Thermes Hot Springs
In 2010, authorities finally, and for the first time since World War II, established a border crossing between Bulgaria and Greece in the middle of the Rhodope Mountains. The crossing is located west of Zlatograd, only 15 minutes from Startsevo. Thus, after decades of separation, it has become possible to visit the nearby village of Thermes and bathe in its famous hot springs.
In close proximity to the hot springs of Thermes, in the compound Iamatikes Piges above the village, the restaurant Kafe Psistaria O Kalemtzi welcomes visitors to a mix of Bulgarian and Greek dishes typical for this region.
The specialties offered here range from pancakes with honey, yoghurt, and walnuts that are best enjoyed with delicious Turkish coffee, to more substantial meals of various salads from fresh sun-drenched vegetables with feta cheese, olive oil, and local spices. And if you prefer going all-out, you can even enjoy an impressive spit-roasted goat or lamb.
The restaurant's owner Kemal Kalemtzi rents basic rooms at Enoikiazomena Domatia Kalemtzi Kemal next door, and his son Hassan who can be found in either venue, speaks good English.
As the area around Thermes is teeming with relaxing and therapeutic hot springs, visitors have various diverse options to get their feet wet.
The main bath can be found in a building opposite the church in Thermes proper. While it costs some money, the outdoor bath 100 m down the road can be used for free.
Still the better option is to forgo Thermes entirely and visit one of the bathing spots further uphill. Here you can find a number of hot springs near the road, including an Ottoman-style hot spring (hamam) in a small valley. The best option though, is to bathe in the well-kept pool adjacent to the restaurant O Kalemtzi, where on top of the good facilities you can enjoy a view of the valley below.
Thermes consists of three parts, an upper (Ano Thermes), a middle (Meso Thermes), and a lower part (Kato Thermes) that are each located a few kilometers apart along a narrow mountain road.
Hot springs are to be found all across the area, but the main agglomeration lies above Ano Thermes, clustered around a compound called Iamatikes Piges. Even though the compound boasts some houses, a restaurant, a boarding house, and an Orthodox chapel, no locals live here permanently.
Whilst the area is not exactly a tourist spot, its remoteness has a certain charm of its own. Moreover, Thermes boasts a unique cultural artifact - a rock relief of Persian deity Mithra from the second century A.D. It is the only site dedicated to this deity ever discovered in the Rhodope Mountains.
Besides the delicious offerings of the authentic local restaurants, you can request home-made cuisine from fresh organic produce right out of our garden.
The area around Startsevo is well-known for its raw natural beauty. You can find various animals and many endangered plants here.
Startsevo is remote, yet at the same time easily accessible by car, as the nearby road infrastructure has been substantially improved in recent years.