A red train parked at the station in Varna, Bulgaria
Photo by Petar Genchev  –  Link

Varna

Bulgaria

Perched on the Black Sea along Bulgaria's east coast is the port city of Varna, a seriously underrated beach holiday destination. Fresh and reasonably-priced seafood, white sand beaches and plenty of historic and cultural attractions abound in Varna. And because it's not on many trravellers' radar, now's definitely the time to visit.

Things to do

Beaches

Varna is home to the largest seafront park in all of the Balkans: the Varna Sea Garden, aka Primorski Park. Spend hours traipsing through the park's woodland trails and admiring the sculpture displays before treating yourself to an afternoon relaxing on the sand. Rappongi Beach is nice and convenient, or you could venture to one of the popular beach resorts nearby like Golden Sands and Sveti Konstantin.

History

Apart from soaking up the sun and enjoying the beach bars, there are plenty of other things to do in Varna. The prehistoric Varna Necropolis burial site is thought to house the oldest collection of gold in the world, with items crafted around 4000 BC by ancient communities.

If you have time, take a trip to the mysterious Stone Forest (Pobiti kamani) just inland from Varna city centre. This petrified forest is made from giant hollow sand-filled pillars that protrude from the desert floor, covering a total area of 50 square kilometres. Most geologists agree that the forest is a natural phenomenon, but its origins are still unclear.

Cuisine

Varna's also a great place to sample some of Bulgaria's fine wines. Pair it with local dishes like kebapche (a long piece of grilled minced meat) and lyutenitsa (spicy tomato and pepper relish) to get the full experience.