Sokobanja - Soko SPA

Sokobanja - Soko SPA

Things to do - general

Sokobanja is located in the central part of South-Eastern Serbia, situated in а valley, surrounded by a wreath of mountains.

Surrounding mountines near Sokobanja are: Ozren (1174 m) in the south, Rtanj (1560 m) in the north, Devica in the south-east (1116 m), Slemen (1099 m) and Krstatac (1069 m) in the east and Bukovik (894 m) and Rozanj (897 m) in the west. The river Moravica which flows through Sokobanja makes the Bovan lake, in the western part of the valley.

Sokobanja is 35 km away from the highway E-75 and the main rail-road, which are reachable by regional road to Aleksinac. Sokobanja is 230 km away from Beograd and the airport „Nikola Tesla“ and 58 km away from Nis and the airport „Emperor Constantin“.

Nowadays Sokobanja is a well known spa and  health resort, not only in Serbia but also abroad. Throughout the history, at first roman terme, than turkish „amam“, and Duke Milos’s bath, it has developed into a modern health-recreational center built on its healing wells.

By order of Duke Milos Obrenovic, the first expert analysis of the Sokobanja thermal water and its healing effects were carried out in Vienna, in 1834, and the first officially sent guest, with a written recommendation (voucher), arrived in Sokobanja on the 8th of June in 1837 (by the Julian calendar), which indicates that Sokobanja has the longest tradition of organized tourism at the territory of „EX Yugoslavia“.

At the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century, Sokobanja was an elite summer resort and the meeting place of Serbian aristocracy and bohemians. The regular guests of Sokobanja were well-known writers, actors, artists: Branislav Nusic, the creator of the famous saying: „Sokobanja, Sokograd, one comes old but leaves young“, Stevan Sremac, Isidora Sekulic, Ivo Andric, Meso Selimovic, Milos Zutic…

Sokobanja is one of leading spas in Serbia regarding the health tourism and one of the most visited touristic centers in Serbia.

PICNIC SITES AND PARKS

 

“Vrelo-Borici” is the well-known picnic site, 300 m away from the center of Sokobanja. Once it was an elite place, where many famous people gathered: writers, actors, artist, politicians and members of the royal family Karadjordjevic. From Vrelo one can go up by stairs to the sight Borici, equipped with benches, tables and play props and it is suitable for people who have some lung problems or hard breathing, due to high concentration of negative ions in the air. The visitors can also see the memorial fountain of Hajduk Veljko Petrovic and the open-air stage „Vrelo“.

Park-forest „Cuka 2“ is located near the Specialized Hospital Sokobanja, in the settlement Cuka 2. The conifer forest, path for good health, playground  for children , wooden benches and the beautiful scenery are the main attractions of this  picnic site. There is a great view of the town and the mountain Rtanj from the park. It is convenient for different sport activities like badminton and frisbee, picnics, walks in the beautiful natural environment and all-day stay in the outdoors.

“Lepterija” is the most known and visited picnic site in Sokobanja. It is located 2 km away from the center of Sokobanja. According to the local legend, it was named after a girl who took her life away because of forbidden love, by jumping with her beloved Zupan, from the cliff into the river Moravica. You can get there by asphalt road or by path through the forest which is very colorful. Nearby is the church devoted to Birth of the Holy Virgin and the natural phenomenon „Holy Virgin in the rock“. Medieval fortress „Sokograd“ is 500 m away from Lepterija and it can be reached by forest trails.

Picnic site “Ozren” is about 5 km away from Sokobanja and it can be reached by asphalt road. It includes a large park with the sport fields, playground, artificial lake, restaurant, waterfall “Mala Ripaljka” and arranged picnic area. Nearby is Ripaljka, the highest waterfall in Serbia (total height 40 m), which has been declared for the first Serbian natural monument in 1948.

Picnic site „Ocno” and „Kalinovica“ are 3 km away from picnic site “Ozren”. The first one is famous for the “Stone of Love”, a lonely rock in the middle of the big meadow, which is a symbol of eternal love. Second is a glade, surrounded by beech and pine forest, and it is known by its cold water. Around the spring, there are benches and tables and arranged place for making the barbecue.

Spring “Sopur” is located along the road to the village Jezero, about 10 km away from Sokobanja. The spring, with arranged place for making the barbecue, is surrounded by beech forest. Near Sopur, there is a path which can take you to the peak „Ostra Cuka“ (1075 m), from which you have a magnificent view of the valley and the mountain Rtanj.

