17 Feb 2017

2017 Could Be Eastern Europe's Year

09:10
Respected travel website Travelzoo have predicted that 2017 will be the 'Year of Eastern Europe', increasing in popularity with many tourists shifting away from destinations affected by acts of terror in recent years.

The region is also attracting British holidaymakers in particular due to the value of the British pound. According to the number crunching experts at Travelzoo, stunning Eastern European destinations such as Bulgaria and Croatia are on average 30% cheaper than the more popular coastal region of Spain this year.

Bulgarian resorts such as Duni offer excellent value at almost 30% cheaper costs than Spain.

Although Spain, France, Germany and the USA still top the list of destinations British holidaymakers plan to book this year, the Travelzoo Spring 2017 Travel Trends Survey shows that nearly 50% of British holidaymakers are avoiding traditional Western European destinations because they're worried over safety. For 17% of those surveyed, the weakness of the British pound is the biggest influence on their choice of destination in 2017.

With millions of British holidaymakers preferring to travel abroad rather than holiday in the UK, the survey shows that 13% of holidaymakers plan to visit Eastern Europe this summer with interest in Croatia more than doubled since February 2016, making it the most popular destination in Eastern Europe.

Croatia's stunning beauty and great value has made it the most sought after destination this year.

Travelzoo also predicts that UK tourists could pay up to 10% more for their 2017 holiday due to a weaker pound and rising cost of oil. Travelzoo’s General UK Manager, Joel Brandon-Bravo, said "Seven months on from the Leave vote it's encouraging to see Britons considering Eastern Europe as a travel destination in 2017. As flight bans to Sharm el Sheikh and Tunisia continue, and with uncertainty over the value of the pound, countries such as Croatia and Bulgaria, which operate outside of the Euro-offer better exchange rates and value for money to British tourists."

Although the survey shows Croatia as the most sought after Eastern European destination for 2017, Bulgaria is also proving to be a popular holiday destination this year with 45% of Britons considering travelling there admitting they would have never thought of travelling to Bulgaria before.

Bulgaria's most popular resort of Sunny Beach is a favourite amongst British holidaymakers.

Joel Brandon-Bravo continued by saying: "UK tourists who are now looking further east won't be disappointed. If you take the Balkan Peninsula for example, the coastlines of Croatia and Montenegro are close to the very popular east coast of Italy. They boast the same warm weather and beautiful beaches, lakes and mountains, but holidays in this region are on average 30% cheaper than popular resorts in Spain and Italy."

In finishing, he said: "The fact British holidaymakers are considering alternative, more affordable travel destinations this year is certainly positive news for the travel industry too-particularly after what has been a turbulent 18 months. Last year we were right about 2016 being the year of the US, so we're confident in our prediction that 2017 will be the year Eastern Europe secures its place as a popular destination for British tourists."

Breathtaking Sveti Stefan in Montenegro is slowly becoming a must visit destination.

You can secure your summer 2017 holiday to Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia or Montenegro today with Balkan Holidays, prices start from just £227pp. Call 0207 543 5555 or visit balkanholidays.co.uk and discover just how much you can save on a holiday to one of these stunning Eastern European destinations.

The survey for Travelzoo's Spring 2017 Travel Trends Survey was conducted among 1,266 consumers in the United Kingdom, who completed an online questionnaire sent out by third-party research agency Toluna. The questionnaires were completed between 2-3 January, 2017.

17 Jan 2017

Top 5 Activities for Kids in Sunny Beach

15:52
These are just a taster of what you can do in Sunny Beach with kids. If you’re looking for a great value holiday destination with cuisine that caters to the British taste, Western European conveniences at cheaper Eastern European pricing, plenty of sunshine and beaches, then Sunny Beach is the resort for you. Over 1 million holidaymakers visit each year, so there must be something to it...


1. Sunny Beach Aquapark

The Action Aquapark boasts an impressive number of flumes, slides and crazy rivers sure to make your day at the park one to remember. Tickets to the park are pre-bookable locally with the Balkan Holidays representatives which saves you having to queue upon arrival at the park. There is also a free shuttle bus which takes you from resort directly to the park helping you get your visit to the Aquapark off to a hassle free start. As the only Aquapark in Bulgaria to feature its very own farm with horses, rabbits and sheep, the park is a popular choice with holidaymakers to Sunny Beach.

