Bulgaria is a fascinating place. Although situated in Europe, it’s not uncommon to spot villagers going about their business on horses and carts, and unlike some Mediterranean commercial resorts, promoting endless fun in the sun, mass tourism has not yet had a chance to destroy the long white sandy beaches, majestic mountains and the clear warm blue sea this country has to offer.
The price of eating out in traditional Bulgarian restaurants is very cheap as is the price of alcohol in the bars, and general nick knacks that street sellers in stalls try to sell to passers-by. You don’t have to be rich to live like a king in Bulgaria, so it’s little wonder then, that visitors come flocking back year after year.
Emerging from the relatively small Varna airport last September, it was easy to think I might have stepped back in time – everything seemed a bit dated. A mini bus was to take us to Sunny Beach resort, our first port of call, where we would be spending two nights. Being the middle of the night, I couldn’t see much, but enough to know that the road we were travelling on was no motorway, and that the dodgy music cassette our driver was playing, was the kind I had once hoped my eardrums will never be exposed to again.
However as we arrived at our four-star Fiesta Beach Hotel, near the strand, I was more than a little impressed. The lobby was spacious and very roomy and upstairs the bedroom was nicely furnished and air-conditioned.
Sunny Beach is a lively resort, popular with Irish, British and Germans tourists, near the bustling town of Bourgas and 30 kilometres from Bourgas airport.
There are plenty of bars along the beachfront where you can sit for hours drinking beer, eating freshly baked pizza and generally watching the world go by. And if you are up at daybreak (or indeed haven’t yet gone to bed!) you can see the sun rise over the horizon of the Black Sea.
For the musically inclined, karaoke bars are also a firm favourite with the young and not so young, however do be prepared for a lot of the songs to be sung in German! If you’re looking for sun, sea, sand and a lively nightlife, then Sunny Beach is perfect for that week or fortnight to get away from it all.
With 1,700 hours of sunshine from May to October, plenty of various water sports on offer, and holding the Blue Flag International prize for proven ecological advantages, this is the type of place you’ll never want to leave.
Departing from Sunny Beach after two days we then headed for Golden Sands where we spent our third and fourth nights. We stayed in the luxury five star hotel, The Admiral, which is absolutely fabulous with an outdoor and indoor pool and a Wellness centre consisting of a beauty studio, massage, solarium, fitness centre and Jacuzzi for those who simply want to relax and pamper themselves. Golden Sands was probably my favourite resort, built near wooded hills, and also enjoying a very pleasant climate and a gloriously long sandy beach.
A nice hotel, also worth checking out, is the charming Peykov Complex (200 metres from the centre of Golden Sands), where the staff are extremely helpful and you can enjoy a delicious barbeque lunch beside the pool. Most of the hotels in this area have their own large outdoor swimming pools and have been refurbished and upgraded to a high standard.
However if you tire of lounging around the beach for some reason, you can always take a taxi into nearby Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city, for some serious retail therapy – look out for designer spin-off bags which can be bought for a mere snip!
Unspoiled Bulgaria has something for everyone and short excursions, both inland and abroad to places like Romania, can easily be organized at a relatively low price.
If however, you’re looking just to chill out and hang up your dancing shoes for the time being, the fairly quiet resort of Albena, is perfect for families or couples looking for a relaxing break. This small town, aptly named after a famous Bulgarian beauty, also boasts a picturesque harbour and a magnificent seven-kilometre beach.
It is situated in the northern part of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and is home to the centrally located and impressive Hotel Dobruja, which has a rooftop panorama café with unbeatable views and food – simply out of this world! So folks, this year, if you fancy something quite different, why not try Bulgaria for an unbeatable experience.
The flying time from Belfast and Dublin to Bulgaria is only 3.5 hours.
Don’t just take my word for it, find out for yourself why Irish visitors have a habit of coming over and over again. To sum it up, Bulgaria is not just a holiday – it’s an experience!
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