The area around the spring of the river Moravica is a pleasant place for the rest and picnics, near the crystal-clear lake where the river Moravica emerges. It is located in a place called Vrelo-Istoci, at the foothill of mountain Devica, 12 km away from Sokobanja towards Knjazevac. The spring itself is a natural phenomenon because it occurs in the form of the spilled river flow, generated from a large number of underground springs. Nearby is the St. Ilija’s church, Marko’s cave and trout pond.

Sesalac cave is situated in the village Sesalac, about 19 km away from Sokobanja. The cave is lightened in the lenght of 200 m and has rich cave ornaments: stalactites, stalagmites, travertine baths and delicate draperies. An underground river flows through the cave. In front of the cave is nicely decorated picnic area and nearby is an artificial lake.

Vrelo is located about 21 km away from Sokobanja, and 6,5 km from the Josanica spa. It is located at the foothill of mountain Bukovik and it is reachable by forest paths. The main attraction of this picnic area, located in the forest-meadow environment, are the springs of hot and cold mineral water, after which it was named, preserved nature and clean air.

Park Banjica

It is located in the center of town, on the banks of the river Moravica, about 500 m away from the marble promenade. Park is beautifully arranged, with numerous benches, decorated with flowers and greenery. Above the park there is Special hospital „Banjica“ and nearby, on the other side of the river, there are hotels “Sunce” and “Moravica”.

In the park there is bath “Banjica” with thermo-mineral water, with highest temperature around 28°C, which is used in the treatment of various nervous diseases, and the restaurant “Čoka” on the bank of the river. Below the restaurant is a sandy beach “Zupan”, which is nicely decorated with shallow water suitable for children. Upstream the part of the beach is located in a gorge between two rocks, where the depth is about 4 m, which makes it is suitable for diving.

Upstream of the beach “Zupan” there is a the beach called “narrow”, because in that part the river Moravica is narrowest in its course, but it is very attractive for swimmers. It is followed by the beaches “Sest kace”, “Tri kace” and “Gentleman”. The first two beaches are named after the appearance of the rocky river banks, since they have a form of series of barrels or tubs, due to the river erosion („Six barrels“ and „Three burrels“). And the beaches are suitable for diving and very visited during the summer season.

If you cross the stone bridge in the park and go upstairs you will see a path on the right, which leads through attractive canyon of the river Moravica, and it takes you to the hill Popovica, picnic sight Lepterija and medieval fortress Sokograd.

The central spa park

Along the north side of the promenade there is a central spa park. Park is beautifully decorated with numerous benches and centuries-old trees providing pleasant shade, and decorated with flowers, greenery, fountains and sculptures.

In the western part of the park there is a playground “Sokolići” which is equipped with various devices for fun and entertainment of children. The hot mineral water from the Turkish bath is flowing into the creek that runs through the park.

 

Welness and spa

 

Specialized Hospital „Sokobanja“ offers spa guests different wellness and fitness programs, with the aim of preserving and improving health. Wellness program is recommended for all persons who suffer from chronic stress, and the ones who wish to improve their health and mood.

This program includes:

  • bathing in authentic Turkish bath „Amam“ (in the men’s or woman’s swimming-pool, or in the original bath where Duke Milos Obrenovic once enjoyed)
  • finish sauna
  • pearl bath
  • hydro massage
  • hand massage
  • bathing in a swimming-pool or jacuzzi with thermal water
  • walk in the fresh air using the path of health.

Fitness program is recommended for all who suffer from overweight or just want to be in a good shape. A modern fitness cabinet, in the Specialized Hospital “Sokobanja”, enables you to do sports activities, under the control of medical staff with the individually tailored program.

Soko-life is a program of weight regulation, created in cooperation with experts in the field of endocrinology and dietology. It is designed for people who suffer from obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and to all who wish to improve their quality of life. This program is combined with a wellness and fitness program in order to achieve optimal results.

Wellness Center “Soko Terme” was built on the banks of the river Moravica, next to the thermal spring popularly known as the “Lemon spa”.

