Bulgaria was a country that never ceased to impress me, and along with that goes its lovely coast on the Black Sea. There truly is something to suit every beach-going personality; from the tourist-trodden streets and kitschy souvenir shops of Sunny Beach to the winding cobbled roads and sleepy feel of Sozopol to the cosmopolitan and lively city of Varna. Bulgaria is a marvellous destination to get some sun, sand, and fabulous seafood on even the smallest of budgets. With major airports in both Varna and Burgas and decent bus connections within Bulgaria and abroad, this beautiful coastline is also pleasantly accessible.
Michael and I had the pleasure of spending nights in both Sozopol and Nessebar — as well as an inordinate amount of time in the bus stations in Burgas and Varna — and cannot recommend a trip there more.
Sozopol – Our Favourite Black Sea Town
Sozopol isn’t on the radar of most foreign tourists, and in that lays a significant amount of its charm. It is an ancient fishing village in the southeast of the country, about 35 kilometres south of Burgas. As our first stop on the Black Sea, we took the bus from Plovdiv to Burgas as there is not a direct connection. Our bus arrived later in the evening and we ended up missing the last connecting bus to Sozopol, however, after some asking around, we ended up taking a taxi from the bus station to our hotel for only around 50 BGN. If you end up going with this option, it is good practice to agree upon a price before taking the ride and you should not pay more than that.
We were there in mid-June, and as that is still considered the shoulder season in Sozopol, we were able to snag a fantastic deal on a hotel room. The Hotel Diamanti offered a spacious double room with a sea view, balcony, and breakfast for around 65 BGN a night. At that point in our travels, we had spent two months sleeping exclusively in hostels so the added privacy of our own room with ensuite was a welcome addition in our minds.
As if the stellar room deal wasn’t enough, Michael and I quickly came to fall in love with the beauty and laid-back nature of Sozopol. It is a very small town, so it is easy to walk to anywhere you might need to go, there are multiple delicious seafood restaurants on every corner, and the beaches were not crowded and had a number of cafes and bars lining them. I would personally say that my favorite thing about the village is that it did not feel to be geared toward tourists like so many other beach towns seem to be.
There are two main beaches, one right off of the old town which is a little bit smaller and another about a kilometer walk north. They are both lovely and while the bigger one did seem to attract more people, it was far from crowded and there were ample places to lay out a towel and soak up the rays.
Nessebar – Sunny Beach’s Little Brother
After extending our stay in Sozopol for one more night Michael and I decided to see what another town on the Black Sea had to offer and headed to Nessebar, a beach town just 10 kilometers south of the main coastal destination of Sunny Beach. Coming off four days of relaxation in sleepy Sozopol, I think that we both expected more of the same. However, we were wrong.
Nessebar seemed to me that its sole purpose in being a town was to cater to tourists, and if that’s what you’re looking for, it does it very well. I, however, would rather get a full English breakfast in England. Every other shop was filled with cheesy sea shells and other tacky souvenirs, the restaurant quality decreased, and the prices increased. We found another deal on a hotel, but this wasn’t a quaint, locally owned, small guesthouse type, but a monstrosity waiting on the beach. Long story short, it wasn’t our scene.
After doing some belated research, we came to realize that Nessebar was pretty much a pour over of ever-touristy Sunny Beach, a place that we had chosen to avoid due to hearing it was like being in Britain with hotter weather. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our stay there, spending our one full day sprawled on the crowded beach, in the small roped off area that didn’t require you to pay.
All in all, Michael and I greatly enjoyed our time on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. I would recommend going in the shoulder season, like we did, to avoid the crowds. The best times for that would probably be June (when we were there) and September.
Have you been to Bulgaria’s coast? What were some of your favourite spots? Add a comment below!