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Discover SPA paradise and pleasures

vancouversun.com, 23.08.2010

Bulgaria is among the richest countries in Europe in terms of geothermal resources, boasting hundreds of mineral springs and dozens of spa resorts, some of which were founded by the Romans.

The Black Sea country is now trying to revive its traditions in balneotherapy, neglected since communism collapsed 20 years ago, and attract tourists from the Balkans, Russia, Israel, Germany and beyond.

Velingrad

Tucked away in the western Rhodope mountains, far from the commotion of the big cities, Velingrad has been crowned the spa capital of the Balkans and for a reason -- it has 80 mineral springs, the hottest one pouring water at some 93 C. The springs vary in their chemical content, which makes their mineral water beneficial for treatment of medical conditions varying from kidney stones to gout. The combination between the mineral water and the clean mountain air, which has made Velingrad a favourite place for many Bulgarian, as well as Russian tourists, is also a renowned resort for prophylactics of respiratory ailments. The town, 150 km southeast of the capital, Sofia, boasts several four- and five-star hotels, and among them two which are certified by the European Spas Association.

Sandanski

Its proximity to the Bulgarian-Greek border, the abundance of mineral springs and the mild climate has made Sandanski a popular tourist destination for both Bulgarian and Greek visitors. The town, lying at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the southwestern part of the Balkan country, is only 125 km south of Sofia, and some 150 km north of the Greek port of Thessaloniki. There are more than 80 low-mineralized springs in the region, whose temperature varies between 42 and 81 C. The warm weather makes outdoor bathing possible throughout the year. Sandanski is also considered one of the best places for treatment of pulmonary diseases and especially bronchial asthma.

Hisar

Situated in central Bulgaria, Hisar is a crossing point between Sofia and the seaside. It was once a Roman settlement where a legion guarded the mineral springs. The town, using water from the 22 springs in the region, has been specialized in treatment of different kidney, gastric and urinary infections. Older hotels in Hisar have been completely renovated in recent years, smaller ones have popped up and the town is now trying to recover its former position as a leading balneotherapy resort.

Pomorie

Known for centuries for the healing power of its medical mud and mineral springs,Pomorie is now one of Bulgaria's leading spa resorts. Situated at the Black Sea coast, 400 km east of Sofia, and only 20 km off the Black Sea city of Burgas, for decades Pomorie has been successfully combining balneotherapy and seaside tourism.

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