Velingrad: Bulgaria’s Premier Spa Destination


Velingrad is the largest spa resort in Bulgaria. It is situated at the border between the Rhodope and Rila Mountains, 80 km from Plovdiv, 135 km from Sofia, and 180 km from the Greek border.

The area around present-day Velingrad has been inhabited by Thracian tribes as early as the 5th-6th centuries BC. The most significant traces are from the Bessi tribe, with discovered mounds, necropolises, and remnants of settlements and fortresses.

Velingrad, in its current form, was established in 1948 after the merger of three villages: Kamenitsa, Chepino, and Ladzhene. Today, these villages are neighborhoods of the young town.

Velingrad has a mountain climate, with cool summers and mild, extended winters. The town is known as one of the least cloudy in Bulgaria.

Velingrad is rich in water resources. The area boasts numerous rivers, mountain streams, reservoirs, karst, and mineral springs. The Velingrad geothermal field is the largest in Southern Bulgaria. There are over 80 mineral springs, both hot and cold. The town has the oldest functioning mineral baths in Bulgaria, with some dating back to Roman times. Velingrad is declared the SPA Capital of the Balkans. A variety of ailments are treated in the resort.

Velingrad offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury spa hotels to cozy guesthouses and family-run hotels. Many establishments provide spa and wellness services, including mineral baths, massages, and beauty treatments.

The karst spring Kleptuza is also located here. A significant portion of its water is used for drinking purposes, while the rest forms two beautiful lakes.

Above Kleptuza, near the chapel St. Elijah in Velingrad, the 24th meridian and the 42nd parallel intersect. Such intersections are rare in populated areas, and the combination of these numbers makes it even more interesting.

In the town, you can visit the Historical Museum. It has a special section dedicated to opera singer Nikolai Ghiaurov, born in Velingrad and considered one of the most famous basses of the postwar period. The museum also holds the largest collection of Easter eggs in Bulgaria, with over 4,000 exhibits, most decorated using the wax technique.

The town is also home to the Ethnographic Museum, which preserves the traditions and customs of the region. Visitors can see traditional costumes, household items, and tools used by the local population over the centuries.

Velingrad is a great starting point for exploring the beautiful nature of the Rhodope and Rila Mountains. There are numerous hiking trails, eco-paths, and picnic spots in the area. One of the most popular routes is the trail to the Tsepina Fortress, a medieval fortress with a rich history, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

About 16 km from Velingrad is the beautiful area of Yundola. The resort is situated at an average altitude of 1400 meters, between the Rhodope and Rila Mountains, making it an ideal location for both winter and summer tourism. Yundola also has ski slopes. The entire area around Yundola is incredibly picturesque, with several nature reserves located nearby.

Above Yundola, you can take an asphalt road to reach the Belmeken Reservoir, known as the highest dam with an earth-fill dam wall on the Balkan Peninsula. The reservoir is extraordinarily beautiful throughout all seasons.

From here, there are numerous hiking trails, and in late summer, you can buy or pick the tastiest red and black blueberries, as well as pine tip jam. Nearby is the National Sports Base Belmeken, a place where elite athletes from around the world train. The base is located on a plateau at 2050 meters above sea level and has only one equivalent in Europe – the Sierra Nevada High-Altitude Sports Complex in Spain. Access to the base is open to the public.

Twenty kilometers from Velingrad is the beautiful resort of Tsigov Chark, located within the territory of Rakitovo and situated on the shore of the Batak Reservoir. The place also has ski slopes. Tsigov Chark is a preferred location for vacations in all seasons. Another attraction for tourists is the clock tower in Rakitovo, built in 1872 by Midhat Pasha.

The Batak Reservoir resort is located about 8 km from the town of Batak and 24 km from Velingrad. In winter, skiing is also possible here. The area is an attractive destination for fishing enthusiasts and is suitable for picnicking and camping, with clean reservoir waters. The surrounding forests are beautiful and offer excellent opportunities for hiking. Water sports such as pedal boating, rowing, and jet skiing are also practiced in the reservoir.

The town of Batak is 27 km from Velingrad and 3 km from the reservoir of the same name. This town holds a special place in Bulgarian history due to the heroic April Uprising. Visit the Historical Museum and the Church of St. Nedelya, which is also a charnel house.

If you are not yet overwhelmed by the beauty of the area, then you haven’t been to Dospat and its reservoir shores. The town is 45 km from Velingrad and is located on the shore of the beautiful Dospat Reservoir.

Forty-six kilometers from Velingrad is the picturesque town of Sarnitsa, also located around the Dospat Reservoir.

About 42 km from Velingrad is the town of Peshtera. Here you can find the late antique and medieval fortress Peristera. In the surroundings of the town, there are two caves. The first is the Snezhanka (Snow White) cave, one of the best-developed caves in Bulgaria. It is named Snezhanka because of the figures that resemble the fairy tale. It has over 600,000 stalactites and is open to visitors year-round.

The other interesting cave is the one-kilometer-long Yubileina, which is extremely rich in cave formations.

Near Velingrad, there is another interesting cave, Lepenitsa. It is a three-level cave with a river and lakes. It is accessible from April 1 to November 30. The cave is rich in stalagmites, stalactites, and stalactones, and is exceptionally beautiful.

In Velingrad, besides enjoying spa treatments and healing water, you can also indulge in numerous activities. The area has many attractions, such as horse riding, pedal boating, ATV riding, as well as rope gardens and other children’s attractions.

Do not miss the nearby town of Kostandovo. Here, you can find a workshop for hand-woven carpets, using a traditional weaving technique from a hundred years ago. Creating a medium-sized carpet takes about three to four months for two weavers. Kostandovo carpets are exported worldwide, including for the royal residences in the United Kingdom. They can even be found in Alnwick Castle, where part of the “Harry Potter” movie was filmed. The workshop has a museum exhibition and welcomes tourists.

The region is also famous for its folklore and cultural events. Every year, Velingrad hosts various festivals, including the International Festival of the Mineral Water, the Festival of Folklore Music and Dance, and the Traditional Crafts Fair. These events attract visitors from all over the country and abroad.

The town’s proximity to natural and historical landmarks makes it a perfect destination for day trips. Nearby attractions also include the picturesque village of Dorkovo, known for its unique paleontological museum.

Practical Information for Visitors

The local cuisine is another highlight of a visit to Velingrad. Traditional Bulgarian dishes, such as kebapche, shopska salad, and banitsa, can be enjoyed in the town’s restaurants and taverns. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the local yogurt, known for its unique taste and health benefits.

Getting to Velingrad is easy, with regular bus and train services connecting the town to major cities like Sofia and Plovdiv. The town is also accessible by car, with well-maintained roads leading to the resort.

Whether you are seeking relaxation, adventure, or a cultural experience, Velingrad has something to offer for everyone. Its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and therapeutic mineral waters make it a unique and attractive destination for visitors of all ages. Come and discover the magic of Velingrad, the spa capital of the Balkans.

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