Just take one look at the map, and Bulgaria is labeled a southern country, with all of the good weather perks stemming from its location. Unfortunately, not all southern European countries were made the same. Quite the contrary, the Central European, or transitional, type of climate dominant in Northern Bulgaria is also present in Southern Finland.
And yet, visitors flocking to Bulgaria expect clear skies and sweater weather in November. This might be possible in one remote pocket in Southwestern Bulgaria. With Sandanski being in the center of the area, this is Bulgaria’s only region with an actual Mediterranean climate, despite not having access to the sea. With a little luck, late summer here can stretch even until the end of November.
Sandanski, the Bulgarian Mediterranean
Sandanski, population 25,000, enjoys 2,450 hours of sunlight a year. Nothing to sneeze at and significantly more than on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. The explanation? Location, location, location. The town is situated on the southwestern slopes of the beautiful Pirin Mountains, along the lower reaches of the Sandanska Bistritsa river. With Greece just across the border, this combination provides a unique Bulgarian climate with a Mediterranean influence. The perks don’t end here. Sandanski is also known for its clean air, with the fewest allergens compared to the rest of the country.
With advantages like these, it’s no surprise that Sandanski is a sought-after spa resort destination, offering access to more than 80 mineral springs with temperatures between 42 and 81 degrees Celsius. Historical evidence shows that the Thracians, and later the Romans, knew and appreciated the properties of the mineral springs. And the combination of healing mineral waters with the mild Mediterranean climate is beneficial for respiratory diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, diseases of the musculoskeletal system, peripheral nervous system, among others. Climatotherapy, in combination with mineral water balneotherapy, holds incredible potential for further tourist development in the region.
Among the oldest Bulgarian towns
“I am proud to live in Sandanski,” Albena Bugarinova, public relations officer at the Sandanski Municipality, tells 3Seas Europe. “We have the longest summer – what’s not to like? I’m glad we attract many tourists, an increasing number over the years, with our natural resources. We’re striving to maintain a good investment climate in Sandanski Municipality and seeing interest in buying properties and settling permanently here from the UK. In a word, our town is unique,” Bugarinova says.
Historians seem to agree. Sandanski is not only one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria, but also in the Balkans, and Europe. Because of the healing properties of the warm mineral waters and its climate, there is historical evidence of human settlement as far back as antiquity. The first human settlements on the site of today’s town date back to the second millennium BC. It was around the mineral springs that the settlement of Medius arose in the Bronze Age in the late 13th and early 12th centuries BC. The first settlers were the Thracians. It is believed that the leader of the largest uprising in antiquity, Spartacus, from the Thracian tribe of Medes, was born in the area. Today, the town bears the name of anti-Ottoman struggle leader Yane Sandanski.
With efforts to establish the town as an important tourist destination, over the years Sandanski has been seeing growth in the local food and wood-processing industry and the production of medical products, with construction in the area also on the rise. And of course, this being Bulgaria, there’s plenty of wine to go around too. But this is not what has been attracting investors from Germany, France, and Greece. In recent years, the local garment industry has also been growing with help from foreign investors establishing new ventures in the municipality.
Sandanski’s story might be very old, but it’s far from being over.