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Grand Hotel Pomorie

by Laura Powell

The fact is, Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline is filled with spa resorts that cater

to clients looking to attend to chronic health conditions with a bit of

 pampering mixed in.

The Black Sea may not be the first seaside you think about when it comes to coastal spa vacations, nor may Bulgaria be the first place you think of for a European spa getaway. But the fact is, Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline is filled with spa resorts that cater to clients looking to attend to chronic health conditions with a bit of pampering mixed in.

I ventured to the town of Pomorie in southeastern Bulgaria for my one-week spa experience. The area here is world-renowned for its treatment of various ailments, thanks to the unique combination of natural resources like mud, salt and lye (more on that in a minute) extracted from the local waters. 

I stayed at the Grand Hotel Pomorie, a four-star medical spa located right on the water. Now, I will say upfront that the experience might not be for everyone. English was not commonly spoken, the food was rather mediocre, and the place did give off a retro Communist-era vibe (even though the hotel was built in the 21st century). However, the health care was exceptional, as were the wellness facilities. After a week on property, I left feeling renewed and energized. Oh, and did I mention that the price tag for six hotel nights with daily half-board (breakfast and dinner), five medical services a day (including daily one-hour massages), and access to a full range of wellness offerings (sauna, steam, salt water pool, rainforest contrast shower, salt room, kneipping path, etc.), plus a preliminary consultation with a medical doctor, came to a grand total of $1000? For that price, it’s well worth getting lost in translation from time to time.

Similar to my experiences at other European medical spas, my visit started with an in-depth meeting with a doctor. In this case, since the doctor did not speak fluent English, I was accompanied by the bilingual spa director. She translated as the doctor asked questions about my specific health issues. Even without the translation, he could assess, through my body language, some of the ailments that plagued me.

After the assessment, the doctor developed a personalized daily program, filled with massages, mud baths, mineral wraps, and electro-stimulation and ultrasound sessions. Additionally, he told me to spend at least 60 minutes a day soaking up the minerals in the resort’s indoor saltwater pool. 

I worked with a spa assistant to develop my treatment timetable, scheduling most of my appointments in the morning so I could get out and enjoy the surroundings during the day. That said, I booked massages late in the day, so I could get a rub, grab some grub, and then lay in the tub. 

Scheduling Wellness

Every day started with a buffet breakfast, followed by my “dry” treatments. My lower back sucked up electrostimulation for 15 minutes and ultrasound for another 15. Then it was off to get a Black Sea lye compress. The lye (not to be confused with lye as you know it) is obtained from Pomorie Lake. After a process that involves evaporation of water in the salt pans and the crystallization of salt, the end product is this substance, which is filled with a cocktail of uber-healthy seawater minerals, including magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate. Magnesium, of course, plays a key role in the balance of the nervous and muscular systems. And so, a lye compress session, followed immediately by a warm mud bath session, left me feeling like a wet noodle. Since I was already wet, I washed off the mud and went directly for my first daily soak in the saltwater pool, located in the property’s modern wellness center. 

After afternoons filled with sightseeing and wellness activities, I would come back to the spa for another dunk in the saltwater pool, followed by my end-of-the-day massages. Now, these were not your garden-variety spa rubdowns. For one, they were delivered by beefy masseurs who, judging by their body types, may have been weightlifters for the Bulgarian Olympic team when they were younger. And instead of Enya-style dulcet tones, Andrea Bocelli belted out notes in the background. Even so, the medically-focused massages proved to be both therapeutic and relaxing.

The Price is Right

Because the Grand Hotel Pomorie mainly caters to Bulgarians, room prices are low. In the off-season, a room with half-board can cost as little as $88 a night. That means five nights come in well under $500. The rooms were extremely comfortable, although the service left something to be desired and the food, as mentioned previously, was not great. But gourmands needn’t fret. Because it is located in a resort area, there are plenty of dining options outside of the hotel.

If you stay for at least five days of care, you receive a 30 percent discount off already-low treatment prices. That’s why the grand total for the spa portion of my bill came in under $500. There’s no doubt that, taking the value for the money factor into account, the price for this experience was beyond right. After all,the goal was to leave feeling better than when I came, and in that regard, the Grand Hotel Pomorie more than delivered a winning vacation.

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