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Therapeutic Velingrad: Bulgaria’s Best Spa Town

Velingrad is undoubtedly the most picturesque and most renowned of all of the Bulgarian spa resorts. It is situated in Southern Bulgaria, tucked away in the Chepino Valley in the captivating Rhodope Mountains. What is amazing about Velingrad is that it has 70 separate sources of healing mineral water with a variety of therapeutic properties. But this is not the only interesting natural phenomenon here; Velingrad is also home to the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza.

Velingrad lies at an altitude of 750 to 850 m above sea level and is home to 26,500 people. It has a temperate climate with warm summers mild winters. The town is enveloped by pine forests and is an area prone to masses of sunshine with roughly 2,000 hours a year. This rare combination positively affects the ionization process and creates the grounds for the therapeutic miracles in this area.

Getting There

Velingrad is located 85 km from Plovdiv, which is the nearest international airport, 49 km from Pazardjik , 133 km from Sofia and 31 km from Septemvri, which provides a rail link with Velingrad. The town is easily accessed by a network of good tarmac roads and the areas historic and natural sights are well signposted.

A Dip Back in Time

Legend has it that Velingrad was the home of legendary Greek musician and poet, Orpheus. The son of Calliope and either Apollo or Oeagrus, Orpheus’ music was believed to tame wild animals and charm inanimate objects to dance. Legends also claim that Velingrad was the place where the great Thracian warrior and leader of the uprising of Roman slaves, Spartacus obtained his strength and power.
Archaeological evidence proves that Velingrad and the Chepino Valley were inhabited by Thracian tribes, most notably the Bessie tribe who left mounds, necropolises and evidence of several fortresses. The Batak swamp is home to seven burial mounds and the area of Pechkovets contains the ruins of early Thracian villages.

During the 6th century, the Slavic Dragovichi tribe moved into the Chepino region and the area was integrated into the Bulgarian State under the rule of Khan Malomir. The Slavs continued many of the old Thracian customs, but adapted them with certain Slavic characteristics.
Velingrad also came under Roman rule and the Romans with their great love of bathing built many public bathhouses, which today are part of the town’s tourist attractions.
During the Ottoman invasion, the ruling Turks converted many of the regions Slavic inhabitants to Islam - those who refused were killed. During Communist rule many Bulgarian Muslims returned to their former religion of Orthodox Christianity.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

The town has many new and old hotels most of which offer spa treatments. Some claim to be spa centres simply because of the availability of a mineral water swimming pool, but the true spa hotels offer a diverse range of therapeutic treatments and advanced facilities including Jacuzzis, mineral pools, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, chromo-therapy and fitness gyms. The Grand Hotel has a scenic location on a hillside, which offers guests some panoramic views of the town and the surrounding pine forests. The Spa Light Hotel is a new addition to the town and as its name suggests it offers a variety of treatments. Another hotel offering picturesque views of the area is the Mountain Paradise South, which is located close to the gondola lift. It is a contemporary 4-star hotel offering comfort and convenience to its visitors.
There are many cafes and restaurants around the town and in the neighbouring area but there is little to occupy people in the evening outside if a trip to the restaurant. Most eateries confine their menus to traditional Bulgarian cuisine leaving very little variety in the town. However, one restaurant that stands out is the Tavern Omar, which is part of the spa complex Rich. The tavern can seat up to 200 guests outside and 120 inside and it is a great place to take children as there is a swimming pool and kids seating area. At the weekends there is live music and entertainment including fire eaters.

Photos with kind permission of Nenko Lazarov