BLACK SEA RESORTS
Apart from being a beach resort, Varna rivals the great cities of Sofia and Plovdiv, in its offering of cultural attractions and historical buildings, museums and art galleries. It also provides access to some of the quieter scenic spots along the coast, including the nature reserve of Kamchiya, the royal palace of Balchik and the hill-side monastery of Aladzha.
Varna was an important port and trading centre from ancient times - attracting a truly cosmopolitan population of merchants where influence is still to be found today.
At the seafront you will be greeted by the colourful flowerbeds of Primorski Park, modelled allegedly on the Viennese Baroque palace gardens of Schonbrunn and Belvedere. The impressive park also houses various museums including one on Natural History, a Planetarium, zoo and aquarium. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a pair of dancing bears!
Varna is an 'around-the-year' holiday destination. Beyond the High Season its balneotherapy facilities can help you unwind and enjoy the many sights and sounds in peace.
THE KAMCHIYA NATURE RESERVE
South of Lake Varna lies the impressive nature reserve of the River Kamchiya.
From the small resort (including a campsite) nestling in the woodland, you can enjoy a tranquil boat trip to take in the natural vegetation and catch a glimpse of the local bird life - pelicans, kingfishers and waterfowl share quarters with shoals of carp and pike.
Nessebur lies nestling along a romantic isthmus. Its cobblestone streets, well-kept Medieval churches and timbered houses from the 19th century lend the place its particular charm. In fact, due to its chequered past Nessebur's churches can be best described as a cross between Slav and Greek orthodox architecture - some of the finest in the area. You can stroll for hours through its streets, looking at the wide choice of local street wares on offer or else head for the shade of the many churches and museums to capture some-thing of Nessebur's rich and exotic past.
Nessebur has a good selection of private accommodation, very often in grand old houses from the previous century.
You will never run out of places to eat and drink in Nessebur - it has a wide choice of restaurants, taverns and cafes.
SOZOPOL - the City of Salvation
Further south, lying on the Gulf of Bourgas, you can find the resorts of Sozopol, one of Ancient Greece's oldest settlements formerly known as 'Apollonia Pontica' named after Apollo, the patron of seafarers. Today it resembles a cluster of welcoming turn-of-the century houses dotted along the rocky headland, interspersed with small garden shrines. Somewhat quieter than Nessebur, the resort also provides the tourist with two fine, sandy beaches, set off nicely against the tranquil charm of fishing life. One lies within a sheltered bay with the second, larger beach extending southwards beyond the headland. Sozopol is traversed by beautiful narrow lanes, old houses and its romantic charm has attracted artists and writers throughout the centuries.
Accommodation in Sozopol consists of a small guesthouse-inn, a former naval club, or either private rooms in old houses on the peninsula or else larger chalet-style dwellings in the new town. Nearby, the port of Bourgas is well worth a visit. In addition to an international airport, this important commercial coastal town has an attractive centre with lively terraces and plentiful cafes, offering tourists a warm welcome. The presence of visiting ships and passing tourists lends Bourgas a certain cosmopolitan air, especially during its folk festival, held in late August.
Albena is a modern resort of outstanding natural beauty where the emphasis is on environment-friendly. The resort offers clean beaches, sea and atmosphere.
It lies in a unique natural setting - you can enjoy a romantic boat trip along the nearby Batova River or take a stroll in the Baltata forest, rich in flora and fauna.
Like its neighbours, Albena's climate is a good reason in itself for spending your holiday here - with an air temperature of between 23°C-28°C in the Summer and an average sea temperature of 25°C, what further encouragement do you need?!
As one of Bulgaria's newer resorts, Albena caters for the young and stylish. If you are into active leisure-time pursuits then you will find its sports facilities to be among the best in the Black Sea area. And if you are feeling particularly intrepid, its new sports centre offers paragliding and sky-diving. If you want to unwind then Albena offers a wide choice of balneotherapy cures.
Albena has a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets from 4-star hotels and bungalows, to camping in traditional wooden chalets. Its restaurants tend to be small and intimate, offering good, honest cuisine and excellent locally-caught seafood. And if you want to experience local folklore there's ample opportunity in Albena and the surrounding area.
As its name implies, this beach of fine, golden sand is 3.5 kilometres long and, in certain places, 100 metres wide. Here you can while away the hours in guaranteed sun-shine from May through to October. Summers are long and warm - with average temperatures of up to 27°C in the High Season, tempered by a mild, refreshing sea breeze. The water, too, is a pleasant 24°C during the July-August period.
The resort offers plenty of opportunity to discover the local folk-lore - local food and drink accompanied by traditional song and dance, haunting melodies, colourful costumes, live entertainment to suit all tastes and unforgettable customs (such as fire dancing - barefoot across burning coals).
Golden Sands is an ideal resort for all ages - whether you're single, in a couple, married with children, retired or travelling in a group... there is something for everyone. There is a good selection of comfortable hotels, small guesthouses and private accommodation.
If you are after an active holiday the resort is perfect for windsurfing, paragliding, water-skiing, sailing and all manner of both indoor and outdoor sports. There are numerous swimming pools, tennis courts, bridle ways, cycle paths, a bowling alley, facilities for table tennis, volley- and basketball... and plenty of fun for the kids. There's even a cinema, open-air theatre and casino... and a children's crèche to give mum and dad a welcome rest! Golden Sands is also rich in mineral springs and health and fitness facilities.
