Kotel is situated in a picturesque small valley in the eastern part of the Balkan Range, 527 m above the sea level, 49 km northeast of Sliven. The name of the town is mentioned for the first time in a Turkish document in 1486. It is not only a place with majestic nature, fresh air and pure mountain water, an important cultural and historical centre. Kotel is also called the Stronghold of Bulgarian Spirit, the Cradle of the Renaissance which has weaned and given to its motherland over 120 eminent National Revival Figures.
At the beginning of Ottoman Rule Kotel was inhabited by Bulgarians from neighbouring towns and villages in search of rescue. In 1812 the first Bulgarian elite secular school was opened in Kotel. During the Turkish raids the town suffered hard times and was twice set on fire. After the liberation in 1894 Kotel suffered a last devastating fire that devoured the greater part of the town. Only the quarter called Galata survived and today it renders an approximate idea of what the old town looked like. The craft of carpet weaving, which is very typical for Kotel and the region, makes the town one of the oldest centres of artistic fabrics in the country and abroad.
Kotel is a town with beautiful architectural models from the Late Revival and one of the most important centres of the weaving art. In the second half of the 18th and 19th centuries more than 450 000 heads of sheep were said to have been raised by the Kotel shepherds up there, far to the north east, in the rolling planes of Dobroudzha where from endless oxteam caravans of shorn wool kept coming back to Kotel to be turned into homespun abas and hoddens. Long term contracts for cloth deliveries to the Ottoman Army had provided the population with considerable privileges and had given them self-confidence and a spirit of freedom and independence.
People in Kotel are known to be industrious, enterprising and studious. They used to keep up on donations of their own the 5 secular schools, to build clapboard houses with woodcut doors, carved ceiling soffits. Women had added homespun broadloom carpets, fluffy rugs and cushions to the beauty and warmth of their homes. Kotel turned into one of the richest, most beautiful, patriotic settlements - a national centre of the Bulgarian Revival.
The devastating fires as that of 1894 had devoured majority of the built up civic area. It remains its glory as a settlement - national pride for all Bulgarian people. The exhibition of typical woven materials from this region in Galatan - school is devoted to the weaving art of Kotel women. It is open to the public from May to October. The exhibition presents the development of this art from the simple rag carpet through the classic carpet to the complicated up to date forms. Their workmanship is demonstrated on a primitive loom. On the first floor exponents from the Revival and 20th century are exhibited and on the second-new woven icons and pictures of Kotel workwomen-masters. The tradition in their works is enriched and developed further. The beauty and the great value of our woven materials contribute to the glory of Kotel very much.
The town of Kotel has been declared an architectural and historical reserve. About 110 houses from the Revival Period have been preserved there. There is a museum exposition of brilliant fabrics – a symbol of the ancient craft of carpet weaving in Galatan School. Kyorpev's House is an ethnographic museum. The Pantheon of Kotel`s Revival Men and Women is an imposing building made of stone, iron, copper and wood and gives the impression of contact with the glory of past epochs. The Museum of Nature and Science preserves approximately 30,000 exhibits, which show the natural variety of the area. The enchanting highland scenery, the ancient neighbourhood of the town with its woodwork houses and narrow, cobblestone streets, the park with its gushing springs, the four museums, Folk-music school, the preserved atmosphere of the past attract lots of visitors in Kotel.
The town is a native place of a number of eminent National Revival figures: Georgi Sava Rakovski (one of the main ideologist of the movement for national liberation), the Renaissance men of letters Neophyte Bozvelli, Dr. Petar Beron, Sofroni Vrachanski, the socially active men Gavril Krastevich, Aleko Bogoridi, Stefan Bogoridy and many others.
A Turkish register of 1486 contains the earliest information about the town known then as Kazan Panaru. At the beginning of the Ottoman rule Kotel was inhabited by the so called dervendgis (they used to guard the passes in the Balkan) and dgelepies (traders of cattle, sheep). Long term contracts for cloth deliveries to the Ottoman army had provided relative independence of the town. That, as well as the economic growth in 18th-19th century, contracts for trade, and the Orthodox passion of the inhabitants of Kotel contributed to the transformation of the town into a centre of Bulgarian culture and education, of the struggle for church independence and national freedom.
The town of Kotel has been declared an architectural and historical reserve. There have been preserved over 110 Renaissance houses. There is a museum exposition of brilliant fabrics – symbol of the ancient craft of carpet weaving in Galatan School.
The house of Kyorpev's is an ethnographic museum. The Museum of Renaissance illustrates the life of more than 200 national heroes from the region. The Museum of Nature and Science shows the natural variety of the area. St. Trinity and St. St. Apostles Peter and Paul churches preserve beautiful woodcarvings. There is high musical folk school Filip Kutev in Kotel.
There are regular bus lines from Kotel to Shoumen, Sliven, Yambol, Veliki Preslav, Targovishte and other villages and towns in the district. The bus station is situated in the southern part of the town.
The village of Zheravna is 14 km south of Kotel. Every building in the village is a unique monument of culture. The village of Medven is 12 km southeast of Kotel. There are more than 120 cultural monuments dating back to the Renaissance epoch. The village of Katunishte is 15 km southeast of the town. 80 buildings there have been declared cultural monuments. The town of Gradetz is situated 17 km southeast of Kotel. It is rich in architectural monuments. Some 7 km away is the antique dividing wall at Zhelezni Vrati. There are more than 30 caves that have already been investigated in the region of Kotel. Most interesting are: Ledenika, Dryanovska, Kurvavata Lokva, Rakovski.