For guests who are looking for recreation, improvement of the quality of life and health and general state of mind and body, there are swimming pools with hot spa water (36-39°C) which run throughout the year, as well as numerous supporting facilities:

  • Finnish sauna
  • Steam Bath
  • Turkish bath
  • Salt room
  • Jacuzzi
  • Beauty salon (manicure, pedicure, waxing …)
  • Physiotherapy unit (various types of massage – relax, aroma, royals, sports, Thai, Turkish …)
  • Garra rufa fish (“Doctor Fish” piling fish that pleasantly influence the healthy and also diseased skin)
  • Fitness and mini gym…

Nature

Mountains

 

Rtanj (1560m) is 18 km away from Sokobanja, and on the north side it limits the Sokobanja valley. The legend of the extinct volcano, fireballs, as a rare natural phenomenon, pits, caves, steep peaks, endemic plants, stories about aliens and other mysteries, attract many hikers, nature lovers, scientists and treasure hunters.

A special challenge is to climb to the top of Rtanj (Siljak 1560 m), from which you can see the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube. Many adventurers are attracted to a cave freezer, 50 m deep, which is located near the village Muzinac. On the peak Siljak, there are remains of the church - chapel of St. George, which was built on the initiative of Greta Minh, in 1935, in memory of her husband Julius Minh, who was the owner of Rtanj mine.

Ozren (1174), is located in the south of Sokobanja valley, and it is the most forested mountain in Serbia and an inexhaustible source of oxygen.

Many parts of the mountain have been declared for a natural park of special value. It abounds in picnic places arranged for all-day stay, which one can reach taking asphalt road or paths through the wood. It is 5 km away from the center of Sokobanja. Do not miss to visit the highest waterfall in Serbia, Ripaljka (40m), "rock of love", picnic place Kalinovica.

Devica, is in the southeast of Sokobanja's valley, and according to the local legend it is Sokobanja's protector named by the Holy virgin. It is also rich in flora and fauna. There is Marko's Cave at the foot of Devica, near the river Moravica's spring.

According to the legend Prince Marko's horse Sarac left a hoof print in the stone at the entrance of the cave. Tourists with experienced guides can enjoy the view from the top of Ostra cuka (1074 m), in an extraordinary environment and different karst landforms.

Bukovik is in the west of  the valley, 12 km away from Sokobanja, and it partly forms the shore of Bovan lake. The mountain is rich in game and mushrooms especially in boletes and truffles. There is also a deer reservation in Bukovik.

In addition to mountains special geomorphological tourist value are the gorges.

Moravica River on its course builds two interesting gorges: Sokograd gorge, in the upper part of the course and Bovan gorge and in the lower part, which offer opportunities for development of excursion, recreation and fishing tourism.

Also significant and very attractive geomorphological value are the caves, and the largest in the municipality is the Sesalačka cave, which is arranged for the visitors.

 

HYDROGRAPHIC RESOURCES

 

The River Moravica is 60,4 km long right tributary of the river Juzna Morava and emerges at the foothill of the mountain Devica.

It occurs in the form of the spilled river flow, generated from a large number of underground springs, which are visible as small vortexes. The surrounding is arranged as a picnic sight.

The river Moravica makes Bovan gorge, in the western part of the valley. The river is rich in brown trout and white fish: beovica, chub, carp.

Tributaries of the river Moravica are clear mountain rivers and streams, which are habitats of the river crabs.

On the banks of the river Moravica there are several arranged beaches, Zupan in the center and upstream: Tesnac, Sest kace, Tri kace, Gentleman and Lepterija.

Moravica is also interesting for many healing springs that flow into it, or emerge in the depth along its river-bed.

Lake Bovan is about 10 km away from Sokobanja. There are several arranged beaches on both sides from Sokobanja and Aleksinac. The lake is about 8 km long and the maximum depth is about 50 m, near the dam.

It is suitable for swimming, fishing, hiking and nautical sports, and at the beach, near the village Bovan, you can rent pedal boats for a great enjoyment on the water.

Lake Vrmdza is situated at the foothill of the mountain Rtanj, about 15 km away from Sokobanja, and 3 km from the village Vrmdza.

It is a wonderful place for relaxation, fishing and picking wild berries and medical herbs. The village can be reached by asphalt road, and then you can get to the plateau, where the lake is located, by gravel road.

 

CLIMATE

 

The climate of Sokobanja is moderate continental, with a tendency of moving towards the mountain type with increasing altitude.

The main climatic characteristics of the area are cold harsh winters, hot and sunny summer and autumn which is warmer than spring.

There is no air and water pollution in Sokobanja`s environment. A special contribution to the quality of air gives the “rose of the winds”, which is formed above the valley, bringing the fresh and clean air. The air rich in negative ions contributes to the overall recovery of the organism and is particularly suitable for treatment of respiratory problems and stress.

