Bulgaria is said to boast over 500 hot springs and spa tourism across the country has been given a new lease of life in recent years, but did you know that already back in the first millennium BC, Thracian tribes settled around present day Sofia - attracted by the mineral water?
In the heart of the city, adjacent to the Central Bath building, you will see on any day locals collecting mineral water, free of charge, from the ever -flowing taps. Why not fill up your drinking bottle here, but be careful - the water is hot! Inexplicably the beautiful building that once housed the mineral baths has recently been re-purposed as the Sofia History Museum. What a shame we can't enjoy a hot spa day here in the city centre!
All around Sofia there are mineral springs and spas. Here is an overview of the best with easy access from the city.
Pancharevo Korali pool by the side of the reservoir commands breathtaking views and promises lovely hot mineral water. It gets very busy in the summer so you might want to try it on a cloudy spring or autumn day or even come in the winter to run through the snow from the changing room.
Sapareva Banya About an hour's drive from Sofia (go the back way over the mountain for a lovely drive through the forests of Vitosha mountain) this town boasts the country's hottest mineral water at 101 degrees C! A geyser spurts steam every few minutes in the town square. The public baths have bee renovated, with the indoor and outdoor being next to one another but with separate entrance fees. The indoor spa and pool are rather small and can get crowded. The outdoor pools, of which there are about 12 at various temperatures from boiling to freezing, are busy in the summer but quiet the rest of the year. Try a cloudy day in spring or autumn or come to relax after skiing in Borovets. The changing rooms are decent and entry fee has just gone up to 15 leva.
Belchin Banya There are several mineral pools here, the most popular of which belongs to the Belchin Garden spa hotel. With an outdoor pool that only works in the summer season and a year round indoor one, there is also a large spa area with Hot Roman Bath, sauna and steam bath. Admission to the spa is rather pricey at 40 leva for the day, but for that you are more or less guaranteed tranquillity!