In the Valley of the Roses

As the sun rises over the dew-covered fields surrounding Kazanlak, Bulgaria, it reveals rows upon rows of blossoming rose bushes. Between each row, harvesters carefully pick the blossoms. It’s May 5, the first day of rose harvest, and the harvesters have been in the fields since 4:00 a.m., picking the flowers while their fragrance is most potent. Each person has a rose in their hair—a lasting tradition being to tuck the first rose of the day behind the ear.

Why Bulgaria?
The Valley of the Roses in central Bulgaria lies just south of the Balkan Mountains, an imposing range of peaks that has halted invading armies and protected the quiet valley for millennia. Today, because of its location, few automobiles pass through the valley, keeping the air and soil clean from contaminants. Located near the Black Sea, the valley has a sunny climate coupled with well-drained, sandy soil that work together to create ideal conditions for growing roses. In addition, roses require significant amounts of rain. The geography of the area again provides just the right conditions, thanks to the sweeping Balkan mountain range. As moisture evaporates from the Black Sea, gentle breezes push the moist air inland to the north. When the moist air reaches the mountains surrounding the Valley of the Roses, it’s forced upward. As it moves higher, the water vapor cools and condenses, forming clouds. The clouds, trapped by the mountain peaks, grow larger until eventually, it begins to rain. Mild winters, sandy soil, and heavy spring rains come together to make this valley one of the best places on the entire planet to grow roses. It’s no wonder, then, that the rose is the national flower of Bulgaria. This is also the exact reason dōTERRA chose to source its Rose essential oil in the Valley of the Roses.

Harvesting Fields of Roses
More than 100 species of roses exist, but it’s the Damask Rose, or Rosa damascena, that’s grown and distilled in Bulgaria for dōTERRA® Rose essential oil. The Damask rose was first introduced to Bulgaria in the seventeenth century and is widely regarded as producing the highest quality rose oil. Starting in early May, the rose harvest dominates the social and economic landscape of the Valley of the Roses for weeks. Family and friends come and help the rose farmers bring in their annual harvest. All together, more than 50,000 harvesters are hired to collect roses during the short window when the essential oil volume is at its highest. While agricultural technology has revolutionized how many crops are harvested, roses are harvested in much the same way today as hundreds of years ago—by hand, one loving blossom at a time. The best time for picking is just as they begin opening their petals. Starting well before dawn, harvesters work through the morning to collect the delicate blossoms, taking care not to crush any in the process. The availability of oil is highest in the cool hours of the morning, decreasing as the sun rises. Because the rose petals are so delicate, they must be steam-distilled the same day they’re harvested. Wait too long, and valuable essential oil is lost.

Process and Structures 
To collect the oil as efficiently as possible and ensure farmers are paid fairly and on-time, dōTERRA recently built a rose distillery in Kazanlak named Terra Roza, as part of the dōTERRA Esseterre Bulgaria operation (headquartered in Dobrich). This facility began operations in May, just in time for the 2020 rose harvest. “Bulgaria has such a rich history of producing beautiful rose oil from the Damask rose. It’s a great privilege to now have another dōTERRA-owned and operated Esseterre distillery working with small farmers and producing the crown jewel of Bulgarian essential oils,” says Tim Valentiner, vice president of global strategic sourcing at dōTERRA. Rose is truly the queen of oils, and it’s only fitting that this exquisite flower now has its own dōTERRA distillery in the heart of the world’s rose capital.

The Rose Festival
Perhaps nothing expresses the region’s deep love for roses more than the annual Rose Festival. Held since 1903, the festival begins the first Sunday in June. More than 150,000 visitors arrive to learn about the valley’s rich history and traditions and join in on the all-important rose harvest. Two of the most exciting events of the festival are the Rose Coronation and Rose Festival Parade. Each year, a Rose Queen is chosen from the community, who presides at many of the festivities. The culmination of the entire rose harvest season is the parade held in Kazanlak. The parade is the largest in Bulgaria with 3,000 participants and features traditional dance, music, and arts. Swaths and garlands of roses cover the town, and young children pass flowers to the crowd as performers in traditional dress dance and sing. When the last of the parade passes by and revelers turn toward home, they’ll walk on streets carpeted in rose petals and blossoms.

The Next Harvest
As the sun sets over the rose fields in June, its last rays illuminate miles upon miles of tidy rose bushes. The bushes are now bare—all the blossoms have been distilled into pure rose oil. Working together, the farmers, harvesters, and distillers in the Valley of the Roses have created roughly two metric tons of pure Rose oil within just a matter of weeks. Soon it’ll be time to prune the rose bushes and begin cultivating another crop of the finest quality roses in the world. It has been this way for 340 years, and if the people living in the valley have anything to say about it, it will be this way for centuries to come.

Distillation Method: Steam distillation
Aromatic Description: Floral, sweet, and earthy
Plant Part: Flower

She’s known as the queen of oils and rules supreme when it comes to aroma, skincare, and emotional support. Rose is one of the most sought-after oils in the world due to her luxurious aroma, gentle nature, and obvious ties to love and romance.

Rose oil is derived from the Damask rose—a shrub that originally hailed from Damascus, the capital of Syria, though today dōTERRA sources Rose oil from Bulgaria. Delicate petals (tens of thousands of them) from Rosa damascena shrubs are distilled to create the precious Rose essential oil. This labor-intensive process is truly one of love—a mission to bring the queen of oils to all the world. 

Fun Fact
It takes approximately 10,000 blossoms to produce a 5 mL bottle of Rose essential oil!* *Varies by season, region, year, and other variables.

How to Use Rose Essential Oils
Topical Use

  • Add two drops to a small dollop of moisturizer in your palm and apply gently to the face, neck, and décolletage to help beautify skin.
  • Help any skin imperfections by applying one drop directly to affected areas twice daily.
  • Enjoy an uplifting aroma throughout the day by applying Rose to pulse points (wrists, neck, or temples).

Aromatic Use

  • Start your day with Rose. Diffuse in the morning to help promote feelings of energy and vitality.
  • Use as a personal fragrance. Apply to your neck and wrists to carry this luxurious fragrance with you throughout the day.

How to Purchase Rose Essential Oil

doTERRA Rose Essential Oil

Rose 5 ml bottle

doTERRA Rose Touch Roll-on

Rose Touch 10ml roll-on bottle

Back to blog