Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Featured Image, Image Credit: Grand Hotel Velingrad

Velingrad – the Spa Capital of the Balkans

What do Bulgaria and Iceland have in common? Besides that both countries are situated on the Old Continent and they offer jaw-dropping sceneries, Bulgaria takes second place after the icy country in terms of diversity and abundance of hot, mineral springs. And since Iceland is quite cold most of the year, Velingrad, lately known as “The Spa Capital of the Balkans”, is a much better choice for your next spa destination. Not persuaded? Please, allow me to convince you.

Location of Velingrad

Velingrad is a beautiful town in Southern Bulgaria cosily embraced by the Western Rhodope Mountains. Standing at around 150 km (93 mi) south-east of Sofia, it is located at an altitude of 750-830 metres (2,461-2723 ft) which is believed to be the best altitude for the body to acclimatise itself to the surrounding environment, to relax, and to revitalise.

The town is the only Spa region in Europe where harmful substances are neither found in the water, nor in the air. Moreover, there is a negative air ionisation for at least 8 years every day which rejuvenises our body cells much quicker.

1937 saw the construction of the first, Olympic-size, mineral water pool in Europe. The sand, which is scattered around the pool to make a mini beach, was brought from the Sea Capital of Bulgaria – Varna.

The Magical, Healing Waters of Velingrad

Not only Velingrad’s whereabouts and crystal clear, fresh air will make your stay as relaxing as possible, but also it is the curative, therapeutic mineral water of the region that adds up to the magic.

The Manager of the Spa Section of Hotel Rich, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, shared with us several facts that make Velingrad’s mineral waters inimitable.

  • There are a couple of main springs around the town. The water’s temperature varies from 420 C (107 F) (at Chepino deposit where the water has radon – said to possess anti-inflammatory action and to enhance the body’s vitamin production) to 88,50 C (190 F) (at Kamenitsa deposit where the water is hypothermal, weakly mineralised, sulphate-hydro-sodium, fluorine, and silicon; the low quantities of hydrogen sulphide make the water very useful in the fight against muscle and joint diseases, such as spikes, and inflammatory joint diseases, such as arthritis, tendinitis, etc.)
  • There are traces that the Ancient Thracians and Roman warriors have used the water for healing purposes. Roman aqueducts are found in the town’s vicinity.
  • I will reiterate the fact that the town takes the first place in continental Europe and the second place in the world (after Iceland) measured by the copiousness and diversity of its mineral waters.
  • Measured by the flow of the water, Velingrad is ten times higher than Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). While in the latter, the springs are 16, those in Velingrad are five times more – 80.
  • The water has a profound origin, crystal clear, and with a very pleasant smell. Due to its low mineralisation, it takes all the toxins out of the body and eliminates all the waste products from the metabolism via the urinary tract.
  • The hot water structure is very similar to the structure of our body liquids. Therefore, it is easily assimilated by our organisms almost without any energy losses. The saved energy is then used for healing and invigorating the body.
  • The water contains gases (such as radon – mentioned above). Gas-rich waters are the most curative waters.
  • The most hypoallergenic spot in Europe is indeed in Velingrad.
  • Some of the springs are rich in meta-silicic acid (H2SiO3) which is extremely beneficial for the skin.
  • The water’s remedial powers are so strong that they are capable of closing wounds and contribute to destroying kidney stones.
  • The Chepino spring water can be consumed as table water every day.

 

In and Around Velingrad

The Spa Capital of the Balkans is much more than hot mineral waters, though. Below, I will provide you with some tips what to visit if you grow tired of the spa procedures.

The Historical Museum

It holds many pieces of the town’s history which (the town) was established in 1948 by joining the villages of Ladzhene, Chepino, and Kamenitsa. The museum was founded in 1952 and was then transformed in Museum-house “Vela Peeva” after whom the town of Velingrad is named. The museum is petite, but has many interesting exhibits on display – from traditional Bulgarian clothing and costumes through instruments for decorating Easter eggs to Vela Peeva’s own furniture. Vela Peeva fought against the fascists and was a stern worshipper of communism. 40-50 minutes will be more than enough to explore it.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Historical Museum, Vela Peeva's Living Room
Where Vela Peeva lived in the 1930s-40s.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Historical Museum, Easter Eggs Information
How to decorate Easter eggs. The English is not at its best, but you will get the idea.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Historical Museum, Easter Eggs, Beautiful Easter Decoration
Decorated Easter eggs on display.

