Bulgaria has been very trendy as a summer vacation destination in recent years. The Golden Sands, which is located near the city of Varna, unfortunately has a dubious reputation as the “new ballerina”. This is not entirely unjustified, because many party holidaymakers and performers, especially from Germany, who typically performed on Mallorca before, are drawn to the Black Sea. But the Varna region has much more to offer than drunk, screaming holidaymakers from German-speaking countries.
The small seaside resort Slatni pjasazi (Golden Sands) is geared towards mass tourism in all respects. In the core of the small community, large hotels are built close together, with an enormous number of bars and discos in between. The promenade is characterized by many stalls that only sell original goods according to their own statements. From noticeably cheaper “branded goods” to alcohol, to foot treatments with fish and tattoos, everything is available for little money. Accordingly, the flair is on site during the main season, because many travelers from the DA-CH region come here to party. The clientele, which has meanwhile become a thorn in the side of Mallorca, can be found more and more in Bulgaria. It is considerably cheaper and even alcohol in buckets on the beach is not forbidden here. So if you're partying and drinking until the doctor comes, you're in the right place during the high season.
But it should be remembered that the beach is enormous and, like in Mallorca, only a very small section of the party zone is. Outside of these it is extremely quiet and relaxed and inexpensive beach holidays with the whole family are possible without any problems. The further you get away from the party mile, the more beautiful and quieter the beaches become. In some places you even have a real “private beach feeling”, because there is not much going on. However, one also has to consider that there is hardly any infrastructure such as restaurants or supermarkets. These are located within Varna or Slatni pjasazi, so that longer walks or taxi rides are necessary. Public transport is defacto not available outside the tourist zones.
Many hotels offer all-inclusive offers including small beach bars, in which mostly non-alcoholic drinks and small snacks are included, in order to compensate for the lack of remoteness. This also means that if you are looking for a carefree beach holiday in absolute peace, you will actually find it here. Comfortable beach chairs and a sandy beach on the Black Sea are mostly included. Two hotels, which are located on a hill, even have their own chairlift, so that the beach can be reached without any effort. There, free loungers and drinks and snacks are available to guests at the small beach bar. There are no parties or entertainment, but toys for children can be borrowed free of charge. Quiet and relaxed vacations alone, with your partner or with the family are therefore perfectly possible.
Small hotel group offers good value for money
However, you should be careful when choosing a hotel. Almost all houses are state-of-the-art or have just been renovated or opened, but there is a great lack of quality, especially with some ultra-cheap offers. While good houses at fair prices offer a level that even exceeds western expectations, with some providers it is unfortunately at the typical Eastern Bloc level. The houses of the Asteri Hotels Group (Argisht Palace and Bona Vita on Kabakum Beach and Argisht Partez in Slatni pjasazi) can, however, be recommended without reservation as high-quality and inexpensive hotels with optional all-inclusive offers. Some of them also offer airport transfers at no extra charge, depending on the chosen package. The Argisht Palace and the Bona Vita Hotel are right next to each other on a hill above Kabakum Beach. Right next to the terrace, the hotel's own chair lift goes to the beach, where a small beach bar and free loungers and umbrellas were available to guests.
The Bona Vita is more focused on price-conscious holidaymakers and is positioned in the middle class, while the Argisht Palace is primarily aimed at four-star holidaymakers. Meals are served on the terraces in good weather. There is also the option of having fish, meat and seafood freshly prepared on the grill. The location on Kabakum Beach means that you are very remote, but you can spend a holiday in absolute peace. With all-inclusive there is absolutely nothing lacking. So if you want to chill quietly and comfortably on the beach and swim in the Black Sea, this is the right place for you. Party lovers are totally wrong here, because there are no offers in this direction on site and a taxi is necessary to get to the party mile, because there is no public transport. By the way: A taxi from Varna airport to these two hotels costs around 18 euros (return trip together) per person via the agent Holidaytaxis.com. If you take a taxi spontaneously, it is advisable to either negotiate the price with the driver in advance or to insist on switching on the taximeter.
Argisht Partez, also operated by the Asteri Hotels Group, is the youngest hotel in the group and is located in the second row in the village of Golden Sands. It is positioned as a five-star hotel and impresses with its impressive architecture, including an extensive pool area including games for children. However, you do not have your own beach area, so that loungers and umbrellas have to be borrowed from other providers on the beach for around ten euros per day. In the hotel itself, i.e. at the pools, there are of course no costs for this. The location of the house is very quiet because it is in a small park. However, the party mile is only about 30 seconds away on foot, which in the high season means that it can be very loud and humid on the beach. Supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants are of course within walking distance. Even a casino is not far away. It is only quiet in this area on the beach and on the promenade in the off-season, because during the main travel months, especially travelers from German-speaking countries celebrate here sometimes very heavily. The hotel can be reached from Varna Airport by taxi, for example, whereby the transfer is already included in some packages.
Party holidays and pure relaxation are possible
In summary, it can be said that if you want to spend a party holiday in Varna Oblast, you will get your money's worth in the seaside resort of Slatni pjasazi (Golden Sands). In direct comparison with Mallorca it is much cheaper in Bulgaria and the performances of the typical Ballermann singers do not have to be dispensed with, because they are increasingly appearing here in Varna Oblast. It is quiet, cozy and familiar at Kabakum Beach, but there is almost no infrastructure here that is not provided by the hotels themselves. But pure relaxation, however, due to the lack of shopping opportunities, booking all-inclusive packages are absolute.