Location - Action Aqua Park is situated in the western part of Sunny Beach just 5 minutes away from the resort's centre.


2. Khan’s Tent

The dinner and cabaret style show at Khan's Tent is a unique night, set at the top of a hill several kilometres north of Sunny Beach. The secluded wooded setting with beautiful views of the coast was supposedly where Khan Krum had a military encampment in the 9th century. The stunning interior is the venue for superb traditional food, served by costume-clad waiters, with music and a brilliant live show. The kids will love it!

Location – On northern hill overlooking Sunny Beach (all taxi drivers know where it is)




3. Resort Pools & One HUGE Beach

Most, if not all, resorts and hotels in Sunny Beach have a pool. Not a day will go where your kids will not want to go for a swim. On top of that, the beach is not far either. Many Balkan Holidays properties in Sunny Beach have a great location just a few minutes’ walk from the beach itself. There are many lounges and umbrellas available at a local charge or if you prefer, you can sit in one of the many restaurants or bars on the beach while the kids build sandcastles.

Location – Wherever you choose!



4. Offroad Adventure

Treat the kids to a unique holiday experience with a rugged Jeep ride up and down the hills of the Balkan Mountains which includes a visit to a small animal farm with magnificent views unfolding from the mountain tops as you roll along. The offroad adventure is definitely a fun way to explore the countryside and experience Bulgarian hospitality.

Location - TBC



5. Sun 'N Fun Pirate Cruise

This cruise is perfect fun for the kids with the whole day revolving around them, from the programme of games and fun to face painting and the meatball/salad lunches. Adults may struggle a little for something to do, so bring a book for the lazy cruise and don’t forget your swimsuit for the swim stop!

Location - A bus can collect you from your hotel and delivers you to Nessebar port, where the boat departs. You are then shuttled back afterwards.



All excursions are sold by Balkan Holidays Services, who are acting as an agent for the relevant suppliers. These trips should be booked through your Balkan Holidays Representative only. Although every care has been taken when producing this article and the descriptions are believed to be correct at the time of writing, Balkan Holidays cannot take responsibility for any changes/withdraws in some resorts. In different resorts excursion programme may vary so ask your Balkan Holidays representative for specific details, prices, child reductions and free places availability as per your resort.

30 Dec 2016

120 Years of Borovets - The History of Bulgaria's First Mountain Resort

10:51

The birth of Borovets dates back to 1896, when the Bulgarian King Ferdinand commenced the construction of a hunting lodge in the Rila Mountains called "Royal Bistrica". After its completion it quickly became a favourite spot for summer recreation of the royal family.


The royal family's example was soon followed by many entrepreneurs, bankers and wealthy families from the capital city of Sofia, who also built villas in the surrounding area. Little by little, this part of Rila became a regular summer getaway destination for many and in 1928, the number of villas has grown to a staggering 74. The destination became so popular that in 1903, a regular bus line from Sofia to Borovets via Samokov was established.

The owners of the villas gradually began to return in the winter months too, but it was only in the 1930's, with the advent of skiing, that the resort really began to develop as a place for winter recreation and sport. It all started in the hunting grounds of "Royal Bistrica", were a number of foreigners worked, hired by the royal family as engineers, meteorologists and botanists. They brought with them skis that were used when they carried out their tasks on the grounds during the winter months.

The family of one of the workers, Michael Krashnyak, settled in the nearby town of Samokov after 1919 and Michael's son, Michael Krashnyak Junior was one of the first people to demonstrate downhill skiing to his classmates. A number of students from the American University also owned skis and encouraged the younger generation of Samokov to try out this new sport. Getting inspired was one thing, but obtaining skiis back in those days was something completely different - it almost impossible!

The only solution for the locals was to produce the skiis themselves. A number of local carpenters tried producing their own version and this resulted in a a few quirky models coming to life. Some even tried to use the arcs of wine barrels to ski on. (This gradually developed with time and the city began producing its own ski brand "Slaveevki.")


