Smilyan is a relatively large Bulgarian village nestled in a lively valley along the upper stream of the Arda river in the Rhodope Mountains. Located at the entrance of a tourist area – the Arda River Upper Stream region, 15 km from the regional center – the town of Smolyan and just 20 km from the border with Greece. The village has a well-developed social infrastructure and operates a visitor information center – providing information and guidance about numerous sites: caves, historical, archaeological, and cultural sightseeing. As a grass-roots approach initiated by the Mayor of Smilyan in 2001, an initiative group of local stakeholders agreed on a long-term concept for future development to prevent an economic decline and depopulation of the area. Its flagship initiative is territorial marketing promotion started in 2003 with the first edition of the Smilyan Beans Festival. Smilyan beans are specific varieties of delicious beans grown only in this area. Six of them are with the protected name “Smilyan Beans” and registered geographical designation since 2007. The Smilyan Beans Festival – an event involving producers, hotel and restaurant owners, cultural operators, local micro-crediting cooperative, associations of beans and dairy producers and the whole community. Since its first edition, Festival visitors in the last five years have reached about 6 000 visitors annually, triple the number of the village population Smilyan Beans is the first Bulgarian Slow Food Presidia, set up in 2005. Since 2005 the Cultural Community Center ventured to become a focal point addressing the needs and initiatives of different community groups and delivering services tailored to their demand – information and training to producers, social support campaigns for vulnerable community members, regular meetings of local stakeholders in tourism services and training to improve the effectiveness of their marketing, awareness-raising on public health issues raised by parents groups, non-formal environmental education to youths and adults.




borders, mountains

Degree of urbanization


population of 1582

Village Solutions

Rhodope Wildflowers Festival

In 2013 Cultural Community Center in Smilyan initiated the Rhodope Wildflowers Festival, a 10-days event as a tool to promote the biodiversity value of the territory among visitors on the one hand, and on the other – to promote the development of sustainable private and public initiatives to involve local stakeholders in environmental protection activities.


Smilyan Beans – territorial marketing based on a core product

A group of community stakeholders was established in the year 2000 to find an approach and a solution for territorial marketing for the Upper Arda River area to boost both agricultural production and tourism development initiatives just arising at that time. Smilyan Beans was chosen to be the core brand.

Contact Information

Chitalishte (Cultural Community Center) Prof. Dr. Asen Zlatarov 1927,

Manager Godev Iliya,