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Sunny Beach - Sun, Sea and Good Times

Bulgaria’s largest and most popular beach resort lies on a beautiful curved bay with wide, fine sandy beaches stretching for 8 km long and forming large, natural dunes to the south. The sea is clear and calm here with no tides making it worthy of its international Blue Flag status. The setting really is idyllic; to the north the lush, green slopes of the Balkan Range envelop the resort creating forest of protection, which gives Sunny Beach its crisp, fresh air and healthy biospheric climate. As if this isn’t enough to convince you that you have arrived in a small part of Bulgarian heaven, there are 1,700 hours of sunshine from May to the end of October alone.

 

Getting There

Sunny Beach lies on the southern coast of Bulgaria’s Black Sea, 35 km from the port town of Bourgas and 95 km from the sea capital Varna, both of which have an international airport with regular charter and scheduled flights. The resort is easy to get around especially if you use the gas-fueled little train, which travels from one end of the resort to the other. There are also plenty of taxis. There is also a regular bus service and a ferry to and from neighbouring Nessebar and the city of Bourgas.  

The Resort

Details about the resort’s history are scarce living as it does in the shadow of the ancient UNESCO Heritage site, Nessebar all that is known is that the site originally consisted of two old wells, which supplied Nessebar with water in ancient times and during the Middle Ages. The resorts construction started in 1958, as part of the new Communist regime’s drive to provide holiday locations for dignitaries from the Eastern bloc.

Today the resort is a shadow of its Communist past. New, luxurious modern hotels line the promenade and there is barely a trace of the rough concrete monoliths from days gone by. The resort’s Blue Flag status recognises its ecological features and its pride in its cleanliness and conservation. It is one of the few areas on the Black Sea with natural sand dunes as well as a mix of coniferous and deciduous forests and several rare plant species, some of which feature in the Red Book of Bulgaria.

The resorts Bulgarian name is Slanchev bryag, which means Sunny Beach and the name has been translated into all major European languages, so to German visitors it is known as Sonnenstrand and so on. It is home to over 800 hotels providing around 300,000 beds. The entertainment scene and facilities are fantastic and a lot of money has been spent on the infrastructure so that it can cope with the mass expansion that has taken place. There are now many very luxurious hotels and apartment complexes, some critics say that it has been overdeveloped at the expense of its natural environment but others believe that the bulk of the expansion is now finished and that the resort can sustain its present size quite easily.

Entertainment

There are a host of activities to undertake here with many forms of water sports from jet skiing to parasailing, yachting and windsurfing plus the thrills and excitement of two water parks.  Those who enjoy looking at historical sights or basking in culture will find their needs catered for in Nessebar or at the Golden Orpheus International Festival of Popular Song, the Decade of Symphonic Music and the International Folklore Festival. There are plenty of other sporting and recreation options too including some fabulous tennis courts offering tuition, horse riding, mini golf, volleyball and archery.

Sunny Beach is by far a kiddie paradise; the sea is calm and shallow. The resort is also very safe with police checks at the entrances 24-hour kindergartens supervised by qualified staff and child friendly restaurants. There are many child friendly events held like competitions and discos. Most hotels have a children’s pool and there are lots of rides, inflatables and an amazing Rolba slide. Perhaps one of the best activities is the forty minute cruise to a deserted beach to visit Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday. This fun day out includes lunch on the beach and entertainment and tales from Robinson Crusoe himself.

If you want to taste the real Bulgaria whilst you are here this too is possible. Apart from the genuine Bulgarian hospitality you will experience in the resort, there are many traditional events like folk singing and dancing with performers wearing national costume. The best place to experience the real Bulgaria apart from the traditional restaurants is a visit to a typical Bulgarian village. There are tours offering just this through scenic countryside inland and including a tour of a local vineyard, orchard, church and a Bulgarian house. You will even get the chance to ride on a donkey and cart – a typical mode of transport in all Bulgarian villages as well as dine on traditional food with the locals. Another trip that will have you indulging in Bulgarian life is a folk-style picnic at a panoramic spot 12 km north of the resort. After the picnic there is a show which includes fire dancing.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

There are many hotels to choose from and most are located amidst parkland close to the beach. Most offer every conceivable facility from beauty treatments to kids’ entertainment and sports. Top five-star hotels include the RUI Helena Park and the Barcelo Royal Beach. One of the newest luxury additions is the Victoria Palace Hotel located on the beach itself in the northern part of the resort. If you are looking for something small and friendly then the Zora Village is ideal; prices start at 20 euro a night and it is divided into three types of individual apartments, comfortably furnished and surrounded by an attractive garden.
You will be spoilt for choice in terms of places to dine with over 150 restaurants, but do try Khan's Tent, which as its name suggests is like a huge tent under the stars. It serves great and has a good floor show as well as incredible views across the bay to  Nessebar. The nightlife is truly fantastic with many clubs open until dawn.

Pictures courtesy of Monika Kostera