Velingrad, Bulgaria: The Best Place To Rejuvenate
The best part about any vacation is coming back home relaxed and revitalised.
When you visit Velingrad, the Spa Capital of the Balkans, you’ll come back not simply refreshed, but also healthier in every way.
The healing powers of the mineral waters of Velingrad, Bulgaria, have been known for centuries. Remains of aqueducts show that the Ancient Thracians and the Romans have already used the water to rejuvenate.
Research shows that the altitude between 780 m and 800 m (2,560 ft. – 2,625 ft.) above sea level aids your body in recovering faster from health problems, built-up stress, and anxiety. This is the exact elevation of the small mountainous town in Bulgaria, named after the local hero Vela Peeva – Velingrad.
The abundance of healing mineral waters, combined with the best altitude to revitalise your body, and the cleanest mountain air possible, make Velingrad the perfect spa lover’s paradise.
Are you ready to find why you need to visit and what exactly awaits you in the Spa Capital of the Balkans? Then read on!
Discover The Healing Powers Of Velingrad’s Mineral Waters
With over 600 mineral water springs, Bulgaria is the second richest in mineral waters country in the world, stepping down only to Iceland.
The most hypoallergenic spot in Europe is located in Velingrad.
Four main sources supply the town. Each of them comes from different depths of the Earth, has a different temperature, and is suitable for the treatment of various health problems.
Velingrad’s mineral waters have temperatures from 25°C (77° F) to 97°C (207° F). The hottest is also rich in the radioactive element radon. The water is suitable for the treatment of various lung diseases, musculoskeletal system problems, nervous diseases, gynaecological problems, and skin illnesses.
You can enjoy the benefits of the mineral waters of Velingrad in three ways. Drinking the water, inhaling it, and soaking your body in therapeutic pools treats different diseases and revitalises your body from inside and out.
Furthermore, the tap water in Velingrad is not only drinkable but it’s delectable and healthy. Since the level of mineralisation is rather low, it’s one of the waters that are perfect for daily use.
Velingrad’s waters have such strong remedial powers that they are capable of closing wounds and destroying kidney stones.
Personally, I’ve been taking allergy pills for the last 25 years. In 2017, after spending a week of rejuvenating in Balneo Complex & SPA Hotel Aquatonik, Velingrad, for the first time since I was a teenager, I didn’t need my medications!
After learning all these facts, I bet it comes as no surprise to you, that in 2008, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association awarded Velingrad Spa Capital of the Balkans.
Now, would you like to bet that Velingrad will soon claim the title Spa Capital of Europe?
Enjoy Velingrad’s Climate And Location Which Increase The Benefits Of Its Mineral Waters
Velingrad is an all-year tourist destination. The winter is mild and the summer is fresh. The average yearly temperature is 10°C (50° F) and the sun shines for about 2,000 hours per annum over the town.
Only 2 hours away from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and 1.5 hours away from Bulgaria’s second-largest city, Plovdiv, Velingrad is a favourite spa destination for both locals and visitors.
Since there isn’t a single factory in Velingrad, the crisp unpolluted mountain air and the mild climate augment the healing powers of the mineral waters. The town’s location at an altitude of around 800 m above sea level additionally helps your body to rejuvenate quicker.
The magical Rhodope Mountains, surrounding Velingrad, offer countless opportunities for hikes of different durations and levels of difficulty. The magnificent views, which unravel before your eyes in all directions, make your soul forget all your troubles.
If you manage to leave the comforts of your spa accommodation and exchange the swimming for other activities, head over to Belmeken Dam, the highest dam on the Balkans. A challenging trek of around 4 hours to Belmeken Peak will give your muscles the perfect exercise.
If hiking Belmeken Peak sounds like too much effort to you, take the trail from Yundola to Pashovi Cliffs.
In just under 30 minutes, you can enjoy the incredible panorama of the surrounding Rhodope Mountains, the picturesque villages in the valleys, the narrow-gauge train tracks, and the Rila Mountains in the distance.
Devour The Scrumptious Local Delicacies Not Found Anywhere Else In Bulgaria
The Bulgarian cuisine is an experience for all your senses, which you should immerse yourself into when visiting the small Eastern European gem.
The locally grown produce is always fresh and the organic ingredients in the dishes will make your body stronger and healthier.
A large portion of the population in the region of Velingrad are Muslims. Therefore, the local delicacy is a sheep or lamb steak, marinated for several hours. The recipe for the marinade is a well-kept secret and no one outside Velingrad can tell you how exactly the steaks become so juicy and tender.
Another local dish you absolutely must try is the Sofenka beans. The huge white-coloured beans grow at only a few locations in Bulgaria. Velingrad’s climate and altitude are perfect for the production of Sofenka beans.
The vegetarian dish is cooked for several hours. You can’t stir the beans because you’ll break them. Instead, you’ll need to shake them in the pot. They’re cooked until all water evaporates. The unique mixture of herbs and spices make the Sofenka beans taste like pure drops of heaven.
An excellent place where you can try both sheep or lamb steaks and Sofenka beans, prepared with great expertise and love, is Mehana Demeko.
Treat Yourself To A Luxury Experience In Velingrad’s Best Accommodations
With 5,000+ beds to choose from, finding the perfect accommodation in Velingrad is a tough choice.
The guesthouses offer lower prices but no wellness facilities. Instead, you can choose to visit one of the six public thermal baths in Velingrad, an outdoor beach, or an indoor swimming pool.
