Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Exceptional Winter Holidays in Bulgaria

Ski holidays to Bulgaria are fast becoming a popular choice for holidaymakers and this is evident with Bulgaria being one of twenty worldwide countries recently nominated in the World Ski Awards.


Not only are ski holidays to Bulgaria great value for money but they also offer something for every type of winter sports enthuasiast. Pamporovo and Borovets have some amazing runs geared at Beginner and Intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Where as Bansko has some nifty and challenging runs for the Advanced skiers and snowboarders. Nether the less all of Bulgaria's ski resorts still cater for all levels of ability.

For non skiers and non snowboarders there is plenty to offer from Spa treatments, Skiddo's, Winter Fishing, Horse Riding, Monastery visits are just a few of the day excursions offered along with the various apre-ski excursions. There is something for everyone to be kept busy throughout their stay.


Just one and a half hours from Sofia airport, Borovets has the shortest transfer time making it an ideal resort for families with young children looking to get off the plane and checked in as quickly as possible. Although Bankso and Pamporovo have longer transfer times, many customers would agree that once you arrive, surrounded by the picturesque breathtaking scenery, the longer transfers are definitely worth it.

Bulgaria have not switched to the Euro and still use the Leva currency meaning your money goes further when in resort with fantastic prices on everyday holiday items like meals and drinks. Ski holidays to Bulgaria also provide great value on pre-bookable ski extras with a Pamporovo Learn to Ski Pack starting at only £115.00. Learn to ski packs include lift pass, ski hire, boot hire and lessons (4 hours a day) for 6 days. Its also worth noting that these ski extras prices are a fraction of the price that you would be expected to pay in many other European ski resorts.


Flying from Bristol, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester, East Midlands and Newcastle and offering a vast range of accommodations that suit all customers requirements, Balkan Holidays are your number one winter specialist to Bulgaria so ensure you visit our winter holidays website today to find out more or to book your next ski or snowboard holiday to Bulgaria.

Top 5 Things to See & Do in Golden Sands

As a popular alternative to the southern Bulgarian resort of Sunny Beach, holidays to Golden Sands provide holidaymakers with everything they need from a summer break plus so much more. Located just a few kilometres from the bustling historical city of Varna, Golden Sands offers a fulfilling mix of entertainment and relaxation all set in one of the most picturesque natural environments found in the Balkan region. Named after the nearby national park, the resort of Golden Sands extends a warm welcome to all who visit it with wooded hillsides sweeping down to meet one of Europe's most beautiful coastlines, the Black Sea Coast.

Holidays to Golden Sands
Escape to a summer holiday by the sea with glorious scenery in Golden Sands

The resort's pristine EU Blue Flag awarded beach is perfect for lazing around in the hot Bulgarian sun or simply spending quality time together with friends or family in the soft golden beach sand. Although this may already sound like your ideal holiday destination, Golden Sands doesn't stop there with a wide range of excursions and activities on hand to complete your summer holiday experience. Here is our list of the top 5 things to see and do when on your holiday to Golden Sands:

1. Day trips to Romania 

With its northern position close to the border of Romania, holidays to Golden Sands give you the opportunity to experience another incredible country in just one day. Setting out in the morning you travel across the border to the city of Constanţa, also known as the ancient city of Tomis, Romania's oldest extant city founded around 600BC. There, a guided bus tour of the city awaits providing a perfect opportunity for you to take in the many sights and sounds of this great city including the Port of Constanţa, Casino, Great Mosque and Roman Catholic Cathedral. Once the bus tour is complete there is free time to explore the city or visit the enlightening archaeological museum. In the afternoon the tour moves on to the nearby seaside resort of Mamaia for a light lunch and more free time to dip your toes or go shopping in the impressive resort shopping mall. Before the day is out you will find yourself back in Golden Sands ready for a night out to celebrate and talk about the days highlights.

