For starters, Varna doesn’t scrimp on sand. The region’s coast is accessorised with a necklace of sand-smothered beaches. You’ll find the best of the bunch in the aptly named Golden Sands. This place’s namesake is a four kilometre-long stretch, edged by blue-tinted waters. Close by, you’ll find a waterpark, a promenade, and fun touches like fairground rides, as well as plenty of hotels. The sandy scene’s topped off by average temperatures of 28°C across the summer months, and 11 hours of sunshine per day in July and August.
Varna’s coast offers lots of variety too, from little coves scooped out of cliff faces to jagged outcrops jutting into the sea. In fact, you’ll find Cape Kaliakra – the Black Sea coast’s longest cape – in the region. Kaliakra’s known for its ruby-hued cliff faces and stunning sea views. Plus, it’s home to the ruins of an 8th Century citadel.
Try Varna city’s central beach, where have-it-all holidaymakers won’t have to choose between urban exploration and seaside relaxation.
Drag yourself away from the coastline, and you’ll find that there’s plenty more to discover inland. Varna’s got a whole host of natural surprises up its sleeve. To kick things off, around a dozen spa-worthy thermal springs speckle the region, boasting steaming waters reaching around 38°C. For centuries, locals have sworn by the healing properties of these waters, but if nothing else, it’s really relaxing to have a soak there.
Varna’s also home to Bulgaria’s one and only desert. What’s more, the desert itself is home to a mystery-steeped natural wonder of Stonehenge proportions. The Pobiti Kamani, or Stone Forest, is made up of towering rock structures arranged in a circle that’s said to have magical properties.
In St Constantine and Helena, you can spend a zen-filled afternoon bathing in natural thermal pools at the Aquahouse Thermal & Beach.
Varna’s history reaches back over centuries. The Romans settled here in 15 AD, and they definitely left their mark. In the 2nd Century, they built a huge complex of mineral baths – the Roman Thermae – which is still pretty intact today. In fact, it’s one of the best-preserved Roman baths in Europe, and it’s the Balkans’ largest.
Head into Varna city, and there’s a treasure trove to explore. Literally. The world’s oldest stash of gold jewellery is housed in the Archeological Museum. This haul dates all the way back to 5,000 BC. All in all, the museum has collected over 100,000 artefacts – you'll find the cream of the crop on display in the exhibition halls. And, you can immerse yourself in 19th-century Varna at the Museum of Ethnography.
The Aladzha Monastery’s been standing since the 13th Century, probably because it was carved right into a cliff face. During summer, a nightly light show illuminates this hardy historical marvel.
Bulgaria’s a big name in the wine making game, pouring out around 200,000 tonnes of vino each year. And it’s had plenty of time to build up its stocks – Bulgarians have been growing grapes since 4,000 BC, when ancient Thracian tribes ruled the roost.
These days, a third of Bulgaria’s wine is produced in the Varna region. Whites are the speciality here, namely Varnenski Misket, a dry wine made from a combination of Dimyat and Misket grapes. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a sommelier, you can visit one of Varna’s vineyards for a tasting.
If you want to sip some wine with a view, the 19th Century Euxinograd Palace – near Golden Sands – has its very own boutique winery cloaked by botanical gardens.
Take your pick from three pools and three restaurants at the lti Dolce Vita Sunshine Resort
Riu Astoria hotel’s right in the centre of Golden Sands. Plus, you’ll find the beach right across the promenade.
The Astor Garden Hotel makes its home in St Constantine and Helena. You can expect modern décor and green-blanketed gardens.
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