The oldest public beach in Velingrad is as old as the town itself. Until 1938, the neighbourhoods of Velingrad – Chepino, Ladjene, Kamenitsa, and Draginovo – were separate villages. Then came the idea of uniting them and naming the new town Velingrad after the local hero Vela Peeva.
At the same time, the first in Bulgaria and second in Europe Olympic-sized swimming pool was constructed in town. The sand for the beach came directly from Varna, the largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, also known as the Sea Capital of Bulgaria.
If you decide to splurge on a more luxurious accommodation, you’ll be happy to know that every hotel in Velingrad has a SPA centre with mineral water pools.
Recently, we stayed in ARTE SPA & Park Hotel. The deluxe 5-stars gem features:
- indoor and outdoor pools,
- several jacuzzis,
- steam baths,
- contrast temperature pools,
- and various other facilities, waiting to spoil you and rejuvenate your body and soul.
The restaurant offers exquisite dining and a fine selection of wines. The interior is elegant, cosy, and chic and features natural materials, such as wood and stone, in all details.
Explore The Best Activities In And Around Velingrad
A trip to any destination, even a spa lover’s paradise like Velingrad, would be incomplete without immersing yourself into the nature, culture, and history of the place.
The Velingrad Municipality and the nearby villages hide some of the best views, vibrant traditions, and extraordinary legends.
Join Hands And Learn To Dance Bulgarian Folk Dances During Velingrad’s Cultural Festival
At the beginning of July, Velingrad hosts different cultural spectacles.
For 45 years in a row, the municipality organises concerts, dance performances, parades, fireworks, games, and diverse other activities. The festival lasts for several days.
On our recent trip, we were lucky to watch folk dancers and singers from different regions of Bulgaria, as well as locals and visitors, joining hands in typical Bulgarian dances.
The culmination of the evening was the fire dancer, who performed a barefoot nestinar dance on glooming embers in the centre of Velingrad (watch the video below).
Find Where The European Royalties Order Their Exquisite Hand-made Carpets
In a small village just several minutes away from Velingrad, named Kostandovo, lies a carpet factory. The uniqueness of this business hides not only in the high quality of their produce but also in the grandeur of their customers.
Believe it or not, Queen Elizabeth II is just one of many royal clients who order their unique hand-made woollen carpets here.
In the last 20+ years, the owner of the factory and his crew have created hundreds of unique life-long-lasting carpets. They’ve used all designs just once. Except for one.
The only one, which they agreed to produce multiple times, is a carpet, which belonged to Napoleon. The original was destroyed and in Kostandovo, the design was restored by photographs.
One designer and four weavers work together for six months to create the 50-m2-large floor covering. It seems like everyone in France, who can afford to pay the high price for the excellent quality – around 1,000€/m2 – is ordering such carpet for his home.
Ride The Last Narrow-gauge Train In Bulgaria To The Highest Station On The Balkans
Narrow-gauge trains are a rarity throughout the world. Railways prefer the wider trails as they offer more stability.
In mountainous places such as the Bulgarian highlands, where the trails take numerous turns and go through countless tunnels, the narrow-gauge trains are the only means of transportation for hundreds of people.
The 760-mm-wide railway Septemvri – Velingrad – Dobrinishte is the last remaining of its kind in Bulgaria. Due to the terrain, the average speed of the trains is 40 km/h (25 mph). Hence, the distance of 125 km (78 mi) is travelled in about 5:00 hours.
The most spectacular part of the railway is between the train stations Velingrad and the small village Avramovo.
The tracks follow the curves of the Rhodope Mountains between mesmerising hills, by green meadows, through pine tree forests, and numerous tunnels. The ride takes exactly one hour (watch the video below).
The last 9 km before Avramovo, the train passes through 16 tunnels and travels an 8-shaped serpentine. It then arrives at the highest train station on the Balkans, located at an altitude of 1,267 m (4,157 ft.) above sea level.
Riding the narrow-gauge train is like time travel.
The line was constructed between the 1920s and the 1940s, and it seems like time has stopped in the villages whose train stations you’ll pass. Some of the station buildings haven’t been renovated since their construction.
Passengers on the narrow-gauge train travel the distance between the big city of Velingrad and their home villages several times a week. There’s no other way for them to get the supplies for their everyday needs. Some of them also visit Velingrad to sell their own produce: milk, honey, jams, cheese, and souvenirs.
While we were simply riding the train as an entertainment admiring the mesmerising views from the window, for those people, it is a part of their sustenance.
Are You Ready To Rejuvenate In The Spa Capital Of The Balkans?
Velingrad’s perfect elevation and mild climate, the healing powers of its mineral waters, the crisp unpolluted air, the breathtaking views, and the diverse activities make it a perfect spot to heal and rejuvenate.
People have come for centuries to this jaw-dropping area of the Rhodope Mountains. Velingrad’s natural treasures help everyone who ventures to the Bulgarian town improve his health.
Don’t you think it’s time for you to discover this true gem for yourself?
What are you waiting for – Velingrad awaits you!
Disclaimer: the trip to Velingrad was on an invitation of the Velingrad Municipality and the Centre for Tourism Information. ARTE Spa & Park Hotel and Mehana Demeko provided the accommodation and the meals. The expressed opinions are, as always, my own and were not influenced by the invitation.