Bulgaria: Black Sea coast

After spending time in Sofia, we flew down to the Black Sea coast to enjoy some time at Bulgaria's seaside where we stayed in the pretty seaside town of Sozopol for four nights, before heading along the coast to stay in Nessebar for a further six nights.

In Sozopol we booked the 5* Blu Bay Hotel, which is about a 45 minute drive from Burgas Airport. I mention the drive not just because it might be useful if you're planning a holiday in Sozopol, but because of what happened when we arrived. See, the Blu Bay Hotel is a nice hotel. A really nice hotel. (Look at that view above!) So, because they are a nice hotel, they have valet parking. Which we used... and which resulted in damage to our hire car. Eek!

I will say quickly, this is not a post of doom and gloom. See those smiles above! The hotel was marvellous - they sorted things out with the rental company, got a quote for the damage, and paid for said damage. If we ever return to Sozopol, we would stay there again. The hotel was beautiful, our room was awesome, the breakfast was super tasty, and the pool area was idyllic (albeit, at times, there were not enough sun loungers). I wished we'd stayed there longer, to be honest, car kerfuffle aside - more on that later.

As for Sozopol itself, it's an ancient town where you'll find twisting and turning cobbled streets, wooden houses (see above), beaches and yummy restaurants aplenty. There are a few churches you can go and visit - our balcony looked on to the tiny Saint Nicholas Chapel - plus an archaeological museum, but we were there to mooch around, eat yummy food, and relax by the pool with a good book. After Sofia, we weren't too bothered about heavy sightseeing.

It goes without saying that seafood should top your foodie agenda if visiting the Black Sea coast (though we did have yummy pizzas at Pizza Milano, if you need a change). The best place we ate at was Urania (Olly's starter pictured above; I have no clue now what that was!). My tasty scallops and lemon risotto with pea puree main stood out compared to a lot of the food we ate in Bulgaria - it's definitely more fine dining there. Get whole fish at Mehana Neptune (we had sea bass and sea bream), awesome seafood and homemade pesto pasta at Del Muro, and enjoy lunch with a view at Tangra.

From Sozopol we made our way back towards Burgas Airport. Close by you'll find Lake Atanasovsko, aka the pink lakes and mud baths. We parked for free about a ten minute walk away - put 'Burgas salt-parking' into Maps if you're driving - but you can pay 1 lev to park closer. Costing 2 lev to get in (coins only), take your time relaxing in the pink lye water, covering yourself in salt and mud, and soaking up the healing properties of the lake. You can also book a massage, if you wish.

We didn't cover ourselves in mud because we didn't want to shower there (showers cost 0.5 lev, which is also the cost if you need the loo - exchange your cash for a token at the little food hut/bar opposite the entrance to the lakes), which meant we arrived in Nessebar 45 minutes later with very dry skin that was in desperate need of moisturiser - that's the salt for you! The first thing on our agenda upon arriving in Nessebar was to check in to our hotel for the final part of our Bulgaria trip and then immediately shower.

We stayed at The Mill Hotel, which is right on the bridge where old Nessebar meets new Nessebar (see below). It's a fabulously located hotel for exploring the old town - you're super close to it, but away from the hustle and bustle, and the hotel has a decent-sized pool which is what's lacking at the hotels located in the old town itself - oh, and it's cheap. But, it felt and looked like a very tired hotel. After the luxury of Blu Bay Hotel, it was a serious step down.

If I had to plan things again, I wouldn't stay in Nessebar. It may be similar to Sozopol with its cobbled streets, old wooden houses and ancient churches, but it's busier because it's opposite Sunny Beach - yes, that's its real name - and a lot of people visit Nessebar from there because it's such a quaint town. (We never went to Sunny Beach but you can get there easily by car, bus and boat, or there's a little train that pootles back and forth.) Instead, if I was organising this holiday again, I'd stay in Sozopol a few more nights and would take the ferry to Nessebar - we'd see the sights, enjoy some seafood, and be one of those day trippers.

If I were doing this holiday again, I'd also eat more mussels! We never ordered any until we got to Nessebar - a big mistake because a fiver gets you a massive delicious pot on the Black Sea coast - pictured below are some we had in a yummy curry sauce from Kalisto. The best restaurants we went to in Nessebar were: Familia Fish and Grill (we saw a beautiful sunset there, pictured above, and had two awesome but more traditional Bulgarian dinners), Old Sailor (fabulous seafood, but you do need a reservation) and The Old Tree (the best calamari we had in Bulgaria).

So that was our two weeks in Bulgaria: Sofia. Sozopol. Nessebar. It was definitely a cheap and cheerful holiday, which is what we were after but, in hindsight, I would do things a little differently if I were organising it again. Do Sofia, yes, and do the Black Sea coast - but think carefully about where you stay, and how long for, if you're planning a similar summer holiday.

Have you been to Bulgaria? x

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