Hot springs Velingrad, Bulgaria
Love the beautiful phenomenon of Hot Mineral Springs?
Do you enjoy relaxing in pleasantly warm waters, while reaping the benefits of its curative properties?
How about submerging in a hot mineral spring jacuzzi while the snow gently falls around you?
There is something deeply satisfying on physical and psychological level, when you connect with nature like this- the mineral water coming from the depth of the Earth, bringing its precious elements, to cure, ground and center you, while your every fiber surrenders to its healing power. You feel rejuvenated, reinvented and most of all peaceful and thankful.
Throughout the centuries and around the world people have appreciated the incredible gift Mother Nature brings to us via its mineral springs- the benefits are endless and some of the best spas are built around Hot Springs, making them a major and preferred tourist destination. Those resorts that boost mineral springs in the area, attract not only people who crave the healing benefits of its waters, but honeymooners and couples seeking a romantic and relaxing get-away, athletes, recovering from strenuous activities and overworked individuals, looking for some piece and quiet.
Bulgaria, not surprisingly – considering its favorable geographical location and beautiful nature- has been blessed with having numerous Mineral Hot Springs, with wide range of healing properties, gravitating people from all over Europe for centuries, making it the ultimate Spa paradise. Very few countries in the world can compete with Bulgaria in this respect and no wonder- here you can find over 200 mineral springs (148 in the Southern and 77 in its Northern part), with average temperature between 37 and 50 degrees Celsius, generally described with low content of mineralization. Nowadays, you can find fancy spa resorts built around these miraculous springs all over Bulgaria, most popular amongst them are the ones in Velingrad, Sandanski, Devin, Varshets, Kjustendil, Sofia and Varna (more details on these Hot spots you can find here), making Bulgaria the leading spa destination in Europe.
The Hot Springs Mecca amongst them all, in my oppinion (mind you I have been to most and like them all) is without a doubt the town of Velingrad, where my parents used to take my sister and myself frequently when we were kids and naturally, it has a special sentimental value in my heart. While back then, we used to stay at small Bed and Breakfast places, where my parents made life-long friends amongst the small community that lived there, nowadays, you can hardly recognize the place- new fancy spa resorts emerge by the day, the choice is big and the amenities that the hotels offer are world-class. While there are more than 90 mineral water springs with curative and preventive properties in and around the town of Velingrad. varying considerably in temperature, mineralization, radon, silicic acid and fluorine content, all are suitable for treatment of a wide range of ailments and of course some of the best drinking mineral water comes from this area as well.
Velingrad is situated 750-850 m above sea level, in the Southern part of Bulgaria, located in the western end of Chepino valley, part of Rhodope mountain. It has cold winters and warm summers (average temperature in July is 19 and in the winter 10 degrees Celsius) and the humidity is 65-75%. Surrounded by age-old pine tree woods, the town favors abundant sunshine. This exclusively rare and valuable combination has a beneficial influence on the process of ionization (negative ions are prevailing) and is of definite therapeutic importance.
What makes Velingrad unique is another natural phenomenon as well — the Kleptuza, the biggest Karstspring in Bulgaria, with an average discharge of 1200 littres of ice-cold water per second. To me Kleptuza will always remain this beautiful romantic lake, where we used to ride pedal boats and have delicious trout in its quaint restaurants, enjoying the view, the music and festive lights in the fresh mountain air.
While difficult to choose, my top favorite Spa hotels in the area are Royal Spa Velingrad and Maxi Hotel, both equipped with inside and outside hot mineral springs pools, saunas, treatment rooms, fitness and recreation areas, great restaurants and both are within a walking distance to town.
Royal Spa hosts a branch of the well known amongst Bulgarians and its tourist Victoria Spa, where you can not only indulge in the two mineral water pools and the various saunas (infrared, Himalayan salt, Roman, etc) and steam rooms, but also surrender in the professional hands of massage therapist from all over the world. The choice of treatments is endless, from Hot Stone to Ayurveda massages, you can have a different experience every day. My super friendly masseur was from Bali and I enjoyed a detox treatment, enhanced with exotic oils and relaxing aromas. There is a team of beauty experts- a dietician, nail and hair specialists, cosmeticians and of course fitness instructors. The gym in the hotel is small, but has all essential pieces of equipment for a good workout, a brunch of the largest gym complex in Sofia, called “Pulse”.
The weather in Velingrad, whether in the winter, spring, autumn or summer, lures its visitors to enjoy the surrounding nature via hiking trips – there are eco paths that can lead you further up in the mountain and you do not need to be an expert climber- the walks are pleasant and healthy.
We visited the hotel with my niece and while enjoying all amenities to the fullest, we were equally impressed by the hospitality and friendly service of the employees, especially satisfying are the breakfast and dinner buffets with a wide range of local and international delicacies. For the members of the above mentioned gym “Palace”, special Boot camps are regularly organized, with hiking trips, fitness exercises and dietary programs.
The other excellent and may be more family oriented establishment would be hotel Maxi. Situated at the outskirts of the mountain with direct hiking trails starting from the hotel itself, it also boasts beautiful pools with relaxing jacuzzis, the hotel is tranquil and suitable for kids at the same time. The restaurant offers great choices of local cuisine and some pretty spectacular wines. The hotel is often used for business gatherings and it is a great romantic get-away as well.
Starting from the hotel, there are several Eco paths, leading you deeper in the forest and within minutes you are surrounded by old trees and unspoiled nature. If you take another path(starting from hotel “The Palace”), in 45 min you will reach “Staro Bardo”, a historic site and see some really nice small churches on the way and make friends with the local goats:-)
Devin is another hot springs destination not too far away, where you can find similar spa hotels with a cozy, traditional ambiance and lots of incredibly inexpensive pubs and restaurants.
While the main attraction are the hot springs and the mountain trails, equally sensational are the caves near by: Devil’s Throat (Djavolsko garlo) and Yagodinska caves. Both are specacular with its formations (the so called speleothems, including stalactites, stlagmites and stalagnates, draperies and cave pearls) several floor levels and underground rivers. A knowledgeable guide will lead you inside and you will have a spooky, yet exhilarating experience. If you are claustrophobic, this is not for you and be aware that the temperature inside is around 6 degrees Celsius, so dress accordingly.
Another great attraction on the area is the recreation of a life-size mammoth, whose bones were found around Dorkovo village, near Velingrad. The small museum in the shape of a bee-hive nicely presents the epoch dating millions of years ago and the visual and sound effects bring you back in time when these lands were roamed by pre-historic creatures. It is incredibly unusual to see such interesting artifacts in a modern museum in the middle of a tiny village in Bulgaria, near an ancient fortress (Tsepina), surrounded by history and lush nature.
Check out the incredible view of Dorkovo village and its surroundings!