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Bulgaria Travel Guide: Highlights & Insider Tips on the Black Sea

*Advertisement | There are destinations that fulfill the ideas that one forms before the vacation. Then again, you experience trips where the expectations of the place are exceeded by far. During my Bulgaria travel I experienced this phenomenon.

Along the Black Sea I was surprised by impressive sights in Bulgaria. From a mystical stone forest, a love palace in an enchanted garden, from imposing coastlines around which legends entwine and from extraordinary fishing villages about which even Google and Wikipedia hardly know anything to tell.

Away from Gold Beach and Sunny Beach, I was invited by Bulgaria Tourism to travel to the beautiful Bulgarian Black Sea coast and brought back plenty of insider tips.

Bulgaria Travel: Sights & Insider Tips at a Glance

The size of Bulgaria is about one third of Germany. Therefore, the country on the Black Sea can be explored well within two weeks. For a trip along the coast I recommend at least one week.

On this map you will find all important sights at the Bulgarian Black Sea, restaurant recommendations and my hotel tips at a glance.

Bulgaria Travel: Sightseeing along the Black Sea Coast

What Ballermann is to Mallorca, the famous Gold Beach is to Bulgaria. Many tourists are drawn to the Balkan country’s party beaches. However, numerous unknown and unusual sights and real insider tips await travellers in Bulgaria. Here are my highlights for your travel in Bulgaria.

Kaliakra

The first sight I visited during my trip to Bulgaria immediately turned out to be an extraordinary attraction for both nature and culture lovers. On the northern coast of Bulgaria, about 55 kilometers from the Romanian border, Cape Kaliakra juts into the deep blue of the Black Sea. There is much to discover on the “beautiful headland”, so you can spend a good half day on the cape.

There is an archaeological reserve, a restaurant with panoramic views and a museum located in a cave formed by the sea water over centuries of years.

At the tip of the headland, where the Chapel of St. Nicholas overlooks the cliff, you will come across a stone gate, around which there are numerous legends.

The most famous legend tells about the girl Kaliakra and her 39 fated companions. When the Ottomans conquered Bulgaria in the 14th century, the 40 young women threw themselves into the sea here at the gate of the cape to save themselves from the conquerors, so the story goes.

A visit to the Cape is delightful at any time of the year. Nature is especially beautiful in spring, when the landscape is covered with yellow blooming wildflowers.

Here* you can book guided tours in Bulgaria.

Aladja Monastery

The small country in Eastern Europe also knows how to impress away from the coast. Just 60 kilometers from Cape Kaliakra and about 14 kilometers north of Varna lies another important sight in Bulgaria. The Aladja cave monastery is hidden in the high rock walls.

There are few historical records about the origin of the monastery. What is certain is that monks lived in the complex from the 11th century until after the 14th century. The premises are open to the public and exploring the dining room, kitchen and crypt, you can imagine how the monks once eked out their humble existence here.

⋙ You can book a tour to Aladja Monastery here*.

Botanical Garden & Palace in Baltschik

Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I have a particular weakness for picturesque landscape gardens and botanical gardens. And lo and behold, I also found what I was looking for in Bulgaria.

In the port city of Baltchik, the Botanical Garden makes the heart of plant lovers beat faster. The 19-hectare facility was founded in 1955 as a university garden. Before that, the garden and the palace in the park served as the summer palace of the Romanian Queen Maria. In 1924, after the death of her husband, she had the palace with the striking towers built for a lover in the oriental and Moorish style.

The sight is beautifully located by the sea and I could have spent hours wandering through the picturesque park and greenhouses. There are more than 3000 plant species to admire.

The garden extends over several levels and not far from the palace you can even enjoy a wine tasting at the Queen’s Winery House – or buy a tasty souvenir for home. Highly recommended!

Information about opening hours and entrance fees can be found here.

Nessebar

Nessebar is one of the most important sights in Bulgaria. Rich in cultural treasures, the city is located on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Since 1983, the pretty old town with its traditional wooden architecture, fortifications and church buildings has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unfortunately, we had some bad luck with the weather during our walk through the narrow streets of Nessebar. When we were surprised by a heavy thundershower, we quickly fled to one of the covered restaurants. But we were finally compensated with a lucky charm on the horizon. A beautiful rainbow framed the old town of Nessebar and offered the perfect photo motif at the end.

