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Sunday, 7 May 2017

3 Days in Varna, Bulgaria



During the Easter holidays me and my best friend decided to treat ourselves to a quick getaway to a much-forgotten about area of Europe - the beautiful Bulgaria. After a few weeks of research we decided to explore Varna, Bulgaria, found a good deal, booked it, and off we went!






Our flight was at 6am in Luton - not the most practical time to catch a flight as it meant getting up at 2am to arrive in Luton for 4am to check in. We booked the car in at a shuttle car park service a little outside of Luton for the four days required - a much more affordable option than leaving it at the airport itself. Despite the soul-destroying hour, the shuttle was running every 15 minutes or so making it a super smooth start to the trip.

Luton is not my favourite London airport - it feels quite cramped (even at 4am!) which adds to the stress of the situation when you're sleep-deprived - but the actual process of checking in and passing through security was, to their credit, absolutely seamless. Jacqui and I enjoyed a rushed Frankie and Benny's breakfast (fruit and scrambled eggs respectfully) before heading to Departures.

We flew with Wizz Airlines. The seats were a bargain price and their flights fit our travel window perfectly. However, I would not recommend flying with Wizz again. They have a very strange baggage allowance procedure, where the only free hand luggage size you are allowed with the price of your ticket is absolutely miniscule - much smaller than most handbags. To get a 'large' hand luggage space (the size of normal carry-on luggage/hand bags) you have to pay an additional £18 or so. Hold luggage is between £40 and £60 depending on when and where you are travelling. They are also extremely particular about checking this when you are flying - they have measuring facilities at the gate which they ask you to push your bags in when you go through to check that you are not sneaking in a larger bag, and even my tiny tiny purse used to keep my passport and money in had to be put into my hand luggage or they threatened to charge me extra. Any tiny part of other passengers' bags that stuck out even slightly up to the rim of their measuring cage resulted in an on the spot charge of £50 or so. It made for a very tense atmosphere between passengers and staff which is not the mood you want to be experiencing as you are about to take off for your holiday - there were several very awkward arguments and upset customers!

The flight itself was pain free due to blissful, beautiful sleep. The flight to Bulgaria from the UK is around 4 hours and Bulgaria itself is 2 hours ahead of London time. The airport in Varna is small but functional, and thanks to only paying for large hand luggage we were out of there in no time and on our way to our hotel thanks to a pre-paid taxi, who was there waiting for us complete with sign! We felt like we were in the movies.

We stayed at the Hotel Boutique Splendid which was reasonably priced and perfectly located. Our room was on the fifth floor - although slight word of warning, the lift was miniscule and felt very wobbly which set off my anxiety no end, meaning we ended up walking up the five flights multiple times a day! If you have similar fears and/or find stairs difficult to manage it might not be the hotel for you, or it might be worth requesting a first floor suite.




The room was clean and spacious and had the most stunning views of the beautiful church across the road - the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral - which boasts the most gorgeous gilded domes and stained glass windows. We explored the interior on our second evening in Bulgaria and it was just breath-taking from inside too. It was also free to explore although we did make a donation as it was just so stunning inside.

There are lots of options of activities in Varna, and I think there would be even more available in the summer months. The weather was rather chilly and British bearing in mind this was the end of April! All of the taxi drivers and locals that we encountered all told us to come back in the Summer when it is sunny and the beach area is thriving - so a top tip if you are considering going to Bulgaria is to pick the time of year carefully for the sort of holiday you are after.

We enjoyed a beautiful walk through the famous Sea Gardens; a stunning park area peppered with fountains, statues and even some small museums. It is right next to the beach and seaside area where there are a myriad of bars and restaurants to enjoy when the weather is warmer!






Varna beach is a lovely sandy area - super clean and picturesque. It leads on to the old harbourside which is also great to explore with an ice cream in hand.

Varna Archeological Museum is worth spending several hours exploring - it is full of the country's history and features the world's earliest example of manmade gold jewellery. As someone who studied Classics at A Level, with Homer's Iliad in particular, I found the references to Homer and the Greeks/Persians completely fascinating! A fantastic location to get lost in for hours at a time.

Varna also boasts a series of beautiful Orthodox churches - wherever we went we found another new gem to explore. They were all utterly breath-taking.



All of the attractions were accessible by foot and we certainly got our Fitbit steps in every day! The hotel was perfectly located for everywhere we wanted to investigate; the Tourist Information centre was just across the road from the hotel, and they kindly provided us with information and free maps. The only time we needed to grab a taxi was to go a few miles out of Varna to explore the Petrified Stone Forest.




This is a stunning natural phenomenon which potentially used to be underwater. So interesting and it has a really mystical, ethereal atmosphere - a bit Stone Henge (although not man made...)! You only need about 20 - 30 minutes to explore it all but beware - there is a lovely little gift shop to pick up souvenirs but there is no cafe so bring snacks/supplies. The taxi ride there was very reasonable - around 25 Lev total (around £12.50) and the taxi actually waited there for us while we explored the site. What a bargain!

Food and drink is also extremely reasonable in Bulgaria. We enjoyed great meals at both Largo Restaurant & Bar and Happy - Happy in particular is a very well-known chain in Varna. Main meals were between 5 and 13 Lev (between £2.50 and £7.50) and beer was usually around 3 Lev (£1.50). I took around £200 spending money and spent about half that much - including buying souvenirs, taxis and Duty Free perfume! Bulgarian food is particularly known for its use of its particular kind of white cheese - used a lot in salads - and some great meaty dishes. Jacqui has some very specific dietary requirements but we always managed to find something tasty for her to eat regardless.

Overall, Varna was a culturally interesting, unique and affordable destination. I would return in a heartbeat, particularly in the summer months in order to soak up the best that that fabulous beach has to offer. Sunny Beach is two hours south of Varna and attracts the majority of tourists, but I firmly believe that Varna is overlooked and has so much to offer. Currently a great bargain - but I have a feeling it won't be for long. Go there and grab a great deal while you can!





x.


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Check out my previous travel posts here.



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4 comments

  1. Some lovely pictures here, I would love to visit Bulgaria! :)

    sophiaaxo.wordpress.com

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  2. This looks like an incredible place to visit! The Archaeological Museum would also have been a highlight for me, I study archaeology at the moment so I would have spent hours in there haha! I also did Classical Civilisation at A-Level, I loved Homer! Your photos are beautiful, thanks so much for sharing your travels with us!

    Abbey 😄 www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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  3. What an amazing view of the Cathedral you had. Varna looks lovely! After reading this, I'm definitely going to add Bulgaria to my travel bucket list.

    Kat
    katlast.com

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  4. The baggage requirements with that airline sound like a right pain, I'm not surprised you won't go out of your way to fly with them again. I know literally nothing about Bulgaria so thanks very much for sharing your experiences and broadening my horizons!

    ReplyDelete

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