Would you ever have thought that you could enjoy a spa weekend during winter in Bulgaria? Well, I didn’t, until recently, when I discovered the thermal waters at Chiflika and the tiny town Troyan. Compared to other major European spa destinations, prices are lower, the crowds are almost missing and the facilities are good enough. On the other hand, not everybody speaks English and a smile from the person you talk to is not to be expected. Just so you don’t get bored from so much soaking, I’ll also show you what the surroundings offer.
Spa tourism and Bulgaria
Did you know that Bulgaria is the second country in Europe after Island in regards to the number of mineral and thermal water springs? At any time of the year you’ll be able to find spa hotels with outdoor and indoor pools, saunas and steam baths. For us it was a pleasant surprise to find out about this quality of Bulgaria, as it’s pretty easy to get there, sometimes even easier than travelling in our own country.
Chiflika is a small village located at 170 km from Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and 280 km from Bucharest, Romania’s capital. Most of the tourists that get here are attracted by the mountain area, fresh area and especially the abundance of mineral and thermal pools which they can soak in. The spa hotels here usually have to offer steam baths, saunas, indoor pool with water that has at least 32 degrees and sometimes even all year long outdoor thermal pool. Chiflika is also one of the last places in Europe where one can see edelweiss.
Chiflika – Accommodation options
Taking into consideration how tiny the village is, tourists have more than enough options.
The largest and oldest hotel, Grand Palace, is closed for renovations at the moment, but Hotel Balkan is just as good. Also, remember that there’s also a small shop inside, in case you need sleepers (as we did), bathing suits or anything else. If you prefer a more cozy hotel, you should probably choose Hotel Fairy. This is where we stayed. The spa area was never too over-crowded and the water in the indoor pool was warm enough not to want to get out. The only drawback is that the outdoor pool is closed in winter.
If you don’t want hotels, there’s also a sort of camping across them and some villas with outdoor heated pool in any season. I liked them and would probably try one next time.
Most of the accommodations offer breakfast and some of them have also included dinner in the price of the accmmodation or have special deals for the guests. Outside the hotel there’s not much to do or eat. For the sake of trying something different, you can go to Troyan, only 16km away. I loved the mushrooms and warm tabouleh at Famozo (Фамозо). Dreams, just across the street was never empty either. Probably for a good reason.
What else can you visit around Chiflika? – Troyan
On a short break from the spa, you can visit Troyan, one of the oldest and most beautiful towns in Bulgaria. It has a little over 20000 inhabitants and kept its small mountain town charm intact.
In Troyan, stands the third largest and important monastery in Bulgaria. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century, while the country was still under Ottoman occupation. This also means that it’s one of the oldest. Entrance is free. You can take photos inside as long as you don’t use the flash. Outside the gate there’s a small outdoor market with local handmade products, mostly clay and wooden objects. The ceramics are painted with traditional motives and define the area.
Between the monastery and the city center lies Oreshak district, an ex-village, famous for the above mentioned ceramics made by the locals. You can also attend workshops and learn more about their art.
Before returning to the hotel, pass through the town center, where there’s a nice pedestrian area and the Museum of Crafts. Inside you can see s myriad of ceramics and other objects used by the locals in the past. I especially likes a vessel used in the morning after a wedding to inform the father of the bride if she had been a virgin or not. He would have gotten warm brandy if the groom was happy and and party went on. If not, the bride’s father was served cold brandy and he had to pay the groom with lands and goods.
We also visited Skoka Lapushnika waterfall localted at only 6km from Troyan, but wouldn’t recommend it, even less if the road wet.
What else can you visit?
70 km away there’s the cave featured in The Expandables 2 and the deepest cave in Bulgaria, Devetashka cave. Unfortunately, only a small part can be seen by tourists. The holes in the roof created an ecosystem that allowed vegetation to grow inside and this makes it special.
Not far from it, you should also visit Krushuna Waterfalls, a succession of small water falls and pools with clear turquoise water. Some of the falls have created small steps, while other have been covered by extrateretrial green vegetation.
In conclusion, if you happen to stay long enough in Bulgaria and want to relax with the locals, you should definetely check Chiflika and see what it has to offer. It might just surprise you in a good way in any season.
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