 

Culture and history

HISTORY

 

Besides spectacular Sokograd, which is the most famous archaeological site, municipality of Sokobanja is full of sights and historical monuments, and some of them seem quite impressive.

The oldest traces of human settlements in Sokobanja originate from the period of neolith (the remains of pottery from the Ozren cave). There are fortresses (Sokograd, Vrmdza, Bovan) from the period of Emperor Justinian, which were part of Serbian medieval state until 1413. when they were destroyed.

Sokobanja was a military fort and the settlement was first mentioned in the biography of Despot Stefan Lazarevic written by Constantine the Philosopher. Evlija Celebija, the Turkish author, was the first person who mentioned the healing properties of Sokobanja springs, describing Turkish bath in 1663. This bath was, after liberation from Turks in 1834, restored and enlarged by Serbian Duke Milos Obrenovic.

In 1808 Hajduk Veljko liberated Sokobanja from the Turks in the First Serbian rebellion, and called it his Banjica. In the second half of the XIX and the beginning of XX century, until the 2nd World War, Sokobanja became the meeting place of famous scientists, writers, artists and bohemians: Ivo Andric, Branislav Nusic, Isidora Sekulic, Stevan Sremac, Jovan Cvijic, Mesa Selimovic etc. who were regular guests of Sokobanja.

On the 8th of Jun, 1837 (the Julian calendar) from the office of Duke Milos in Kragujevac, a voucher was written for major Lazarevic, who was sent to Sokobanja to use hot water. This referral (voucher) was used to mark the starting point of health tourism of Sokobanja since the 21st of Jun (the Gregorian calendar).

 

CULTURAL-HISTORICAL MONUMENTS

 

Medieval town Sokograd was built at the end of XIII and the beginning of XIV century, at the foundations of the old roman fortress. Although, according to some data the medieval fortress existed in the time of Stevan Nemanja`s reign, when the members of religious cult called Bogumils were exiled and during that occasion the town was ruined for the first time. Later it was mentioned in the biography of Despot Stefan Lazarevic. It was ruined in the fight for the Turkish throne between Sultan Musa and the rebel Hamuz beg, in 1413. It is located 2 km away from the center of Sokobanja, at the hill above the canyon of the river Moravica.

Near  village Vrmdza (12 km away from Sokobanja), in the valley of the river Pakles, there are remains of the old Vrmdza town, which is of “latin origin” according to the locals. Fortress dates from the roman period between IV and VI century, probably in the time of reign of the Emperor Justinian. Later the town was mentioned in the XIV century, as the settlement of noblemen. It was ruined in the XV century, in 1413.

Turkish bath „Amam“ is located in the central park and it was built by Turks, on the foundation of roman terms, in XV century. It was reconstructed for the first time in 1834, by order of Duke Milos Obrenovic, and the last time in 2005. It is the only Turkish bath which is in function in Serbia. It is also known for the scene which was filmed here, as a part of the famous movie „Zona Zamfirova“.

„Milosev konak“ is located in the center of Sokobanja, at the marble promenade. It was built by the Duke Milos Obrenovic, in the first half of the 19th century, for his administration.

The church devoted to Holy Transfiguration of God, located in the center of Sokobanja, was built in 1892, in the Serbian-byzantine style. It was built by Italian builders according to the drawings of architect Svetozar Ivackovic, while the author of the iconostasis is unknown. Initiator for the church to be built and a great donor was nthe head of the Serbian church Mr Mihajlo, who was born in Sokobanja. There is his bust in the port of the church. Besides the church, he built the primary school in 1894, and he founded the first ecological  society, in 1895, named „Society for Improving an Embellishing Sokobanja and its Surrounding“.

Church devoted to Assumption of the Holy Mother, the oldest church in this part of Serbia, is located in the village Josanica, 15 km away from  Sokobanja. It dates from the 11th century, it is built of stone, with impressive iconostasis, which is partially restored and preserved. The most striking icon is an icon of Jesus in his three aging periods as a boy, a man (at the time of suffering) and the third, the most interesting, as an old man. The priests have an interesting explanation for this unique presentation of the Christ by the painter.

The monastery Jermencic was built in 14th century. According to the legend the monastery was built by Armenian monks, who had found their sanctuary on mountain Ozren, fleeing from the Turk invasion. The church of this monastery, which has been preserved, is devoted to Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It is 8 km away from Sokobanja.