Romanian Casino Constanţa
The impressive Constanţa Casino building is popular with visitors to the city
 
2. Lazy Day Cruise 

If you are looking to add a bit of romance to your holiday a lazy day cruise is the perfect activity for you. Spend the day with your loved one slowly cruising along the Black Sea Coastline stopping off at various scenic locations. The lazy day cruise gives you the opportunity to try your hand at fishing or take a swim in the warm sea water culminating in a delicious lunch served on board. The panoramic sights of the coastline and romantic cruise atmosphere is sure to bring you and your partner even closer on your summer holiday to Golden Sands.

Black Sea Coast Cruise
Holidaymakers enjoy the unique views of the Black Sea Coast the cruise offers

 3. Country & People 

You've seen the commercialized beach resort but perhaps you want to experience the authentic everyday lives and culture of the local Bulgarian residents in their natural environment? The country & people excursion gives you the chance to visit one of the many nearby villages to talk with locals and see inside their houses and local church. Sit down for lunch with a typical Bulgarian household before heading off to a privately run bee farm with a chance to sample some home made yoghurt too. You are then taken for a donkey cart drive before tasting selected Bulgarian wines and brandy in the local town wine cellar. One thing the excursion is sure to guarantee is a fascinating and insightful day, giving you a new profound understanding of the Bulgarian culture.

Local towns in Varna
Visitors are welcomed by the local Bulgarian people on a visit to their town
 
4.  The Sea Garden

As one of the oldest and perhaps largest parks in Bulgaria, the park was built at the request of municipality in 1894. There is a long alley in the park focusing on the Bulgarian revival with busts of the most honorable figures from the era. The Park is a perfect place for a pleasant walk, bicycle ride or outdoor sports. It is also home to a zoo and terrarium. The waterfront promenade of the park is lined by a string of beach clubs offering a vibrant scene of rock, hip-hop, American-style pop, house, and chalga (Bulgarian pop folk). The city beaches, also known as sea baths are dotted with hot sulphuric mineral springs and punctured by small sheltered marinas. The Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture.

The Park is a perfect place for a pleasant walk, bicycle ride or outdoor sports

5. Balkan Fiesta 

Easily the highlight of any holiday to Golden Sands, the Balkan Fiesta gives you a rare chance to enjoy the magic of Bulgarian dances, the colour and rhythm of the variety show and the best live music ever! Set in the hilly forest, guests are treated to a magnificent show with unlimited wine and soft drinks accompanied by a delicious buffet style dinner to ensure an unforgettable evening of joy and laughter. The evening ends with a demonstration of the Bulgarian fire walking ritual which will leave you amazed.

Golden Sands Fiesta Bulgaria
The Balkan Holidays Fiesta offers a night of fun and dance for all ages
 
Making our top 5 was no easy task as there is such a variety of exciting and interesting things to see and do when in Golden Sands, but if you are planning on visiting the resort be sure to speak to our friendly Balkan Holidays representative for a comprehensive guide to the activities and excursions available. To find out more about our Golden Sands Holidays or to book early & save visit our website.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bulgaria: A-Z Tips & Important Information

We at Balkan Holidays would like to wish you an enjoyable and memorable stay in the beautiful country of Bulgaria so we created this list especially for you to provide all the information you will need for a safe and pleasant holiday along with some interesting facts about your chosen destination.

 

ALPHABET

The Bulgarian alphabet was created by two brothers, Cyril and Methodious, and it is called Cyrillic, after one of them. Bulgaria is the only country in the world that has a national holiday celebrating their alphabet which is held on the 24th May each year.






BANKS
We recommend that you use First Investment Bank for all your banking needs. This is the safest place to exchange money at. A branch of First Investment Bank can be found next to the main Balkan Holidays Office in the centre of resort (next to Globus Hotel)

BATHROOMS
Bulgarian bathrooms tend to be rather basic compared to western standards. It is quiet common for showers not to have trays, but a hole in the bathroom floor. Most hand basins are lacking a plug as it considered unhygienic to wash in still water. Please request a foot towel or bath mat if one is not in already in place.

 




CHANGING MONEY    
                                                              
Do not change money on the street as this is illegal and there is a good chance you will be cheated. Money should only be changed at reception desks or banks in the resort. It is recommended that you check commission rates beforehand. Most places will not accept Sterling notes that are torn or written on. Scottish notes are generally not accepted.

