Velingrad       
        Alternative Tourism
      
                                             
VELINGRAD MUNICIPALITY
  The municipality of Velingrad is situated in the Western Rhodopi Mountains on Chepino Plateau and has an overall territory of 8180 hectares. The municipality includes one town and 18 mayoralties with 35 smaller settlements. The municipality's population is 43,655 of which 25,777 live in Velingrad and the remaining 17,878 live in the mayoralties. The town itself is situated in the picturesque valley of Chepinska River at an altitude of 750 m. The regional center of Plovdiv is 81 km from Velingrad and the country's capital, Sofia, is 133 km from Velingrad.

   NATURE
      The beauty of the landscape is combined with a mild and propitious climate. The average annual temperature is 9o C. The municipality boasts the largest number of sunny days per year. The municipality is rich in mineral springs, which are amenable for a wide range of ailments (e.g. bones and joints, nervous system, gynecological, and lung disorders). Velingrad ranks first in Bulgaria for the abundance and diversity of its mineral waters. The total flow capacity of the more than 80 mineral water springs is 170 liters per second. A miracle of nature is the largest Karst spring in Bulgaria - Kleptuza with a flow rate of 570 liters per second. The vicinities of Velingrad have breath-taking scenic beauty, such as magnificent coniferous and deciduous forests, spacious flower-sprinkled meadows and crystal-pure waters. The most famous localities are Yundola, Belmeken, Kourtovo, Kladona, and Chernovruh,. The reservoirs of Batak, Dospat and Belmeken are favorite spots for hikers and fishermen alike. There is great potential for the development of winter tourism and skiing on the foothills of Mount Syutka.

   HYDROLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
      Velingrad's most generous natural gift is mineral water with over 80 mineral springs extensively used in balneology. The local water basin is considered among one of Bulgaria's best. The overall water capacity of the area's springs is 143 liters per second. Six thermal mineral bathhouse are located in Velingrad. The town's mineral water has distinguishable healing properties because of the combined mineral spring sources of Hisaria, Bania, and Narechen.
     
Being a lower altitude mountain resort with moderate temperature fluctuations, Velingrad's balneological resorts have an optimum environment for the treatment of a number of pulmonary ailments. These resorts specialize in the treatment of joint, neurological and gynecological ailments as well as conditions concerning sterility, kidney and/or liver dysfunction, and gastrointestinal disorders

   LOCAL HISTORY & HISTORICAL SITES
      The town of Velingrad was founded when three villages were unifed in 1948: Kamenitza, Luzhene, and Chepino. The oldest of which is Kamenitza, with an old church which dates back to 1816, and the newest of which is Luzhene. The town is located in the western part of the Chepino Valley at 800 meters above sea level.
      For thirteen Centuries, Bulgarians have carried on an incessant struggle in order to create, preserve, and defend their freedom. The northwestern part of the Rhodopi Mountains were inhabited by Thracians, then followed by the Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. Ever since these lands united as the 1st Bulgarian State, the nation has been a fortress of Bulgarian spirit & culture, a stronghold of the Bulgarian language, and preserver of its unique folklore art. Many rich traditions and artifacts of authentic Bulgarian culture still continue today.
      It is interesting to mention that early traces of the Iron Age were discovered here. The most ancient dwellers of this land were known as the Thracians. Local history has also had its impacts from the ancient Romans. In 395, the Roman Empire was divided into a western and eastern region. The vast area of Thracia in the Rhodopi Mountains was placed under the control of the Byzantine Empire. By the 4th century, Christian presence was already seen with the building of numerous churches and monasteries. An early Christian basilica dating back to 6th Century was discovered at the site known as Nikolitsa in Rakitovo. During the 6th Century, the Slavs settled in the Rhodopi Mountains; their ancient geographical names still exist today. The 1st Bulgaria Empire was formed in the 7th Century to the north of the Stara Planina (Old Mountains). The western portion of the Rhodopi Mountains was eventually included within its boundaries by the middle of the 9th Century, thus, forming a Bulgarian nation of Thracians, Slavs, and Proto-Bulgarians.
      A settlement was excavated at the site of Chaerdzhika, located seven kilometers to the south of Velingrad near the village of Surnitsa. The remains of a Roman fortress are only three kilometers away. This fortress was located along a well-known Roman path, Nikopolis, and Nestum-Philipopol used to travel by it; the path was also used during the Middle Ages. A church covered with unique wall paintings was discovered. These wall paintings have been preserved and stored along with other relics at the local museum.
      The geographical significance of the Rhodopian region has often precipitated wars between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The Tsepina fortress played an important role during this period. The remains of this prominent fortress are located upon a steep rocky hill, 1100 meters above sea level. Theodore Laskaris the II, a Byzantine emperor, once referred to Tsepina as "completely inaccessible, unapproachable, and magnificent". Tsepina is located about three kilometers to the north of the village of Dorkovo. One of the most eminent emperors of the Rhodopian region, a despot called Aleksiya Slav who was known as an autocratic ruler with a notoriously rebellious temper, turned Tsepina into his castle. The name of the Rhodopi Mountains has its origin from Slav's time. Historical chronicles have pinpointed the defeat of the fortress around 1344. After a nine months siege, Tsepina surrendered to Ottoman Turks by the signing of a peace treaty.
      In 1666, a large-scale forcible conversion of the local population to Islam occurred. Interesting to note that in 1816 a rebellious group from the present-day district of Kamenitsa refused to accept the Islamic religion. They laid the foundation for the Saint Trinity Church; a small monastery school was opened there in 1823. The Saint Trinity Church is also renowned for the fact that a revolutionary committee was organized there during the Bulgarian national liberation movement. The committee supplied revolutionaries with weapons on the eve of the epic National April Uprising of 1876.


       Velingrad has two museum collections - an ethnographic and a history collection.

  • Historical Sites in the district of Chepino:
    • Saint Spas Monastery
    • Saint Sunday's Church
    • The City - Middle Ages Fortress
  • Historical Sites in the district of Ludzhene:
    • Saint Georgi Monastery
    • Velova Bathhouse, built in 1640
    • Nikoulova Church
    • Saint Georgi Chapel
  • Historical Sites in the district of Kamanitsa:
    • The City - Middle Ages Fortress
    • The Drummer - Middle Ages Fortress

   FOLKLORE
       There are many folklore ensembles that are active in the Municipality of Velingrad that preserve the region's traditions. In total there are ober 750 members who participate in these singing, music, and dancing groups with over 20 directors. The local cultural center focuses on maintaining local traditions and art.

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