7 Things That Surprised Me Most About Traveling To This Unknown Beach Destination
The Bulgarian coastline framing the west coast of the Black Sea is becoming more and more popular with tourists looking for an off-the-beaten-path European beach destination.
Many come because this area doesn’t see the crowds or high prices of other popular European beaches.
Although it sees millions of tourists from both within Bulgaria and abroad each summer, the Bulgarian coast is still relatively unknown to American tourists.
One section of nearly 80 miles of sandy beaches and resorts is referred to as the Bulgarian Riviera, and I was lucky enough to spend 2 months enjoying this area in the summer of 2022.
Here Are 7 Things That Surprised Me Most About My Time In The Bulgarian Riviera:
1. Bulgarian Hospitality
After being lucky enough to spend a long period of time traveling throughout most of the western Balkan states, I thought I was prepared for Bulgaria.
Despite my previous experience with that famous Balkan hospitality, I was still unprepared for the level of friendliness that I received from Bulgarians. It seemed that no matter what our interaction was or no matter their age or background, they were all very nice and welcoming.
I say this as an American who has traveled to many countries and has not always been greeted with the most welcoming of attitudes.
Overall Bulgarians treated me with nothing but kindness and warmth, especially so when you showed the slightest indication of willingness to partake in their traditional food and drinks!
2. The Beautiful Beaches
With the average summer season starting in late May and going until mid-October, the Bulgarian coast sees over 300 hours of sunshine in both July as well as August. The water is perfect for swimming with an average temperature of around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, with usually calm and mild waters near the shoreline.
Sunny Beach is considered one of the best beaches, but be aware it’s very commercialized and geared toward English tourists. That being said, the sand is soft and stretches forever, and their lifeguards watch the waters, so it does have its merits. Saxa Beach in Burgas and Town Beach In Sozopol are also good options if you don’t mind a crowd but want some good restaurants and other amenities.
For those times you are looking for a wild and natural environment, head to Boloata Beach in Kaliakra Cape, which is part of both a nature and archeological reserve. One of the few wild beaches left, Itakli Beach is a perfectly peaceful place to enjoy some alone time, so long as you don’t mind the occasional nudity; this is a natural beach, after all.
3. Where Is Everyone?
Most of Bulgaria’s tourists come from Romania, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Greece, and Ukraine, a fact that’s not too surprising given these countries’ proximity.
However, you will see many British people here on holiday as well, thanks to low-cost airlines’ regular and cheap flights connecting the UK to Varna and Burgas.
One thing that you probably won’t see many of is Americans. In fact, I never met another American in my two months here, and many of the Bulgarians were a bit surprised when they found out I came from the States.
When I returned back home after my time in Bulgaria, I spoke so highly of it that I am sure I must have convinced some other Americans to check it out for themselves.
4. The History
Bulgaria itself has a long and fascinating history, and the Black Sea region is no exception. Towns such as Sozopol and Nessebar boast beautiful old towns and historical architecture, and cobblestone streets to explore.
The towns along the coast here were important as trading ports, and some date back to the Bronze Age. One fun fact that I learned while I was out wandering the streets of Nessebar (my personal favorite town along the coast), is that this UNESCO World Heritage town is very important to the history of money, as it’s one of the first places in the world to start making coins.
Ironic as I learned this while I was out spending way too much money at the many stalls and handicraft shops tucked away in the alleys.
5. Let’s Eat
Let’s just say this right off the bat, the Bulgarian food scene on the Black Sea coast might be one of my favorites that I have ever experienced. It’s the perfect blend of grilled meats, vegetables, and cheeses, with soups and stews, salads, and fresh seafood adding perfectly to the mix.
Rakia is the country’s favorite drink here, and if you have tried it, you know that it can be hit or miss in some countries. I have to say that Bulgarian Rakia is quite good, even more so when mixed as a Rakia sour.
Some of my favorite food memories of this region are eating plates of fried smelt while sitting in the sand with a cold beer or having the traditional Shopska salad of juicy Bulgarian tomatoes and cucumbers topped with white cheese. (just remember to guard your food against the relentless seagulls!)
6. Cheap or Not Cheap, Up To You
I have to be honest, when I decided to spend my summer on the Bulgarian coast on the Black Sea, I had read about how cheap this destination was over and over again. Ok, it CAN be cheap, yes, and it’s for sure a fraction of the price that an Italian or Greek beach destination is, but it’s also easy to splurge here.
The town we were based in is known as being one of the more expensive areas, and those who are looking for cheap and cheerful head over to Sunny Beach, where you can get an English breakfast and a pint of beer for under $5.
Of course, how much you spend is totally up to you, and while I did enjoy the frequent cheap and delicious street snacks, I was often tempted by the amazing waterfront or poolside restaurants with their cocktail specials, cozy bean bags, and world-class freshly caught seafood.
7. Have A Seat
Being from America, the idea of paying for beach lounges is still a tad foreign to me. Now, I have gotten used to this concept after spending a summer on the beaches of Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia, but it hit a bit differently in Bulgaria.
As our base was in the tourist town of Sveti Vlas, the clientele is a bit more upscale (aside from us of course), and the beach is mostly taken up by huge fancy beach clubs, offering everything from simple loungers to luxurious beach tents with beds and personal concierge.
On the very rare occasion, I did splurge for a seat, it was mere seconds after I sat down that someone came over looking to collect. I saved money by almost always just lying my towel in an empty bit of sand and never having to worry about theft or my personal space.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com