CREDIT CARDS
Please do not rely on credit cards for local purchases. You can use your credit cards for drawing cash from the ATM.

CURRENCY
The monetary unit in Bulgaria is called a “lev” (Plural “leva”). The coins are called “stotinki”. One lev comprises of 100 stotinki. Banknote denominations include 1,2,5,10,20, 50 and 100 leva.

CHEMISTS
All major resort areas have a chemist in the central part of the town/resort. It is possible to buy most kinds of foreign medicine that you are used to, or sometimes you will be offered the local equivalent, whichever is usually cheaper.

CIGARETTES & SPIRITS
Bulgarian cigarettes and the large selection of local spirits are of excellent quality. Imported spirits are more expensive compared to the national ones. Cigarettes are generally cheaper in Bulgaria than in the UK.






EXCURSIONS
All excursions and activities can be purchases through the Balkan Holidays representative and their ground handler (Balkan Holidays Partners) who will confirm your purchase with the officially licensed local provider. Rogue traders are known to operate in the resort selling unofficial excursions and for your own peace of mind, we recommend that you only purchase your excursions which are officially licensed by the local authorities. 






FOOD
Part of the fun of being on holiday is trying local meals. Soon you will find that Bulgarians consider it unhealthy to eat food piping hot. Therefore, if you get served a meal that is not hot enough, the easiest thing to do is to ask your waiter to heat it up so that it is hot enough for your liking. Bulgarian cuisine is completely different to yours and it is definitely worth trying!






GOLDEN SANDS
Golden Sands is Bulgaria's largest seaside resort on the Northern coastline. It boasts an outstanding combination of a sunny beach and mountainous terrain. Being suitable for younger holidaymakers, the resort is situated only 20 minutes from the lively city of Varna.

GOOD BUYS
Pottery, Carved Wood, Crystal, CD's, Leathers, Suede, Embroideries, etc. 






KHAN'S TENT
The best cabaret show in the resort of Sunny Beach with live music, international dancers and acts enjoyed with a delicious four course meal. 






LINEN CHANGES
Usually in 2* and 3* hotels linen is changed on a weekly basis and towels every 3 days. In 4* and 5* hotels, sheets are changed twice a week and you receive fresh towels daily. Please check with the reception of your hotel for more details. 






MEDICAL ATTENTION
Medical services can be requested from the reception of your hotel 24 hours a day. Please note that medical services must be paid for, therefore, make sure you keep all receipts if you wish to raise a claim on your holiday insurance when you return home. If you have a major medical emergency, please contact your Representative immediately.

MOBILE TELEPHONES
It is extremely expensive to use your mobile phones to make calls to the UK. See "Phoning Home" further down for the cheaper options available.






NIGHT LIFE
There is a wide variety of traditional taverns, restaurants, bars and disco clubs. Some of them charge a small entrance fee






PASSPORT & FLIGHT TICKETS
Passports are kept at reception for 24 hours upon arrival for local registration purposes. You will not need your passports or flight tickets in resort so therefore we recommend that you keep them in the safety deposit boxes available at your hotel.

PHONING HOME
The international dialling code for the UK is 0044. You will then need to omit the first 0 of the UK area code you are dialling (e.g. 0161 444 6666 becomes 0044 161 444 6666). Internet Calling Kiosks are widely spread throughout the resort and are one of the least expensive ways to make a phone call. Calling from your hotel room or reception will cost significantly more.

POLICE STATION
The police station is situated on the main traffic road of the resort. In case of emergency, please contact the hotel reception and they in turn will telephone the police for you. Please ensure you notify your Balkan Holidays Representative as well.

POST OFFICE
Situated in the very centre of resort, you can choose to either post your letters and postcards from the post office or give them to your hotel reception to post for you






RESTAURANT OPENING TIMES
Please check the restaurant opening times with reception of your hotel as they do vary slightly. Normal opening times are usually 7:30 – 10:00am and 18:00 – 21:00pm. Any additional drinks or extras apart from your entitlement should be paid for at the end of each meal.






SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES
Please DO NOT leave valuables in your room or carry them around the resort. Safety deposit boxes are available at reception at a small charge per day.

