Cape Kaliakra – Balgarevo, Bulgaria - Atlas Obscura

Cape Kaliakra

The site of many battles and tragedies, including the 40 maidens who leapt into the sea. 


Cape Kaliakra, situated on the north Bulgarian Black Sea coast, has long been the focus of local myths and legends. This scenic, grassy peninsula may appear calm today, but in the past it has seen temples and fortresses, bloody battles, massacres and mass suicide, as well as one of the fiercest naval battles the Black Sea has ever known.

Long before the 1791 Battle of Cape Kalikra brought an end to the Russo-Turkish War, Kaliakra was settled by a Thracian tribe known as the Tirizi sometime around the 4th century BC. This stretch of coastline would later be successively occupied by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Bulgarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Romania.

There are many stories attached to Cape Kaliakra, some of which are remembered better than others. It is said that King Lysimachus – ruler of Thrace, and heir to Alexander the Great – built his capital here on the cliff. He brought back fine treasures won in campaigns against the Persians, and some say that these remain hidden in caves along the headland to this day.

Perhaps the saddest story linked to this peninsula, however, is that of 40 maidens who threw themselves from the cliff to die on the rocks 70m below. In the late 14th century Bulgaria was invaded by the Ottoman Empire and countless people were massacred. To avoid being raped by the Turkish soldiers – or sent back to serve in the Sultan’s harem at Constantinople – the girls tied their hair together and jumped from the tip of Cape Kaliakra. 

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