The quality of the seawater, sand and air is monitored monthly to ensure that your stay here will benefit from the high standards. Golden Sands is, in fact, located in a beautiful National Park - Zlatni Piasaci - where environment--friendly is the understatement. Here you can catch a ride in a solar-energy powered taxi or miniature train or do your bit for the environment by taking a rickshaw or hiring a bike!
STS. CONSTANTINE & HELENA
The resort of Sts. Constantine and Helena, lying between the resorts of Golden Sands, to the North, and Varna, to the South offers an elegant holiday destination, which prides itself on a long tradition of hospitality and service with a smile.
Its natural springs and healing mineral water provide the key to its popular balneotherapy centre. Between lush parkland and luxurious quiet bays lie the Grand Hotel, renowned inter alia for its excellent sporting facilities, and the Sunny Day holiday complex, offering a wide range of facilities for young and old.
17 km away from Varna, the luxury Riviera hotel complex lies within a beautiful park with majestic old trees, over 100 years' old. There is a wide choice of hotels, restaurants (including one specialising in local fish dishes), a night club, disco, swimming pools, sauna, balneotherapy and fitness centre...
THE BAY OF BIRDS, TAOUK LIMAN
This new holiday village, comprising a modern villa complex, offers a quieter alternative to some of the Black Sea's larger resorts. Apart from the usual bars, restaurants and sporting facilities, Rusalka is also home to an open-air cinema and caters especially for families with small children. Rusalka provides a good base for excursions to the picturesque caves and rocks of Kamen Bryag to the North and to the inland town of Shabla, further south, home to herons, ibises and grebes and the ShablaTuzla Lake.
This is one of the largest family resorts on the Black Sea. Its clean sandy beach -8stretching over S kilometres - interspersed by natural sand dunes, has over a hundred hotels, three campsites, numerous villas and private rooms and over 130 restaurants to choose from!
Whether you have come here to relax and unwind, take a sporting break or go night-clubbing and dancing - there is some-thing for everyone. You will be spoilt for choice.
The Elenite Holiday Village, lying just North of Sunny Beach, offers stylish villa accommodation overlooking a beautiful stretch of clean sandy beach - complete with bar, disco, tennis courts, shopping facilities, restaurants and bike hire facilities to tour the surrounding area.
A recent tourist development, the large protected bay of the Dyuni Holiday Village is a perfect setting for self-catering holidays. Stylish buildings, some of which imitate the traditional local style of timbered houses, make Dyuni an ideal spot for intimate, family holidaymaking. Named after the local sand dunes, the beach is of outstanding quality reaching Southwards for 3km, bordered to one side by Lake Alepu, a tranquil lagoon and home to various species of wildlife.
Festivals and Fairs
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival is Bulgaria's largest gathering of traditional musicians and singers and is a cross between a pop festival and a medieval fair. It is a sight that knows no equal: thousands of musicians and singers making the hillside above the picturesque village of Koprivshtitza their home for a few days. Coupled with this you have the colourful stalls of the traders and the thousands of visitors who come for the festival.
This is Bulgarian music as it was always played, played by the ancestors of those who first played it. But perhaps it is what happens on the periphery that is the most authentic. Strolling players or soloists, simply playing for the sheer enjoyment. forming new bonds with other musicians or just letting their music ring out over the hillside.
The Bourgas International Folk Festival
The Bourgas International Folk Festival, held annually, attracts a host of Bulgarian and international artists and is held in the second half of August.
The Kazanluk Festival
The Kazanluk Festival of the Roses is held annually in early June, and has grown from a local to an international event. Not only are the roses, Kazanluk's main industry, in full flower. but the town itself blossoms while visitors enjoy the "Rose Picnic" and all the fun of a folklore festival, with its costumes, songs and dance. Should you still have the energy left, you can always visit the old factories where the rose oil is extracted.
St. Trifon's Day
In the agricultural calendar, St. Trifon's Day celebrates the pruning of the vines, and is held on February 14.
On the first Sunday before Lent, Kukerov Den celebrates the start of the agricultural year, and all over Bulgaria you can witness processions led by the dancing. leaping Kukeri dressed in colourful masks and costumes.
Baba Marta is celebrated on March 1 when peasant house-holds brush out the winter cobwebs with a traditional spring clean. and people offer each other tokens of good luck called martenitsas.
Like western countries. the Bulgarian calendar is dotted with important feast days and festivals. The festival of the Kukeri re-enacts ancient surovaki rites to ward off evil spirits and Kukeri fertility rites. Although only held once every five years, it brings together dancers from all over Bulgaria in a rainbow of colours and styles.
St. Lazarus Day
Lazaruvane is also celebrated in spring on St. Lazarus Day, and here village girls considered fit for marriage perform ritual songs and dances.
St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day
The coming of summer is traditionally celebrated on St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day on May 21, and in some of the remoter villages in the Stranzha hills fire dancing, dancing on heated coals, is still practised in celebration of summer's arrival. Ethnologists have suggested that this practice is directly descended from Dionysina rites of the ancient Thracian.