If you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you’ve probably seen gorgeous pink lakes in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico or Western Australia. But what few people know is that Bulgaria has its very own pink lake. And what makes Bulgaria’s pink lake even better is that you can actually swim in it — in fact, it even has medicinal properties!
Called Lake Atanasovsko (don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz on its spelling!), the entire lake is not pink. We found this out after we went to two different sections of the lake and finding it as a blue as you’d expect a lake to be. In fact, it wasn’t until we had entirely given up on seeing the pink lake that we actually ended up finding it on our way out of town!
This is because Lake Atanasovsko is a huge lake, and none of the blog posts I found about the pink lake of Burgas included accurate location information. The part of the lake that you actually want to find is the Burgas Saltworks (Бургаски солници as written in Bulgarian).
Like a lot of Bulgaria, Burgas is not super touristic yet — and its pink lakes are even less so. When I visited the pink lakes in Burgas with some friends a few days ago, we were clearly the only people who came as tourists just to take photos.
Everyone else was in their bathing suits, in the pink lakes and enjoying an open-air, therapeutic mud bath! The mud is considered to have healing properties, which is why so many people come to these lakes for the afternoon.
As far as I could tell as an outsider, the procedure goes roughly like this: float in the salty pink waters for at least 20 minutes, then coat yourself head to toe in mud, and then wash yourself off with a dip in the Black Sea (conveniently located only about a hundred meters from the entrance to the pink lakes). There is also a small hut offering massages if you want to add some extra relaxation to your spa day.
The pink color is entirely natural: it gets its color as a result of microscopic brine shrimp who live in the ultra-salty water. While a small portion of the lake is basically a free, open-air spa, it’s also a functioning salt factory. Lake Atanasovsko produces 40,000 tons of salt annually, the biggest salt producer in Bulgaria.
Not only that, but Lake Atanasovsko is an important site for wildlife in Bulgaria, creating a hospitable environment for migrating birds, over 200 species of plant life, and animals such as otters. For these reasons, if you’re on the Black Sea coast, it’s definitely adding on a visit to the pink lake in Burgas. Far from just a cool Instagram spot, it’s a true cultural experience and supposedly good for you to boot!
How to Get to the Pink Lakes from Sofia
Burgas is located on the other end of the country from Sofia, unfortunately, or I’d be visiting these pink lakes way more often! If you are driving, you can take the A1 highway all the way from Sofia to Burgas, and it’ll take roughly 4 hours. From the town of Burgas, you’ll want to head north towards Varna / Burgas airport. Immediately after you cross the bridge over the lake, you’ll want to take the off-ramp. Then, continue on the small road and you’ll start seeing pink on your right-hand side. Keep going until you hit a parking lot, about a 10-minute drive.
If you prefer to follow Google maps, I get you. Type in: Burgas Salt-Parking and it should lead you on the right path.
If you don’t have your own car, you’ll want to take public transportation to Burgas. Take a bus from Sofia Central Bus Station to Burgas, which should take about 5-6 hours and cost around 20-25 leva. There are buses to Burgas about once an hour but you can check departure times on BusRadar here, which is usually pretty reliable for buses in Bulgaria. From Burgas center, you can take a taxi to the pink lakes if you want (show the driver the Bulgarian name: Бургаски солници). If you take a taxi you may want to pay them to wait for you as it will not be easy to get a taxi on the way back. However, it’s also possible to walk from Burgas. From the north end of the beach in Burgas, you need to walk about 30 minutes (2.5 kilometers) to reach the pink lakes entrance).
Where to Go After the Pink Lakes
The city of Burgas is in a convenient location if you want to continue to enjoy the Black Sea coast! Obviously, you can enjoy some time at the beach of Burgas itself. However, there are some other towns near Burgas with nicer beaches.
A few of the best-loved beach towns on the Black Sea coast within a 45-minute drive include Chernomorets, Sozopol, Pomorie, and Nessebar.
Advice for Visiting the Pink Lakes of Burgas
– There is no cost for admission to the pink lakes and salterns. There is both paid and unpaid parking a little further away. Paid parking costs 1 lev (roughly 50 euro cents) per hour.
– There is a bathroom that you can access which costs 50 stotinki (25 euro cents) to use. If you would like to use their shower, it costs an additional 50 stotinki per 2 minutes of hot water. Be sure to rinse off the mud first and just use the shower to freshen up — you don’t want to get the bathroom really dirty for everyone else!
– There is a small restaurant where you can eat lunch or buy a snack (ice cream, beer, etc.). I have no idea about the quality or what exactly they offer because we didn’t stop to eat there. I imagine you could get basics like Bulgarian BBQ or some salads but I’m not certain.
Planning a Trip to Bulgaria? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. While the country is safe, accidents can happen anywhere. If you experience an accident or theft, travel insurance will help you recover your costs and enjoy the rest of your trip. This is especially important for anyone who will be doing any water sports or other summer activities.
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.
Have you been to the pink lakes of Burgas? Did you even know Bulgaria had pink lakes?
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.