug spray. If you go along this route in the summer – it’s possible to have whole swarms of annoying flies. it is advisable to wear a hat and dark glasses that could somewhat protect you. In brief, the carrageography of the road is as follows:

Length: 2 km

Displacement – 170 m

time to pass: 1 hour in one direction

How to get to the vicinity of the Lion’s Head and the Valchanovo kale – map, route and GPX file:
DownloadGPX file

To get to the beginning of the hiking trail, you have to go to the town of Primorsko and reach the exit for the Thracian cliffs – sanctuary Beglik Tash (how to reach it can you see from here). A car can be parked at the beginning of the exit leading to the ancient sanctuary Beglik Tash. 50 meters before the parking, on the left, is the beginning of the eco path through the grass. It is marked with a large information board with a map.

Information board at the beginning of the route

Protect the Ropotamo Reserve

Because the route passes through the Ropotamo Reserve, certain rules should be followed when passing it. They aims at preserving the natural resources. Some of them are also written ( in bulgarian) on the information board at the beginning of the route.

In short: forbidden fire, camping, plant cutting, passage on unmarked paths, disturbing of wild animals , etc.

Route description

The first 1 kilometer of the trail has a wide width, as can be seen in these photographs:

The first kilometer of the route

Over the next 1 kilometer the path narrows to a narrow strip of passage through the plant butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus). It is necessary to follow the blue-white marking on the trees – the sign of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters in Burgas, under whose management the reserve is.

А narrow path after the first kilometer

There are information panels at certain distances for the plants and animal species , which are found here. According them, here is the habitat of the rare sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and also the viper (Vipera ammodytes).

Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus)- Evergreen and shady plants. The blooming is between February and April. It is very common in the Ropotamo Reserve, but is generally rare and is forbidden to collect in Bulgaria.

Red Anemone (Anemone pavonina) Representative of the Mediterranean floral elements. Flowering – March – April, meeting in oak forests and meadows. Protected species under the Law on Biological Diversity in accordance with Bulgarian legislation.

Looking to the right of the path, through the branches of the trees you can see a beautiful view of Arkutino and Snake’s island:

Arkutino Beach and Snake’s island (zmiiski ostrov in bulgarian) shot at a ramp to the right of the trail

Ancient megalithic blocks along the trail

In many places, you can see rounded megalithic blocks, the same as those at Beglik Tash – the result of the volcanic activity of Mount Kitka in the late Cretaceous (65-70 million years ago). At the end of the route, on the ridge of the hill there is an information board with a map – the same as the one at the beginning of the path. It indicates that you have reached the fortress “Valchanovo kale”.

Ancient megalithic blocks along the trail

The ancient fortress “Valchanovo Kale”

Until now, archeological excavations have not been made, only partial observations by scientists. According to them the large megalithic blocks have been treated and arranged in such a way as to form walls and buildings. This way of building was habitual for the ancient fortresses in 2nd-1st millennium BC. In leveled area there were walls of a lot of smaller stone blocks. We saw this on the right of the marked path near the last information board:

The wall in view from above. Its width exceeds 1 m
Bound megaliths at the ridge of the hill – perhaps part of the ancient fortress

History of the place

The thracians scirmians built the fortress. They were a tribe dealing with mining. They built also and the sanctuary Beglik- Tash.
The total area occupied by the ancient city is 30 acres, surrounded by a fortress. Taking into account the features of the region: the high hill on which the fortress is located, the proximity of the Ropotamo River and the port of Cape “Maslen Nos” – the city was located in an excellent strategic location.

Based on the antiquities found – the site was inhabited from the Iron age to the Middle Ages. Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians lived here . During the Turkish domination ( XIV – XIX century), the place was deserted, but at the beginning of the XIX th century it was again used as a hiding place for the detachment of Valchan voivoda. He was a defender of the bulgarian people and he did a lot of good deeds for the Bulgarians lived in those troubled times of slavery. The fortress was named after him and became “Valchan’s fortress” (Valchanovo kale in bulgarian). Other popular name of the fortress is Ranuli. This is a name of a medieval fortress mentioned in decree called “Hambarliski” inscription. It is issued by the bulgarian monarch Khan Krum in 812.
Taking into account the historical facts and all the other geographical objects mentioned in the decree, the scientists conclude that the equalazing of the Ranuli Fortress with the “Valchan’s forterss” is highly possible.

Reaching the northeastern part of the peak you can see a beautiful view. Can be observed Arkutino marsh and the main asphalt road connecting Sozopol and Primorsko.

The altar of a medieval church at the end of the route.
A view from the northeast side of the hill


From here to the Lion’s Head the distance is 300 meters in the southwest direction, but unfortunately the paths that reach the Lion’s Head are not allowed for passing. The red markings on the trees have been laid by amateur mountaineers but not by the staff of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water – Bourgas – the white-blue marking is missing. The transition is accompanied by many difficulties – going through very tall shrubs and climbing megalithic blocks. Although many researchers and photographers reached Lion’s Head over the years (many pictures can be found on the Internet), according to the order of Ropotamo Reserve, this is a violation that is subject to monetary sanctions!

Continue the walk

When you come back to the asphalt road, we recommend using some of the following paths in the Reserve:

  • A path to the thracian cliffs – sanctuary Beglik Tash, which is also the closest place. It is a starting point for hiking trails to other historical sites and scenic landscapes – Bay “St. Paraskeva” , Cape “Maslen nos”.
  • A hiking trail to the mouth of the Ropotamo River

For the other paths and landmarks in Ropotamo Reserve – look at the attached here map.

If you are planning a longer stay in the area, it is a good idea to choose Primorsko as a city for staying. It has many hotels and lodgings, and can offer many entertainments to diversify your holliday at the sea.

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