SECURITY
Please always remember to lock your door when you go out and make sure windows and balcony doors are securely shut. The management of the hotel will also not take responsibility for items not kept in the safety deposit boxes.

SOFIA
Sofia is the largest city in Bulgaria and has been the capital city since April 1879. Is it one of the most ancient European cities. Today there are many archaeological sights in Sofia that display the city's diverse history – the castle gates, towers of Serdica and public buildings and streets dating back thousands of years. Among the attractions of the city are the Rotunda of St. George, which is the city's oldest cultural monument. Other monuments to be found are the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St. Petka Church and the Russian Church.

SUNNY BEACH
The biggest and most popular seaside resort in Bulgaria. One of the biggest attractions in coming to a beautiful resort such as Sunny Beach is bathing on the 8km long beach in the glorious summer sunshine! 






TAP WATER
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Nevertheless, if you prefer the taste of bottled mineral water, it is widely available at shops, bars and restaurants.

TAXIS
Taxis are available in resort. Your hotel can book one for you if required via reception. All the taxis should have an official meter installed but we recommend you agree the price before you get in the taxi and begin your journey.

TIPPING
Tipping is customary in Bulgaria. If you feel you have a received a good service then 10% of the bill is considered normal. For individual waiters, cleaners etc. tipping at the end of your stay is welcomed if you wish. In restaurants, please check the menu to see if a service charge is already included.

TOILET TAX
In Bulgaria many public toilets will charge you a small amount for using the facilities. If you travel further a field from the tourist resorts the facilities do become more basic and we advise you to keep some tissues with you at all times






YES & NO
Bulgarians nod and shake their heads the opposite way. Try not to get confused! 

Thank you for taking the time to read through our A-Z list and we hope you have found the information provided helpful and interesting. Have a wonderful holiday!

Balkan Holidays Team

www.balkanholidays.co.uk


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Borovets: The Best Apres Ski In Bulgaria?

When it comes to nightlife and apres ski, there is one Bulgarian resort that stands out above all the others. Of course, we're talking about the incredible Borovets, which deserves a gold medal for its nightlife alone. The resort is particularly popular with younger skiers and especially stag dos and hen parties. Bring on the party and we'll find out why exactly.

Join a bar crawl


You've just arrived in Borovets and spent your first day on the slopes. Your legs are aching, but that shouldn't stop you from joining a bar crawl. It's good to get your bearings and meet people as quickly as possible - this is the best way of doing this. Bar crawls are popular in Borovets and you'll soon make plenty of friends over a cheeky rakia or three. Most of these events either start or finish at Buzz Bar, the most well-known of Borovets' drinking venues.



Experience variety

One of the best things about going out in Borovets is the sheer variety on offer. Modern bars serving up beers from across the world rub shoulders with traditional Bulgarian venues that offer the best in local beverages. Starting the night at one type of bar and finishing in another presents an enjoyable experience.



Night skiing

If you'd rather hit the hill than the bar, Borovets caters for those who wish to ski under the nights sky before joining the fun after a little bit of sport in the crisp mountain air. Runs are illuminated either side by strong lights that help to guide your way - they're open until 10pm, after which time it is perfectly acceptable to hit the dance floor.



Pampering
 

Apres ski isn't just about the nightlife, and if you fancy a cheeky pamper in the spa, you're more than welcome. Kneipp baths, various saunas and steam rooms are particularly popular with skiers looking to loosen their muscles before the dancing commences.


Secure your winter holiday to Borovets today with our special low deposit of just £49pp and discover a resort that loves to have endless fun without emptying your wallet.

5 Photos that will make you fall in love with Slovenia

Tucked into a mountainous corner, between Austria, Italy, Hungary and the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia has been blessed with everything in abundance. From her majestic Julian Alps with its glacial valleys, sparkling rivers, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking waterfalls to the deep forests and mysterious Karst caves, fascinating medieval towns, beautiful castles and gothic churches. The fertile coastline of Slovenia explodes with every type of greenery and plant life imaginable including vast orchards of olive and cherry trees, rich and versatile, bathing in the hot summer sun rays.

