Sofia can be annoying with its dirt, traffic and noise level. Breathing in the Bulgarian capital is not recommended, especially in winter, because the air is mostly toxic.
This means, getting out of there as often as possible is vital, in the truest sense of the word. The perfect refuge is Belchin, located only 55 kilometers away. The car ride takes an hour.
Hotel Belchin Garden is a spa and wellness facility which sits on one of Bulgaria’s many mineral water sources. The excellent spa is being fed by that water. It flows out of its spring at a temperature of 41 degrees Centigrade.
For the Roman Bath, a huge jacuzzi which can accommodate some 15 people, they hardly cool down the water. Sitting in there feels absolutely great.
It’s like you are the chicken in the soup just before it starts boiling. At any moment, someone might come along to pour salt and herbs over your head.
The large regular pool is being heated with mineral water a little. At 28 degrees, the water temperature is just perfect for jumping in without fussing around.
Kids have a lot of fun in this pool too. So do babies, held by their parents. Last weekend, a Bulgarian family staged a big baby photo shoot, in the water, which is being illuminated by strong spotlights once it gets dark outside.
Apart from a steam bath and a sauna which the author of these lines was too scared to enter, they offer massages and a Hot Bench, covered with tiles and heated by hot spring water as well. A very relaxing place to sit on.
This facility will make visitors stay in the spa facility for hours at a time. While taking a break from the water, people usually stare at their phones while lying on benches in the Quiet Room.
Oh, the rooms? Nice. They have a standard most Bulgarian-owned hotels do not reach. The four stars are probably appropriate.
Time to get to the restaurant: Breakfast, which is usually included, is very good. They offer egg, bacon, even pasta, Banichka, fruit, cereals and cake. Yes, they do have it all.
Dinner is excellent as well. Considering the quality, the price is right too. The Viennese Schnitzel was good, so were the stuffed chicken and the ribs. Just order the entire menu.
O.k., we had to walk down to the reception five times until the electricity problem in room no. 302 was fixed. Also there are details which might not reflect the class this hotel claims it has, such as those Ikea kitchen clocks for 9.95 Euro all over the place. But who cares?
The trip to Belchin is interesting. From Ikea at the Ring Road, hit the road up the mountain to Bistritsa and Plana. Continue for some 55 kilometers, and follow the potholes. Do not miss the sign leading the way to Belchin, towards the left. Then, after another 100 potholes, turn right twice. There you are.
Yes, this place costs some money. The room rates, which do seem high at first glance, also cover the usage of the spa, which is open from 08:00 to 20:00 hrs.. A double room for two people would be 105 Leva (53.60 Euro) during the week, or 180 Leva (92.00 Euro) on Fridays or Saturdays.
Hotel Belchin Garden can be reached here. By the way: On February 11, 2018, even the English version of their website was in Bulgarian.