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Sandanski, Home of Spas and Spartacus

This pretty spa resort is said to be the warmest and sunniest town in Bulgaria. It’s a picturesque place arranged in tiers amidst beautiful nature with a very healthy climate. This is the warmest point in Bulgaria and throughout the year local temperatures remain higher than inland - having watched the Bulgarian weather forecast for the last two years, we can vouch for this! Winters are mild and short and it has the lowest annual rainfall in Bulgaria.

Getting There

Sandanski, in south west Bulgaria, stretches along the beautiful, deep Struma Valley on the Sandanska Bistritsa River at the heart of the Pirin Mountains. When heading north from Thessaloniki in Greece you’ll get to Sandanski just 30 km north of the border. The Bulgarian capital is 165 km away and is the nearest international airport. Most trains which run between Sofia and Thessaloniki (Greece) stop in Sandanski. The station is west of the town centre and a bit away from the town.

A Dip Back in Time

Up until 1949, Sandanski was known as Sveti Vrach after two local brothers, Kozma and Damyan who were the local healers. Its name was changed to Sandanski to honour the revolutionary Yane Sandanski.  The town’s historical roots can be traced back to 3,000 BC when it was founded as a Thracian settlement. The famous Thracian Spartacus, leader of the Slave’s revolt in Rome is said to have been born here. The town became one of Bulgaria’s first Christian bishop centres and flourished between the 4th and 6th centuries. Archaeologists have uncovered and restored several public buildings from this era as well as early Christian basilicas and beautiful mosaic carpets, which are now on show at the town’s Archaeological Museum. At the end of the 6th century Sveti Vlach was completely destroyed by invading barbarian tribes.

Spas

Thanks to its special microclimate, Sandanski is a famous health resort, which attracts people not just for its natural beauty but also the spas and mineral springs ... just to plunge into the mineral waters for which the area is renowned is a real treat. Now it is known as an area for its healing properties and is a very popular spot with Bulgarians and Greeks during spring (when allergies often start). The natural spa waters here are believed to be particularly beneficial for asthmatics and their temperatures vary between 33 and 82 degrees C.  Sandanski’s spa water is colourless, clear and odourless; it also has a neutral taste and is so good that it is bottled and sold under the brand name Prepodobna Stoyna. The area has plenty of spa hotels offering a variety of professional treatments.

See and Do

There is little industry around the town and the area lends itself to agriculture, growing tobacco, vines, tomatoes, figs, pomegranates and more. There are many recreational opportunities in this area; ski lovers should find the international resort of Bansko offers excellent conditions, climbers will enjoy scaling the face of the Pirin Mountains, ardent fishermen will be happy with the abundance of lakes and rivers.
During September, Sandanski is home to the major Pirin Folk Festival. If you go to this area at that time of year it is well worth staying for this charming event.

There are not many major visitor attractions in the town itself, but it is a great base for touring the surrounding mountains and historic villages like the wine town of Melnik, the traditional village of Rupite and the Rozhen Monastery, the largest in the Pirin Mountains. Within the town the mainly pedestrianised Makedonia Street runs from east to west through the centre cutting through the main square of Place Bulgaria on the way. It’s a nice leafy boulevard lined with cafes, especially the part leading to the town park.

Before you get to the park next to the ruins of an early Byzantine Basicala is the Archaeological Museum, which has an exhibition of remains of the Episcopal Basilica and ancient treasures. It is built over a late Roman villa still with mosaic floor found in situ. The upper floor is filled with stoneware from the necropolis of Muletaravo, including a child’s sarcophagus. Beyond the museum on the other side of the road is the Hotel Sandanski and beyond that the 192 acre park, which is a great place for a lovely stroll. The park is not only huge but quite unique park and bears the old name of the town, Sveti Vrach. The park contains over 100 tree species and 150 floral species. The tall Mediterranean trees make natural landmarks with some over 550 years old. The park has the town stadium, an open theatre hall, swimming pool, manmade lake (with a bar), boats and water wheels.
One of the most striking town landmarks is the enormous monument with the white 7 meter high stone statue of Spartacus.

The 19th century Church of Saints Bezrebrenitsi Kozma i Demyan on the northern side of town is the focus of festivals. The church is worth seeing for its fine murals and icons as is St Georgi Church, which dates from 1861 and is the only building preserved in the town from the Revival Period. If you like art then it is worth checking out the town Art Gallery and Likin Art Gallery, both located in the centre. 

Sandanski will enthral everyone who comes here to enjoy its natural wonders and with its mild  Mediterranean climate and friendly people, you’ll want to keep coming back year after year. A must-see in Bulgaria!