Long ignored as a holiday destination, Bulgaria has enjoyed something of a secret renaissance in recent years. We say secret as to the uninitiated, Bulgaria still hovers under a shadow of ex-communism and bad weather. But scratch the surface and you’ll find a country that is choc-full of natural beauty, rich history and welcoming locals. Bourgas (or Burgas) is testimony to all of these. A sweeping beach and sea garden makes for an ideal day of sunning, strolling and relaxing, while the neat little city offers much in the way of urban entertainment. Enjoy some of the best restaurants in the country, opting for the banitisa – a locally made pastry dish prepared with cheese and eggs. Marvel at its stained glass windows in the church of Saint Cyril and Methodius or shop for gold or pretty painted ceramics to take home in the afternoon. A superb Ethnographic museum as well as the local art gallery is a good way of understanding Bulgarian culture beyond what the guide books will tell you.
If however your interests lie in the more leisurely pursuits, then Bourgas will not disappoint. Four lakes can be found in the outskirts of the city, the most notable of which, Lake Atanasovsko has thermal mud pools and superb bird-watching opportunities. Lake Pomorie and Lake Burgas are protected natural reserves that are light years from the city centre, despite being only 19 and 6 kilometres away! And don’t miss a trip to St. Anastasia island (the only inhabited island in the Bulgarian Black Sea). Not only does the island have a lovely (ex)monastery that has survived many pirate skirmishes, but a hair-raising history! Over time the monastery became a prison, yet over 90 prisoners managed to escape in the mid-1920s, apparently transferred back to the then USSR. A Bulgarian film “On the Small Island” shot on site, tells the story and is well worth a watch prior to visiting.