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Balchik And The Northern Coast

 

Balchik

Another noteworthy site in this area is the Stone Forest, known in Bulgarian as the "Pobiti Kamani" this unbelievable rock phenomenon is located 18 km westwards from Varna. It is an incredible site, a little like a desert in the height of summer. 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. This is a great place to let kids run free and indulge in some climbing. Take plenty of water, there is no cafe here.

The Stone Forest, near Varna

The medieval cave monastery is 2 km away from Golden Sands known as the Aladzha Manastir is also worth seeing. In the Middle Ages, it housed monks in caves cut from the limestone rock. The name of the Aladzha Monastery comes from the Turkish word for colourful because it used to display some bright coloured wall paintings. Unfortunately, only few of the frescoes survived, but those that did are in the chapel. The monk's cells, common rooms and sanctuaries are dug directly into the rock and situated on two levels high above the ground. They 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 AD. 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 or vertigo; there is no lift into the caves and the rock has worn to a shine making the going somewhat dangerous. Kids will love the place because they are safe to run through the woods and to explore the ancient catacombs. There is a small kiosk selling sweets and drinks. There is a taxi rank outside of the monastery gardens along with numerous souvenir stalls.

Back up North

If you wish to take advantage of the area's healing mud and spa facilities the small town of Tuzlata, 4 km away is famed for its therapeutic mud. The natural environment here has created two lakes, formed by old landslides; the bottom of each lake is covered with black hydrogen sulphide peloid perfect for healing joint disorders. There is also a warm mineral spring where the water reaches temperatures of 31 °C.

Kavarna further up the coast has generated international acclaim for its host of summer rock concerts. Ageing rockers such as Motorhead regularly play here to vast crowds. Whilst the town centre is not appealing, Kavarna is rapidly developing into a sophisticated resort since developers moved in to create a yacht port and variety of luxury, waterside apartments and it is not surprising why this has happened; Kavarna beach is a quiet tranquil inlet - one of the few places on the Northern coast where it is possible to water ski.

Further afield the rocky red cliffs of Cape Kaliakra share its legends of old. The rugged cape stretches 2 km into the sea and is home to the remains of a Thracian fortress named Tirisis. The fortress allegedly guarded the treasure Lyzimah, the successor of Alexander the Great. Today the site houses a museum exhibiting many of the archaeological finds from the area. The Cape became a protected area in 1941 and is one of the few places where a rare species of monk seals bask alongside the areas dolphin population.

Shabla - a small coastal town further north is home to two large lakes, the Shablensko Ezero and the Ezerechko Ezero. They provide ideal conditions for a host of wildlife including lots of herons. Neighbouring Durankaluk is Bulgaria's last town before you cross the border into Romania. The town is 75 km north of Balchik and like Shabla, is also home to a large lake, which is rich in fish.