Image credit: Balkan Holidays
Get the lowdown on Bulgaria’s most popular resort from Katie McGonagle
Sometimes, it pays to shout about your greatest assets. Like the Sunshine Coast in Australia or the Costa del Sol in Spain, Sunny Beach promises a simple formula – and delivers.
Between its five-mile stretch of Blue Flag beach and 12 hours’ sunshine a day in summer, this Bulgarian resort does exactly what it says on the tin.
Sure, its bargain package breaks aren’t to everyone’s taste, but there’s no arguing with its value for money. And if anecdotal evidence wasn’t enough, the Post Office worldwide holiday costs barometer has just named it the third-cheapest destination of 46 sampled.
Low prices aren’t all it has going for it though, according to Balkan Holidays sales and marketing manager Chris Rand.
He says: “Bulgaria is without doubt a value-for-money holiday destination, but the country has so much more to offer. There is Sunny Beach with all its choices, and then there are smaller resorts such as Golden Sands and Albena, and also genuine Bulgarian towns and villages such as Nessebar and Sozopol, where you get a taste for the ‘real’ Bulgaria.”
Stay: Choose Wisely
With a reputed 800 hotels, visitors won’t be short of somewhere to rest their heads in Sunny Beach, but since these range from family-focused resorts to cheap-and-cheerful crash pads for late-night revellers, picking the right property is vital.
Best for kids: Thomas Cook features 20 properties across Sunny Beach, Nessebar, Duni and Obzor, but the best for families are Hotel Laguna Park in Sunny Beach and Sol Nessebar Mare.
The former offers large twin rooms or duplex family rooms sleeping up to five, plus a kids’ club for four to 12-year-olds, while the latter is set to open a water park this summer featuring kamikaze slides and river rapids.
The Iberostar Sunny Beach Resort is the biggest seller for regional specialist Balkan Holidays, and with a 56-strong hotel portfolio in the country, that’s saying something.
While kids enjoy its four outdoor children’s pools, water slides, entertainment and mini-club, adults can relax knowing the ultra all-inclusive board basis avoids any nasty surprises at check-out. A week’s all-inclusive starts at £479 with Balkan Holidays, based on two sharing a twin room and flying from Gatwick on May 31.
Best for adults: There aren’t many adult-only properties here, so guests should expect to see a few families around. But some hotels will lean more towards couples or groups of friends.
These range from party central at Club 18-30 property the Mariner Hotel, just a five-minute walk from Sunny Beach’s best-known bars and clubs, to quieter options outside the main drag such as the Hotel Belleville, which hosts weekly barbecues and quiz nights. Both are featured by Thomas Cook.
There are options at both ends of the price scale. Among the 14 Sunny Beach properties featured by Cosmos Holidays, the four-star Chaika Beach Hotel won’t tax clients’ wallets, especially if they book by February 28 to take advantage of a £14 a night offer, based on a half-board stay for seven nights from May 16.
Those with a more generous budget could stretch to the five-star Barceló Royal Beach. The property is close to the beach and features modern and spacious accommodation, one of the biggest garden and pool complexes in the resort, a spa centre and even a shopping mall in its grounds.
See: Local Life
Sunny Beach may be regarded as a fly-and-flop destination, but that’s no excuse to overlook excursions. Even clubbers who are just out to have fun could benefit from pre-booking a party boat or bar crawl – Thomson Excursions has several to choose from – if they don’t want to waste a moment working out where to go.
Families would be better directed towards watersports or a boat trip – Balkan Holidays’ pirate cruise is a perennial favourite with youngsters – and evening entertainment at the area’s most popular venue, Khan’s Tent. This restaurant combines dinner and drinks with live music, magicians and dancers, all with panoramic views over Sunny Beach.
Once visitors have got to grips with the resort, nearby Unesco World Heritage Site Nessebar (pictured below) is a brilliant day trip. Its array of ancient Greek, Byzantine and medieval ruins chart the changing fortunes of this Black Sea region, and are easily explored either independently or with a group.
For an insight into modern-day life, Thomas Cook’s Romantic South excursion visits two Bulgarian mountain villages, while Attraction World’s best-selling trip, a Full-Day Jeep Safari, also makes for the mountains to see grape brandy being made, explore a zoo and an early Christian monastery, and visit local villages (£34).
If visitors fancy spreading their wings further, the Turkish city of Istanbul is easily explored with a two-day excursion from Attraction World, visiting the Blue Mosque and Spice Bazaar (from £92).
Image credit: Balkan Holidays
Sell: Value Added
With bottles of beer costing less than a pound and a three-course meal with wine for two only just edging over £25, value for money is clearly Bulgaria’s strongest selling point compared with other short-haul beach destinations.But that’s not the whole story.
Bulgaria is easy to get to, with charter flights from Thomas Cook, Thomson and Balkan Holidays, plus scheduled services from low-cost carrier Wizz Air connecting regional UK airports to Bourgas or Varna.
The region also offers enough variety to attract different kinds of holidaymaker. Balkan Holidays’ Chris Rand says: “If a client would like a big resort with all the amenities, then Sunny Beach is perfect. It has a wide choice of hotels; some are in the middle of the resort where everything is close by, or you can stay a few minutes away where it is much quieter.
“If a client would like a smaller resort where the pace is slower, Golden Sands has facilities such as a water park and plenty of restaurants, but is less busy. The resort of Albena has a beach that stretches for miles and is perfect for families and older guests.
“The all-inclusive resorts of Duni and Elenite have excellent accommodation and food. I would recommend these to anyone who would like an all-inclusive holiday but doesn’t want to pay the high prices of the Canary Islands.”
Balkan Holidays is producing a guide for agents outlining Bulgaria’s key selling points, which will be available to download at balkanholidays.co.uk/agents from the end of the month or by calling its agency sales team on 020 7543 5591.
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