Home Bulgaria Interhotel Sandanski – winter SPA tourism in Bulgaria

Interhotel Sandanski – winter SPA tourism in Bulgaria

29 minutes read

This is a story of a place many Bulgarian remember as a childhood destination. We will introduce you to a signature hotel that for me has always been part of the town of Sandanski in Southwestern Bulgaria. A place with a rich history, dominating the central part of the city, but also a part of its modern appearance. So, whether you’ve been on holiday at the Interhotel Sandanski recently or 30 years ago, we’ll take you through Sandanski’s ‘Austrian Hotel’ .

Preface

Of all the more than 10 times we have toured the Sandanski-Petrich valley, the cozy wineries, the beautiful hills and the sand pyramids, not once have we stayed in Sandanski. Somehow, subconsciously, we kept the opportunity to visit this town separately and pay the deserved attention to its magical air and mineral waters. So, here we are at the end of January, while most places in Bulgaria are cold and quite gloomy, we land in the warmest city and the fatigue from the work and school day and the almost 5 hours of driving that followed quickly evaporates when we slip into the hot outdoor pool in the evening around 7pm.

We check in at Interhotel Sandanski – a signature place for the town. You will also hear it as “The Austrian Hotel” because it was built by Austrians 40 years ago. We have to admit that we went there with a bit of hesitation – whether we could trust for our little family holiday this particular hotel, which, although of a high category, was designed and built in times when the standards were slightly different. And it was definitely not designed as a leisure weekend spot for families of mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and two kids.

However, Interhotel Sandanski did not disappoint us and we would gladly return again. We have many resons for this.

Interhotel Sandanski
Interhotel Sandanski

About the lost toys and the earned time

As we write this article, we are experiencing a little drama at home. It turns out that we came home with 2-3 missing toys, which have fallen behind who knows where along the way. It’s sad to watch children suffer for their beloved Kucho and Unicorn and the pink pony. But the time spent together in fun games and smiles is never lost. Not that we are not angry that we have not been able to trace the path of each of the many things we carry with us. Still, it is important not to lose the good emotions and the joy of having spent this time together.

The interesting thing about the toys is that the children forgot them on the first day in the hotel lobby. And then for three days none of them thought about the toys, the kids were extremely busy during the entire stay with interesting activities.

The legend Interhotel Sandanski

The Austrian Hotel

Interhotel Sandanski is a part of the former chain of elite state-owned hotels in Bulgaria during the Communist era (known as Interhotels), built in the 70s and 80s to serve special guests – those who are more equal than others. From the books we have read about the tourist industry at that time, we have learned that they probably came closest to the modern concept of a nice hotel. With spacious and comfortable rooms, good restaurants stocked with a variety of rare products to make every guest’s experience truly special. In addition to the mineral water and spa services, being a guest of the hotel at that time was really great. And these hotels were not just places to stay, but destinations themselves.

The story is that the hotel was built by Austrians with Austrian materials and somehow the architect of the hotel, who is Bulgarian, remains in the shadows. The project of the Interhotel Sandanski was designed by architect Nenko Nenkov in a team with arch. Stoyan Hadjistoyanov. Who, after winning the competition for the design of the hotel, finished it in Austria. The hotel was built in 11 months and opened in 1984, this year (2024) the hotel celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Interhotel Sandanski impressively dominates the town
Interhotel Sandanski impressively dominates the town

40 years later

Still, we are grateful to be visiting it today. Since those days, the hotel, although high-class, has undergone a number of transformations. For example, in the beginning there were only 2-3 apartments for specific guests. Families with children were clearly not a target group at all.

Today we are staying in a wonderful apartment, created by connecting two standard rooms, which turns out to be very practical. Apart from the fact that both rooms are equally spacious, with their own desks, balconies and sitting areas, what we enjoy most are the two bathrooms, which make life for a family of 4 much easier.

In more modern history, a large area just outside the hotel entrance was occupied by a bank for many years. Today, to our joy, it is a big, colorful and spacious children’s corner.

With the construction of Interhotel Sandanski the beginning of modern climatotherapy and balneotherapy in the region was set, although the healing powers of the local mineral waters have been known and used for millennia.

Today, the hotel proudly retains that aristocratic feeling that reminds us that it was once only accessible to the “chosen few”. You can feel it in the attractive spiral staircase between the ground floor and the first floor, in the dim light and retro atmosphere in the bridge bar, in the spacious lobbies and common areas, where there is space for privacy for everyone.

