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Out and About around Varna

Visitors to the northern Black Sea coast can take advantage of numerous places to visit around Varna. From palaces to eco-parks, the high end resort and beaches of Golden Sands, to the extraordinary stone forest. Suitable for couples and families, why not explore more of this beautiful part of the Black Sea coastline this summer. Evksinograd Palace. Built under the name of ‘Sandrovo’ by Prince Aleksandâr Batenberg in 1882, and renamed (combining the Greek word euxine (hospitable) with the Slavonic grad (town or fortress) by his successor Ferdinand, Evksinograd Palace is nowadays notorious for being the former holiday home of the Bulgarian Government. You cannot visit the palace itself, but you can see it from the beach coves that surround Evksinograd.

Ecopark Varna, the University of Sofia Botanical Garden
Located near to the St Konstantin resort, this wonderful natural parkland with flora and fauna tended by the University of Sofia.There are plenty of spaces for children to run free or play ball games and it is a great place for a picnic with facilities for a BBQ too.

The Stone Forest.
Known in Bulgarian as the ‘Pobiti Kamani’ this unbelievable rock phenomenon is located 18 kms westwards from Varna. It is an incredible site, but not one I would recommend at the height of summer as this place is like a desert. The stones formed some 50 million years ago. Originally, they were part of the seabed. After the sea receded, the inorganic sediments eroded into the impressive forms, which remain today. The natural stone pillars are porous and contain many fossils; many of the stone columns are between 6 metres high and some up to 12 metres across.

Aladzha Monastery
The medieval cave monastery is 16 kms away from Varna. It housed monks from the Middle Ages in caves cut from the limestone rock. The experience of seeing a monastery dug high above the ground into a steep rock is unforgettable and well worth a visit.

The name of Aladzha monastery comes from the Turkish word for colourful due to the bright colours of its wall paintings. Unfortunately, only few of the frescoes survived, most, which did, are in the chapel. The monk’s cells, common rooms and sanctuaries, dug directly into the rock and situated on two levels high above the ground, were connected via an external staircase. The lower floor hosted the monks’ private cells, common rooms and a small church, while the upper level was a chapel. It is widely believed that the monastery dates back to the 12th century AC. The monastery houses a small museum and you can take a walk through the gardens to The Catacombs, which share a similar history, though the ruins are less well preserved. This is not a place to visit for people with mobility problems; there is no lift into the caves and the rock has worn to a shine making the going somewhat dangerous.

Queen Marie’s Palace and the Botanical Gardens, Balchik
Balchik lies 40 kms away from Varna, but if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life then it is worth the journey. The major tourist attraction in the town is the Quiet Nook Palace and its magnificent park sprawling over an area of 35 hectares. The small palace was originally the summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania. Marie was one of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren who was married off in the spirit of détente. Between 1913 and 1940, Balchik belonged to Romania and Marie, who fell in love with the picturesque views, commissioned the palace and spent many summers here in the company of her Turkish lover. When she died she pledged that her heart be buried in the palace grounds.

The Beach Resorts
All of the beach resorts offer excellent accommodation and plenty of entertainment for all ages. The prices here are much higher than in Varna and you can expect to pay 5 Leva for a beer, 3 to 4 Leva for a mineral water and around 20 - 25 Leva per person for a meal. During July and August, you can sunbathe for 10 or11 hours a day. The sea is amazingly calm and free of large waves and dangerous tides. There is generally a cool breeze, which makes it a more pleasant place to be.

Golden Sands is located 17 kms north of Varna. It is often dubbed ‘the pearl of the Black Sea’. It lies within acres of lush national park land and whilst it offers everything one can expect of a purpose built resort, it combines uniquely calm and clean sea with three and a half kilometres of beautiful golden sand.

The resort has a more upmarket feel than the other Northern resorts, much has been spent on construction and development and the resort now offers some of the best accommodation in Bulgaria.

St Konstantin and Helena. Bulgaria’s oldest seaside resort lies 8 kms north of Varna. It is a small and secluded resort with a stony beach in parts. It offers much to do but specialises in diving and fishing. At an altitude of 25 metres, the resort offers a unique microclimate, cool, bracing sea air combined with the scent of century old fig, cypress and lime trees. There is also an abundance of mineral springs.

Albena is located in a picturesque bay in the north part of Bulgarian Black Sea Riviera. It lies 30 kms from Varna, yet is easily accessible. Albena offers the best sandy beach on this part of the coast. It is a flat, smooth stretch 7 kms long and 150 m wide. The rich vegetation of the Baltata Hill Reserve surrounds the resort, making it home to some very rare plants and animals. Last summer a wild boar was seen roaming on a secluded part of the beach!