With so much natural beauty on offer, it wasn't hard to find these breathtaking images we think just might make you fall in love with Slovenia in 2015. You can click on any image to enlarge it.

1. Summertime at Lake Bled

The stunning Lake Bled is famous for its island in the middle of the lake with its
baroque church whose bell when rung is said to make wishes come true.
 
2. Winter Sundown in Kranjska Gora

The picturesque resort of Kranjska Gora is Slovenia's oldest and most established
ski resort with a great base for exploring the Julian Alps.

3. Ljubljana in Spring

This beautiful capital city is a unique crossroad for Germanic, Slavic & Latin
cultures whilst managing to keep its historic centre intact.

4. Fishing at Lake Bohinj

Bohinj is the best known glacial valley of the Julian Alps. At its head, in an amphitheater
overshadowed by the sombre face of the Komarca, you can will the famous Savica waterfall.

5. The Piran Cape at Dawn, Portoroz

The stunning Piran Cape has much medieval architecture, with narrow streets and compact
houses providing a unique charm and feel to anyone who visits it.

To find out more about our summer and winter holidays to Slovenia visit the Balkan Holidays website today!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Designed Just For You, Balkan Holidays Hotels in Bansko

Skiing in Bulgaria is proving to be more popular than ever and with holidays to Bansko becoming a favourite for winter sport enthusiasts it's clear to see why thousands of holidaymakers are flocking to the resort every year. Besides the fantastic ski and snowboard facilities and vast variety of aprés-ski on offer, Bansko also provides a range of outstanding and affordable accommodations. 

At Balkan Holidays we know that choosing the right hotel is just as important as choosing the right winter resort, so with that in mind, we are delighted to offer you a choice of four fantastic Balkan Holidays owned hotels for your next winter holiday to Bansko:

1. Hotel Bansko
 

This 4 star hotel is conveniently located a short walk from the resort centre and only 1400 metres from the ski lifts, making it an ideal hotel for those who want to be close to all the amenities but not have the hustle and bustle of being right on top of the resort. The hotel also boasts a fantastic indoor swimming pool with sauna and massage, and even has its own secure ski storage on site for those who are wanting to take their own equipment with them. The hotel even offers a free shuttle bus service to the gondola lift! With only 53 rooms, it is perfect for travellers who prefer a friendly, family feel hotel with all the facilities of a larger hotel at an amazing price.
2. Hotel Pirin

If you're looking for a small hotel with a friendly, inviting atmosphere then the Hotel Pirin is for you! With its envious central location, ample sized indoor pool and fitness room and free wi-fi, you can guarantee that this hotel caters for everyone. Situated approximately 2300 metres from the ski lifts, the hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle bus to the lifts if you don't fancy the stroll through the old town. All 68 rooms at this 4 star hotel are very spacious and all come with satellite TV, minibar, hairdryer and shower/WC ensuring this will feel like your home away from home.



3. Hotel Mura

Amazing value and comfortable accommodation and warm, welcoming staff is what awaits you at the Hotel Mura, only a 15 minute walk to the gondola station this hotel is ideal for the budget concious, there is even a free shuttle bus to take you to the lifts! Inside you will find an impressive lobby with a large on site restaurant, perfect for hungry post-ski and snowboarders, with a variety of dishes available. It also has its own ski storage room, meaning you know your equipment will be kept safe and available to you when you need it. Within the hotel, the 70 rooms are comfortably furnished to a high standard and some even offer balconies overlooking the pristine slopes, perfect for those nights when you just want to relax.
4. Hotel Strazhite

Recently refurbished, the 4 star Hotel Strazhite elegantly combines traditional Bulgarian architecture with the comforts of a modern hotel. Only a few minutes walk to the resort centre and even closer to the ski lifts, it is no wonder why the Hotel Strazhite is one of our most popular hotels. With only a 300 metre stroll away from the ski lifts, you will be able to show off your skills before heading back to this luxurious hotel, where you can relax in the beautiful indoor pool or sauna, or maybe try your hand at the on site bowling lanes before heading back to your immaculate, comfortable and spacious room, waking up fresh and ready for another action packed day!

