Burgas Salterns – A Natural Pink Spa in Bulgaria

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Today we will take you on a walk to the Atanasovo lake and the salt pans in Burgas. Not only the saltiest place in Bulgaria but undoubtedly the most pink as you can see from all the photos we took. Atanasovo lake is part of the Burgas lakes complex and is 9 kilometers long, with a depth of only 30 centimeters. The main road that goes from Burgas to Varna separates the lake into two parts. The southern one is a former fishermen bay and its waters are really salty. Here you can find the Burgas Salterns (also called salt pans) – artificial evaporation ponds used for extracting salt. Some of the pools are also used for the natural medicinal clay called Lye – a healing mud known from ancient times as a remedy for skin aging and orthopedic diseases among many others. For the extraction and production of salt – seawater is poured into the ponds and after the evaporation, it leaves the salt ready to be taken out and processed. Due to the different concentration of microorganisms and the evaporation, the ponds get a pink shade that depends on the saltiness of the water and can vary from light pink to bright red. Every year approximately 40,000 tons of salt are extracted from the pools. 10 to 14 people work here on a daily basis and manually draw the salt out of the pools. Then it is passed through a machine in order to obtain the final product – the cooking salt we all have at home. Little did we know that so much hard work goes into producing something as basic as the salt we use in our dishes.

The northern part of the lake was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1980, while the southern is called protected area “Bourgas Salterns” because the whole Atanasovo lake is home to 80% of the protected birds from the “Red Book of Birds” in Bulgaria. Here is also the largest concentration of migratory soaring birds on the Balkan Peninsula. Unfortunately, due to the construction works around the lake many animals leave their natural habitat and many plant species disappear. We have a big problem with abandoned pets in Bulgaria and these together with wild foxes and jackals acts as a huge threat to birds. They are forced to leave their nests and young ones which prevents the continuation of the species and leads to the disappearance of many types of endangered birds.

The salt pans are located close to the airport, near Sarafovo area when exiting Burgas. Along the way, there is a sign for the correct exit of the road that you need to catch. Then following the road, you will find yourself in front of a parking lot, indicating that you have already arrived at the right place. It is free to use, but if you want to have a peace of mind and also be closer to the swimming pools and the beach, we recommend the paid parking. 1 lev (0, 50 cents) per hour is a good price if you’re not going to stay the whole day. There is a bike lane which is really convenient for those who live nearby or stay longer in the region. After you’ve parked the car, keep going on the road. On the left, you can see the beach with black sand and on the right you will quickly notice a crowd of people that are covered with black mud from head to toe. Yay, now you know that most likely this is the way to go! Crossing the old railways will lead you to the mud baths. The pools are easily distinguished. There, people are already covering themselves with mud. The ones that are forbidden to enter have a special sign. Finding the right place is just the beginning.

There is a whole process that you might not be familiar with. So If you are wondering about something, better ask! There are a lot of people that come here for years and will be happy to help you out or explain something. It’s good to carry a bottle of water because the water is the ponds are very salty and an accidental contact with your eyes or mouth can be quite unpleasant. Another thing that would be nice to have and only the mud pros know is some kind of small plastic bowl or a pot. You probably wonder why? Once you go inside the pool, you are already knee high deep in the water and trying to keep your balance, so you might have difficulties covering your whole body (given this is your idea from the start). The bowl will help you gather the healing clay and take it with you on the shore where you can apply it. The mud that you need is quite sticky and is located in the deeper parts of a pool, so be brave and reach for the bottom! Time to roll up your sleeves and conquer the swamp – we previously called it with the word pool, in order not to scare you, evil us! While wondering what you’ll find at the bottom, you will reach a strange, black and sticky texture. Bingo! Cover yourself from head to toe with the mud and wait about 30 minutes for it to get completely dry. This will ensure the best effect for your skin. You can relax on the beach or initiate a deep conversation with a friend. We can guarantee you that the latter is a real challenge, watching the person you talk with covered in mud. The cold seawater brings a refreshing feeling after a mud bath, so your next stop is the beach that is only a few steps away.

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Now a bit more about the healing properties of the Lye. It has a rich mineral and organic compound with dominant magnesium  content, providing all the useful microbiological and mineral substances of sea water. The clay can smooth fine lines and scars, rejuvenates the skin, improve your metabolism. It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and acts as a powerful antiseptic. It is often used for arthritis and as a way to relax the body as it removes all type of fatigue and stress.

Another option is to go straight to the salty pink pools. You will find them after the mud baths, a little further along the wooden bridges. They are quite shallow so you can sit directly at the bottom of the pool or lie down – because of the high salt concentration the water will keep you on the surface and you will be able to float around. Much like the Dead Sea, bordering Jordan and Israel, where you can’t drown because of the sea level and the saltiness of the water!

In the pink pools you will have the opportunity to experience the sublime feeling of stepping into a warm pink water with salt under your feet for a natural massage. Looking up, the pink pools merge with the blue sky and the fluffy clouds are reflected in the water. So much for this idyllic picture, though!  As some of the pools are open to the public, a lot of people are visiting them every summer. We’ll spare you the details we’ve heard, but naturally, this leads to the fact that they are not 100%  clean. So keep this in mind if you have a sensitive skin. Also, check in advance if you have any type of allergies because salt water and mud may not be suitable for you. After a brief conversation with one of the workers on the site, we learned that the only clean ponds are forbidden to visit because this is where the salt that we actually buy comes from. Well, the rebels that we are, we managed to steal a quick look and some photos!

More information and the exact location can be found at the website.

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Muddy business

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