North Bulgarian Coast – Durankulak and south to Sunny Beach

We had explored the south Bulgarian coast fairly extensively but apart from the odd day trip to Obzor (which we love) and Byala and a trip up to Varna a few years ago, we had not done much else. So this time we decided to explore the north Bulgarian coast line and stop at the various smaller resorts on the way south from Durankulak, at the far north of Bulgaria.

North Bulgarian CoastFirst stop was Krapets. This is a small resort with just a few guest houses and the odd hotel. There is meant to be a long stretch of beach going back towards Durankulak but we couldn’t easily see access to this and just seemed to come to a collection of small restaurants on the top of the cliff edge. We had lunch at a small snack bar, looking out to sea and after a quick drive around, headed back to the main road and onto Shabla.

Shabla is a larger town on the north Bulgarian coast that has not undergone much development. About 3km out of town there is a a salt water lake which is now a protected reserve and a little further on you reach Camping Shabla and the beach. There are a couple of older style communist hotels just back from the beach, one has been somewhat modified. Parking was a bit North Bulgarian Coastlimited but free and there was a one restaurant and bar on the edge of the beach. But we needed somewhere to stay for the night and where we could leave the dogs for a couple of hours. The two hotels were full and so we headed back towards Shabla, but then turned left and headed towards Shabla lighthouse right on the cliff edge.

The lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse on the Bulgarian coast. It is surrounded by various small guest houses and holiday homes. There were the ruins of a fortress around the lighthouse, but also a strong smell of sulphur and we came across a small “wash” block where the hot mineral spring water appeared to be coming up and people were going behind screens to shower. The actual area was very shabby and we did not fancy staying here and so carried on along the road, following the cliff edge to the Tyulenovo. On either side of the road were oil drills, some working, some not, to drench up the hot mineral water, rich in Sulphur and massive old metal drums for presumably storing the mineral water. There were groups of people camping along the edge of the cliff. Tyulenovo was a small place with just the odd guest house and hotel, all of which were full. There was a small rocky inlet, where people were sunbathing but not much else. As time was getting on, we decided to head back to Shabla town and see if we could find somewhere to stay there. On the way back we parked up by the cliff edge and took the dogs for a walk. Its a fairly desolate spot but quite spectacular. The sea here has many ship wrecks and submarines from the Second World War and its a favourite destination for diving and also for bird watching.

North Bulgarian coast
Oil drills for mineral water
North Bulgarian coast
Rocky cliffs at Tyulenovo
North Bulgarian Coast
Rocky cliffs between Shabla and Tyulenovo

Back in Shabla town we drove around until we came to a sign outside a small jewellery store saying ‘free rooms’. For 30 levs for the night we had a large, but fairly basic apartment with a little outside sitting area. It was perfect for us and after feeding the dogs we headed back to the beach. Shabla beach used to be very popular before the fall of communism and there is a fabulous stretch of sand and gorgeous blue seas. Unfortunately looks are deceiving and the beach was disgustingly dirty with plastic bags and bottles and rubbish everywhere and similar was floating in the sea. We fought with the flies for a while and then went and had some food in the restaurant on the edge of the beach.

The next day we took the same road back past the lighthouse and all the oil drills, through Tyulenovo and to Kamen Brag. This is a tiny little place, right on the cliff tops. It is where on the first of July every year, there is a festival. Originally there was drilling for natural gas here and it is where the place takes its name. Now on the cliff edge there is a flame constantly burning. The area is popular with people wanting to camp, although from the number of remembrance crosses, it looks like it is also a popular suicide spot.

North Bulgarian coast
Burning natural gas at Kamen Brag








North Bulgarian Coast - Bolata Bay
Bolata Bay

I had heard that one place we must visit was Bolata bay, an unspoilt natural cove with a sandy beach. It was meant to be one of the most beautiful beaches along the Bulgarian coastline and according to some websites, in the world! However, when we arrived, the cars were parked all over part of the beach and back up the road, and there were people everywhere. I guess out of season maybe it is a lovely little cove with fishing boats, but when we went it was heaving and almost unrecognisable from the photos we had seen. We had a quick stroll and then it was back to the car and on to Kavarna and then the coastal road to Balchik, passing through Topola, and the various developments lining the water front there. We did head off down a side road, following signs for Paradise beach. But it was 10 levs per person to get to ‘Paradise’ and not much parking so we decided against it and carried on to Balchik, a chaotic place in the season, with honking cars everywhere and jammed full of people. We were happy to escape back onto the main road and down past Albena and Kranevo to Varna.

North Bulgarian Coast - ShkorpilovtsiAfter getting a little lost in the centre of Varna as signposts were rather confusing as to how to just drive straight through and contradicted what the Sat Nav was telling us, we made it out the other side. Next stop was the beach at Shkorpilovtsi. We had been here a couple of years before for a small music gig in a bar on the beach and thought it would be interesting to visit again. The food in the same restaurant and bar was disappointing and fairly expensive, the beach while very long and not so busy had a lot of sea-weed everywhere. So we had a quick dip in the sea, walked the dogs along the beach for a bit and then headed up and over the end of the far eastern tip of the Balkans, passing Byala and Obzor and coming down into Sunny Beach.