Bulgaria has been earning quite the reputation as the perfect European beach destination. The Bulgarian Black Sea coast is beautiful, with rolling waves that are pleasantly warm enough to swim in. Combine that with Bulgaria’s budget-friendly prices, and everyone from a budget backpacker to luxury traveler will find they can have the perfect vacation to meet their needs. Here are our picks for the best beaches in Bulgaria, plus travel tips to help you plan your trip!
What is the Bulgarian Riviera?
The Bulgarian Riviera, like the French, Italian, and Mayan varieties, is a continuous strip of sea coast. If you’re a native English speaker (like we are) this might seem confusing at first. I thought the Italian Riviera was a river until I was in my twenties.
The Bulgarian Riviera is on the Black Sea, which borders the country on the east. Since Bulgaria only has one coastline, we don’t call it the East Coast, but we could if we wanted to. Instead, its got the beautiful (and marketable) name the Bulgarian Riviera, but don’t fret about figuring out where it is. Any beach on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline is technically on the Riviera.
Map of the Best Beaches in Bulgaria
The Best Bulgarian Beaches
Allison and I have traveled to the Black Sea separately, so we’ve explored different beaches and we both have our favorites. We’ve curated this list with our personal favorites from traveling the coast over the last few years, plus a few popular ones we haven’t gotten to yet. Don’t worry, summer is coming and we can’t wait to get back to the Black Sea.
Sunny Beach is a popular beach resort and one of the most famous attractions in all of Bulgaria. Thousands of tourists visit this beach every year for its water sports and thriving nightlife. If you have kids, the resort also has activities such as mini-golf and go-kart racing. On top of all this, it’s also in close proximity to Nessebar, an ancient city museum that is one of Bulgaria’s most well-known tourist destinations.
Sunny Beach is super kid (and dog) friendly, so this is a great place for kids. Don’t worry about the city’s reputation as a party town. You can easily avoid those crowds if you want to. We stayed here for a week with two kids and had no issues whatsoever.
However, if you do want to party, this is your beach. The nightlife here is famous for being some of the best in the Balkans.
Golden Sands are exactly what you’ll find at this northern beach. This is another well-known beach resort that’s famous among European tourists. While it rivals Sunny Beach in terms of popularity, it’s considered to have more of a family-friendly vibe overall. It’s also located near a number of different hotels of various price ranges. In addition to this, it’s close to the historic city of Varna, one of the largest cities in Bulgaria. This makes it easy to get to from almost anywhere in Europe.
What first attracted me to Sozopol is its historic center. There are beautiful Ottoman houses here, as well as evidence of the original ancient Greek city of Apollonius. However, today the chill beach town is great for coming and relaxing, with tons of great restaurants to enjoy right on the water.
The main beaches are nice, sandy beaches with easy access to beach bars and chair rentals. Note that there is a nude beach on the outskirts of town, which you may or may not want to avoid depending on your travel style.
I’ve traveled here in the slight off-season (mid-September). While everything was relatively quiet, things were still open and the weather was still warm enough to enjoy swimming.
Albena is the perfect place to bring your children for a day of fun in the sun. It’s safe for swimming, and it has several attractions that kids will enjoy. Adding to the resort’s child-friendly atmosphere is the fact that you can get around on little mini-trains. Furthermore, the beach itself is absolutely beautiful with clean sands and crystal clear waters. The water tends to be quite warm with an average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius.
Located near the Turkish border, Ahtopol is the go-to destination for those who simply want to get away. It’s quieter and less crowded than some of the more popular resort towns, and it’s known for having more of an old-world charm. It’s also quite a bit cheaper than some of the other destinations on this list. This makes it a great place to go for those who are traveling on a budget. The beach is known for its lighthouse on a small rock in the middle of the sea, which is a great spot for sunrise photography.
Irakli is one of the few remaining “wild” beaches in Bulgaria. That means you won’t find any big resorts or restaurants here. Just beautiful sands and blue waters. It’s most often visited by young people who want to reconnect with nature. Camping is a popular activity on this beach, and it’s not unusual to see people practicing nudism here. It’s also where people go to celebrate July Morning, a celebration of the sunrise that’s held every year on July 1st. So take note, if you’re looking for a nude beach in Bulgaria, this is a great place to start.
This protected area is sometimes known as “the beach of pirates”. This is because it was believed to be a hiding spot for pirates at one time. This beach is hidden in a remote area of the Strandzha National Park, but getting there is definitely worth the effort. It’s a beautiful private beach that’s great for getting away from the more crowded resort beaches. It’s also known for being home to a number of different bird species, making it a great spot for birdwatchers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Marina Dinevi. This yacht harbor located in the village of St. Vlas is the place to go for those who like style and luxury. The beach is surrounded by many 5 star resorts, spas, and high-quality restaurants. It’s a great place for going out on a yacht with a group of friends and spending the day having fun on the water.
