How To Reach The Black Sea From Sofia

Jul 20, 2011 No Comments by

Far From Bansko: Santa Marina, Sozopol

Whilst the Pirin mountain range above Bansko has a lifetime of exploration, I always enjoy a change. Last weekend I was paragliding high up in the Stara Planina mountain range from Sopot. But when its very hot, or there’s some wind for windsurfing on its way, it’s time for the seaside. So today it’s off to the Black Sea, and Santa Marina Holiday Village in Sozopol.

Read on if you’re heading for the sunshine on the Black Sea from Sofia. From Varna, Golden Sands, Albena, St Konstantine, Kavarna and Balchik to the north and Sunny Beach, Nessebar, Bourgas, Sozpol, Primorsko, Kitten and Lozenetz in the south, the Black Sea resorts are in full swing. However, I am often surprised at the number of Bulgarians who do not like their own Bulgarian seaside resorts. They mainly head for Greece. Many are driving to the nearby Greek resorts or flying to the Greek islands. There are cheap flights to corfu for those who prefer to go Greek. With the Greek economic crisis, I am sure they welcome valuable euros from Bulgaria right now!

Back to Bulgaria; there are four main ways to get to the Black Sea. By bus, by car, by train or by aeroplane.

The Black Sea By Bus

If heading via Bourgas, my first tip is to book a bus that is non stop to Bourgas, many others stop at Stara Zagora, Nova Zagora and Sliven. If wanting to visit Plovdiv then there’s no need to prebook and separate non stop Plovdiv buses leave every hour, on the hour. Mind you, with temperatures climbing well above 38 C in Plovdiv, the delights of this historic city are best left until things cool off a little in September.

Today I am on the 8.30 am bus from Sofia bus station for Sozopol. A 50 lev return ticket was purchased yesterday. I’m glad we did – as others were turned away this morning, it’s completely full. Sitting down, I have time to contemplate the relative merits of driving versus taking the car, train or plane. I’ll start with the bus. This one is operated by Karat-S bus company. There are many others. Click Sofia Bus Station web site for all the options. Whilst the bus was full, it was air conditioned, comfortable seats with plenty of legroom.

One downside to the bus and the train is that it will take longer than driving myself. By the time I get to the bus or train station, both situated at the far end of town, I should add an extra hour to the journey.

After leaving Sofia we’re soon approaching Plovdiv. The valley here stretches from the foothills of the Rhodopi montains to the south, and the Stara Planina to the north. An area that is a fertile ground for all manner of arable farming. Crops thrive; from sunflowers, potatoes to wheat. But I see that less than a week ago the fields of sunflowers were seas of bright gold. Now they are darkening, a shame.

It’s about 175km of motorway before it the highway ends. The route now now takes us for Stara Zagora. The people of Bulgaria were promised by the prime minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, that the highway will be complete before his elected term ends. So if you’re reading this in late 2013 and you’re not now going all the way to the sea by highway, you know who to blame!

The Black Sea By Car

I would recommend speaking to Philip, from Urca, for a hire car. He provides the Bansko transfer services for my ski packages and in the summer months will provide a good choice of cars. I would recommend a class 2 (Ford Focus) or larger size of car for this journey. When you get to Sliven area, try shopping for vegetables on the many roadside vendors. See info on driving in Bulgaria click here. In particular, observe speed limits meticulously. Driving this route last time, I saw many police speeding radar traps.

Places Of Interest On The Route To Bourgas

1.  Plovdiv

Flights from Ryanair land in Plovdiv and provide a convenient stepping stone to the resorts of Sunny Beach and all those to the south on the coast.

Plovdiv is best visited in autumn as it’s generally one of the warmest and driest places in the country. Today it was 37 C. Founded 6 000 years B.C., Plovdiv has kept something from all the eras to become like an open museum today. There are remains and monuments all over and a walk in the centre of Plovdiv is like a walk in history. Together with the modern buildings and shops, you can see a Roman Odeon and Roman Stadium right on the main pedestrian street.

The architecture there has been preserved as it was during the Bulgarian Renaissance. The Ancient Theatre – an amazing construction built in early 2 century by Roman emperor Trayan hosts about 3 000 spectators and used as a theatre today. If you are lucky, you can see a play, opera or concert in it. If not, just enjoy the spectacular view it commands over the city.

2.  Stara Zagora

Almost as old as Plovdiv, Stara Zagora has a lot of history and remnants from Roman time. It is known as “the town of straight streets, linden trees, poets and beautiful women”. Indeed, it has a nice pedestrian area with cafes under the linden trees and also numerous parks. Check out the my beer in Bulgaria article. Zagorka and the wonderful Stolichno come from this city.

3.  Bourgas

With it’s gardens and lively but somehow laid back feel, Bourgas is a city worth exploring. Initial impressions may be disappointing with a large oil refinery but a stroll on its pedestrianised centre is pleasant enough.

The Way To Varna

Varna, situated on the Black Sea coast also referred to as the summer capital of Bulgaria, it is the third largest city after Sofia and Plovdiv. It’s a modern city with all the business centres and merchant maritime and, at the same time, full of entertainment for its visitors. It takes a good six hours by car and I would recommend an internal Bulgaria Air flight to Varna takes just 45 minutes from Sofia

The Black Sea By Train

Sofia train station is just by the bus station. Tickets and trimetable are found here:

I recommend first class. Loads of room – but not exactly what I wound describe as luxury. Different trains will take you to either Bourgas or Varna. The downside is that transport from there will be by bus, or taxi. It is this aspect when coming to Sozopol, or Ahtopol further south, is where the bus scores over the train. The fast train takes six and a half hours to Bourgas, stopping at major towns on the way.

The Black Sea By Plane From Sofia

Bulgaria Air has regular flights. Look for the early morning ones for best prices. This is often cheaper than by car if travelling alone. It’s very quick and that’s it. Like the train, you need transport to your final destination.

Arrival: Santa Marina, Sozopol

Our arrival at Santa Marina, Sozopol was without fuss. Six and a half hours from Sofia; low carbon footprint and good value.

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Getting Here

About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.
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