St. Ilija's church is located in the village Vrelo, 12 km away from Sokobanja, at the right side of the road to Knjazevac. It was built in the middle of XIX century, by the initiative of Princess Persida Karadjordjevic, who donated 18 ducats for its construction.

Art Gallery-Legacy of Milun Mitrovic was opened on the 21st of June in 2001, on the initiative of Sokobanja's painter Milun Mitrovic, who donated over 150 paintings to Sokobanja. During the year, many exhibitions of recognized national and international artists are organized. Milun Mitrovic was one of the founders of the Art Colony „Sokograd“.

Homeland museum is located in a building built in the 19th century, in the town center. It was built in old Serbian Moravian style, and with only a small reconstruction, building has fully retained its original appearance. The collection has exhibits from the fields of archeology, ethnology and history, from Roman to modern time. In front of the museum, there is an amphitheatre, where the program of the Cultural Summer takes place.

Ethno corner „Grudonjske vodenice“ is located in the settlement Gradasnica (2 km from the center), on the small river. It has two mills, which are more than two centuries old. Larger mill was turned into an ethno kitchen, where each visitor can prepare various dishes from this area, according to traditional recipes, with the help of instructors of ethnological workshops „Etnos“.  Other, smaller mill will be converted into traditional crafts workshop. In the yard, there is a small amphitheater, where the programs related to the history and tradition of Sokobanja's area take place.

Homeland museum in village Josanica is placed in the church yard, next to the churches of St. Demetrius and the Assumption of the Holy Mother. The museum building is the former Parish home, which dates from the 19th century.  There are exhibits from the fields of history and ethnology and it is placed under state protection.

Ethno museum in Vrmdza was opened in 2010 and it is located in the building of the Parish home. There is a permanent exhibition of folk costumes, pottery, textiles and tools. Visitors can see the entire process of making the national costumes in traditional way.

The whole area in Sokobanja is known by churches, temples and their remains, and there are also a few memorial fountains dedicated to important historical figures: Hajduk Veljko Petrovic (in the park Vrelo-Borici), Ljuba Didic (in the center) and Duke Milos Obrenovic (5 km аway from Sokobanja towards Aleksinac).

Central marble promenade

 

In the past, the center was covered with macadam tiles, but it was paved with marble slabs in the 70s. Hundred years old trees adorn the marble promenade and create a pleasant shade in the summer months. There are mostly old platan and linden trees, which emite intoxicating scents in the time of flowering.

Central spa promenade extends over a length of 600 meters, from the hotel "Tourist" in the east to the Homeland museum in the west. From the fountain in the center, the promenade splits into two parts, so one part passes next to the church of the Holy Transfiguration and ends near the building of primary and secondary school, and the other part ends with the museum building. In the central part, the promenade has an extension in the form of shopping center where you can find boutiques, jewelers, restaurants, tourist agencies and other service facilities.

Across the Turkish bath there is a building called „Milosev konak“. Duke Milos Obrenovic built it for his administration, when he was staying in Sokobanja. Although „Milosev konak“ expanded over the time, it retained the original architectural features from 19th century. It contains a few coffee shops, the famous Irish Pub "Dublin", discotheque "Stena", boutiques and service facilities.

Next to the building of „Milosev konak“ there is a church of Holy Transfiguration, built in 1892. It was built by Italian masters, and the major donor was the serbian metropolitan Mr. Mihailo, who was born in Sokobanja. His bust is located in the churchyard.

At the western end of the promenade there is Homeland Museum, which is located in a building built in the 19th century, in the Moravian style. It has exhibits from the fields of archeology, ethnology and history. In front of the museum there is an amphitheater which is used during the summer for theatrical performances, literary evenings, concerts and other events.

Across the Museum there is an old building with Tourist Information Centre in one part and Gallery-Legacy of Milun Mitrovic in other part. The gallery was opened on 28th of June in 2001, at the initiative of academic painter Milun Mitrovic, born in Sokobanja, who donated about 150 pictures to his home town.

In memory of the famous persons, who visited Sokobanja, memorial busts of famous guests and locals were placed all over Sokobanja: Stevan Sremac, Branislav Nusic, Isidora Sekulic, Metropolitan Mihajlo (head of the Serbian Orthodox Church) and Ivo Andric. In the central park there is a bust of local partisan hero Aleksa Markisic.

Unfortunately there are no accommodations at this location at the moment.

Unfortunately there are no tour offers at this location at the moment.

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