Golden Sands in northeast Bulgaria is a destination so saturated in natural beauty that even its name reflects its splendour. But even without the coastline there are still plenty of places to explore and once-in-a-lifetime activities to take part in.
Try Black Sea diving, markets, nature trails and top nightlife for a start.
1. Visit the Aladzha Monastery
A mysterious place of worship, built in the 12th century, Aladzha Monastery consists of a medieval Orthodox Christian monastery and historic catacombs. The catacombs are decorated with elaborate mosaics and frescoes and the monastery has been built into a cliffside cave.
Surrounding the monastery is a protected forest area, once said to have been inhabited by a mythical demon… But don’t worry, the forest is demon-free and only home to visitors checking out the thematic light shows happening during the summer.
2. Indulge your tastebuds
When it comes to food, Golden Sands has got you covered. This region serves up an endless selection of cuisines, from classic Eastern European to Chinese, seafood, and even Mexican. Most of the restaurants are located right next to the seaside, so you’ll get fantastic views of the Black Sea as you dine.
3. Cool off in Aquapolis waterpark
This splashzone has tons of wild and winding rides as well as a lazy river and wave pool. It’s also got parasols and sunloungers to relax on and a swim-up bar and cafe, so you can grab a cold drink without even having to leave the pool.
If you’re travelling with children, this waterpark makes for an excellent fun day out and a welcomed escape from the heat.
4. Experience the nightlife
Golden Sands does nightlife right, with bars on the beachfront, neon lights and dancing till dawn. You’ll have your pick of drinks from pints of beer to local fruity cocktails.
If you’re a fan of beach parties just head to the sands and find one of the popular beach shacks serving up cold drinks with a side of dance music.
5. Party hard in the pool
Carry on partying into the dawn and check out one of the hotel pool parties. Lasting all day long you can drink fabulous cocktails while you listen to DJs mixing the newest tracks.
There are foam parties, glow stick dances and of course lots and lots of time to swim, so make sure to bring your bikini or shorts!
6. Shop till you drop
For any shopping enthusiasts you can head to Varna Mall and the Grand Mall, each just 30 minutes out of Golden Sands. Here you’ll find both designer boutiques, souvenir shops and the odd local Bulgarian store selling textiles and clothing.
If you’re eager to try some local produce it’s best to venture to one of Golden Sand’s outdoor markets, where only the freshest fruit and veg is on the menu.
7. Venture through Kiwi Market
One such market that’s full of the smells and spices of Bulgaria, at Kiwi Market you’ll find fruit and vegetable stalls selling local produce like juicy deep red cherries and flavourful strawberries.
Walk even further into the market and can you can stumble upon a shisha store, full of the rich smell of Bulgarian tobacco.
8. Get out into nature
Just behind Golden Sands lives a nature park full of exotic animals and plant life.
Walking through the trails you’ll be surrounded by deciduous forests that are home to several bird, mammal and reptile species, even a few endangered ones.
It’s easy to get around the park with several hiking trails winding their way through the trees. You can also stop for a drink at one of the water fountains – Golden Sands’ water is renowned for its low mineral content.
9. Dive down below
Explore the Black Sea by getting up close and personal on a diving exploration. You’ll be with trained instructors who’ll guide you through this famous sea as you swim by seahorses, large crabs and colourful Bulgarian fish.
The best time to go diving here is in the summer between June and September, when the water will be nice and warm at around 24°C.
10. Hit the beach
We know what you’ve all been waiting for, the beach scene! And it’s true, this region hasn’t been named Golden Sands for nothing.
Visiting this stunning coastline is an absolute must, as its bustling waterfront setting is second to none.
The sands here are well equipped to help you enjoy your stay, with plenty of umbrellas and sunloungers as well as a children’s playground and volleyball and football facilities. It’s an all day event staying at this beach with watersports up the wazoo and cafes and beach bistros right at the front door.
For those interested in getting rid of tan lines you’ll even find a secluded nudist area.
Have you been to Golden Sands? Tell us about your top 10 things to do here in the comments below.