This summer I found myself taking a once in a life time trip to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Is this girl mad calling a holiday to SUNNY BEACH a once in a life time trip?” Well… The answer is no because for me, it’s entirely accurate!
So, I feel some explaining is in order…. For those of you who know me or who read my blog you probably know that I would never be described as a die-hard party animal, and at no time have I felt the desire to go on one of these sorts of holidays. I’m an adventurer, a culture enthusiast and a massive foodie, all of which Sunny Beach is rather lacking, so as you may have guessed, it was never high on my to-do list! Again, I hear you thinking “So why did you go then?” Well the answer is simple; it was the chosen destination for our 2018 vets graduation holiday. I figured, what better way to experience one of these holidays than to be sharing it with 92 other vets? I’m also the kind of girl who’ll seize any travel opportunity with both hands and like to live by a “don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it” attitude. So that is how I found myself on a once in a life time holiday to Sunny Beach and although I will never be going back again voluntarily, I loved it!
So for all those of you who are like me, and find yourself on one of these ” party hard” package holidays, this post is for you! Here is my not-so party hard guide to Sunny Beach!
Who would have thought that a mere 15 minutes away from the uncultivated chaos of Sunny Beach there sat a UNESCO world heritage site?
Nesebar is the breath-taking result of both Middle Eastern and Greek influence, sitting proudly jutting out from the shore line 15 minutes away from Sunny Beach. Here you will find quaint cobbled streets, beautiful souvenirs (not a novelty cock in sight – a welcome relief!), an abundance of history and the best food you’ll find in a 10-mile radius of Sunny Beach!
Take your time, wander around the beautiful ruins of old town, do a bit of shopping and take some dazzling snaps of this picturesque little place. Head down to the sea front for one of the best meals (and views) you will have all holiday (I’d recommend the sea food – it doesn’t get any fresher!). Additionally, if you fancy a drink with a little more finesse, head to the Eco Bar – a quaint and fascinating cocktail bar moulded to look like a forest cave. Relax with a drink surrounded by the twisting canopy of trees and the babbling of the intricate water feature surrounding you. Nesebar really is not to be missed!
Find out more about what Nesebar has to offer here:
The bus there is a reasonable 1.30 Lev each way or you can get the little sea front tourist train for 3 Lev. If you feel the need to burn off a few of the beer calories, it can also be a pleasant hour-long walk along the beach.
Sunny Beach can get a little over-crowded at times, the expanse of sand is usually teeming with hungover bodies trying to recover from last night’s frivolities while soaking up some sun, and although it serves a purpose, it’s not the most picturesque of beaches in the world!
If you are wanting some peace and quiet with an absolutely breath-taking view, Irakli beach really should be on your hit list! This bit of black sea coast line is where locals go to escape tourists and has a large community of wild campers and naturists who set up home on the beach in the summer months. Now I know your ears will have all pricked up at the word “naturist”, and yes part of Irakli is a nudist beach, but clothing is optional and the beach is so sparsely populated on a week day, whether you choose to bare all or stay fully clothed, you can mind your own business and feel completely comfortable.
The beauty of Irakli, is although it is such a quiet location, it’s not completely isolated. There is access to sunbeds, parasols ( for a small fee) and a beach bar for food, drinks and most importantly ice cream making it a fantastic compromise between Sunny Beach and the absolute middle of nowhere.
If you’ve hired a car, Irakli is incredibly accessible for you and is a short 30-40-minute drive. However, if not, organise a taxi with your hotel. Agree on a price beforehand for a 2-way journey and only pay once safely returned to your hotel at the end of the day, it cost us 120 Lev between 5 of us for a return journey.
If skinny dipping is on your bucket list, this quiet little beach is the place to do it! Embrace the freedom of the naturist way for a day and you’re sure to find yourself feeling incredibly liberated! But, whatever you do, don’t forget your sun cream, there are some places you really do NOT want to burn!
Aquapark Paradise, Nesebar
This water park is a great day out for those wanting a little bit more activity on their holiday. It has rides to suit all from the chilled out lazy river to the hair raising half-pipe water slide which will get even the biggest tough-guy screaming. On a nice day you can easily spend all day dipping in and out of the main pool, lounging on sunbeds and working your way through all the rides – it’s a sure-fire way to quickly cure a hangover!
