A Special Place
The remote village of Startsevo combines everything that makes the Rhodope Mountains special - diverse and hospitable people, delicious local food, uniquely beautiful nature, and a wealth of ancient historical sites. It is a travel destination like no other in Europe!
Startsevo is located at 720 m above the sea level, on the southern flank of the Rhodope summit Mavruza, itself 983 m high. On a clear day, the panorama opening up from Mavruza reaches all the way to the Adriatic Sea and the island of Thassos.
There is little factual information on the origins of Startsevo, yet it is likely that it goes back to ancient times, as does the Thracian cult site White Stones located above it. Before 1934, when it received its current name meaning "the olden one", the village had been called Elehche since Ottoman times and Elias before that.
In recent years, the village has shrunk from one of the largest in Bulgaria with more than 3,000 inhabitants, to a population of only 2,300. Yet, even as young people are increasingly moving elsewhere in Bulgaria and abroad in search of better economic opportunities, they remain committed to their place of origin, visiting and investing at every occasion. The village can therefore maintain a large well-equipped school, and a chitalishte cultural community center.
Startsevo is considered to be one of the origins of Bulgarian immaterial culture. Local customs, traditional dresses, songs, and language have been tremendously influential and formative for the country. Today, the village is predominantly Muslim, exemplifying what is referred to as Pomak culture. Nevertheless, religion hasn't been influential in modern times, only re-emerging somewhat after the end of communism. Thus, the village today has two mosques, one recently rebuilt and another newly erected, as well as a church that was constructed in 1998 for the Christian population.
Tranquility and a traditional way of life, closely linked to toiling the land, characterize Startsevo. Small-scale subsistence farming is to be found at every corner, with fruit and vegetables being grown all around people's houses. Domestic animals are plentiful, contributing to the peaceful atmosphere.
Startsevo and its surrounding are, thus, best suited for hiking of all kinds. Forest trails lead up the nearby mountains, paved roads crisscross the lower hillsides. Climbing Mavruza is not only a pleasurable experience in and of itself, but gives access to a unique view. Hiking to the White Stones on the other hand, is much less demanding, while in the end offering a similar reward.
In addition to such physical activities, two traditional restaurants open their gates to locals and tourists alike. The delicious food served there is prepared from organic produce and regional meats.
There are a number of natural sites in the wider vicinity of Startsevo that can be explored while staying there. For instance, the deep gorge of the river Erma, notable for the dispersed inhabited specks clinging to its steep ridges, is located nearby.
Not far from the village, the river Golyama, still a creek at that stage, forms a tiny natural impoundment that is perfect for swimming. Virche, as locals call this site, is not easily accessible and rather hidden, thus oozing a very special charm.
Further afield, deep forests and spacious grasslands unfold across the Rhodope hills. Dotted by cultivated land and open-range animal husbandry, they, too, provide a great surrounding for hiking. Frequently, after a turn is taken or a hill is climbed, viewpoints overseeing the landscape below unfold before one's eyes. In addition, this environment is well-suited for mountain biking and similar sports.
The area around Startsevo is well-known for its raw natural beauty. You can find various animals and many endangered plants here.
In addition to everything you would expect at a nice hotel, our guest house is lovingly furnished and offers many extras.
Startsevo is remote, yet at the same time easily accessible by car, as the nearby road infrastructure has been substantially improved in recent years.