Beach holidays: Bulgaria's Black Sea vs Spain's Costa del Sol

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Gorgeous sandy beaches, loud music and plenty of Brits - but this isn't the Costa del Sol; it's glorious Sunny Beach in Bulgaria.

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria - photo courtesy of Bulgaria Tourism
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria - photo courtesy of Bulgaria Tourism

Bulgaria's popularity is rapidly growing as a beach destination and as a good alternative to the favoured Spanish resorts. The fact that the country is so much cheaper than its rival is a huge benefit to holidaymakers who want to make their euro go that extra mile (the currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev) and although there may not be any sangria, there's plenty of rakia.

What does Bulgaria have to offer?

Bulgaria has a coastline of about 235 miles (compared to the Costa del Sol's 187 miles) and there's a grand total of 209 beaches to choose from, with several recognised for their excellence.

The temperature of the Black Sea in July and August is, surprisingly, a degree or two warmer than you'd find in the waters of the Costa del Sol at 24°C, plus Bulgaria doesn't get quite as hot during the day making it that much more comfortable. While temperatures in the Costa del Sol can easily rise to 30°C, on the Bulgarian coast it's usually a couple of degrees cooler at this time.

Boats in the Bay, Nesebar, Bulgaria © Jaroslav Moravcik -
Boats in the Bay, Nesebar, Bulgaria © Jaroslav Moravcik -

Then there's the five Black Sea Islands, Bulgarian rural villages, historical landmarks such as the UNESCO heritage site of Nesebar, plus cultural events from Rock Fest to the more cultural Folklore. For those who like getting stuck into outdoor activities, there's a wealth of things to do such as biking, hiking, golfing, fishing, horse riding and bird watching. But what really gives Bulgaria the edge is its focus on wellness, with its selection of spas and even mineral springs along its coastline.

Spa Hotel in Albena, Bulgaria - photo courtesy of Bulgaria Tourism
Spa Hotel in Albena, Bulgaria - photo courtesy of Bulgaria Tourism

Bulgaria's season runs from May to September, similar to Spain if a bit shorter, and with resorts from four and five stars to the smaller family hotels, there's somewhere for everyone and every budget. Stay at Sunny Beach for nightlife, Albena for families, and Kranevo or Chayka for relaxation.

What's the Costa del Sol's enduring appeal?

It's a love affair that's lasted decades, and the Costa del Sol remains a popular destination for those in need of sun, sea and relaxation. Being in the south of Spain you're pretty much guaranteed the sunshine (hence its name - 'the sunshine coast') with warmer daytime temperatures lasting into September and even October.

Calahonda Beach Nerja, Costa del Sol, Spain
Calahonda Beach Nerja, Costa del Sol, Spain

A favourite with families looking for all inclusive or self-catering holidays, Costa del Sol is dotted with British style pubs and restaurants, and is an easy destination to holiday in but it's not all fish and chips and chart-topping beats; there's a rich culture to be found within its three provinces.

Nikki Beach, Marbella, Costa del Sol, Spain © eDomo - Flickr Creative Commons
Nikki Beach, Marbella, Costa del Sol, Spain © eDomo - Flickr Creative Commons

Visit Malaga for cultural diversity, take a day trip to the archaeological site of Acinipo, the Pileta cave or the Arabic bathhouses in Ronda. Like the Black Sea, there are resorts for families, groups, solo travellers or couples. Stay at Torremolinos for nightlife, Nerja for the more romantic or Marbella for a bit of luxury.

The verdict

The best thing about the Black Sea is that it's not just Brits that will be sitting next to your dining table: expect to find Bulgarians, Russians and many other nationalities. So, is Bulgaria the new Costa del Sol? I definitely think so but don't just take my word for it, find out why for yourself...

If you're tempted to visit the Bulgarian coast, fly to Varna or Burgas, while Malaga and Almeria are the nearest airports for the Costa del Sol. Check out our deals and discounts page to see if our collection of offers on flights, holidays, car hire and more could help get you there. Have you been to Bulgaria's coast? Tell us about your experience...

More about Bulgaria

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Lisa Eldridge

Lisa Eldridge
Posted on Tuesday 17th December 2013 in: Beach Culture Europe Summer

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