Sokobanja is located in southeastern Serbia, between the Ozren and Rtanj mountains, on the banks of the Moravica river. It lies 400 m above sea-level and is 230 km from Belgrade.
The therapeutic qualities of Sokobanja’s thermal springs were known as far back as Ancient Rome. The Sokobanja public hamam – steam bath – was first mentioned by Turkish travel writer Evliya çelebi in 1663. After the liberation from the Turks, Prince Miloš ordered the renovation of the hamam and built a residence (konak), and Leopold Erlich was appointed as the spa’s first doctor. The start of organised tourism in Sokobanja can be traced back to 1837 when the office of Prince Miloš issued a referral (‘voucher’) to warrant officer Lazarević to have treatment in the spa.
At the beginning of the 20th century wealthy traders and innkeepers built villas for their own stays in Sokobanja, but they were also used to accommodate guests. During the inter-war period the first contemporary spa hotel – Evropa (today’s Park konak) – was built, parks and picnic sites laid and waterworks and public lighting installed. The modern development of Sokobanja began in the 1960s with businesses springing up next to the hotels and the transport infrastructure being updated.
The natural therapeutic factors in Sokobanja are the thermal mineral springs (with temperatures ranging from 28 to 45.5°C), which are used for bathing and inhalation, and the moderate continental climate characterised by favourable atmospheric pressure, moderate rainfall, little fog and a few windy days, a high concentration of oxygen, ozone and negative ions in the air and an absence of air pollution.
Treatment is administered in the Sokobanja Specialised Hospital for Non-Specific Lung Diseases, the Banjica Natural Health Resort and the Ozren Specialised Lung Diseases Hospital.
The following are treated in Sokobanja:
- bronchial asthma
- chronic hepatitis
- mild high blood pressure
- chronic rheumatism and sciatica
- post-injury conditions
- chronic gynaecological conditions
The Sokobanja Specialised Hospital contains a thermal mineral water swimming pool, a gym, a small sports hall and a five-a-side football pitch. Visitors to Sokobanja can also enjoy walks in a spacious and beautiful park.
The Library in Sokobanja has existed for over 130 years and has over 30,000 books and an international centre for tourism and ecological documentation. The Heritage Museum houses archaeological, ethnological and historical items. In front of the museum there is an amphitheatre which is used during summer to stage theatre productions and literary evenings.
A wide variety of sporting, cultural and tourist events are held in Sokobanja throughout the year, including the First Accordion of Sokobanja, the International Ecological Cartoon Biennale, Sokograd Art Colony, the Golden Hands of Sokobanja, Saint Jovan Biljober and Spa Summer of Culture among others.
During summer, guests can bathe at managed bathing sites on the Moravica river, Bovansko Jezero lake and the artificial lake in the Moravica Klisura gorge, which are also ideal for fishing.
Sokobanja’s guests also have the chance to go hunting, as well as go on specialised hunting trips such as camera safari, picking medicinal plants and hunting combined with a stay in an old mountain lodge.
The surrounding area of Sokobanja has many picnic sites and forest and tarmac paths lead to Oštra Čuka, Ozren mountain’s highest peak (1117 m). Trails on Ozren lead to the Jermenčić monastery, the ruins of the Tatomirov Grad fortress and the 580m-long Ozrenska Pećina cave. The 11m-high Ripaljka waterfall, formed by the Gradašnica river, is also nearby. The Đerđelez spring, which was known as far back as the Turkish period, is concealed in the meadows on Ozren. Rtanj mountain is well-known for its medicinal plants.
Kalinovica is a picnic spot with a beech forest, cold water spring and a restaurant which is open during the summer season. Not far from the Lepterija picnic site lie the remains of the Soko Grad (Falcon City) fortress. Vrmadžanski Grad fortress is located 2 km from Rtanj and Vrmdžanski Jezero lake, which is ideal for fishing, is also nearby. The source of the Moravica river is located 15 km from Sokobanja, towards Knjaževac, and is a unique natural phenomenon because the river emerges from several hidden springs. Sesalačka Pećina cave is located not far from the village of Sesalac and is rich in cave formations and has been adapted for visitors.