Wherever the parking and the approach to the reception of the hotel has been made, it is obvious that thought and idea has been put in to make it both convenient but also not to interfere with the comfort of the guests.

But contemporary technologies are also present. The hotel has an EV charging stations and they can provide a cable if needed. We used it several times.

A slightly different perspective of the hotel from the air, but from here it also looks very well kept and tidy.
A slightly different perspective of the hotel from the air, but from here it also looks very well kept and tidy.

The swimming pools of Interhotel Sandanski

The first criterion, according to which we choose the hotels for our winter holidays, is the outdoor pool. The prospect to float outdoors in a warm pool when it’s chilly or snowy outside is a good reason for us to travel many hours. So, after 5 hours in the car, it took us 5 minutes to change and hop in the pool.

Something important for me is that the rooms are heated in winter with steam heating, not with air conditioning, so it is quiet and extremely pleasant.

The swimming pools of Interhotel Sandanski are filled with the warm mineral water. They are a priceless treasure and to the delight of all guests, there are many of them. The largest one is a 25-meter indoor swimming pool. There are two more swimming pools on either side of it, outdoors. One of them was about 32-33 degrees and quite pleasant for swimming early in the morning. On the other side is the hotter pool (36-38 degrees), with an attractive irregular shape and a children’s section, where we spent the most time.

Spa, balneo and other pampering

The spa and balneo complex of Interhotel Sandanski is the largest in Southwest Bulgaria and is truly impressive in its scale. Located on two floors, if you do not count the two saunas and steam baths, which are on a separate level. There are dozens of rooms for probably hundreds of different therapies throughout its many areas. The complex is officially a medical center and is a popular place for visitors coming to treat their musculoskeletal and respiratory systems. You may have heard that Sandanski is also famous for its extremely clean air, which helps a lot for lung problems and frequent illnesses.

Although we did not come with any specific complaints, we took advantage of the services of the spa and even regretted that we did not have time to do more. It is definitely worth to come for at least 5 days, which is the minimum length of the therapeutic packages.

GUNA magnetophoresis or relaxation therapy with collagen

Usually when we visit spas we always reserve massages – on the one hand we love them, on the other – they are always a good idea for people who work at a desk and are chronically stiff. This time they offered Andrey something different – a combination of a pearl bath and then a treatment with needle-free injection of liquid collagen called GUNA magnetophoresis.

The procedure with the complicated name is actually quick and non-invasive and takes no more than 15 minutes, maximum 20-30 if a larger area is treated. It is a non-invasive injection of collagen through the skin into a painful area using a special device. The device creates a magnetic field that allows the deep penetration of collagen and its successful absorption.

According to the product and therapy information, GUNA injectable collagen treatments mainly have a pain-relieving effect, regardless of the origin of the pain – musculoskeletal, neuropathic, traumatic, etc., as well as a regenerating and anti-inflammatory effect on tissues – cartilage, muscles, tendons, joint capsules, etc. Collagen therapy can also be applied for cosmetic purposes – to treat wrinkles, skin problems, healing wounds, etc. Standard courses are of at least 5-10 treatments, but Andrey felt a pleasant relaxation of the neck even after a single one.

Roman ritual with honey

Maria chose one of the newest beauty treatments in the spa – a ritual with honey in 4 steps. We didn’t quite understand why it is called Roman but that’s how it is on the menu. It includes a bath with lotion, body scrub, mask with real honey and a final cream.

It is a precious time to relax alone with your thoughts, in dim light, without phones, in a room smelling of honey and other pleasant scents, with quiet music in the background. Especially when you are lying wrapped like a mummy in a nice mask and you have no choice but to rest. A true meditation that is relaxing, sobering and illuminating.

And when you get up from the couch after an hour and a half of rituals, you feel reborn and ready for new feats.

Holiday with children at Interhotel Sandanski

Going with children to Interhotel Sandanski was an excellent idea. It turned out that the hotel is very family-friendly and not only has facilities suitable for children, but also actively organizes events for them.

We were told that during the school holidays there is a whole programme of games, workshops and sports activities. But even if you visit outside these periods, you can still benefit from some services. For example, we enrolled the children in swimming lessons led by one of the lifeguards. Who turned out to be a great professional with a great approach. You may not believe us, but Ana really progressed a lot in 3 days and 3 lessons, and Adriana almost stopped being afraid to dip her head.

