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’s Black Sea Coast 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.
How To Get To Sozopol & Nessebar
There are no direct connections to Sozopol and Nessebar from other major inland Bulgarian cities like Sofia or Plovdiv so it is usually necessary to connect through Burgas if you plan to reach this seaside town via public transport.
Reaching Sozopol & Nessebar by Bus
Like in the rest of Bulgaria, if you want to get to Sozopol and Nessebar by public transport, the easiest way to do this is by bus. Depending on where you are coming from, your best option is to direct yourself to Burgas.
You can find a connecting bus to either town from here. Buses to Sozopol leave from Burgas every 30 minutes or so in high season and the journey is only about 40 minutes long.
Buses to Nessebar leave just as frequently, but as it is slightly further north it will take you just a little bit longer. You can also easily reach Nessebar from nearby Sunny Beach if it is easier for you to get there rather than Burgas.
Reaching Sozopol & Nessebar by Car
If you want more flexibility and freedom while on the Black Sea coast, then renting your own car is an excellent option. Both Sozopol & Nessebar are very walkable themselves and you can easily reach anything that you might want to see on foot, but having your own wheels will mean that you don’t have to be at the mercy of erratic bus timetables or dishonest taxi drivers.
Both towns are easily reached by your own personal vehicle and the roads are in decent repair. If you want to rent a car in Bulgaria, we recommend using RentalCars.com, which aggregates the prices across many rental car companies to save you time searching.
We also recommend taking out a policy with iCarHireInsurance to ensure that you’re affordably covered for any excess should you get into an accident in your rental car.
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. They 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 in the Balkans 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 favourite 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 kilometre 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.
Where to Stay in Sozopol
Sozopol is a fairly popular seaside town in Bulgaria, but it isn’t nearly as developed as many of the other Black Sea coastal towns in the country. If you are wondering where to stay in Sozopol, here are our suggestions:
Just A Hostel — If you are on a budget or want some community, then this backpacker’s hostel is an excellent choice. It is incredibly well-rated and has a range of dorm beds and even private rooms available, along with helpful staff. Click here to see their prices and availability
Hotel Diamanti — This is a fantastic option for couples looking for a pleasant getaway that won’t break the bank. This hotel has a number of spacious, clean, and comfortable rooms available (some with balconies and sea views) and their onsite restaurant also offers a hearty free breakfast for guests. Click here to see their prices and availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Sozopol hotels!
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 kilometres 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 seashells 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.
Where to Stay in Nessebar
Nessebar is an extremely developed and very popular place to stay on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, meaning that there are a number of high-end and mid-range hotels to choose from if this town appeals to you. Here are our recommendations:
Elizabeth Dy Boutique Hotel— Located within 100 metres from the beach, this boutique hotel is an excellent option to stay in Nessebar. They have a range of comfortable rooms available and a restaurant and bar available on site. Click here to see their prices and availability
The White House Guest House — This is a great small hotel located in Nessebar’s Old Town, but still within easy walking distance to the beach. There is an on-site bar and a number of rooms available, some with balconies and sea views. Click here to see their prices and availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nessebar hotels!
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 Black Sea coast? What were some of your favourite spots? Add a comment below!