3 Mar 2020

8 Great Reasons for Families to Choose Bulgaria this Summer

March 03, 2020
There’s more to Bulgaria than just unbeatable value for families this summer. As the leading specialist to Bulgaria with over 50 years experience, here's our list of 8 reasons why we think families will love our resorts this summer.

1. Unbeatable Value
In January 2020, Sunny Beach, Bulgaria was crowned the world’s best value holiday resort by the Post Office. This is the third year running that Sunny Beach has won. For Mum and Dad, a pint of beer costs less than £1; for the kids, a pizza for lunch is £3.

2. Water Parks Galore
The coast in Bulgaria is full of Water Parks, and a day here suits everyone. Low-priced fun and a good way to keep cool. The two best water parks around Sunny Beach are Action Aquapark and Aqua Paradise in nearby Nessebar. At Action Aquapark, there are more than 30 water attractions including the 60ft vertical drop on the Free Fall Slide. At Aqua Paradise, with the longest rafting slide in Bulgaria and the only surf pool in the country.

3. Beaches for everyone
Many hotels are just steps away from the golden sands of Sunny Beach. It’s easy to hire a sunbed and parasol, or sit in a café and enjoy the views. Choose the Melia, Sunny Beach for a private beach (new in 2019), a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. Many beaches in Bulgaria have the Blue Flag, which is the symbol for convenience, safety and clear water.  Guests could also choose Albena and Golden Sands resorts, with plenty of beach attractions for children.

4. Hotels with Pools
Many guests simply choose their spot around the pool and stay there all day, keeping an eye on the kids. Sol Nessebar Palace is a good choice, with a huge outdoor pool, together with an onsite Aqua Park.

5. Food and Drink
In Bulgaria, many families choose to stay on an all-inclusive basis, which ensures their budget is set and clear. This gives the opportunity for those who want to to eat out on occasion as budget permits. In the resorts, the choice of food is excellent, from all the local traditional Mehanas (restaurants) serving local dishes such as Bob Chorba, a thick bean and tomato soup to alternative choices which include delicious Mexican food at Mamacita’s in Sunny Beach, and in the same resort, Fat Cat, with an English-speaking entertainer daily, a kids’ corner and games.

6. Khan’s Tent
An incredible family night out is at Khan’s Tent. Balkan Holidays arrange transport and dinner there with overhead entertainment, not dissimilar to Cirque du Soleil. Great fun for everyone and good value.

7. Pirate Cruise
This starts at Nessebar port, where the boat departs. (Shuttles available to the port). It’s a day of fun on board for the kids with games and activities. Adults can bring a book or a screen and relax knowing the children won’t need taking care of! There’s a swim stop and a lunch stop.

8. Hotel MiniClubs
Many of the hotels provide entertainment for children that they can drop in and out of. Walking around the hotel complexes, you’ll see face-painting, crafts, sports fun and so much more. In the evening, many hotels have evening entertainment for all the family, such as on the stage at Sunset Resort, Pomorie.

Balkan Holidays offers the largest choice of hotels and flights to Bulgaria, and has been arranging holidays to the Balkan since 1966. Their expert and friendly team are on hand to answer all questions to ensure a perfect family holiday is achieved this summer.

Featured Family Holiday:

4* Hotel Melia, Sunny Beach

A family of four can travel to this perfect hotel in May half term for £2275, including return flights from Cardiff (17 other UK airports available), 22kgs free luggage, transfers and 7 nights’ All Inclusive accommodation in a junior suite with bathand balcony and air-conditioning, and services of Balkan Holidays’ representatives. Departing 24th May for 7 nights.

25 Feb 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 8: Must See Rila Monastery

February 25, 2020

The Rila Monastery is the most revered holy site in Bulgaria, stirring up huge enthusiasm and devotion amongst locals.  Everyone who visits is captivated by its beauty, making it an absolute must see for those on holiday in the country.