⋙ You can book a Nessebar tour here*.

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Stone forest Pobiti Kamani

A mysterious natural phenomenon reveals itself not far from Varna and is considered one of the lesser known sights in Bulgaria. Pobiti Kamani is a fascinating group of stone formations that were formed 50 million years ago. There is no agreement about the exact origin, but it is certain that the stone forest has something mystical about it, and exploring the protected area is a bit of an adventure.

Some of the stone columns were named after animals or people. For example, among the formations you can find a camel, lions and stone guards.

Fishing village Tschengene Skele

Freshly washed laundry dances on a clothesline in the wind. Boats gently rock in the bay of Tschengene Skele in the Gulf of Burgas, also known as ziganski saliw, which translates as Gypsy harbor. The term dates back to the Ottoman period, when there was a Roma settlement in the area.

The small fishing village is still a real insider tip in Bulgaria. Only a few tourists stray into the colorful place, which the inhabitants have christened “Cannery Row” after Steinbeck’s novel. The people here live a colorful and simple life and are happy about every visitor who is interested in their community.

With a little luck and, of course, the necessary respect, you might even be invited into one of the small fishermen’s cottages. Wandering through the village, I have the feeling to experience a piece of authentic Bulgaria.

My ethnologist heart always beats a little faster in such rare and unknown places. I would have liked to stay longer to catch more glimpses of the front gardens, furnished with simple means but much love for detail, and to drink rakija with the inhabitants.

Sosopol

The small town on the south side of the Bay of Burgas cannot boast a UNESCO-listed old town, but it still enchanted me personally more than Nessebar. The winding streets are much quieter, and instead of touristy nonsense, pretty shells and homemade fig jam are on offer. Fittingly, under a mighty fig tree, of which this charming little town is teeming.

Cats loll on the roofs of houses, restaurants lure with regional specialties including sea view and even a small city beach has to offer Sosopol.

Lake Atanasov

North of the city of Burgas, Lake Atanassov stretches about five kilometers inland. Salt has been extracted here since ancient times. Besides, the northern part of the lake is an important habitat of various bird species.

The “Pink Lake” is considered to be one of the most significant sights in Bulgaria, which, by the way, is attributed with healing effects. For example, a bath in the salt lakes can inhibit inflammation, reduce blood sugar levels or relieve asthma symptoms.

To take a bath in the salt lake, you should bring some 50 stotinki coins (about 25 Euro cents). The first one you pay as entrance fee at a turnstile and also per shower 50 stotinki are due at a coin machine.

Varna

On a round trip along the Black Sea coast, of course, a visit to Varna is not to be missed. The port city is the third largest metropolis in the country, after the Bulgarian capital Sofia and Plovdiv.

Admittedly, Varna is not a typical beauty. However, if you walk through the streets with your eyes open, you will always find real eye-catchers among the Eastern Bloc charm, like the brick-red State Opera House in Art Nouveau style with neo-Baroque elements. A pastel-colored row of houses even reminds me a little of the famous Painted Ladies in San Francisco.

Other famous sights in Varna include the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral, the Roman Baths and Primorsky Park. Varna also has some hipster-like cafés to offer. You can find them, for example, in the pretty Preslav Street.

⋙ You can book a guided tour of Varna here*.

Beautiful beaches in Bulgaria

Once the soul dangle and relax a few days on the most beautiful sandy beaches of Bulgaria, of course, may not be missing on a travel. My favorites for a beach vacation on the Black Sea are, in contrast to Gold Beach and Sunny Beach, the rather tranquil bays of Sveti Konstantin and Baltschik.

Start of the swimming season on the coast of Baltchik.
The Radjana Beach in Sveti Konstantin.
In the small bay in Sveti Konstantin you can also find the fantastic Lebanese restaurant The Bay.

Our local guide Ana also gave me a real insider tip. For her, the most beautiful beaches in Bulgaria are those in the south, where the river Veleke pours into the Black Sea at Sinemorets.

Wining & Dining: Restaurants in Bulgaria

Besides all the impressive sights in Bulgaria, I was thrilled by the many fantastic restaurants. As a vegetarian, I got my money’s worth and vegans can also find vegan options on the menus. Meanwhile, most hotels offer plant-based milk for breakfast. However, sometimes you have to ask for it.

