Kardzhali & Perperikon
Capital of Thrace
Kardzhali is a place where the past meets the present. Today, the city is a municipal center, while the capital of ancient Thrace, Perperikon, is located only a few kilometers away. Moreover, Kardzhali province is the most ethnically and religiously diverse part of modern Bulgaria.
The municipal center to the province of the same name is home to 44,000 inhabitants of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Kardzhali is noteworthy for its History Museum, where many artifacts of the nearby Thracian archaeological sites are on display.
Kardzhali is divided by the river Arda, with its city center located on the north bank. Arda is dammed into two reservoirs on both sides of the city, with the Kardzhali dam and reservoir to the west, and Studen Kladenets to the east. Both reservoirs are connected in the area of the city center by the Water Mirror hydro-engineering project. This massive channel, 3 km long and 160 m wide, was constructed in 2009 and is now offering attractive promenades and facilities for water sports on its banks.
The Regional Museum of History in Kardzhali is the most prominent tourist site of the city. Housed in an impressive building from the 1920s by architect Alexander Pomerantsev, the museum contains 45,000 exhibits depicting life in the Rhodope Mountains. Next to exhibits on the natural world and ethnography of the Rhodopes, important artifacts from Thracian sites Perperikon and Tatul are on display here. Another noteworthy sight is the medieval Monastery of John the Precursor, originally built from the sixth to eight centuries A.D. and located on the southern bank of Arda.
From afar, this 470 m high rocky hill looks unassuming, which is why it managed to hide a unique archaeological treasure, the ruins of the ancient Thracian city Perperikon, for so many centuries.
The area of Perperikon was first settled around 5,000 B.C., with Neolithic sanctuaries devoted to the Sun God being built atop the hill over the ensuing millennia. Once metal tools had advanced sufficiently in the early Iron Age, an oval hall with a huge circular altar was erected - the famous Temple of Dionysius. In the last millennium B.C. Perperikon grew significantly and became a fortified city with temples, residential quarters, and strong walls as thick as 2.8 m.
Even though the complex was burned and destroyed a number of times, for instance in 378 A.D. by the Goths, it was always rebuilt and thrived as a community until the 14th century. Around the fifth century Perperikon became a Christian center and stronghold, as the religion spread throughout the Rhodope Mountains. The remains of the oldest church on Bulgarian territory, a single nave basilica of 16.5 m length with a richly decorated stone-carved pulpit, were recently discovered in Perperikon. The church existed until the 14th century when it was leveled by Ottoman invaders together with the rest of the complex. Perperikon was completely forgotten and only rediscovered in the year 2000.
Besides Perperikon, there are a number of other worthwhile sights in the vicinity of Kardzhali, such as the rock formation Stone Mushrooms, and Tatul - another ancient Thracian burial site.
The natural phenomenon Stone Mushrooms is located about 20 km north of Kardzhali, along the road to Haskovo. These volcanic rock formations consist of rhyolite and tower up to 3 m in height. The mushrooms are mostly white, exhibiting a pink shimmer caused by the presence of the zeolite mineral clinoptilolite, with blue and black spots due to manganese concretions. The 3 ha large area is protected as a natural monument, but is nevertheless accessible to visitors.
Tatul is an ancient Thracian surface tomb and sanctuary located 25 km south-east of Kardzhali. Like Perperikon, this exclusive religious cult site dating back to 4,000 B.C., was only discovered in the 2000s. The Tatul burial site is considered by archaeologist to be either the grave of Rhesus of Thrace, or part of the cult of Orpheus. Many artifacts excavated at Tatul go back to the 19th and 18th century B.C., but the religious activity culminated around the first century B.C., when a temple for the man buried here was erected. Today, the site is being developed as a tourist destination and is easily accessible.
Every year we grow a large amount of organic fruit and vegetables in our garden, some of which we preserve for later consumption.
No matter if at night or during the day - you can always relax on our porch or balconies with a breathtaking view of the valleys below.
Most of Startsevo and its surroundings are ecologically pristine due to lack of development. This allows for ecotourism in the most authentic way.