Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria
Whether just for a day, visiting by a cruise ship, or a full blown summer vacation, you will have an incredible time exploring the stunning Black Sea coast. There are two cruise ship ports-Varna (3rd biggest city in Bulgaria) to the North and Burgas (the 4th largest, after Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna)in the South, the distance between the two is about 90 km, or 54 miles. The entire Bulgarian Black Sea Coast stretching from the border with Romania to the North to the Eastern part of Turkey to the South is 378 km and it will take you about 4.5 hours to drive along, but I bet you will be lured to stop frequently to explore the quaint coastal towns or have a nice seafood meal in a beach shack, so plan to travel longer.
While the Black Sea coast is quite different in terms of landscape and climate from North to South, it is commonly known with its endless golden sand beaches, warm sea water and worldly entertainment and cuisine, making it a perfect summer destination for the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting envy year. The clientele is mostly Eastern and Western Europeans and Locals, however recently many tourists from the Americas and Asia, brought by cruise ships, discover the beauty of this part of the world, famous with its excellent climate, inexpensive holiday properties and the friendly Bulgarian hospitality.
If you start your journey from Cape Kaliakra, which is only 18 km from the Romanian border and 60 km from Varna, you will be stunned by the breathtaking view of the coast – its steep vertical cliffs reach 70 m down to the sea and the remnants of an old fortress from the Middle Ages, create a perfect setting for many legendS associated with the Cape. According to one of them, several Bulgarian girls chose to jump from the high cape into the sea, to avoid being captured and converted to Islam by the Turks. The girls, lead by the beautiful Kaliakra braided and tied their hair together and determined jumped off the cliff to save their Faith.
The fortress itself is believed to have been used successfully by Tracians, Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians, making it an important historical site.
Cape Kaliakra is also a nature reserve, where dolphins and cormorants can be observed, it is also the home of rare breeding birds, fish, amphibians and plants, many of them included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. The biblical fig trees are also dominant on the Cave, casting their shadow and spreading sweet aroma all over.
For the romantics, I would recommend the traditional, yet excellent restaurant at the very tip of the Cape, overlooking the sea, where the sunsets will leave you in owe, while having a refreshing cocktail or enjoying a typical Bulgarian meal.
At Cape Kaliakra, you will not be bored. Aside from the incredible vista, you can take a break playing Golf at some of the best courses in Europe, bathe in the warm waters of private beaches, or indulge in elaborate spa treatments in the luxury resorts near by.
For those of you who crave quiet luxury and exhilarating
golf and spa experience- you are in luck. The Thracian Cliffs resort only 10 min away offers understated comfort, combined with unspoiled beaches and tranquil scenery.
When I first visited the Thracian Cliffs, I was quite impressed with the ambiance of the place- the intense blue of the sea, the electric green of the course, the calm skies and sparkly lake- all blend together in a harmonious symphonie of color, making the striking limestone cliffs stand out with their majestic height and unusual shape. In the words of Gary Player himself : “you will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet”, I would add, neither you will find such a unique view and luxurious, yet cozy summer experience.
The beach at first glance looks completely wild, however the Guests can relax in daybeds or for extra privacy can take a stilted deck or a cabana. Easy to find and hard to leave, Bendida Beach is intimate, yet offers every comfort, as well as tasty meals and a great bar selection. Forget about cheap plastic utensils, chilled white wine in glasses awaits you when you come back from a refreshing swim, right on the beach.
Further inland, you can find another great resort- Kaliakria. While it is not directly situated on the beach, it features several large pools, one of which infinity and a gorgeous sea view. Also called “El balcon del Mundo”, or the Balcony to the World, it is no wonder that the spectacular scenery attracts many guests, some celebrating weddings and other special occasions. The overall atmosphere is one of calm relaxation with a wide choice of sparkling pools and breath taking views.
Heading South, you will reach Varna, the sea capital of Bulgaria. I believe this is the prettiest city not only at the Black Sea Coast, but also in the whole of Bulgaria, combining the charm of a quaint historical town and the convenience and comfort of a big city. Varna is famous with its port, golden sands beaches and first class resorts, like St Konstantinos and Elena, Sunny Day, Riviera Beach Club and Golden Sands. Varna attracts 2 to 3 million tourists a year, as the holidaymakers may reach as many as 200,000 daily during the high season. The sea front resorts, hundreds of family hotels and B&B accommodations host tourists from all of the world, but mostly Europeans, Russions and Israelis.
One of the highlights here without a doubt is the Sea Garden- a romantic park with hundreds of intricate alleys and lush vegetation stretches along the Black Sea coast for over 5 km. Starting from the port of Varna it will take you to the outskirts of town along the city beach, dozens of pubs and restaurants, Luna park, tennis courts, outdoor gyms, summer theaters and lots of fresh juice and ice-cream stands. I love to ride my bike every morning or later in the evening in the summer and I get to enjoy something different every day. Usually after a nice work out with my bike and some Zumba in the park, I end up on the beach for a refreshing swim or a cooling cocktail to enjoy the sunset.
