The Municipality of Sapareva Banya is situated on the Northern slope of Rila Mountain in Southwestern Bulgaria, just a two hours drive from the capital - Sofia city. The municipality contains the popular tourist destinations of the Seven Rila Lakes and the Skakavitza Reserve and Waterfall. As well as the administrative center of Sapareva Banya, 15 kilometers East of Doupnitsa, the municipality includes the villages of Saparevo, Resilovo, Ovchartzi and the mountain resort of Panichishte. The municipality proudly shares one third of its territory with Rila National Park, which was established in 1992.
While Sapareva Banya is known for its cool, clean mountain water, it is famous for its unique geothermal mineral water. Here one finds the hottest mineral water in all of Europe (103 degrees C) and the only active Geyser in the Balkans.
Population is around 4100 people.
The town is located 15 km east of Dupnitza, 56 km from the town of Kyustendil and 75 km southwest of Sofia. Near Sapareva banya passes one of the main roads in the country - E79, part of the international transport corridor № 4, the economic importance of the municipality will increase after the bridge at Vidin-Calafat.
The territory of the Municipality of Sapareva Banya is conducive to a variety of agricultural endeavors. The Doupnitza basin and the low slopes of Rila Mountain are ideal for crop cultivation, while the higher slopes of Rila are suitable for stock breeding, pasture and milk production. The altitude and climate in the immediate area are highly favourable for fruit growing and the community has a strong tradition in this area.
The natural gift of geothermal water has been helpful in the agricultural development of Sapareva Banya. Vegetables and hot house flowers are grown throughout the year in the local greenhouse complex.
The history of Sapareva Banya has always been linked to the mineral water resources on which it was founded. A civilization known as the "Kremenik" thrived here in Neolithic times (5,500 B.C.). Tools, a grain mill and household items were found during archeological digs carried out in the late 1970's. Later excavations conducted in the 1980's centered round the Roman ruins, which can still be seen near the Sanitorium and in the park garden of the church of St. Nikola in the center of town. The town was an important stop along the Roman road connecting Rome, Greece and the Black Sea. This painting by local painter and historian Vassil Koritarov depicts Sapareva Banya in Roman times when it was known as "Germanea".
There are many churches and chapels to be visited within the Sapareva Banya Municipality. In the town itself, there is the Church of the 40 Martyrs which dates from 1859, and whose alter was carved by the famous woodcrafter Stanislav Dospevski.
Also in the town of Sapareva Banya is the Byzantine church of Saint Nikola. The original foundation of this church dates to the XIII century and has been renovated several times since. In the park surrounding the church you will see a collection of antiquities found during the archeological digs of the Roman ruins of the ancient city of Germanea including an original bath. The church is currently undergoing further restoration.
In the village of Resilovo is the Monastery of the Mother of God, which was constructed in 1927 by the wealthy widow of a seaman lost in the Black Sea. It is one of the few functioning convents in Bulgaria and can be visited daily. Its festival is held on the first of October each year. Reconstruction of the inner courtyard and gardens is currently underway.
The church of the Mother of God in the village of Saparevo is located on a hilltop above the center. Legend has it that a local man was told by an angel in a dream of a treasure buried on a nearby hillside. The treasure was exactly where he had dreamed. In his gratitude, the man financed the building of what is still the largest church in the area. It is unique in that its four inner columns are ornamented with gilded images of animals.
Traditions and Festivals
Important festivals in Sapareva Banya are:
January 1st - Kukeri Festival. Large frightening costumes, adorned with horns and bells are worn by dancers. Their loud singing and dancing is believed to bring good fortune for the New Year.
August 19th - The Celebration of the Dunovites. This is the yearly celebration of the followers of Peter Dunnov, a Bulgarian Christian spiritualist. Each year hundreds of his followers dress in white, dance in large concentric circles and sing songs praising the Sun and the Earth. Respectful spectators are welcomed.
Sapareva Banya prides itself in its cool mountain water and its healing geothermal mineral waters. It is the hottest mineral water in the Balkans and produces the only active geyser here as well. The geyser and its surrounding park were developed in 1957 and have been tapped as a geothermal heating source for the municipal buildings and the greenhouses.
The Sapareva Banya Sanitorium/Health Center has been treating patients with diseases of the upper respiratory system, nervous system, bones, joints, and skin for over 50 years. The Sanatorium complex also contains an outdoor mineral water pool for use during the summer season.
In recent years the overall focus in Sapareva Banya has been on improving its tourism infrastructure. New sidewalks, trees, cafes and hotels have sprung up in the center and along the main road leading to Panichishte. Sapareva Banya's growth as a Bulgarian mountain resort has been due largely to its proximity to Sofia and its growing opportunities for mountain, ski, religious and spa tourism. Following are some of the restaurant and hotel options available in Sapareva Banya.
From Sapareva Banya starts one of the most popular hiking routes in Northwestern Rila - Sapareva banya - Panichishte mountain resort - Skakavitsa chalet and Skakavitsa Waterfall - the 7 Lakes - Rila Monastery.