There are two water parks in Nesebar, Aquapark Paradise is more suited to adults and older children while on the other side of Nesebar, Action aquapark is more child friendly (unless your children are adrenaline junkies, then by all means go for the big one). Check out both their websites here:
There’s a free shuttle bus to the water park from Sunny Beach which drops you off right outside. Ask your hotel about buying tickets and for the location of the bus stop.
Ensure you have at least 10 Lev – they ask for 5 Lev to pay for the locker and 5 as a deposit which you get back upon returning the key. Lockers are more than big enough to share so team up to save money.
You are not allowed any outside food or alcohol whilst in the park but are allowed bottles of water. Ensure you bring a large bottle with you to save some money. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find the food for a captive audience was quite reasonable and you just load money onto your wrist band to tap and pay for what you’ve eaten.
Khans tent should be at the top of the to-do list for those keen on a night out with a bit more finesse than Sunny Beach usually has to offer. It is situated up on the hillside, providing breathtaking panoramic views (from which even sunny beach looks kind of beautiful!) and presents an opportunity to dress up in something other than the staple shorts and t shirt to go out in.
The package includes a 4 course meal (vegetarians are catered for if you notify them in advance), a bottle of wine, a shot and a bottle of sprite each. After the meal there’s a dinner show which is utterly fantastic! Some of the acts could definitely rival those seen on Britain’s got talent in recent years, and definitely beats the locals taking their clothes off while dancing on the bar – the kind of entertainment usually seen in sunny beach!
After the show and plates are cleared, a dance floor is cleared and a live band ensures you spend the rest of your night on your feet dancing away to classic tunes everyone knows and loves. It really is a night not to be missed, I mean, who could say no to dinner and a show?
We booked the entire thing including return transport for 70Lev through our hotel as we worked out it would work out about the same price to order our own transport (Which we were told would be about 20-25 Lev each way) so for ease sake we went with the hotel booking.
Relax at the Beach Bars
Fancy a quieter evening? Set up camp with a cocktail to watch the sunset in one of the many beach bars along the coast. These little bars offer a fantastic atmosphere as the sun goes down with lanterns lit and a fantastic view of the sea.
You only live once, join in!
Now I know this entire post has been geared towards alternatives to the booze and bars of Sunny Beach, but there is a certain element of “when in Rome” which I feel needs to go on. Now, while po-going up and down to drum and bass in dark and smokey clubs every night is the farthest thing from my idea of a good time, once in a while it can be a good laugh. Sunny Beach caters to it’s nocturnal party-goers with bar crawls, beach parties, UV paint spattering frivolities and you can even take this craziness into the sea (on a boat of course)! The resort provides some of the greatest nights out, so take a few shots and party on for a night or two, like me, you might even surprise yourself and have a good time!
And….If all else fails, get out of sunny beach!
As our holiday was very much organised for the entire group, with various activities planned, we unfortunately didn’t have the time to escape sunny beach much. However, before travelling I did a lot of research into the various excursion possibilities, so here are a few places you can go to escape Sunny Beach…
Burgas – 40 min drive – This is the closest city to Sunny Beach and is easily accessible via car or bus. Here you can spend the day exploring a place with a more cosmopolitan edge, and if you fancy a bit of novelty, join the locals bathing in the natural mud baths and salt pans which are thought to have therapeutic properties.
Varna – 1hr 40 min drive – Another idea for a day trip escape, Varna is a port city close to ‘Golden Sands’ a less rowdy resort complex than Sunny Beach. This city offers a number of museums and cultural sights, with some fantastic religious architecture and from what I hear, great food!
Zhervana, Blue Mountains – 2 hour drive – Tours are frequently operated to take you up to the Bulgarian Mountain range for fantastic views of one of their national parks. Additionally you get to explore quaint mountain villages, open- air museums and there’s a cable car ride over the mountains. It’s professed to be one hell of a day trip for nature lovers!
Istanbull 5 hours 15 min or Bucharest 5 hour drive – If you have a couple of days to spare and would like to experience the Capital of Romania or wander the streets of one of the most famous cities in Turkey, there are a number of tours which can be pre-booked prior to the trip or alternatively when you get there. This is something I really wish I could have done!
So there you have it….
My extensive guide to keeping cultured in Sunny Beach! I hope you guys have enjoyed this post and I’ve given you all a little inspiration to go out and find adventure no matter where you find yourself. At the end of the day, you’re still exploring a new country and no matter where you are, there will always be hidden gems to find!