The approach to the Eastern Orthodox edifice is nothing special. It’s hidden away in a narrow and forested valley in the Rila Mountains, just over 100km from the resort of Borovets. Enter the courtyard however, and be prepared to be overwhelmed by ancient charm.

This is Bulgaria’s largest and best known monastery. It was founded in AD 927 by Ivan Rilski, the leader of a monastic colony of hermits. It was originally built about 3km to the north east, and was moved to the current site in 1335.

Its history from the end of the 14th century when it was a powerful political base, to the early 15th century when it was plundered, is mixed in fortune. Late in the 15th century, the relics of the founder, Ivan Rilski were returned to the site.

The monastery helped to keep Bulgarian culture and religion alive during centuries of domination by the Turks, who destroyed the monastery on several occasions. Then in 1833, an accidental fire nearly destroyed the entire monastery. So much money was quickly donated however, the rebuild was fast, and everyone realised once again, people’s love and devotion for the site.

In 1961 it was proclaimed as a national museum by the Bulgarian government and in 1983, included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It remains a functioning monastery and houses about 60 monks. These days it is claimed that around a million visitors come each year.

You can spend a good few hours here and one of the key sites is the Nativity Church. It has zebra-like colourings on the exterior, which are rather eye-catching. It’s the largest monastery church in Bulgaria and was built from 1834 to 1837. Under its five great domes there’s plenty to see. The outside is covered with hair-raising frescoes, showing scenes of hell, where demons torture nude sinners with implements sure to cause pain. Inside, the gold-plated and intricately carved iconostasis (or icon screen) was created by masters from the towns of Samokov and Bansko. Visitors should note that photography inside is strictly forbidden.

You won’t miss the Hrelyu tower, which is the only part of the monastery which dates back to the 14th century. It was built in 1335 and named after an important benefactor.

To the left of tower, and slightly behind is the kitchen. Built in 1816, it has a 22m-high chimney with 10 rows of ascending arches to ensure the soot is taken skyward.

The Museum houses the remarkable Rila Cross, a two-sided crucifix carved by master wood-carver, Brother Raphael between 1790 and 1802. On it are carved more than 100 Bible scenes and verses, and about 650 figures. The artist harmed his eyesight after 12 years of intricate work to create the artefact. Through the far archway, you emerge from the site and there is a café for a coffee stop.

A half day visit to the Rila Monastery can be arranged for those staying with Balkan Holidays in the summer, in the resort of Borovets. The excursion costs £27 per person, for a guided sightseeing tour, departing at noon. To be booked with your representative on arrival (May to October).

19 Feb 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 7: Nature Blossoms and Blooms

February 19, 2020

Is it because Bulgaria is so famous for its long sandy beaches and ski peaks, that many don’t realise how green a country it is? Feedback received by Balkan Holidays reps often includes surprise at how lush and vibrant guests find towns and resorts.

One top attraction is the Sea Garden in Bourgas. However, when flights for the coast come into Bourgas, guests are whisked off to Sunny Beach, Nessebar or Aheloy or other popular resorts. So a good day trip is to take the local bus the one-hour journey back to Bourgas to see the Sea Garden. (About 6 Leva, available from our southern coast resorts).
The Bourgas Sea Garden is a pristine and colourful park between the city and the sea

The Sea Garden is a pristine and colourful park between the city and the sea. It’s also known as The Seaside Park. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parks in Bulgaria, it was established in 1910 by Georgi Duntev. Full of exotic plants, there are also sculptures of famous people dotted around. In total it stretches for 5km and along the promenade there is a good choice of food and drink and ice-cream stands for those with a sweet tooth.

It is possible to stay in Bourgas, at the 3* Hotel Luxor, which is on offer from £420 per person for a week, flight inclusive. Staying here would enable exploration of the four lakes in the area: The Bourgas Lakes. These are Pomorie, Atanasovsko, Mandra and Burgas. This is the largest wetland system in Bulgaria, a haven for abundant bird life. In fact, the lakes are home to about 60% of the country’s bird species.
Hotel Luxor is located just a short stroll away from the sea garden and beach

Elsewhere seen everywhere, figs thrive; a fruit known to mankind from the very beginning of civilisation. It is assumed that the fig tree was cultivated for the first time in ancient Egypt, and today it is spread all over Asia, the Balkans and the Mediterranean coast.

As they grow poorly in the UK, figs are a lovely sight when you’re on holiday where you see the trees and fruit flourish. The most popular fig varieties in Bulgaria are Pomorieyska 24, Michurinska 10, Brunswick, and others.

Commonly known is that the fig tree can reach three to ten metres in height, its leaves are large and its fruits look like small pouches of different sizes, usually about five centimetres large, but also smaller and larger in size. The colour of the figs changes – at first they are bright green, then dark green and finally brown, when at full maturity.

Moving north, a good day trip for those staying in Varna is the town of Balchik. Pretty in its own right, it is home to the Summer Palace of Queen Marie and Botanical Gardens. The gardens took five years to complete in the 1950s and in summer, they are a riot of colour from rose beds and Mediterranean plants. There are about 600 different species of flora here, including a large collection of cactuses.
A good day trip for those staying in Varna is the town of Balchik
Finally, the Ravadinovo Castle in Sozopol is worth a visit for its stunning flowers, swans and peacocks. The Castle itself gets mixed reviews, but do come and wander around the breath-taking gardens.

The last blog in this series, next week, takes us to Rila Monastery, offered as an excursion for those staying in the mountains in the summer with Balkan Holidays. It’s a ‘must-see’.

12 Feb 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 6: Bulgaria for the over 50s

February 12, 2020

Balkan Holidays is a proud partner of online forum Silver Travel Advisor (silvertraveladvisor.com), a website full of useful travel information for the over 50s.

On 29th January 2020 their annual survey revealed some fascinating insights into the travel habits of the over 50s, from how travel research is done, how a holiday is booked, and the aspects of the holiday which are most important.

Balkan Holidays launched ‘Time of Your Life’ holidays for Summer 2020, in the hope of providing everything a holidaymaker over the age of 50 wants and needs. Nine hotels are offered in this range, and they will include one or more of the following benefits, completely free of charge: a welcome drink; a bottle of wine and fruit on arrival; a drink with evening meals; spa discounts; a free sightseeing tour; a bowling competition and a Bulgarian language course.

But the primary thing that is sought after, is a hotel offering all of the above and no single supplement. Everyone has suffered either in a tiny single room with no discount, or a double room for sole occupancy at a high supplement.

For 2020, the Balkan Holidays team has worked hard to provide a decent range of holidays at no single supplement, and here is the top eight list. All prices are correct at the time of publication, but may change. All prices are based on flights from Cardiff, but of course you can fly from 17 other UK airports. (Flight supplements may apply). The best dates to search for ‘no single supplements’ are 17th and 24th May 2020 and 13th September 2020. All prices are based on sole occupancy with no single supplement.

4* Hotel Globus, Sunny Beach
£453 per person, departing 17th May, including return flights with 22kg free luggage, transfers and half board accommodation.

4* Grand Hotel Sunny Beach
£482 per person, departing 17th May, including return flights with 22kg free luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.

4* Hotel Festa Via Pontica Resort, Pomorie
£483 per person, departing 17th May, including return flights with 22kgs free luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.

5* Sol Nessebar Palace, Nessebar
£520 per person, departing 17th May, including return flights with 30kgs free luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.
4* Sol Nessebar Resort, Nessebar
£504 per person, departing 17th May, including return flights with 22kgs free luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.
5* Hotel Melia Grand Hermitage, Golden Sands
£681 per person, departing 13th Sep, including return flights with 30kgs free luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.

5* Hotel Flamingo Grand, Albena
£603 per person, departing 13th September, including return flights with 22kgs luggage, transfers and half board accommodation.

4* Hotel Primasol Ralitsa Superior, Albena
£500 per person, departing 13th September, including return flights with 22kgs luggage, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation.
By the way, one of the key points made by Silver Travel Advisor was the use of Facebook as a place to share and find information on holidays for the over 50s. If you’re not already following Balkan Holidays on Facebook, please consider a like! You’ll only find posts about truly peculiar or inspiring points and it’s the best route to find out about new holiday offers.

Check back soon for the next blog post all about nature. You might be surprised about the flora and fauna in Bulgaria!

4 Feb 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 5: Spa & Wellness

February 04, 2020

Our ‘Surprising Bulgaria’ series today introduces a range of spas in the country for those looking for relaxation and treatments whilst on holiday.

Whilst in the mountains recently, our team used the spas in the Hotel Rila, Borovets and the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena, Bansko. The quality of the spas in these two hotels is extremely high, on a par with the best 5-star options in hotels and destinations across the world. In the Kempinski, the number of saunas seems endless. You can choose between a herbal sauna, and infrared sauna and at the other end of the spectrum, a snow room! The whole set up is straightforward, dignified and comfortable. Try out the moulded warm seats in the general spa area simply to relax and unwind.  Such facilities may come as a surprise to those who have not recently visited Bulgaria.
The stunning newly built heated bench at the Hotel Kempinski
Down on the coast, here are our top recommendations for hotels with lavish spas. By the way, the cost of treatments is by no means prohibitive. It’s just the ticket for those wanting to be pampered at about 60-75% of UK prices.

Hotel Rome Palace Deluxe, Sunny Beach

This hotel is new addition to our programme, and has a true Italian slant. It’s a really impressive property, which catches the eye as you pass by. The spa centre has lovely nooks with relaxing seating to kick back in..no ‘phones please! The light that sweeps through the building really lifts the soul.

Hotel Globus, Sunny Beach

This is one of Balkan Holidays’ most popular hotels because it occupies prime position overlooking the beach, in the middle of the resort. However, the indoor pool and spa area offers true relaxation. There’s plenty of sunbeds on the relaxing terrace. A raft of treatments is available, from just £21 per person. It’s unbeatable value.

Das Club Hotel, Sunny Beach

This hotel has three swimming pools for starters, for those who like to maintain their fitness regimes whilst away. There’s also a football pitch, a tennis court, a volleyball court and mini-golf. The kids will love the water slides.  After all that, collapse in the wellness centre, which also promotes thalassotherapy (use of seawater in treatments, particularly good for the skin, and very popular in France and elsewhere).

Wave Resort, Aheloy

Our team also visited this hotel last summer to see the brand-new facilities. The spa was top-quality, all new, with state-of-the-art furniture and facilities. The wooden-clad walls provide an alpine feel. The Relax Zone offers comfy deckchair-type loungers. The darkened interiors of the whirlpool area provide comfort and calm after a tough day on the beach! There’s a full ‘Body and Mind’ schedule including yoga, Pilates and aqua fit too.

Hotel Diamond, Sunny Beach

This always comes on all lists for Sunny Beach hotels with spas. Here, you can enjoy massage, a Turkish bath and a sauna. What’s more, it’s on an all-inclusive basis, making a break here great value.

Grand Hotel Pomorie, Pomorie

This hotel stands head and shoulders above the rest for its outstanding Balneo centre and Wellness centre, with a seemingly endless range of treatments and massages. For the true spa-lover a visit here is a dream.  The mud is special here and is used in treatments to improve the quality of your skin. Make sure it’s expertly applied and removed.

Sol Nessebar Palace, Nessebar

One of our best hotels, the spa centre here, as you’d expect is second to none. We offer a 10% discount on all spa services. There are couples’ treatment rooms, and large relaxation areas to relax in.

Sunset Resort, Pomorie

The indoor pool here is spectacular, and a wonderful place to swim and relax. In the spa there is lots of space to find your spot and get lost in a book. Choose your treatment and let the expert team here take away any stresses or strains.

It is advisable to visit the spa upon arrival in order to book up one or more treatments at times to suit you.
The Sunset Resort spa facilities offer a relaxing and calming experience
In terms of tipping, there is no great pressure to tip, but a few Leva (10%) will be very welcome. The exchange rate is simple enough – just divide by two to give a rough estimate of Leva to pounds.

Check out our full range of Spa & Wellness holidays to Bulgaria on sale now by visiting our website.

21 Jan 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 4: Beautiful Beaches

January 21, 2020

It’s good to know that the Black Sea Coast was named not after the sea, the beach or the shore, but in ancient times, after the dangers of crossing the waters. Nowadays, the vast majority of visitors to Bulgaria seek it out because it has long sandy beaches, almost all of which are gently sloping, and therefore which hold a huge appeal to families, couples, and anyone who just wants the simple pleasures of a day in the sun. The water is azure blue, clean and sparkling.

Here are eight examples of great beaches on the coast. There are all types from remote and quiet (Sinemorets) to lively and bustling (Sunny Beach). Whilst many have lifeguards, some don’t and at all times, Balkan Holidays asks guests to respect the possible dangers of swimming in the sea.

1. Sinemorets

Mention Bulgarian beaches to anyone in the know and Sinemorets always come up. Try two beaches, the main one, Butamyata Beach or the quieter Veleka Beach. You’ll need a hire car to reach here.  It’s in the far south-east of the country and comprises a small village and seaside resort. Here is where the River Veleka flows into the sea and the pace of life is slow and gentle, a world away from Sunny Beach and Albena. In the background, the mountains of the Strandzha Nature Park provide the backdrop. Whilst here, try a tour by boat and be sure to find fish, birds and turtles, many not found elsewhere.

2. Pomorie

This beach is 18 kilometres north-east of Bourgas and there is a good range of accommodation to choose from with Balkan Holidays. The resort of Pomorie with its wind it is ideal for windsurfing and paragliding. What’s more, the healing qualities of the mud here make it popular. The mud is extracted during the production of salt in Pomorie Lake. The beach itself is 5 kilometres long.

3. Sunny Beach

The biggest, best-known and most popular beach in Bulgaria, this has a magical appeal. It’s 8 kilometres in length, sandy with azure blue waters. There is so much to see and do here, and it boasts a Blue Flag beach, which means it achieves high standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety. In Sunny Beach there’s jet-skiing and paragliding to enjoy. Nearby there’s an excellent choice of Water Parks for a day away from the beach. The beach shelves gently into the sea making it safe for everyone. (But please heed all safety advice).

4. Albena

Head north to Albena for a casual feel, which is popular with our younger and/or fun-loving guests. The beach is 4 kilometres long and 100 metres wide. It’s stunning, and shallow up to 150 metres from the shore. Albena celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, being opened in 1969 and was named after the beautiful heroine from the play of the same name, written by Bulgarian playwright and author, Yordan Yovkov. There is plenty to do with all manner of water sports on offer here. Not to be missed.

5. Primorsko

Here the beach is long, attractive and sheltered and therefore ideal for swimming and boating. Take a bus or hire a car to reach Primorsko (which means ‘by the sea’). The water is shallow at low tide, so it’s perfect for families.

6. Sozopol

There are two superb beaches in our popular spot of Sozopol. Balkan Holidays has plenty of accommodation choices here, and there’s lots of other things to do if being on a beach for too long is not a holiday!  The two choices are Harmanite Beach, which is wide and clean and Town Beach with good facilities. A short distance away there is Kavatsite Beach 3 kilometres south of Sozopol. Whilst it can get busy, it has beautiful views out to sea.

7. St Konstantin

This is a small beach resort 9 kilometres north east of Varna. It’s less commercial so good for quieter break. The resort of St Konstantin is full of oak, beech and pine trees and small sheltered sandy beaches, with lots of rocky coves and inlets ideal for exploring and sunbathing.