In the children’s playground there were 2 animators who were actively engaged with the children, for which we thank them. We appreciate this attention very much because we have witnessed many times how in luxury hotels the animators are just present, the children are bored and the meaning of the children’s playground is lost.

Another popular service offered by Interhotel Sandanski are their tennis courts with professional flooring and equipment. They are located about 200 meters from the hotel in the park area and often host tournaments. So if you are a tennis fan, you can play.

The tennis courts of Interhotel Sandanski
The tennis courts of Interhotel Sandanski

The food at Interhotel Sandanski

Are you wondering why we have not said a word about food and wine, even though we are in a very wine region? Here, it’s time.

The hotel has 2 options for accommodation – BB or HB with buffet dinner included. If you are not demanding in terms of special atmosphere, service and exquisite food presentation, the buffet is an excellent choice for dinner. Especially if you have small children who love to choose and take their own dinner. The buffet is great if you like more standard dishes, but prepared well and tasty.

Renaissance Restaurant

And when you decide to treat yourself, to sit in silence with a glass of wine in a quiet restaurant, you go to the Mediterranean a la carte restaurant “Renaissance” on the lower floor. There we were welcomed by Chef Nikolay Tikhomirov (also known for his participation in Hells Kitchen Bulgaria), the very new chef of the restaurant. And yet he managed to take the time at lunch to present us some of his ideas for a new menu for the restaurant, which made us really happy.

His demo menu included a tomato and marinated eggplant salad, as well as burrata salad, arugula, wonderful tomatoes from the region and prosciutto chips. The appetizer was very tasty arancini with saffron. And for the main dishes, he offered us his options of chicken and trout. Chicken with creamy polenta and wild mushrooms. And trout with celery puree and fried artichokes. Chef Tikhomirov’s proposals impressed us with their simplicity and accessibility – familiar products whose natural taste is felt, without too much processing, but glowing next to each other on the plates.

The wine list also made a nice impression on us – not particularly long, but with a strong emphasis on local wines. For several years, wineries and restaurateurs in the region have been actively working together to offer local wine.

How to book?

You can book via phone or from the hotel website: www.interhotelsandanski.bg . Also on Booking.com

Sveti Vrach Park

Interhotel Sandanski has a great location – on one side is the central pedestrian street, on the other side begins the beautiful Sveti Vrach Park It is one of the oldest urban parks in Bulgaria, with the first saplings planted in 1916. Located along the Sandanska Bistritsa River on 344 decars. More than 160 plant species have been planted there, including centuries-old plane trees, declared natural landmarks. There are plants that came from the Far East, Americas and the Mediterranean. The park is full of beautiful places and sights.

One of everyone’s favourite places is the lake where white and black swans and other birds swim. In the lake you can also ride a water wheel.

Another interesting landmark is the “Pirineum” – a model of the nearby Pirin Mountain. There are 2 other similar places in Bulgaria – a relay map of the Black Sea in the courtyard of the Romain Roland High School in Stara Zagora and map on Bulgaria in Dryanovo.

And if you like to see the world from above, there is also an amusement park with a 30-meter Ferris wheel. From it you can see the two stadiums nearby and almost the whole park Sveti Vrach The wheel has closed cabins, moves slowly and is very pleasant, even if you are afraid of heights.

Interhotel Sandanski
Interhotel Sandanski

With far less enthusiasm we got in the car for the five hours back home, but very satisfied with our holiday in Sandanski. We can definitely recommend both the city and the hotel. And a few days later, Kucho, Unicorn and the pink pony came home, forgotten in the hotel, but picked up by the maids and then sent to us. Thank you!

Ideas for a walk around

  • Bishop’s Basilica in Sandanski
  • The smallest town in Bulgaria – Melnik
  • Rozhen Monastery
  • Melnik Pyramids
  • Waterfall “Popina Laka”;
  • Rupite
  • Ancient city of Herakleia Syntytica (not sure if it is open for visits);
  • Vintage Car Museum Zlaten Rozhen in the village of Kapatovo;
  • You can climb in the Pirin mountains;
  • Skoka waterfall near the village of Kashina (the village is reached by a dirt road, it is almost extinct, 8 people are said to live there now.)

Top wineries in the region

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