In 1924 the Director of the Samokov School Ivan Velchev, iniciated volunteers to build a tourist hut or "Musala". One of the participants in the construction - Dimitar Vajarov wrote in his memoirs: "With director Velchev, several other teachers and the Student's Travel Club we identified the perfect place for the hut during a recent winter hike in the deep snow.

T
he king not only allowed us to build the hut on royal property, but also ordered the governor to release a platoon of his soldier guards to help us with clearing the area of pine trees. We, the students, were camping nearby every Saturday and Sunday to help carry out the cutting down of vegetation, before locals would take them away with horses..."

On 16 February 1930 Juniors Tourist Union Branch "Rila", organized the first ski race in Bulgaria. The competitors would hike up the hill and then race down through the woods from Sitnyakovo to Borovets. Michael Krashnyak Junior was the first descendant to outline the path for the others.

 
(An interesting fact is that, in January 1936, a new law came out that required ski owners to declare their skis and pay excise duty in the sum of up to 50 levs. The aim is to raise funds to allow the Bulgarian skiers to participate in the more and more frequent international competitions. These plans however never came to be and membership began to decline. Throughout the season not a single skier from Samokov paid their excise duty and the failed law was cancelled.)

The glory of the resort came in 1970's and 1980's, thanks to the success of the Bulgarian ski legend Pepi Popangelov from Samokov and the efforts of his father - Peter Popangelov senior. From that point on the resort has been continuously developing as an international ski centre. Since the time it first appeared on the map in 1974 until today, Borovets has hosted 2 international and 12 European Cups, numerous FIS alpine ski and international snowboard competitions. Today, one of the runs is named after the legendary skier Popangelov.

These days, Borovets welcomes tourists from all over the world by providing world class recreation and sport facilities and opportunities. The palace "Royal Bistrica" is open for visitors and attracts many tourists every season.



This season, work on a massive investment project worth 40 million euro will continue to develop the resort. Thanks to this project a modern state of the art system of 175 snow cannons was build, with an artificial lake and pump station which will allow great skiing even if the winter season fails to bring much snow.

In addition to the resort's three interconnected ski zones, this season there will also be a dedicated kids sled zone, night skiing on 8 freshly groomed interconnected runs and two fun parks which once again will bring together freestyle skiers and snowboarders to practice their tricks.


No matter what level of ability you are, you can be assured that a fantastic ski holiday and incredible value for money await you in Borovets this winter. And if the success of this season is likely to come down to weather, than things are looking good for the Eastern European resorts with a significant amount of snow having already fallen across all resorts offered by Balkan Holidays.

19 Dec 2016

Christmas in Bulgaria

11:24
Just like us here in the UK, Bulgarians celebrate Christmas on December 25, however this is somewhat unexpected because Bulgaria is an Orthodox country. The traditional Eastern Orthodox celebration of Christmas actually occurs on January 7th. Bulgaria's Orthodox Church follows the Gregorian calendar, which means its religious observances are in keeping with those of the West. If you're in Bulgaria during the winter season, you can see cities like Sofia covered in Christmas lights with the Sofia Christmas Market an ideal place for travellers to go during the month of December to experience Bulgarian Christmas cheer. A typical Bulgarian Christmas is full of customs and traditions that make this time of year special for those who maintain them.

The Sofia Christmas Market is regarded as one of the best in Europe to visit

The Bulgarian Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve in Bulgaria is celebrated in a traditional fashion with an odd number of guests who dine on a vegetarian meal consisting of an odd number of dishes, which follows the 40 day Advent fast. This rich meal, which encourages abundance in the coming year, includes grains and vegetables such as stuffed peppers, fruits and nuts.

One thing that is sure to be found on the Bulgarian Christmas Eve table are Walnuts. These nuts are cracked in order to predict success or failure for the coming year. Another special aspect of the the Bulgarian Christmas Eve meal is the rounded loaf of bread, into which a coin is baked. The person who finds the coin will be rewarded with good fortune. Pieces of this bread are shared around the table and may be placed near the house's icon, much like the wafer that is shared at Christmas in countries such as Poland.

