Theoretically, Bulgaria's seaside coast is exclusively state property – beaches are free to visit, and building on them is prohibited. However, as anyone who has happened to visit the Bulgarian Black Sea coast knows, theory and reality often collide. Hotels are built right on the beaches, and the sand is parcelled up into plots dotted with parasols and loungers or patches rent by hotels and taverns. Dunes and forests, which are the habitats of rare species, are being legally registered as agricultural land and hence become suitable for development.
As a result, the number of pristine beaches in Bulgaria is dwindling. Here are some of those which are resisting the development craze – for now.
Squeezed between the Strandzha forest and the Black Sea, the village of Sinemorets is on the cusp between overdevelopment and modern hotels, and the fact that it is located in a protected nature reserve. Its two beaches reflect this ambiguity. The south one, called Butamyata, is pleasantly situated in a leafy bay, but is overcrowded and covered with parasols. The north one is a completely different matter. Created from the sand deposited by the Veleka River, which here flows into the sea, the estuary, the cliffs around and the shallow lagoon all make this beach probably the most unusual in Bulgaria.
Probably the wildest of Bulgarian beaches, Lipite lacks parasols, taverns, cars and safety features, which makes it a heaven for campers, hippies old and young, hipsters, and naturists. The beach is protected from development by the rugged terrain and the thick Strandzha forest surrounding it. You can reach it only on foot, following the eco path which starts from the south beach at Sinemorets. About 2 km south of Lipite, you will find another gem of a beach – Listi.
The southernmost of the beaches around Varna, Pashadere is also the least developed – a narrow strip of sand huddled under the rocks, a charming place whose beauty remained intact even after a gas pipe was built there in the 1990s. Pashadere can be reached by a dirt road, and is favoured by camping lovers and naturists.
Situated roughly halfway between Varna and Burgas, near Cape Emine where the Stara Planina meets the Black Sea, Irakli is a heaven of 2.6 km of uninterrupted sand and crystal water. Its position in a nature reserve has saved Irakli from overdevelopment, and the beach is one of the most popular places in Bulgaria for camping. Plans for the construction of a holiday village on the beach, however, continue to be a threat to the future of this beautiful and pristine place.
Shorter summer season, colder water and swarms of mosquitoes living in Lake Durankulak are the main shortcomings of the beaches of Durankulak, on the northern Bulgarian Black Sea. Apart from these, the rest is pure pleasure. Divided by low cliffs, the north and south beaches of Durankulak are respectively 3 and 6.5 km long. The sand and the water are clean, and there is a bonus – the remains of ancient and modern ships scattered in the sea.
This series of articles is supported by the America for Bulgaria Foundation. The statements and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.