Last time I visited Varna, I made friends with a cat’s family who loved to play with my bike. I could not resist to share these cute pictures…:-)
Varna has great seafood, traditional and international restaurants, right on the beach or downtown, situated strategically along the promenade, where you can watch the trendy passers by, meet friends and enjoy mussles or grilled fish with a nice cold beer. A friend of mine recently opened one of the best restaurants in town – “Largo”, named after the name of an iconic street in Varna. With its central location, diverse cuisine, interesting fusion of Mediterranean and Bulgarian and international dishes, “Largo” is so much more than just a restaurant. It is the place to be if you would like a nice cup of coffee when meeting a friend or having a delicious dinner and enjoying yummy cocktails with friends at night. Famous DJs visit often and simply there is something for everyone all day and night long.
Other great choices would be restaurant “Merci” situated on the beach and designed in modern Provence style, “Sardinia”- one of the best places to have fresh mussels in white wine sauce and variety of grilled fish from the Black Sea presented with authentic recipes, “Villa Burov”- located in the heart of the Sea Garden, overseeing the spectacular Varna Bay, surrounded by old trees and luxurious villas.
The most famous resorts near Varna: St Konstantin and Elena, Sunny Day, Riviera Holiday Club, Golden Sands and Albena exist since the late 50s of the last century, initially with very few hotels and hostels, now boasting renovated and lots of new state-of-the-art modern hotels one more luxirious than the other. I like to swim and enjoy a quiet afternoon on the beach at The Bay, near Grand Hotel Varna at the St Konstantin and Elena resort. The beach is small and private, yet has every luxury and features a cute beach bistro, where you can enjoy a chilled glass of champagne or a light healthy meal. There is a wide selection of international beers and the friendly staff is too happy to oblige and mix you a nice Mojito or a Cosmo.
Going further, you will reach Golden Sands and Riviera Varna resorts. Hotel “International” in the center f Golden Sands features a pretty infinity pool, overlooking the main beach and a spectacular sea view. Almost daily, there are DJ parties on the pool terrace that makes it worth visiting if you like dancing and meeting new people.
Should you feel less adventurous and crave solitude, Rivera Holiday Club is the right place for you. There are several all inclusive hotels within this property, the 5 star “imperial” hotel, however the pearl of the crown is the boutique hotel “Oasis”, standing out with its understated luxury and superb service. The rooms are large and spacious and the overall ambiance reminds you of a roman villa from the outside and a safari villa in its interior.
Next stop South of Varna is Nesebar-an ancient town and one of the major seaside resorts on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Often referred to as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”, Nesebar is a rich city-museum defined by more than three millennia of turbulent history. The ancient part of the town is situated on a peninsula (previously an island) connected to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus, and it bears evidence of occupation by a variety of different civilisations over the course of its existence. Its abundance of historic buildings prompted UNESCO to include Nesebar in its list of World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Being one of the most prominent tourist destinations and seaports on the Black Sea, along with several large resorts like Sunny Beach, St Vlas, ozenets, etc, Nesebar attracts tourist and cruseship passengers from all over the world.
Here you can spend hours strolling the narrow cobbled streets, admiring an ancient theatre, churches, traditional Bulgarian homes and cozy restaurants. Nesebar is preserved in its ancient self superbly and the locals are hospitable and friendly.
For most visitors, the port city of Burgas is merely a transit point for the more obviously appealing resorts and historic towns further up and down the coast. If you do decide to stop over and you will if you reach by most cruise ships, you’ll find a lively, well-kept city with a neat, pedestrian centre, long, uncrowded beaches and some interesting museums. You can expect reasonably priced hotels, as well as some decent restaurants, so you will not regret spending the day on your way further north or south.
Almost everything of interest in Burgas is within the compact city centre and a walking distance.Nature lovers also come to Burgas to visit the four lakes just outside the city, which are havens for abundant bird life.
The secret treasure of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is without a doubt Sozopol. You will enjoy the sandy beaches and turquoise water by day and the mediterranean cuisine and temperamental wine by night. You will breath the history of the region and feel the modern vibe of this ancient Bulgarian town (drop a note in the Contact page , if you are interested in fun Dive trips and seaside view apartments for rent).
Sozopol is one of the oldest towns on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The first settlement on the site dates back to the Bronze Age. Undersea explorations in the region of the port reveal relics of dwellings, ceramic pottery, stone and bone tools from that era. Many artifacts (anchors) from the second and first millennium BC have been discovered in the town’s bay, a proof of active shipping since ancient times.
The current town was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists, who named it Antheia. The name was soon changed to Apollonia, on account of a temple dedicated to Apollo in the town. By the first century AD, the name Sozopolis began to appear in written records and it was not changed much since then.
Throughout the centuries Sozopol had a turbulent history, ruled in turn by the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman Empires. Sozopol was assigned to the newly independent Bulgaria in the 19th century.
Nowadays it is one of the hot spots on the Black Sea coast, a focal point not only for those who love sandy beaches, but the art lovers, who come every year to the annual music festival Apollonia.
The busiest times of the year are the summer months, ranging from May to September, when tourists from around the world come to enjoy the weather, sandy beaches, history and culture, fusion cuisine- a nice mixture of Balkan and Mediterranean specialties, and the bohemian atmosphere of this colourful resort.