The Dorkovo Pliocene Museum

The village of Dorkovo, standing 14 km (9 mi) north-east of Velingrad, houses the Dorkovo Museum. In 1983, Bulgarian and French palaeontologists excavated the area around the small village and managed to unearth 5-million-year-old fossils of prehistoric mammals dating back to the geological epoch of the Pliocene. Some 30 years later, was inaugurated the Dorkovo Museum which is within a walking distance of the village and is set amongst the verdant ambience of the Rhodope Mountains.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Dorkovo Museum, Dorkovo Village, Verdant Ambience
The beautiful vista around the museum.

The museum itself has a wooden, domed structure. By far the most interesting exhibit is a full-size model of a gomphothere.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Dorkovo Museum Outside, Domes Wooden Structure
The museum from the outside.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Dorkovo Museum, View from Inside, Gomphothere
Gomphothere in all its beauty.

The guide told me that Anancus arvernensis was about 4 metres (13 ft) in height and weighed between 8 and 10 tonnes.

 

The Carpet Factory in Kostandovo

Kostandovo is another small village very close to the Pliocene museum in Dorkovo – around 3 km (2 mi) to the south.

Besides being gorgeous, it houses a unique carpet-making factory. What makes it one-of-a-kind, you will ask.

  • Remember Harry Potter? The Bulgarian presence of Viktor Krum is not the only one in the movie. All of the actors have been walking on carpets, weaved in Kostandovo’s factory, in Alnwick Castle’s living room – where part of the movie was shot.
  • Each and every carpet is hand-made by assiduous ladies who are masters of their craft (check out the images below). Extravagant, familial coat-of-arms and exuberant images are hand-woven in each and every carpet.
  • The carpets of the factory are adorning one of the most prestigious buildings in Europe. Some of them are the summer residence of Queen Victoria and Albert Museum in Vienna. Other masterpieces have been ordered by Mick Jagger, Jane Churchill (granddaughter of Winston Churchill), and the famous British screenwriter and TV producer John Elliot.
  • The factory holds the largest weaving loom in Europe which allows for creating carpets of up to 160 m2 (1722 ft2).
  • It takes 4 ladies to create 10 cm of a carpet daily and the precision of their work has been tested and approved by Interiors UK, Architectural Digest, and Houses and Gardens.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Kostandovo Carpet Factory, the Largest Weaving Loom in Europe, Bulgaria
The largest weaving loom in Europe.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Kostandovo Carpet Factory, Laborious Ladies at Work, Bulgaria
Laborious ladies at work.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Kostandovo Carpet Factory, Amazing Carpet, Finished, Bulgaria
An already finished carpet.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Kostandovo Carpet Factory, Amazing Carpet, Close Shot, Ornate, Bulgaria
Close shot of the amazing ornaments.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Kostandovo Carpet Factory, Amazing Carpet, Alnwick Castle, Bulgaria
A photo of the carpet in Alnwick Castle.

The Only Narrow-gauge Railway in Bulgaria

Fancy exploring the countryside around the town? There is no better way than hopping on the train which travels on the only narrow-gauge railroad in Bulgaria. I strongly suggest you take it to Avramovo which is the highest train station on the Balkans. Bulgaria is one of the few countries in Europe which is a proud owner of these magnificent railways that cut through gorgeous mountains. The slow pace of the train gives you the opportunity to take astonishing photos while meandering through tunnels and lush vegetation. Take a look.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Velingrad Train Station, Bulgaria
Waiting for the train to arrive.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Trainspotting, Bulgaria
Trainsp(h)o(o)t(t)ing
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Meandering Rails, Bulgaria
The railways meander through gorgeous scenery.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Slow-shutter Speed Photo, Tunnel
Slow-shutter photo.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Dark Tunnel Photo, Bulgaria
Verdant vegetation awaits at every exit.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Narrow-gauge Railroad, Avramovo Station, Bulgaria
Avramovo – the highest train station on the Balkans. 1267 m (4157 ft).