For holidaymakers looking for pure action, the Varna Oblast doesn't have that much to offer. This is primarily due to the fact that before the focus on party vacationers, this was a popular domestic travel destination for families and those seeking peace and quiet. Nevertheless, there are a few small recommendations: The city center of Varna with its many shopping centers and shops is definitely worth a trip. There is a lot to see that most tourists probably don't even notice, because it is admittedly very cozy in the lounger on the sandy beach. The two aquaparks Akvamaniya and Aquapolis offer fun and games, especially for children. They are elaborately designed fun pools with lots of slides. However, these were not examined in more detail in the course of the research for this article. In any case, there are free shuttles from the city of Varna as well as from the village of Golden Sands, which can be used for arrival and departure.
In the city of Varna itself is the Varna Aquarium, which has existed since the 1930s and has a comprehensive exhibition of various living marine animals. A museum is also attached, which documents the development of the Black Sea. The attraction is worth a visit because it provides impressive insights into life underwater. The tickets are available at the cash desk and are extremely inexpensive.
Does it have to be a dolphinarium?
One of the most controversial attractions is the Varna Dolphinarium. Various shows with dolphins and seals that are kept in captivity are offered here. The adult ticket costs around 25 Bulgarian leva. These can be bought both online and directly at the cash desk. Dolphinariums should be viewed critically in general, because animal rights activists have been warning for many years that marine mammals do not feel at all comfortable in the comparatively small tanks, because in the wild they are extremely happy to move and cover very long distances every day. You just can't offer that in captivity and dolphin shows are also heavily criticized. This not only applies explicitly to Varna, but also to all dolphinariums worldwide. Austria, for example, has a legal ban on keeping dolphins in captivity. The trend around the world is that these are being resolved. Although dolphin calves see the light of day in captivity, the mortality rate of marine mammals in small tanks is comparatively high. One should keep in mind that they have a long life expectancy and are highly intelligent. Dolphins even commit suicide frequently in captivity, because breathing is a conscious and controlled process in them. Those who want to enjoy dolphins are much better advised at the Dolphin Reef in Eilat (Israel), because there are no shows and the animals live in the sea and can come and go when they want. However, this does not prevent the dolphins from getting very close and showing themselves extremely curious and willing or voluntarily having fun for one or the other. That is why it is not advisable to visit dolphinariums with a clear conscience, in which highly intelligent marine mammals are advised in pools that do not meet their natural needs in the back and front. There are so many alternative offers outside of such facilities where dolphins can be observed and at the same time they are free. If such a marine mammal is looking for closeness and wants to play, it will come by itself anyway. But one should always bear in mind: Dolphins are predators and determine for themselves how long they want to show themselves or play. If the animal no longer wants, then you have to respect that. Dolphins can react very brutally and violently if their free will is not respected and if they just feel threatened.
Varna Airport is the heart of the region
In the Corona summer 2020, many airlines opened new connections to Varna, as Bulgaria was initially considered largely safe. However, that changed suddenly in the middle of the main season, because Germany and Austria, for example, issued travel warnings. This not only put a damper on the airlines, but also on the entire local tourism industry. On return, quarantine and / or the submission of a negative PCR test could or can flourish. If the latter has to be paid for privately, as is the case in Austria, the inexpensive vacation quickly becomes an expensive undertaking. Accordingly, it is not surprising that demand has plummeted. How this will behave in the coming years cannot at all be estimated at the moment.
The relevant airport in this holiday region is Varna. From this point onwards, various airlines offer the best connections from the DA-CH region. The low-cost airlines Eurowings, Wizzair and Ryanair often have real bargain deals. Varna Airport itself is about half an hour by car from the seaside resort of Slatni pjasazi. Booking a shuttle service, if not already included in the hotel offer, through an agent such as Holiday Taxis or the airline, is therefore recommended, because the public transport offer can be greatly expanded. In any case, compare the prices of the individual providers, because a lot of money can be saved here. If you opt for the classic taxi on site, either negotiate a fixed price with the chauffeur beforehand or insist that the taximeter be used. Be sure to pay in cash or, if accepted, by card in the local currency Bulgarian leva and not in euros. In general, you can pay with debit and credit cards almost everywhere in Varna Oblast. Please note, however, that foreign fees may apply, which you should clarify with your bank beforehand. If you need cash, use the ATMs of the big banks, because here you usually don't pay a direct end customer fee, while the operators on the promenade sometimes charge hefty extra fees.
Incidentally, at Varna Airport there is a very nice outdoor terrace with a good view of the apron. Here you can comfortably spend the time before departure. Drinks and snacks are available on site at affordable prices. There is also a small lounge that is accessible with various credit and frequent flyer cards as well as Priortiy Pass and Dragon Pass. Alternatively, a ticket can be bought on the spot. By the way, friends of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series have a very good chance of seeing it in action in Varna, because Bulgarian Air Charter has a base here.
More photos in the slideshow: