A beach vacation, for many, is the perfect antidote for months spent behind a desk or otherwise on the grind. For city-dwellers, it offers a welcome change of pace, which is why so many Parisians and Londoners are quick to eschew the rat race for a week or two in one of the European hotspots like Mykonos, St. Tropez, or the shores of Ibiza. Though places like these remain some of the most popular destinations for a summer vacation, the crowds and the ever-increasing price tag put many folks off.
But now communities encircling the Black Sea are entering a tourism boom. With more people choosing to venture further east, lots of these towns have been able to invest in more infrastructure, thus drawing an increasing number of visitors every year. Right now, vacationers can come just ahead of the curve: able to enjoy new facilities at relatively low prices while avoiding the crowds that are certain to descend upon the region within the next ten years.
Resort towns that ring the Black Sea are hardly monotonous, offering a variety of accommodations to suit those who prefer pitching a tent all the way to those who demand a luxury spa. And because the sea borders several countries, it’s likely at least a couple of them will be complimentary to your particular passport.
While Georgia’s Batumi and Russia’s Sochi still dominate the hospitality industry in the region, there are a ton of other options if you’d like to experience the unique offerings of a summer spent on the Black Sea. Here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed on some of the most notable towns in the area.
While it certainly doesn’t sport the longest or most bustling beach on the Black Sea, the quaint port town of Sulina beckons those who truly want to get away from it all.
Inaccessible by road, the only way to reach Sulina is by a ferry that travels down the Danube from Tulcea. During the high season, from June to September, they travel twice a day in each direction, but be advised that they are scheduled as such that a trip to the coast will require at least one overnight stay.
Since you can’t bring your rental car, the best way to get around Sulina is on foot or bicycle, but road-weary travelers will enjoy the change of pace and opportunity to recharge. Life on the Danube Delta isn’t really about ultra-fancy resorts and heart-pumping nightlife. Here, you’ll find placid, clean beaches, lovingly appointed, family-owned pensiones, and the freshest seafood in all of Romania.
Backed by 8,000 years of history, this ancient port town has emerged into this millennium as one of Bulgaria’s premier resort towns. Though it boasts incredible facilities and infrastructure designed specifically for tourists, it’s still small enough to remain walkable and accessible. It has long been a favorite of backpackers because of the proliferation of camping villages scattered along the edge of town.
You’ll definitely find all the trappings of a beach holiday here – seaside resorts, a lovely boardwalk, and ample opportunities for sunbathing – but its unique position as the oldest town in Bulgaria affords visitors to mix in some cultural activities as well. The Sozopol Archaeological Museum contains some artifacts that rival those you might find in Sofia, and even a simple stroll through Old Town will find you winding through medieval ruins.
Frequently called “the place where the green meets the blue” because of the spectacular way the forest meets the sea, Kefken’s coast emerges from the trees as both sandy beaches and spectacular cliffs. It is a favorite of Istanbulites in the summer because of its warm, clean water and proximity to the city.
Kefken beach, the closest shore to the center of town, offers a mix of sand and climbable rocky terrain with incredible views across the sea. And when you tire of laying on the beach, be sure to make the quick trip to Pembe Kayalıklar – Turkish for pink rocks – an ancient quarry whose mauve-colored, seaside cliffs make the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot.
As the Georgian coast becomes more and more renowned for summer holidays, its more popular resort cities, like Batumi, have become increasingly expensive and crowded with tourists. But those who miss the old days of the sleepy Georgian coast will fall in love with Anaklia, which is not quite yet on the world’s radar.
Unlike Batumi where the shores are comprised of medium-sized smooth stones, Anaklia’s beaches are sandy, and in many spots are equipped with loungers and umbrellas that you can rent for the day. Between July and September, it’s the perfect town for a family vacation: think swimming, a visit to the water park, or a family dinner at one of the many family-owned restaurants in town.
First rising to prominence as a resort town during the Russian Empire, Gagra is the most developed of all the beach towns along the Abkhazian coast. While folks still flock here for its beaches and dining, it is unique in that there is still a smattering of Sanatoria left over from the Soviet occupation that utilizes the natural spring water in the area to supply their spas.
Of them, the most notable is Amra International, which was once reserved only for members of the highest echelons within the Soviet Union. It’s been completely remodeled and is now open to the public, though it retains many of its original, quirky pieces of decor from its time as ad jewel of the USSR.
Though not as well known internationally as Sochi, Anapa is beloved by Russians for summer holidays. Set on a portion of the coast that is known for having very little rainfall and calm waters perfect for swimming, this town on the “Russian Riviera” is poised to become a go-to for vacationers around the world.
The main public beach in Anapa, Golden Beach, is usually packed with tourists on a sunny day. But for those who prefer more unspoiled, natural beaches, the Anapa Sand Dunes offer a respite from crowds, while providing an eerie, unique backdrop for swimming, picnicking, and relaxing.
When you tire of the shore, there are several historical sites around town to visit, including the fastidiously curated Gorgippiya Anapa Archeological Museum. Through their exhibits, you will be guided through the history of the various iterations of this ancient town, including a thorough exploration of the former Greek and Turkish occupations.
A former Silk Road hub, the picturesque town of Sudak has a long, pebbled beach and laid-back culture that draws a hefty summer holiday crowd. Because of its enviable position on the sea, it has changed hands many times over the years, those cultures still visible in its architecture, food, and people.
Today, the Ukrainian peninsula it sits on is controlled by Russia, though they have not forgotten the city’s roots in the Genoese Empire. Leftover from this period is a massive fort that sits atop the hill overlooking the entire town. It is open to the public to tour, so it’s the perfect spot to grab the perfect picture to commemorate your travels.