Buy in Balk: Bulgaria's Black Sea Resort of Sozopol is a Brilliant Bargain Break
Johnny Goldsmith says Bulgaria offers an affordable European getaway
We waited five days for a table to become available. We didn't know what to expect – it was hardly a fancy celebrity chef restaurant... it was the heart of Sozopol on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.
At Barakuda, one of the best dining spots in town, we sat down for a meal for two with a bottle of wine, moved to a nearby bar for a couple of drinks afterwards and got a taxi back to our hotel – all for less than ?35.
Yes, ?35. Welcome to the Balkans and welcome to Sozopol.
The town is undergoing a transformation into a thriving tourist resort that balloons from its 5,000 residents to 50,000 people during the peak season, but it doesn't lose its identity and the charm of the place goes far deeper than the price.
Refreshingly for an affordable European getaway, there wasn't an Irish bar in sight, no over-pushy street sellers to speak of and waiters didn't hurry you into their restaurant the moment they clapped eyes on you.
On our first night we explored the labyrinth of winding cobbled streets, a feature of the old town. They were bustling with life all day, with restaurants and shops scattered between the traditional half-stone, half-wooden houses.
The centre of town is dominated by one main street where the old and new towns meet – here you'll be able to pick up a taxi, explore the market and visit the art gallery.
We were staying a short taxi journey away from the centre of Sozopol at the four-star Laguna Beach hotel. It's a 30-minute walk from the centre of town, along streets without pavements, so walking is best avoided, especially at night.
Expect to pay about ?4 for the five-minute cab journey or, as we often did, jump on the shuttle bus that runs from the hotel complex and costs less than ?1 a person. Initially, having to get a cab into town seemed a drawback but with the hotel on the beach you soon appreciate the location.
The Laguna Beach was one of three hotels in a complex and if you're a guest at one you are free to use the facilities in the neighbouring Sozopoli and the largest of the three, Blue Orange.
You can walk out of the back of all three hotels directly on to the sandy beach, complete with everything you'd expect – a beach bar, sun loungers, parasols, pedalos for hire and even a volleyball court if you insist on taking some exercise.
We travelled with Balkan Holidays as the season was coming to a close in early September and the weather co-operated with just a couple of cloudy mornings and consistent highs of 25C.And if you want to get out of the sun there is a good choice of day trips.
To see the natural wonders of Bulgaria you can travel to the Blue Mountains for about ?30 each or, for families, Balkan runs day trips to an aqua park and a jeep safari.
We chose to take a trip 50 miles up the coast to see Nessebar, regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in Bulgaria.
We discovered the true beauty of the place during a walk round the meandering streets on an hour-long guided tour before having time to explore by ourselves.
The tiny town has close to 50 churches, some dating back to the 6th century.
The Church of Saint Sofia is one of the earliest still surviving and marks the centre of the ancient town, which is now crammed with shops designed to pull in the tourists.
On our way back we stopped in Bourgas, voted Bulgaria's best city to live in for the past two years – and you can see why.
It's vastly different from the surrounding towns of Sozapol, Nessebar and Sunny Beach – much more developed with large shopping centres, a world away from the other seaside resorts we had seen.
With very reasonable prices and a favourable exchange rate, it offered the perfect excuse to buy gifts.
You felt more like a tourist in Bourgas. But if you want a great-value trip where you don't feel like a tourist all the time, give Sozopol a go.
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Great stuff - "news" from 7 months ago encouraging The Great Unwashed (aka Daily Mirror UKIP-voting oiks) to come and pollute Bulgaria with their ignorant and uncivilised presence. Haven't we got enough of these cattle coming here already?
Let's hope the prospect of a racially-pure Britain under the Odious Farage will encourage them to save their pavement-vomitting antics for home - and perhaps tempt some of their unwelcome low-class fellow-countrymen who bought property here so they could pretend to be up-market colonisers at bargain-basement prices back to join them in their misery...
Long time, Peter. Glad You are back...;-)....Sozopol, yeah, but what
about Balchik?! ;-)
I agree, Sozopol is one of our favourite places in Bulgaria, in fact we have a weekend booked there for later this month. Can't imagine why you were lured to Nessebar which is very similar and far more expensive with its close proximity to Sunny Beach, but I assume you are a UK tourist and wouldn't really know that. By the way, unless it is now closed there is an Irish bar in Sozopol and its near where you stayed in the new part of the town!!!!!!