Health and Leisure in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a sunshine haven for fresh, mountain or sea air, open spaces and mineral spa treatments. For many, it is ideal location for a relaxed and healthy lifestyle.
It is no wonder that Bulgaria’s tourism figures are increasing at a level never seen before (50% in the past 4 years). Bulgaria’s recent government initiatives have invested heavily in its leisure industries and in turn they are creating some highly desirable tourist resorts.
Black Sea Resorts
Bulgaria is best known for its budget holiday resorts on the Black Sea. Here you can enjoy great health and leisure activities at a fraction of the cost of most other tourist destinations.
Warm sunshine with pleasant temperatures (around 26°C in summer) comfortable hotels, white, non-tidal beaches, water sports are but some of the attractions to the area. There is also plenty of entertainment laid on by the hotels, including night life at all the resorts. In addition, within minutes you can find yourself in picturesque mountains, ski resorts and golf courses.
The major seaside resorts are located at: Albena, Golden Sands (the largest seaside resort where 22 brand new hotels are currently under construction), St. Konstantin, Varna (known as the sea capital and Bulgaria’s third largest city), Elenite, Sunny Beach (the third largest resort) and Bourgas.
For extra entertainment, modern aqua parks can be found in Golden Sands and Sunny Beach.
There are several nudist beaches in Bulgaria. They are located
– between Albena and Kranevo – after Gergana Hotel in Albena
– Golden Sands resort – past the yacht port, in front of Glarus Hotel
– Kamchia – the widest nudist beach on the Bulgarian Black sea coast and a famous nudist
– Bourgass – north of the town after the Burgas Hotel, direction Nessebur (new town) near the saltpans of Bourgas.
– Sozopol – south of Harmanite beach
Today Bulgaria is a highly desirable ski location, with some of the best value skiing and après-ski available in Europe.
The main ski centres are at: Bansko, the most developed of all the resorts but also retaining a rich history and culture, Borovets, the largest, with 40 km of piste, Pomparovo, the highest point is 1,926 m), Chepelare, picturesque and near to the longest Bulgarian ski run, “Mechi Chal (5,200 m) and Vitosha, set in a National Park and overlooking the capital city of Sofia.
The rugged heights of the Rila and Pirin mountains form a spectacular setting for the ski resorts.
The highest peak is Rila with its Musala peak(2925m).
The season is from mid-December, extending through to April in many locations.
The average temperatures in the main ski resorts are:
Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
oC -1 1 5 9 15 19 22 23 16 12 6 1
oF 30 33 41 48 59 65 71 74 61 54 42 33
Trekking and Local Culture
To truly experience the character of Bulgaria, you must venture away from the resorts to where the locals live.
The Balkan Range, a 435-mile (700km) chain, crosses the entire country and offers some of the best hiking in Europe.
Rodopi for easy trekking amid green forests
Jeravna or Kotel for more strenuous trekking in the Eastern Balkan mountains
National Parks for various levels of trekking, at Pirin, Central Balkan or Rila
The six very different mountain ranges vary from high, snow-covered peaks to gentle green slopes and forests. They harbour thermal springs and mineral spas. The valleys are rich with Balkan flora and fauna.
The mountain dwellers have their own distinctive customs, crafts, colourful folklore, religious beliefs and speech. They welcome guests with typical Bulgarian warm-hearted hospitality, and are delighted to share age-old traditions and cooking.
Rural Bulgaria is particularly poor and many people here live under the poverty line. The villagers mainly live off self-sufficiency and preserve almost everything they produce, even meat.
Mineral Spas & treatments
People travel from far and wide to discover the health benefits to be gained from the Balkan mountain mineral spas. The main ones are located at:
– Hissarya – 22 mineral springs for the treatment of urological and liver diseases
– Touzlate – for bone diseases
– Sandanski – for bronchial asthma
– Velingrad – for conditions of the respiratory tract and disturbances of the locomotory system, neurological disorders, gynaecological complaints, mild forms of diabetes and obesity
– Kystendil – for conditions of the bones, joints and tendons, disorders of the nervous system, cardiovascular diseases, disturbances of the reproductive system and sterility
The Black Sea resorts at Sveti Constantine, Pomorie and Albena are famous for their mud treatments.
The best known Black-Sea spa centers are at:
Dobroudja Hotel at Albena resort, Ambassador Hotel at Golden Sand resort, Riviera Holiday Club, Sunny Day and Grand Hotel Varna at St.Constantine resort and Pomorie Hotel in the coastal town of Pomorie.
The boost in tourist amenities has led to many of the luxury 4 and 5 star hotels offering spa centres, including pools, saunas, jacuzzis, solariums and fitness centres. Some of the best can be found in: Castle Hrankov Hotel in Sofia, Grand Hotel Veliko in Lovech, Plovdiv Novotel in Plovdiv and Kempinski Hotel in Zografski, Sofia.
Despite the abundance of open space, golf is in its early stages of development in Bulgaria. It is developing at a steady pace to create world-class facilities that will not only support the growth of golf in Bulgaria but act as a focus for tourism.
However at the moment there are only three golf courses in Bulgaria. Today’s courses are located at Ihtiman, opened in 2000, 40km from Sofia, and at Sliven, opened in 2004, 90km from the Black Sea.
Due to a huge increase in tourism and foreign interest in Bulgaria, several more golf courses are underway. One of these will be located at Razgrad, in the north-east, about 90km from the Black Sea. More are scheduled to open within the next few years: two at Kavarna and one at Primorsko, near Sozopol. Another course is near completion in the ski town of Bansko.
A large golf complex at Dolna Banya, between Kostenets and Borovets, near Ihtiman, now the country’s foremost ski resort is near completion. Its timely opening is scheduled for 2007, the year of Bulgaria’s entry into the European Union. The complex will include 220 apartments around a comprehensive sports complex, with access to the golf course by a short footpath.
Additional outdoor facilities will include: tennis, volleyball, squash, badminton, lawn bowls, boules (boccia), shooting, archery, croquet, mountain biking, and fishing nearby.
Indoor facilities will include: 140-seat main restaurant and cabaret stage, a huge main bar (perhaps the largest in Bulgaria), a sports bar with projection TV, snooker, pool, table football, table tennis, a Chinese restaurant, Indian restaurant, fast food cafeteria, pizzeria, gymnasium, sauna, massage parlour, clinic, chemist, sports shop and mini market.
Real estate prices in all golf resorts are set to rise substantially with increased public recognition and media coverage. Ian Woosnam, the 2006 Ryder Cup Captain, has increased international awareness whilst becoming heavily involved in the development of two of the new golf complexes at Bansko and Balchik, with their accompanying leisure centres and hotels.