If you’ve ever wanted to spend the night on the beach, then this is where you want to go. Smokinya is a well-known camping spot where people go to sleep beside the beach’s calm, blue waters. You can bring your own tent, or you can hire a camper van. It also features a handful of beach bars, so you can get a bite to eat while enjoying your time in the sun.
The beach of Pomorie is best known for the curative properties of its mineral waters and black mud baths. Many people rave about the healing effect the mud has had on their aching joints. This is also a popular spot for activities such as sailing and yachting. Most of the tourists who visit Pomorie Beach tend to be middle-aged, and it has a fairly relaxed atmosphere in general.
Sinemorets Veleka is a very interesting-looking beach where the mouth of the Veleka River flows into the sea. This gives it the unique appearance of a long strip of land with two bodies of water on each side. It is a favorite place to go for people who like to take pictures during the sunrise. It’s also home to a unique rock formation popularly known as “the Sphinx.”
Kara Dere Beach
Kara Dere is another one of the few wild beaches in Bulgaria. There are no real amenities on this beach, and the only road to it is a bumpy dirt road. But those who go there are treated to a laid-back beach with camping, sunbathing, and guitar playing around the campfire. It has a very romantic vibe and is a great spot for those who want to escape civilization.
Bolata Beach is widely considered one of the most gorgeous beaches by the Black Sea. The water is incredibly clear and calm, and there are rock formations on each side where caves can be explored. In these caves, artifacts have been discovered that are as old as 400 B.C. The beach is also part of a nature reserve. This means it’s possible to check out rare species of birds while you’re there.
Byala is a lovely town about halfway between Burgas and Varna which is a great stop on any road trip of the Bulgarian Riviera. It’s an incredibly scenic and quiet seaside town with not too much going on, but that’s much of the charm.
The waters in Byala are some of the most brilliant turquoise-blue, with soft sand and gentle waves. It’s great for families or trips with friends. Nearby, you’ll find Karadere, one of the last truly wild beaches in Bulgaria with beautiful sand dunes as well as freshwater wetlands.
Most people who visit Nessebar stay in nearby Sunny Beach, but you actually can stay right in town since Nessebar has its own sandy beaches to relax on. This city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so this beach is the perfect compromise for anyone who needs a side of culture with their beach vacation.
The beach is a short walk away from the city’s most important historic sites. A day trip here from Sunny Beach is always a good idea. You can enjoy the historic center in the morning, eat lunch overlooking the water, and then relax on the beach in the afternoon.
Where to Stay on the Bulgarian Coast
There are great hotels, hostels, and resorts up and down the coastline. We are working on putting together guides to where to stay for some of the major Bulgarian beach towns, but until then check out guide to Bulgaria’s beach resorts:
How to Get to the Black Sea
How to the Bulgarian Riviera depends on where you’re coming from. If you are arriving from Romania or the European part of Turkey, you will have the option of taking a bus or possibly traveling by train. If you’re coming from somewhere else, you will most likely fly.
For the beaches in the southern part of the coastline, fly into Burgas Airport. During the off-season, there are direct flights from London’s Luton airport via Wizz Air and to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport via S7. During the high season, many more direct flights open up from airports across Europe. Note that for some reason, Skyscanner spells Burgas as Bourgas.
For the northern part of the coast, you’ll want to fly into Varna Airport. Varna is serviced year-round with flights across Europe on carriers like Wizz Air, Turkish Airlines, S7, Austrian Airlines, and even the Israeli airline Israir.
There are also direct flights year-round to Sofia on Bulgaria Air. Thus, if you’re looking to come to the Bulgarian Riviera in the off-season, you might want to target the northern part of the coastline.
Another option is to fly into Sofia Airport and then rent a car or take a train or bus to the coast. The drive is about five hours (depending on traffic). This is what we did last summer when my fiance’s family came to visit since flights into Sofia were much less expensive than flights to Burgas.
Note that you’ll want to pay attention to the added costs of transportation and the extra time in Sofia, so this may or may not save you money on your trip. It all depends on your exact budget, itinerary, and vacation time. If you do decide to combine the coast with time in Sofia, check out our Sofia Hotel Guide and our favorite Sofia activities.
Planning Your Trip
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.
Next, check out our guide to avoiding taxi scams in Sofia. We don’t have taxi guides yet for Varna and Burgas, but the information about common scams and how to avoid them is the same. Unless you’ll be picking up a rental car at the airport (which is what we typically do for the coast) you’ll likely get into a Bulgarian taxi at some point during your beach vacation.
You will also want to check out our overview of Balkan Currency, which describes Bulgarian leva and what to tip in Bulgaria.
Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
No beach trip preparation is complete until you have a valid travel insurance policy. Bulgaria is a safe place to travel, but beach trips involve being out in nature. That means unexpected things can happen (like your prescription sunglasses getting swallowed up by the Black Sea…not that I would know…). You want to be able to get your stuff replaced if it’s lost or stolen, or if you get injured you while you’re enjoying hiking, swimming, climbing, partying, or whatever else you plan to do here.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this Guide to the Best Beaches in Bulgaria for Your Trip
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.