Stay 23 : Spa tourism and heritages in Bulgaria

Stay 23 : Spa tourism and heritages in Bulgaria.

Occidental Route

Stage 23/35 - 234 kms

0 km Velingrad

72 kms Bansko

57 kms Blagoevrad

105 kms Sofia

carte Velingrad a Sofia

Velingrad : An authentic spa tourism capital

Velingrad - Bulgaria

Velingrad - Bulgaria - © devnenski -

Velingrad is located in Pazardzhik, lying in the picturesque valley of the tis River, at 750 meters above sea level. Well-marked paths lead to historical and natural sites conducive to leisure and tourism. Velingrad is characterized by a continental climate, mild winters and cool summers. Its surroundings are picturesque: rich pine forests, beautiful meadows and crystal clear rivers. In town, there are mineral waters of Velingrad, which determine the significant potential in the development of spa tourism. The Velingrad Municipality is extremely rich in mineral springs suitable for the treatment of various diseases. With regard to the abundance and variety of mineral waters, Velingrad is at the leading position in Bulgaria. A miracle of nature is the biggest Karst spring in Bulgaria. Velingrad’s mineral spas are present in quantity and quality. Velingrad is not named by chance Spa Capital of Bulgaria.

Bansko : A charming ski resort

Bansko - Bulgaria

Bansko - Bulgaria - © Ongala -

Bansko is a town in south-western Bulgaria, located at the foot of the Pirin Mountain, at an elevation of 927 meters. It is a popular ski resort for European and Bulgarian tourists. The Bansko ski resort is Bulgaria’s best winter resort with the longest ski runs and the richest cultural history. The resort offers excellent snowboard conditions and ski infrastructure. Numerous hotels of various prices are available through on-line booking. Regarding the after-ski activities, the resort offers hundreds of bars and traditional restaurants called “mehana”. The Bansko mountain resort is an excellent choice for your ski and snowboard holiday in Bulgaria. The mountain peaks near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine forests make it a popular site for recreation. Bulgaria’s share in the European winter tourism is steadily increasing.

Pirin National Park

National Park Pirin - Bulgaria

National Park Pirin - Bulgaria - © subbotsky -

The Pirin National Park is located in the Pirin Mountains, in southwest Bulgaria. The park includes seven municipalities in the district of Blagoevgrad which are: Bansko, Gotse Delchev, Razlog, Sandanski, Strumyani, Kresna, and Simitli. In 1962, when the Pirin National Park was established, it was known as the Vihren Nature Reserve. Over the years the park’s territory was increased several times, and it now covers 40,000 hectares. Since 1983, the park has been protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The park includes one of Bulgaria’s oldest reserves which is Bayuvi Dupki - Dzhindzhiritsa. The area was granted/approved so as to protect the endangered black and white fir as well as the habitats of many other plants and animals. In 1977, this reserve was added on UNESCO’s list of reserves as part of the “Man and Biosphere” programme.

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Blagoevrad : Picturesque architecture of the 19th century.

Blagoevgrad is а city in south-western Bulgaria. It lies on the banks of the Blagoevgradska Bistrica River. The city is the economic and cultural centre of south-western Bulgaria. It is located in the Struma River’s valley at the foot of the Rila and Pirin, 101 kilometres south of Sofia, close to the Republic of Macedonia border. Blagoevgrad has a pedestrian city centre with preserved 19th century architecture and boasts many restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Blagoevgrad is home to two universities, namely the South-West University « Neofit Rilski » and the American University in Bulgaria. Attractions in the vicinity include the resort of Bodrost.

Rila National Park

Rila - Bulgaria

Rila - Bulgaria - © djevelekova -

The Rila National Park, Bulgaria’s largest national park, is located about 100 km south of Sofia. The park was established on 24 February 1992 with the aim to preserve the natural heritage of the Rila mountains, as well as local traditions, culture and livelihoods linked to the region. Some of the largest rivers in the Balkan Peninsula originate here. The Rila National Park is one of Europe’s most important and most valuable protected areas. The park and its four natural heritages are on the United Nations list of representative protected areas, which is part of the World Biosphere Reserves Network under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme. Rila’s central reserve is Bulgaria’s largest nature reserve, designated in 1933, and is one of the oldest Bulgarian nature reserves. Most of the park is covered in a thick forest, mainly spruce, fir and white pine.

The Rila National Park’s territory occupies 30% of the entire mountain and includes the Balkan Peninsula’s highest peak. The park contains large meadows, over 100 peaks rising above 2,000 m, as well as a variety of rock faces, precipices, caves, deep canyons, and waterfalls. Its territory is dotted with about 120 lakes dating back to the Ice Age.  The Rila National Park offers excellent tourist opportunities. The chalets and network of well-maintained tourist trails within the park provide convenient accommodation and make hiking in the area attractive respectively. Specialized routes have been developed and indicated within the Rila National Park for wildlife lovers, extreme sports athletes, equestrians, and mountain biking enthusiasts. Along with its diverse natural heritage, the Rila National Park is also rich in cultural and historical monuments, providing excellent opportunities for promoting local culture and traditions. 

Rila Monastery

Monastère de Rila - Bulgaria

Monastère de Rila - Bulgaria - © Christophe Cappelli -

The Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. His ascetic dwelling and tomb became holy sites and were transformed into a monastic complex which played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. A characteristic example of the Bulgarian Renaissance, the monument symbolises the awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation. With its architecture, frescos and others, it represents a masterpiece of the Bulgarian people’s creative genius. The architectural styles have been preserved on the property as historical monuments. The basic architectural appearance is now one of the prominent examples of building craftsmanship of the Balkan peoples from the early 19th century. 

Sofia : A very appreciated mountain resort

Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital and largest city. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bulgaria along with the coastal and mountain resorts. Its highlights include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of Bulgaria’s symbols, built in the late 19th century. The city is also known for the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sofia houses Bulgaria’s largest museum collections, which attract tourists and students. The National Historical Museum in the Boyana district has a vast collection of more than 650,000 historical items dating from Prehistory to the modern era, but only 10,000 of them are permanently displayed due to the lack of space. The Ethnographic Museum and the National Museum of Military History are other places of interest, holding large collections of Bulgarian folk costumes and armaments.

Boyana Church

Eglise de Boyana - Sofia - Bulgaria

Eglise de Boyana - Sofia - Bulgaria - © sipandra -

The Boyana Church  is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church located on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Its east wing of the two-storey church was built in the late 10th or early 11th century then the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire, the entire building was completed with a further expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. The church owes its world reputation mainly to its frescoes from 1259.  They form a second layer over the paintings from the earlier centuries and represent one of the most complete and well-preserved monuments of Eastern European mediaeval art. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church. The painter’s name was discovered recently during the restoration works. The monument was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. 

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