A typical Bulgarian Christmas table with Walnuts, Peppers and Fruits

Interestingly, the Christmas Eve dinner table is not allowed to be cleared until the following morning in order to provide nourishment for the ghosts of ancestors who may come back to visit before Christmas morning.

One belief that is key to Bulgarian culture is the legend that the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve, but only announced his birth the day after, on Christmas Day. Legend also says that Mary was in labor from December 20th until the birth of Christ. December 20th is the Day of St. Ignat, or Ignazhden.

The person who finds the coin is said to be rewarded with good fortune

The Bulgarian Christmas Day

Once the vegetarian fast has ended, everyone enjoys an enormous dinner on Christmas Day, with a main dish of some type of meat which is often pork. Koledari, or Christmas carolers, go from house to house through villages. These groups of carolers are typically made up of young men dressed in traditional costumes which vary from region to region. Some preparation goes into the koledari's performances, which begin at midnight on Christmas Eve. This tradition is said to protect against evil spirits. The koledari are rewarded with food in return for their services.

Bulgarian men dress in traditional costumes to perform at various houses

And of course there is always the Christmas presents, which as is mostly done in the UK, are opened on Christmas Day itself, for those who cannot wait until the morning or later in the day, it is also acceptable for the presents to be opened at midnight on Christmas Day.

So now that you know a little more about a typical Bulgarian Christmas, we hope you have an memorable and jolly Christmas yourself.

If you fancy treating yourself this Christmas, you can enjoy a great value winter holiday or summer holiday to Bulgaria with Balkan Holidays.

Vesela Koleda!

25 Oct 2016

Our Top Reasons Why You'll Love Learning to Ski In Bulgaria

10:35
You've thought about learning to ski, but you find yourself asking the question "is it for me?". Well, the answer simply has to be YES! Why? Because not only is skiing an incredibly fun hobby that will take you to some of the most breathtaking places, but provided you are in good hands, skiing is also easier to learn and more affordable than most people think.

Not much can compare to the cocktail of positive emotions racing through your body when you find yourself at the bottom of the slope having just completed your very first run. Almost instantly you find yourself craving for more and it won't be long before you realize that your perception of winter has changed completely - you are no longer counting down the days till next summer, but find yourself wishing winter lasted all year round! OK, so where is a good place to start? At Balkan Holidays we believe that Bulgaria, with it's fantastic ski terrain, cheap apres-ski and established ski traditions, is a great place to begin your skiing adventure. We offer incredible value for money package holidays which include flights, transfers, accommodation, ski hire and lessons especially tailored for beginners with friendly and patient English speaking instructors in all of Bulgaria's leading resorts - Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko.


Bulgaria Ski Slopes
Bulgaria is a great place to begin your skiing adventure
The resort of Pamporovo offers beginners a wide choice of gentle nursery slopes and is host to the highly recommended ski school which makes it easy for beginners to learn quickly and correctly. With the shortest transfer time from Sofia airport, the resort of Borovets provides an excellent mix of skiing for beginners and for the intermediate skiers making it an ideal choice if you are travelling with someone who has skied before. Probably our most popular destination - Bansko, offers a unique experience with the perfect blend of an old Bulgarian town and a modern ski resort providing some excellent skiing to intermediate, advanced and beginner skiers.


Ski School Pamporovo
Pamporovo is well known for its impressive Ski School
Balkan Holidays offer a range of Learn to Ski packages as pre-bookable extras for all our ski holidays and it is highly recommended to book these extras when booking your holiday as these prices are often better than what you could expect in resort. Our Learn to Ski pack prices start from £115 for an adult and £84 for a child and includes your lift pass, ski & boot hire and ski school for 6 days. 


Skiers in Bansko
Skiers enjoy the modern facilities of Bansko.
These ski service prices are known to be the cheapest in Europe and offer clients excellent value for money as recently shown by the annual Post Office Travel Money Survey which saw Bansko voted as the number one value for money destination in Europe.

To find out more or to book your ski holiday visit click here.