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On Golden Sands

Golden Sands lies next to the national park of the same name. It is possibly Bulgaria’s most upmarket, mass-market beach resort; Golden Sands on the Northern coast has been entertaining holidaymakers from all corners of the globe since the 1950’s. This is not a resort dominated by British tourists although it used to be. Today it has a very cosmopolitan air to it with frequent visitors from neighbouring Romania, Russia, Israel, Lebanon, Scandinavia, Germany and the UK.

Getting There

The resort is known by many names all of which translate as Golden Sands, however if you drive to the resort you will only see it listed under its Bulgarian name, Zlatni Pyasatsi. It lies 17 km from Varna, which is home to the nearest international airport and the centre of the town is easy to access with the local bus service running frequently along the coast road.

A Dip Back in Time

Golden Sands lies amidst the ancient forests of Odessos and Dionysopolis and was first mentioned by the famed Roman writer Pliny as the home of the mythological dwarfs that the Argonauts visited. The Greeks called the area Gerania and there are remains of a 4th century AD fortress along the edge of the Franga Plateau, which towers above the resort. Close by the rock monastery known as the Aladzha Manastir is believed to have its roots in the times before the Second Bulgarian Empire. The monastery was used as a safe house during the rule by the Ottoman Turks.

Before the late fifties, Golden Sands was no more than a rugged stretch of beach virtually untouched by man with freshwater ponds thriving with tortoises and snakes as well as beach nesting birds. However in 1957 worked started on the construction of a hotel and two decades later this stretch of coastline was transformed into a modern resort aimed at the package holiday market. In 1990 after the fall of communism the resort was privatized and by 2000 it was attracting a lot of foreign investment, which enabled the resort to grow and improve. More recently some of the older hotels have been demolished to make way for frontline, luxury apartment complexes.

Attractions

Golden Sands is so called because its sand is believed to be the purest form of quartz sand on the coast. The resort appeals to visitors of all ages, but it is no longer the cheap and cheerful destination it used to be ten years ago. It now caters for a more cosmopolitan base of tourists with spa centres, casinos, a riding stable and a yacht marina. The environment is extremely pleasant with plenty of old trees and green areas along with some interesting modern art sculptures. There are some more quirky attractions in the resort like the huge Ferris Wheel by the Admiral Hotel and the replica of the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed in 2007 at a scale of 1:10. The tower contains an observation deck and a chic restaurant. The resort is completely pedestrianised and is patrolled by police who man each entrance making the resort extremely safe particularly for those with children. In fact this is a family oriented resort with the water park Aquapolis there to provide endless entertainment with its wide variety of water slides and dotted all over the resort, there are numerous kids’ rides.

The resort backs on to the Golden Sands Nature Park, which used to be called the Hachuka State Forest. It comprises of the hot mineral springs and abundant forest spilling from the Franga Plateau. It became a protected area in 1943 and has over the years been expanded to include 1,300 hectares of natural forest land. The park is one reason why the resort will never be over-developed like its twin in the south, Sunny Beach. This area is now protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 scheme, which prohibits any form of construction in the forest.

The resort is divided into several distinct areas; the main promenade along the seafront resembles parts of the French Riviera with its verdigris pillars and covered walkways. In contrast the Holiday Club Riviera at the far end of the resort used to be a private club for Communist dignitaries from across the Eastern bloc and toady, whilst it is open to the public; it still retains some of this Soviet charm particularly in its architecture. This part of the resort is extremely peaceful and if you are ever going to see a dolphin off the coast of Golden Sands this is the place to go.  It is possible to walk the length of the resort from the Riviera to the harbor where there is an open air theatre and the opportunity to catch a boat ride to surrounding areas. Next to the harbor there is a nudist beach; it is not visible from the resort itself and you have to climb a small wall to get to it, but if you like to bathe au naturel then this is the place to go.

Medical Tourism

It is possible to get a therapeutic massage on the beach as well as many simple beauty treatments. Many of the hotels in the resort offer some curative mineral spa therapy using the natural mineral springs from the area. There are four key springs with each with a flow of around 150 m3/sec. Each of these hotels offers a wide variety of treatments based on ultraviolet radiation, bee’s venom, and sea water and mud treatments. They are designed to treat ailments such as arthritis, stress, neuroses, bronchitis and asthma to name but a few. Around the resort many private doctors advertise a variety of treatments and services including dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

Entertainment

The resort offers much in the way of 24 hour entertainment. There are numerous authentic Bulgarian restaurants and open air kitchens known as Mehanas as well as other international eateries including Chinese and Indian. Prices for food and drink have risen over the last three years and the resort can no longer be classed as cheap.

The best nightlife is concentrated around Party Street on the resorts second tier. There are a host of nightclubs with music hosted by reputable international DJ’s as well as live music. The multitude of casinos offers all of the popular games from roulette to black jack but you need to know how to play before you chance your luck! If you feel like dancing, modern nightclubs along the beach will be the place for you.
It is also possible to experience more traditional Bulgarian entertainment with regular folk music performances and shows al fresco.

Sport

For those who like to expend some energy on their vacation, there are 10 tennis courts, a bowling alley, paintball, volley and basket ball areas and mini-golf. On the beach there are a wide variety of sports on offer including jet skiing, parasailing and diving. Whilst some water sports companies offer water skiing, it is not worth trying it here as the sea is never calm enough to permit good skiing.