(Reuters Life!) - 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, the Scandinavian countries and beyond.
Following is a list of the most popular spa resorts.
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 degrees Celsius.
The springs vary in their chemical content which makes their mineral water beneficial for treatment of different medical conditions varying from kidney stones to gout.
The combination between the mineral water and the clean mountain air which has made Velingrad a favorite place for many Bulgarian, as well as Russian tourists, is also a renowned resort for prophylactics of respiratory ailments.
The town, 150 km (93 miles) southeast of capital Sofia, boasts several four- and five-star hotels, and among them two which are certified by the European Spas Association.
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 capital 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 degrees Celsius. The warm weather makes outdoor bathing possible throughout the whole year.
Sandanski is also considered one of the best places for treatment of pulmonary diseases and especially bronchial asthma.
Situated in central Bulgaria, Hisar is a crossing point between capital 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 position as a leading balneotherapy resort.
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 capital Sofia, and only 20 km off the Black Sea city of Burgas, for decades Pomorie has been combining successfully balneotherapy and seaside tourism.
It is best-known for treatment of sterility, rheumatic and skin conditions.
Reporting by Irina Ivanova, editing by Paul Casciato