The name of Strandzha (Stranja) comes from an old Bulgarian word “stran”, which means strange, mystical. Like the mountain itself.
Strandzha is situated in South-Eastern Bulgaria. The highest peak of the mountain is Mahiasa (1031 m), which is situated in Turkey, where the larger part of the mountain lies. The highest peak on Bulgarian territory is Golyamo Gradishte (709 m).The climate is Mediterranean. The summer is hot, the winter is mild. Very suitable for walking tours (guided and self-guided alike) are the spring and the autumn – both long and warm. The relief is low mountain and hills mostly, suitable for easier hiking treks combined with sea recreation on the shore.
Strandzha was declared a Nature Park in 1995 and nowadays it is the largest protected area in the country (116 136 ha). Within the borders of the park there are 5 nature reserves: “Vitanovo”, “Uzunbodzhak”, “Sredoka”, “Tisovitsa” and “Silkosiya” (the last one being the oldest one in Bulgaria (1933).
In general the walking trails in Strandzha are not difficult or dangerous. But most of the paths are not well marked. In addition to that, there are no high peaks and it is easy to get lost. Apart from low mountain hikes, you can try some coastal or river walks. Most of the trails are passing through the villages. The duration can be between 2 and 6-8 hours. One of the most attractive eco trails is the “Marina River eco trail” which is also a protected area. It is very suitable if you have a special interest in botany – in less than one hour you can get to know Strandzha’s most emblematic tree species, as well as the famous Strandzha Pontic Rhododendron and many rare animals. Other trails developed by the nature park administration are “Bulgarian Colchis eco trail”, “Veleka River eco trail”, “Fire-dancers in Strandzha eco trail”. Most of the paths are also very suitable for mountain biking or horseback riding.
There are no working huts in Strandzha. You can stay in the variety of small guesthouses in the villages such as Brashlian, Kosti, Gramatikovo, Balgari, Brodilovo. Another option is the luxury hotels along the sea coast, which you can use as overnight base for day-tours in the mountains.
Strandzha is a mountain with thousands years of history. It was occupied by several civilizations. The most ancient remains are from the Thracians. After them, there were the Greeks, the Romans and the Turks. Much historical evidence still remains from the Thracian times, such as tombs, megaliths, ruined fortresses.
Although Strandzha is the least populated area in Bulgaria – 10 people in a square kilometer, the biggest treasure of the mountain are the local hospitable people with their colorful costumes, interesting (and some of them unique) traditions and delicious meals. The villages are small and pretty. Once you are in Strandzha, you should visit Brashlian village (the name means “ivy”). Brashlian is an architectural reserve where you can enjoy walking on the narrow streets, see 200-year-old houses or try weaving at a loom.
Thanks to the area’s geological past, climate, and geographical location, Strandzha has a unique nature. Luckily, political history only augments that advantage, because Strandzha was a border territory for a long time where access and human activities were limited, which is the reason why the animal diversity and identity is very well preserved. The mountain is a protected area, where you can see a variety of birds, reptiles, butterflies and wild flowers. There are more than 1700 plants, some of them are rare, endemic species, relicts or endangered. There are more than 50 mammal species such as wolves, wild boars, deer, jackals, wild cats, hares (you will for sure encounter the semi-wild boars, grazing peacefully along the roads). You can see a variety of birds, especially on passage, because one of the major European bird migration corridors called “Via Pontica” (the Black Sea route) passes over the mountains.
The most visited festival, which is an attraction in itself these days, is the Fire-dancing. It is an ancient tradition now practiced in only a few places in Bulgaria. One of them is Strandzha. “Nestinarstvo” (the fire-dancing) is an old pagan ritual. Two thousand years ago, the Thracian kings were the only ones, who could make contact with the gods. Before entering the holy place, the king was dancing on burning coals. It helped him connect with the gods and afterwards tell the people their wish. Nowadays, every year, on the night between June 3rd and 4th, the Saints Konstantin and Elena day, in Balgari village people gather to celebrate the fest and to watch the Nestinari perform their holy dance on burning coals. This is definitely a night to remember.
Another popular and interesting event in Strandzha is the Festival of Pontic Rhododendron. It takes place every year in the beginning of May. You can enjoy delicious local meals, folklore music and dances, workshops, exhibitions and competitions. There are organized easy walks and not so easy hikes with a local guide, rope-garden and others.
National folklore singing competition “Strandzha sings” – takes place every four years in Gramatikovo village.
If you are looking for a combination of boundless hills and meadows, unspoiled coast of the Black Sea, diverse flora and fauna, small nestled villages, ancient history, hiking tours – Strandzha Mountains is the perfect spot for you.
Now listen to the anthem of Strandzha HERE.