One of the oldest and most important medical spas in Transylvania, Sovata, has been known for its salt deposits and thermal spring ever since Antiquity. The settlement was first mentioned in documents on 13 September 1578, in a privilege granted by prince Cristofor Báthory to the guards of the Sovata saltworks. In 1876, a permit was granted that water from the lakes may be used for the therapeutic baths. In 1884, Sovata became an officially recognised medical spa.
Sovata offers an important infrastructure for leisure and thermal spas. 110,000 tourists visited the city two years ago – but local authorities estimate the number will very soon increase to 140,000.
Sovata has nine lakes – two of them with sweet water, the others with salty water. Tourists can enjoy the Ursu Lake, as well as the scenery and therapeutic benefits of lakes Aluniş, Verde, Negru, Roşu, Mierlei şi Şerpilor. Lake Aluniș (called Mogyórosi in Hungarian) formed in the ‘70s, is the second important lake in Sovata, covers an area of 3,670 square metres and has a maximum depth of 6.4 metres. The waterline is 4 metres below the level of Lake Ursu, so therefore excess water flows to Lake Aluniș, crosses Valea Frumoasă (Romanian for ‘the pretty valley’) and Pârâul Sărat (‘the salty creek’) in Pârâul Sovata (the Sovata creek).
Lake Aluniș is cooler and less salty than Lake Ursu.
Tourists coming to Sovata should also see Lake Paraschiva. It appeared due to a sinkhole which went through major saline karstic transformations in the ‘80s. Due to its very low salinity, there are fish in the lake – which makes it a favourite for angling enthusiasts. The touristic offer also includes lakes Negru (the oldest salty lake of the resort, 3,400 square metres wide, with a salinity of 277%), Rigó (the youngest sinkhole lake in Sovata), Zöld and Vörös (‘twin’ lakes of 21,000 square metres and 5,000 square metres respectively, called so after their apparent colours – green and red, in Hungarian).
The Salt Road
The Ursu Lake in Sovata is called so because of its shape (urs means bear in Romanian), resembling a bear fur. Overlooking it is a landform unique in Europe and indeed in the world: arboretele de pe sărături, roughly translated as the arboretum on salty earth. It is actually a salt mountain on which various flora has grown – trees included. The ‘Lacul Ursu și Arboretele de pe sărături’ reservation, rehabilitated and modernised in a European project, covers an area of 79 hectares.
After the implementation of the European project, six paths were carved on the mountain, totalling 2.8 kilometres; the Belvedere tower and five observation posts were built, together with sixteen picnic and rest spots covering 9,707 square metres. 12 large and 29 small information panels have been installed along the pathways, along with new public lighting and CCTV.
Sovata is sought after not only in summer but in winter as well, for its ski slope. A second one is planned and has been included in 2017 in the national Master Plan for Tourism Investments; the region has a 1,777 metres peak suitable for this undertaking.
The Sovata ski slope is 1,200 metres long, with an elevation difference of 262 metres along the chairlift. There is a 300 metres long ski lift for beginners and, in winter, the hillside is groomed daily with snowcats and snow cannons.
Sovata attracts tourists also by events organised here. Two of them, already a tradition, are the Lake Ursu Days and the Pumpkin Festival.
Every summer since 2000, the Sovata City Hall has organised the Lake Ursu Days, a city-wide celebration. It spans three days and it’s a lot of fun due to variety of its contests, foods and children’s games, but also because of its diverse concerts and many others.
The Pumpkin Festival was meant to promote off-season tourism in Sovata – and so it is organised in October. It is an event for families and children. Its programme is mainly cultural, with exhibitions, traditional music and crafts.
(From the special edition of TB 86 – „ENJOY TRANSYLVANIA!” – May/June 2019)