The Bulgarian southern Black Sea coast might be overdeveloped, but a few corners of pristine nature and immaculate beauty still survive amid the concrete, the lack of proper sewage systems, the hideous new buildings and the jam - packed beaches.
Sinemorets, one of the last Bulgarian villages before the border with Turkey, is one of those places.
The village has its fair share of ugly hotels destroying the view and the tranquility, but as it is far from the main hubs of tourist activities on the coast, these abominations are small in scale and leave enough space for true nature to survive, and for you to enjoy it.
Located on and around a small cape, Sinemorets overlooks one of the most picturesque natural landscapes in Bulgaria. To the north of the cape, the Veleka River, which springs from the Strandzha in Turkey proper but soon afterwards enters Bulgarian territory, flows into the Black Sea in a spectacular manner. Passing through thick forests, it makes a wide curve spanned by a military bridge, which serves the only coastal road, and then it spreads out along the sands, before emptying into the sea through a narrow mouth.
The combination of river flow and sea currents has formed a long, narrow strip of sand between the two bodies of water. Today, the mouth of the Veleka is at the northern end of the sand bar but it was not always this way. The small, freshwater lake to the south is a remnant from the time when the course of the river used to be different. The conjunction of a river, a lake, and the sea in such a small space is picturesque and alluring. The greenery of the surrounding forests, the strangely shaped rocks, and the white flocks of sheep grazing on a nearby hill add to the photogenic qualities of the location.
People flock to this area, be it to take an early morning photo of the rising sun from the sand bar, or to camp there, and the spot already has its own lore. One of the strangely shaped rocks at the southern end of the beach is called The Sphinx. Some even believe it to be an ancient man - made sculpture and not simply the result of the never - ending work of sun, wind and water on exposed rock.
Sinemorets is among the few Bulgarian seaside village with several distinctive beaches
The mouth of the Veleka, however, can be dangerously beautiful and by this we do not mean only the bloodthirsty mosquitoes inhabiting the lake and the forest. The mixture of fresh and salt waters here create dangerous currents.
Sinemorets' second beach, Butamyata, south of the cape, is a better swimming option for families with children and inexperienced swimmers and, although its waters can still be rough, its sands are packed with umbrellas and there are a number of cheap bars and taverns.
Located in the protected area of the Strandzha Nature Park, Sinemorets makes a good point from which to explore the surrounding natural beauty. Two coastal eco trails head north and south from the village. The southern eco trail will also take you to a couple of wild, unprotected beaches: you can also get to Lipite with a 4WD, but Listi can only be reached on foot.
The educational purpose of both eco trails was to show tourists the different volcanic rocks on the shoreline and to explain how were they formed. The information signs, however, have long faded. The trails now continue to exist mainly due to the constant stream of people trying to reach Listi or Lipite beaches.
The only road to Sinemorets passes through this bridge over the Veleka. Until the 1990s it was used exclusively by the military
You can also explore the Veleka upriver, either by boat from the small harbour under the military bridge, or on foot via an eco trail leading to Brodilovo village, in the Strandzha.
Whatever you choose to do, you need to be prepared. Good shoes, as well as sunblock, water, insect repellent and a hat, are essential even if you are heading for the beaches. If you opt for the path to Brodilovo, beware of the omnipresent Strandzha hornets and the pestering midge - like flies that will immediately surround you and try to get into your eyes. The best protection against the latter is a wide - brimmed hat, which somehow obstructs their flight, plus a pair of sunglasses.
This is, however, a small price to pay for the joy and privilege of experiencing one of the last undeveloped parts of the south Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
One of Sinemorets’s landmarks are the two rock formations called The Ships
Straw man by the Black Sea
The Sinemorets "Sphynx"
In the mid-1990s Sinemorets, now opened for visitors, was a laid-back backwater
High Beam is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.