8. Golden Sands

The second biggest beach in Bulgaria after Sunny Beach. In Golden Sands there’s 4 kilometres of sandy beach with plenty of hotels within walking distance of the beach. It’s just 18 kilometres north of Varna, so fly direct here with Balkan Holidays’ charters to minimise stress and maximise convenience.

Most beaches offer parasols and sunbeds to rent, and a ‘free’ zone, where you can just drop your towel. Many have beach cafés and bars on hand. Whilst some beaches are well-equipped and busy, there are wild beaches. Topless and nudist sunbathing is often permitted and it is most popular in the quieter more remote beaches.

Whilst most beaches mentioned here are easily reached from our hotels, one or two will require a bus trip or a hire car to get to. Please ask at time of booking for further information. In terms of average temperature, the Bulgarian coast bathes in hot and sunny mid-twenties to mid-thirties all summer, and for those who are curious, yes, snow does fall some winters. It’s a climate of two halves. 

Whatever you choose, you can rely on our local knowledge to help you find the right beach for you. Balkan Holidays currently has savings of up to £358 per couple.

13 Jan 2020

Surprising Bulgaria – Part 3: Festivals & Fun

January 13, 2020

When it comes to Bulgaria the first thing many people think of is its stretches of beautiful golden beaches, sparkling lakes and lush mountains sweeping the countryside. But if you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find there’s even more to this special country than first meets the eye.

During the summer months the resorts, cities and towns of Bulgaria come alive with a host of festivals and events to suit almost every type of visitor. In this article we’ll introduce you to some of the most popular summer events across Bulgaria and some of our personal favourites!

Bourgas Sand Sculpture Festival:
The thought of memorable moments from our childhood will always bring a smile to our faces and it’s here at the Bourgas Sand Sculpture Festival where visitors are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in another world where time stops and everything is carefree, joyful and spontaneous.

Having welcomed its first visitors back in 2008, the festival has grown into a firm favourite amongst visitors to Bulgaria who pay just 3.5 Leva (approx. £1.50) for a day ticket during July and August each year to explore and admire the talents of over 200 sculptures from across the world. Free entry is available for children under 7 years old making the festival a must for families.

Cacao Beach, Sunny Beach:
For anyone who loves a good party, Cacao Beach is a must when visiting Sunny Beach resort. Having played host to some of the world’s top DJ’s over the years such as Basshunter, Tiësto, Carl Cox and Adam Beyer the night comes alive with thumping tunes and beats that will keep you on your toes until the early hours of the morning.

Located on the beach with views across the bay, Cacao Beach offers amazing music, tasty cocktails and food, all at great value non-euro prices.

International Jazz Festival Bansko:
As the biggest summer musical event in Bulgaria, the Bansko International Jazz Festival is hugely popular. Ever since its foundation in 1998, the quaint old town of Bansko becomes a meeting place for emblematic figures of today’s music world. The concerts are free to the public and held every year from August 8th to 13th.

Traditionally, the programme features styles and groups representing almost all jazz trends. The evening concerts draw huge crowds to the open-air stage on Nikola Vaptsarov Square in downtown Bansko. Throughout the festival week jazz is also played during the day and late at night on various smaller stages in the large resort bars and restaurants.

The Sozopol Apollonia Festival:
The Apollonia Arts Festival is a major Bulgarian event held every year at the end of the summer in the seaside city of Sozopol. Lasting for 10 days, visitors enjoy over 70 events including plays, open-air concerts, chamber music, jazz concerts, and films.
The art gallery in Sozopol’s Old Town organizes exhibits and literary evenings as part of the festival. There are also master classes in various disciplines – singing, piano, jazz improvisation, and acting. There are activities and performances for children at all of the events.

Usually held from late August into early September, ticket prices cost 20-25 Leva (approx. £8 - £10).

Check back next week for Week 4 of Surprising Bulgaria – all about the beaches. Savings of up to £240 per couple are available online now.