The Bulgaria Black Sea coast is known for long sandy beaches fronting dense development, but sun lovers can find fishing villages and lonely bays here too.
With the exception of the Croatian coast, Bulgaria has the best beaches in Eastern Europe. Bulgaria’s sandy coastline is brimming with resorts like Varna and Sunny Beach and at times the entire seaboard seems like a relentless line of apartments and crowded beaches. But there is another side to the beaches here and if the big resorts don’t appeal there are a clutch of charming old towns and secluded villages which also have access to vast swathes of sand.
Nessebar Beaches and Ancient Thracian Settlement
At the southern end of the ever-popular Sunny Beach about 37 km north of Bourgas, Nessebar has a distinctly more civilised air. An ancient Thracian town on its own peninsula, UNESCO World Heritage site Nessebar’s combination of charismatic century-old architecture and enviable stretches of sand make it a hit with tourists. The Old Town boasts a number of beautiful churches, many over a millennium old.
Sinemorets Beaches and Strandzha Park Wilderness
In many ways Communism has benefited Sinemorets: this peaceful village in the far southeast of the country near the Turkish border was, up until 1989, a highly guarded frontier zone which meant a mass tourism industry never had the chance to develop. There are several great beaches near to the village. Sinemorets is at the mouth of the Veleka River, which forms an entrancing sandy spit as if flows into the sea here. The central beach is popular in season but those to the north and south are more impressive, being immersed in Bulgaria’s largest protected green space, forested Strandzha Natural Park, and not accessible by car. Lipite, a 15 minute walk south of the main beach, is one of the best.
Further south beyond Sinemorets is the smaller beach resort of Rezovo. Being right on the border (and with the inconvenience of having to show passports to get access) Rezovo gets few visitors but the sands with their shallow, crystal clear waters here are worth visiting, particularly those just to the north at Silistar.
Shkorpilovtsi, Biggest of the Bulgaria Beaches
The village of Shkorpilovtsi is right on one of the most idyllic stretches of sandy coast in Bulgaria, 40 km south of Varna on way to Byala. The sand strip is a massive 13km long here and is Bulgaria’s longest beach, but Karadere beach, south of Shkorpilovtsi toward Byala and reached by a dirt road, is also worth checking out. The town of Byala makes Dimyat, one of the tastiest varieties of Bulgarian wine.
Irakli Beach, Wild Bulgaria Coast
Irakli is an increasing rarity in Bulgaria: a wonderful wild beach halfway between Nessebar and Obzor to the north. On a stretch of coast famed for its bird and animal species, there are few tourist facilities and no public transport, although camping is possible. Whilst Kamchia is the most famous Bulgaria nudist destination, Irakli also has a popular nudist beach. Irakli is 4km southeast of the village of Banya.
Shabla, Famed Communist Bulgaria Resort
65 km north of Varna in far north-eastern Bulgaria, the small resort town of Shabla has a huge stretch of white sandy beach. It used to be one of the most popular Communist Bloc seaside destinations. Today the facilities are not as modern as those at the bigger Bulgaria resorts but this adds to Shabla’s charm rather than detracts. To the south of Shabla the coast rises into high cliffs before descending to the bigger beach resorts, so foreign tourists rarely make the trek up here. The best beach (with a campground) is 5 km from the town and served by bus. Shabla’s iconic red-and-white lighthouse is Bulgaria’s oldest while north of town Dourankoulak Moor is a haven for many rare birds.
The above beaches are recommended for an alternative Bulgarian Black Sea holiday, and for travellers seeking less crowded but equally idyllic stretches of coast. Click here for further information on bigger resorts like the famous Sunny Beach complex.