Accommodation

Velingrad hosts numerous spa hotels with great service and food. However, if you are yearning a secluded, yet luxurious stay, Villa Vuchev is your place to go. Just look at this pool. Book your stay here.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Villa Vuchev, Pool, Bulgaria
It’s so cosy, isn’t it?

Local Delicacies

Food is an indispensable part of every stay at a certain location. You don’t need convincing about that, so I am just going to show you 3 photos for all types of people – meat lovers, vegetarians, and vegans. Velingrad has it all.

Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Sheep's Steak - Chopped, Bulgaria
Probably one of the most scrumptious steaks I have ever head – sheep’s steak.
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Soft, Unsalted, Sheep's Cheese, Image Credit - Phood Tales, Bulgaria
Sheep’s Cheese is another local delicacy – non-salted and very soft it leaves your palate wanting more
Image Credit: Phood Tales
Velingrad, Spa Capital of the Balkans, Gigantic Beans Sofenka, Bulgaria
Beans Sofenka are probably the most delectable beans you will ever set your lips upon.

And one last tip – before you start packing your bags, bear in mind that August and December are the busiest months so book in advance! If you plan on renting a car, Val & Kar is a great choice.

Are you ready to dip yourself into Velingrad’s hot mineral waters?

 

15 comments on “Velingrad – the Spa Capital of the Balkans

  1. Nina Alexander

    You got me convinced I should go again to Velingrad (and perhaps spend more time there). Yet another brilliant post Svet!

    • Svet

      I was just asked by a friend who is reading my article at the moment when I am going to Velingrad again.

      Let’s plan our escapade soon – and, yes, spend more time there!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Nina! 🙂

  2. Laura @ Grassroots Nomad

    Those carpets at Kostandovo’s factory are incredible! I had actually noticed them in the Harry Potter movie so it is really interesting to hear where they are from!

    • Svet

      Hehe, I know, I was more than impressed! Had you really noticed them? That’s amazing! Yes, they had been weaved by the great, old ladies! 🙂

  3. Kevin Wagar

    I had no idea that they were second only to Iceland for hot springs! Amazing! Bulgaria hasn’t been on my radar until today. i’ll look deeper into it now!

    • Svet

      Yes, that was my idea behind writing this article. There’s so much more that Bulgaria offers. I am happy I made you think 🙂

  4. Danielle Des

    The architecture of Dorkovo is really cool – wouldn’t have known what’s inside. I’ve seen several error fares to Bulgaria, I will have to book next time.

  5. Vyjay Rao

    Velingrad is a charming place and your post is really convincing on that. The hot water springs are reason enough for people to head out there, everything else is a bonus. Loved reading about all the curative properties of the water. Very interesting read.

    • Svet

      Vyjay, you are absolutely right about the hot water springs – everything else is a bonus! Thanks for reading – I did a lot of research before packing the whole thing together and I am happy it bears fruit 🙂

  6. Audrey@That Recipe

    If the city is as lovely as your photos I am sure it is breathtaking!

    • Svet

      Hey, Audrey, yes, of course, it is even more breath-taking than my photos since I am not the best photographer – neither is my camera :)) But I believe I do well with the eloquence 😛 Thanks for reading!

  7. Steven Conte

    I actually just came back from Prague and loved it Definitely adding Bulgaria to my list. Do you find it expensive?

    • Svet

      Oh, that’s great! I would say it is affordable and reasonable 🙂 Especially for the quality of the mineral waters 🙂

  8. Sofia, Bulgaria: Where 7,000+ Years Blend In A Vibrant Fusion | NTripping

    […] Relax and rejuvenate in the SPA capital of Europe – Velingrad. […]

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