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No one's sure why it's called Black — some blame the diminished sea life that had it labeled early on as the "inhospitable sea" — but first-time visitors see the misnomer right off. Golden sands and rock cliffs meet the Black Sea's blue waters with less salt content than the Mediterranean. Many Europeans score cheap beach package trips and cluster in the worst parts — hub town Burgas (a rather grimy port town with a so-so beach), and crass, over-commercialized beach resorts of Sunny Beach and Golden Sands. It's best to get out of them. While still touristy, it's hard not to enjoy ancient cobbled Greek towns Nesebar and Sozopol, with winding ...

No one's sure why it's called Black — some blame the diminished sea life that had it labeled early on as the "inhospitable sea" — but first-time visitors see the misnomer right off. Golden sands and rock cliffs meet the Black Sea's blue waters with less salt content than the Mediterranean. Many Europeans score cheap beach package trips and cluster in the worst parts — hub town Burgas (a rather grimy port town with a so-so beach), and crass, over-commercialized beach resorts of Sunny Beach and Golden Sands. It's best to get out of them. While still touristy, it's hard not to enjoy ancient cobbled Greek towns Nesebar and Sozopol, with winding alleys and beaches and much more atmosphere; and the biggest city Varna is an attraction in its own right, with huge pedestrianized walkways leading to Roman ruins and far nicer beaches than Burgas. If you rent a car, you can make scenic drives up the coast and reach towns most visitors don't hear of. Near the Turkish border, Sinemorets has three beaches, one a golden-sand stretch without beach bars that's reached on foot over a rocky cliff. Between Burgas and Varna, few pull off the sideroads to hit less-seen beaches like the long strip of Karadere two miles north of Byala, or Irakli between Sunny Beach and the more modest resort town Ozbor.

Robert Reid
About the Expert

Robert Reid has updated 15 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Romania & Moldova, Eastern Europe, and Trans-Siberian Railway.

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Robert Reid for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Everyone hits the beach in July and August. You shouldn't. In September, prices drop by about 20 percent or (much) more at hotels, it's still sunny and warm, and actual patches of sand on more popular beaches can be found. In more remote spots, like Byala or Sinemorets, you can practically have the beach to yourself. Another reason: Sozopol's 10-day Apollonia Festival kicks off September.