My culinary highlights in Bulgaria

El Balcon del Mundo: Cool restaurant with hammock and fireplace in Topola. It serves mainly fish specialties and seafood. You can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Black Sea.

El Balcon del Mundo in Topola.

The Bay: My favorite culinary spot in Bulgaria. Delicious Lebanese dishes are served in the charming bay in Sveti Konstantin.
The Goldfish: Also in Sveti Konstantin, the Goldfish restaurant invites you to enjoy Bulgarian cuisine and Mediterranean dishes in a trendy Scandi-Boho interior.
The Windmill: With a rustic touch, you can enjoy authentic Bulgarian cuisine at this restaurant in Sosopol. Fantastic sea view included.

Vegan specialties at The Windmill restaurant in Sosopol …
… view of the Black Sea included.

Staria Chinar: In the heart of Varna, you’ll dine in a rustic setting at Staria Chinar. The menu ranges from traditional dishes to specialties from the Black Sea region to grilled dishes – and the quinoa-zucchini balls with mascarpone are to die for.
43.12 Café: Popular and chilled café in Varna with plenty of choices for vegans. Avocado toast and smoothie bowl lovers will love it.
Corona Restaurant: The name doesn’t sound very appealing, I know. However, I can recommend this restaurant in Baltschik. It is only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Botanical Garden and offers fresh Bulgarian specialties. Be sure to try the cold cucumber soup Tarator. Also delicious: grilled goat cheese with caramelized pear.

Grilled goat cheese with caramelized pear at Corona Restaurant in Baltschik.

Tyulenovo Bar & Restaurant: Fish and shellfish lovers get their money’s worth here, as do vegetarians. I could have eaten my fill of the garlic bread with olive dip, and the schopska salad is also fantastic.

The beautifully located restaurant in Tyulenovo is also recommended.
A must for a vacation in Bulgaria: Schopska salad.

Bulgaria travel: My hotel tips

Small, family-run hotels and bed & breakfasts are not yet so common in the country. The advantage of the large hotels: they usually have a pool and SPA. I was allowed to test the following hotels during my round trip.

Astor Garden Hotel*: My favorite during my Bulgaria tour. Great location with lovely beaches on the beautiful Black Sea coast of Sveti Konstantin. The rooms, all with balcony and some with sea view, are modern and friendly. The breakfast buffet leaves nothing to be desired and besides the hotel’s own outdoor pool and spa area you will also find a partner SPA within walking distance.

Astor Garden Hotel in Sveti Konstantin offers a spacious outdoor pool…
… and cozy rooms.
Beautiful beaches are within walking distance.

More recommended hotels for your vacation in Bulgaria

Lighthouse Golf & Spa Hotel*: The golf resort in Baltschik is also beautifully located on the coast and close to many of Bulgaria’s attractions. It is a longer walk to the beach. But you can book a wine tasting here.
Grand Hotel & Spa Primoretz*: Located in Burgas, directly on the sea, the Grand Hotel is a good starting point for exploring the southern Black Sea coast.

Bulgaria travel: FAQ

Is Bulgaria recommended as a vacation destination?

Absolutely yes. Bulgaria completely convinced me with its beautiful sights and unknown places and I would have liked to stay longer. You should keep in mind that the Balkan state, as the poorest country in Europe, is in many places not as dressed up as Greece or Italy. Most people lead a simple life and tourism serves as an important source of income.

Since the 378 kilometer long Bulgarian Black Sea coast is so diverse and has so much to offer, I would recommend a road trip. Rent a car from Varna, book different hotels along the coast and go exploring from there.

Is Bulgaria dangerous?

I always felt safe during my trip in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, as in any other country, it is advisable to take care of your valuables and, if necessary, to find out in your accommodation which corners you should avoid.

Do you have any questions about traveling around Bulgaria? Then post them in the comments.

Transparency: This post was supported by the official tourist portal of Bulgaria. Big thanks also to Travellers Archive for the great organization.

Links marked with * are affiliate links. If you book via such a link, I will receive a small commission. With this you support me and my work on the blog. Very important: For you the price remains the same. You will not pay a cent more.

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