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7 things that surprised me the most about traveling to this unknown beach destination


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The Bulgarian coastline that frames the west coast of the Black Sea is becoming increasingly 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 receives millions of tourists from both Bulgaria and abroad each summer, the Bulgarian coast remains relatively unknown to American tourists.

A nearly 80-mile section of sandy beaches and resorts is known as the Bulgarian Riviera, and I was lucky enough to spend 2 months enjoying this area in the summer of 2022.

Primorsko north beach in Bulgaria copy

Here are 7 things that surprised me the most about my time on the Bulgarian Riviera:

1. Bulgarian hospitality

After being lucky enough to spend a long period of time traveling through most of the Western Balkan states, I thought I was ready for Bulgaria.

Despite my previous experience with the famous Balkan hospitality, I was still not ready for the level of kindness that I received from the Bulgarians. It seemed that no matter what our interaction was or no matter their age or background, everyone was so friendly and welcoming.

I say this as an American who has traveled to many countries and has not always been greeted with the most welcoming attitude.

In general, Bulgarians treated me with kindness and warmth, especially when you showed even the slightest hint of willingness to partake in their traditional food and drink!

Sozopol, Bulgaria.  Morning light on the Black Sea coast in the Balkans, Europe (1)

2. The beautiful beaches

With the shoulder summer season starting at the end of May and running until mid-October, the Bulgarian coast receives over 300 hours of sunshine in both July and August. The water is perfect for swimming with an average temperature of around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, with generally calm and temperate waters just offshore.

Sunny Beach is considered one of the best beaches, but be aware that it is highly commercialized and geared towards English tourists. That being said, the sand is soft and stretches forever, and their lifeguards keep an eye on 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 crowds but want good restaurants and other amenities.

For those times when you are looking for a wild and natural setting, head to Boloata Beach at Cape Kaliakra, which is part of a nature and archeological reserve. One of the few remaining wild beaches, Itakli Beach is a perfectly quiet place to enjoy some alone time, as long as you don’t mind the occasional nudity; this is a natural beach, after all.

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Nesebar Sunny Beach in the New Town.  The construction of the resort began in the communist era, in 1958.

3. Where is everyone?

Most of Bulgaria’s tourists come from Romania, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Greece and the Ukraine, a fact that is not too surprising given the proximity of these countries.

However, you’ll also see many Brits here on holiday, thanks to regular cheap low-cost airline flights connecting the UK to Varna and Burgas.

One thing you probably won’t see much is the Americans. In fact, I never met another American in my two months here, and many of the Bulgarians were a little surprised when they learned that he came from the United States.

When I returned home from my time in Bulgaria, I spoke so highly of it that I’m sure I should have convinced other Americans to check it out for themselves.

Sveti Vlas - seaside resort on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria

4. The story

Bulgaria has a long and fascinating history, and the Black Sea region is no exception. Cities like Sozopol and Nessebar boast beautiful old towns and historic architecture, and cobbled streets to explore.

The towns along the coast here were important as trading ports, some dating back to the Bronze Age. A fun fact I learned while strolling the streets of Nessebar (my personal favorite city along the coast), is that this city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO is very important for the history of money, since it is one of the first places in the world to start manufacturing coins.

Ironic how I learned this while spending too much money in the many stalls and craft shops hidden in the alleyways.

Historic medieval walls of Sozopol on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, Balkan Peninsula, Eastern Europe

5. Let’s eat

Let’s say this up front, the Bulgarian food scene on the Black Sea coast might just be one of my favorites I’ve ever experienced. It’s the perfect combination 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’ve tried it, you know it can be hit or miss in some countries. I have to say that the Bulgarian rakia is quite good, even more so when mixed as a rakia sour.

Some of my favorite food memories from this region are eating plates of fried smelt while sitting on 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!)

Summer restaurant on the beach at the Black Sea, Burgas, Bulgaria

6. Cheap or not cheap, it’s up to you

I have to be honest, when I decided to spend my summer on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, I had read over and over about how cheap this destination was. well that CAN Being cheap, yes, and certainly a fraction of the price of an Italian or Greek beach destination, but it’s easy to splurge here, too.

The city we were based in is known for being one of the most expensive areas, and those looking for something cheap and cheerful head to Sunny Beach, where you can grab an English breakfast and a pint of beer for less than $5.

Of course, how much you spend is entirely up to you, and while I enjoyed the cheap and delicious snacks on the street, I was often tempted by the amazing beachfront or poolside restaurants with their specialty cocktails, cozy beanbags, and world-class food. . freshly caught shellfish.

aerial view of the beach

7. Have a seat

Being from the US, the idea of ​​paying for beach lounges is still a bit foreign to me. Now, I have gotten used to this concept after spending a summer on the beaches of Albania, Montenegro and Croatia, but in Bulgaria it was a little different.

Since we were based in the tourist town of Sveti Vlas, the clientele is a bit more exclusive (apart from us of course), and the beach is mostly occupied by huge luxury beach clubs, offering everything from simple loungers to luxurious beach tents with beds and a personal concierge.

On very rare occasions, I splurged for a seat, just seconds after I sat down someone came to pick me up. I saved money almost every time just by putting my towel in some empty sand and never had to worry about it being stolen or my personal space.

Aerial panoramic view of Sveti Vlas, a resort town that is part of the Black Sea Province of Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, Balkan Peninsula

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com