THE LAND OF HEALTH

by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Anthony Georgieff

You crave a luxury spa retreat? Bulgaria is the right place to be

waterfountain

Mineral waters are among Bulgaria's greatest natural resources. In the country have been registered 225 hot and cold springs with diverse chemical content beneficial for the treatment of cardiovascular, lung, joint, gastro-intestinal and other diseases. About two third of the mineral springs are in the country's south.

It is a common knowledge that people have enjoyed and used this wealth since times immemorial. A number of modern cities, like Sofia, for example, are the heirs of prehistoric and ancient Thracian settlements that appeared by healing springs. Later, the Romans turned those into veritable resorts – one of the most famous ones was Diocletianopolis (modern Hisarya). The Ottomans were also dedicated spa lovers and continued the tradition.

Hot mineral springs even played a part in the creation of the Bulgarian state. In 681, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV decided to attack the proto-Bulgarians, who had just crossed the imperial border by the Danube. Instead of leading the attack himself, he left his army and headed to the Burgas Bay to treat a bout of gout in the local mineral springs. The Bulgarians won the battle. The peace treaty that was signed afterwards was the first official document recognising the existence of a Bulgarian state south of the Danube.

Today you do not need to be a Byzantine emperor to make the most of Bulgaria's spa wealth. The country's spa and balneological resorts offer an amazing variety of the experience. In some of them, such as Velingrad, Devin and Voneshta Voda, you are surrounded by clean mountain air. Others, such as the springs at Albena or Pomorie, are a way to simultaneously enjoy a spa and a seaside vacation. In resorts with millennia-old spa traditions such as Hisarya and Gotse Delchev, you get the pleasant ambiance of small-town Bulgaria combined with impressive ancient ruins of Roman towns.

Recently, on the map of wellness Bulgaria appeared new names offering a completely different level of the experience: luxury spa resorts. They deserve attention because of their marvellous combination of exquisite atmosphere, stylish ambiance and professional therapies, massages and procedures.

A marvellous mountain scape, an impressive geyser and abundance of hot healing mineral springs – Sapareva Banya is among the most pleasant places in Bulgaria for a spa holiday. Especially when you have booked a room at EMAR boutique hotel (Sapareva Banya, 3 Yordan Popmihailov St, +359 882 50 00 79, emarhotel.bg). The newly opened resort in the Rila mountain has everything that defines an incredible experience. The intimate ambiance of the elegant rooms is complemented by the friendly, competent approach of the experienced staff who know how to make guests feel special and pampered. EMAR's spa and relaxation zone is a true delight – an outdoor mineral pool that can be used in the winter as well, a sauna, an outdoor and indoor Jacuzzi, a steam bath, a salt room, adventure showers and a variety of massages. The top class restaurant offers splendid Bulgarian classics and international dishes, accompanied by a carefully selected wine list. EMAR Hotel has also taken care of lovers of active recreation with a variety of activities – guided mountain treks, e-scooter or bike trips and more. The quality of the service, the richness of the experience and the tranquillity of the ambiance show that EMAR's ambition to become one of the it-places in Bulgaria for spa holiday has already provided an impressive result.

The chemical content of the waters in the locality Kazanlak thermal baths, in the beautiful Valley of Roses, is similar to the one of the more popular Pavel Banya spa resort, but in higher concentration of fluoride, hydrocarbonate and sodium ions. The exquisite Kings' Valley Medical & Spa Hotel (phone: +359 883 253 638, www.kingsvalleyhotel.bg) is a new resort by the springs where care for the health is combined with elegant luxury of unparalleled quality in Bulgaria. Everything in Kings' Valley inspires relaxation, recovery of one's energy and care for one's health. Spacious and comfortable, the rooms and apartments have vistas to the slopes of the Stara Planina. The thematic restaurants and bars are an opportunity to immerse yourself in elegant tastes from Bulgaria and beyond, and kids and teenagers can have fun in special zones. The spa and medical centre of Kings' Valley gives an opportunity for total care for the soul and the body with a variety of pools and saunas, special spa apartments and healing and prophylactic therapies tailor-made for each guest by a team of professionals. Kings' Valley aims to offer a top-class experience to high-demanding people – the hotel's first guests already know that it has outdone itself.

Immersing in spa pleasures in Bulgaria in an atmosphere of luxury and tranquillity has never been so easy. If Constantine IV was around to see them, he would get sick with envy.

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