Because all of these hotels are Balkan Holidays properties, you can be sure that you will receive the best service from start to finish and the hotel you choose will be of the best standard. To find out more or to book any of these hotels and more, please see our ski holidays to Bulgaria.

A Beginners Guide to Sunny Beach

Situated approx 42 km north of Bourgas and 434 km east of Sofia, the resort of Sunny Beach is located along almost the entire length of land between the village of Sveti Vlas to the north and Nessebar to the south making it the biggest and most popular resort along the Black Sea Coast. Its construction began in 1958 during Communist times at a site where two old wells that supplied the nearby town of Nessebar with water in ancient times and again during the Middle Ages had been found and tourists flocked to these natural mineral baths.

Sunny Beach Resort Bulgaria
The stunning resort of Sunny Beach along the Black Sea Coastline

The Mediterranean climate of the area is the key reason for Sunny Beach's popularity with visitors with the resort enjoying more than 1700 hours of sunshine on average from May to October. Although historically popular with Russian and German tourists, Sunny Beach has recently begun to attract the attention of the British holidaymaker as a more affordable alternative to the established Mediterranean resorts.

Beach in Bulgaria Sunny Beach
Sunny Beach has some of the cleanest, golden beach sand around

Over the last few years the resort has been hugely affected by Bulgaria's property boom, with many (especially British) buying villas here, securing themselves a relatively cheap holiday home by the sea. This steep increase of new construction means that what was once a single line of hotels along the waterfront has become dozens of rows making for a lively resort, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, water-sports, bars and clubs to choose from and an increasing number of visitors every summer.

Sunny Beach holidays provide visitors with an incredible 8 km long and 60m wide beach strip and the resort has been awarded the prestigious International Blue Flag, which guarantees that holidaymakers are granted ecologically clean beaches, water and air. Near the middle of the beach lies a walkway which leads to most of the shops, supermarkets, bars and restaurants, plus facilities like the post office and the bus station.

Promenade in Sunny Beach Bulgaria
The friendly Sunny Beach promenade is perfect for walks along the resort

There are many attractions for holidaymakers to the resort including sunning at the beach, water sports and a trip to the nearby historical site of Nessebar. Sunny Beach is also extremely popular amongst young people for its superb night life. There are two new aqua parks near the resort, the small Aqua-park Kuban (on the grounds of the Hotel Kuban) which has water-slides and pools, and the much larger Action Aqua-park, on the western edge of the resort, perfect for a day out with the family.

Balkan Holidays are pleased to offer a wide range of excursions & activities bookable locally with your representative including boat trips to the mouth of the Ropotamo River at Primorsko or a trip to the northern Black Sea city of Varna, 59 miles away which has plenty of historical sights, from Roman baths to ornate cathedrals. 

Watersports in Sunny Beach
Holidaymakers can enjoy a variety of water-sports when in resort

Although this is tailor-made for tourists, the dinner and folk 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 first century. The stunning interior is the venue for superb traditional food, served by costume-clad waiters, with traditional music and a brilliant live show.

Other resorts along the coast which you may like to visit include the more peaceful Sozopol and Ozbor. The waters of Pomorie, 11 miles south have healing qualities, and since Roman times have been attracting visitors for mud therapies and balneological treatments.

Children are well catered for in Sunny Beach where there are 24 hour day care facilities, and where they can build castles on the beach, splash around in the sea, guzzle down ice cream and generally have a great time doing all the things kids love to do on a family holiday.

Hotels in Sunny Beach Bulgaria
Sunny Beach has a range of child friendly hotels & facilities

There are also children's pools, merry go-rounds, pony riding, kid's discos and electronic games for those who cannot leave modern technology at home!

You can take your children to one of the many drawing stands along the promenade to paint a beautiful souvenir for the to take home. They of course will love it and you can browse the shops while you wait for the painting to be completed.

With over 130 restaurants and numerous live music bars, pubs, nightclubs, discos and cafés, you are most certainly guaranteed to find something to love about the resort of Sunny Beach this summer. To find out more or to book your Sunny Beach Holiday visit our website.

Holiday Resort Sunny Beach Bulgaria
The magnificent view of Sunny Beach from Khan's Tent