Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast has attracted family-oriented tourists for decades, but new so-called 'lifestyle' developments such as Kaliakria Resort are now creating luxury vacation opportunities for affluent travelers.
Named after stunning, cliff-side Greco-Roman ruins a 15-minute drive away, Kaliakria Resort was built just seven years ago for around 30 million Euros under the direction of Linexa Property Group. Consisting of 360 finely-designed studios, apartments and penthouses, Kaliakria (translated from Greek as Beautiful Headland) is the largest development of its kind. It stretches along 31 miles of coastline from Vama Veche, a rustic Romanian seaside resort, to the Bulgarian towns of Balcik and Albena. Some dwellings are individually owned and used as rental properties while the rest are owned directly by Linexa Property Group.
Access to the approximately 164,000-square-foot resort is either through the Bulgarian port town of Varna, whose international airport has just had a third terminal added, or by road through neighboring Romania. Located less than a mile off the main coast road, it is nestled cozily between stretches of vineyards and limestone cliffs offering broad views over the Black Sea.
The complex is divided into three segments. Ample parking spaces are located beside a series of four-story buildings, each with terracotta walls, red-tiled roofs and a small border wall of white Bulgarian limestone around them. We enjoyed a ground-floor, two-bedroom apartment adjacent to the largest of five swimming pools.
The infinity pool included a decorative walkway of iron, wood and stone spanning its center and an open bar with a swim-up portion. There, among lounge chairs, hammocks, baldaquin-covered beds and canvas umbrellas, we were served by two convivial local ladies (whose names delightfully translate as Snow White and Happy). Our open terrace, with a delicate iron railing around it, provided so much space we could have comfortably hosted an evening cocktail party for ten guests. The terrace was complete with an elongated drinks table and soft sofa.
The rooms were of utilitarian design in light shades of cream and beige, with tiled floors, a closed glass-facing fireplace and an open-plan kitchen and living room. They are also outfitted with a small refrigerator, microwave and electric stove.
One of the attractions of Kaliakria Resort is its sense of harmony with nature. Aside from the vineyards and the limestone cliffs, green areas are spacious between and around buildings. All are interspersed with more than 120 varieties of flowers, bushes and trees, including sage, palm, olive and rose. The pool area and many of the walkways between buildings are cobbled with soft, white limestone rock quarried near the town of Vratsa.
One of the resort's two restaurants, the bistro-style Turquoise, offers romantic, setting-sun views. The second restaurant El Balcon del Mundo, features both an interior room behind a glass frontage and an open terrace that overlooks the Black Sea and long stretches of the coast either side. El Bacon serves dishes ranging from grilled octopus (a delightful choice of appetizer, simple but full of flavor) to cook-it-yourself steak on a stone (ask for the meat to be served raw or it will come slightly cooked). A little tip: a selection of Bulgarian cheeses and locally grown grapes can be ordered, even though it is not on the menu.
Activities are plentiful in and around Kaliakria Resort. In spacious rooms overlooking the sea, a spa hosted by Sofia-based Medica Aesthetica offers diverse treatments ranging from red wine-, honey- and rose-revitalizing facials to classic or aromatherapy full-body massages. Anelia Gencheva, a qualified physiotherapist from Triavna, used various massage techniques (including cupping) and sent me on a heavenly journey. La Prairie facial creams and body products are available as well and made by Bulgaria-based Eco Spa. The small sauna accommodates four people.
Zumba classes are offered weekly and live jazz music is featured every Friday. Aside from its five swimming pools, the resort also has its own intimate stretch of soft, sandy beach. There, an open, thatched-roof bar is located with plenty of chaise longue chairs nearby. Particularly interesting summer activities organized by the resort include a Tango Marathon, whereby around 150 dancers and teachers from around the world converge for a 24/7 swirl of speed, color and passion; a vintage car rally; and a sailing regatta in nearby Balchik Harbor. Management also organizes trips to historic sites and towns, as well as nearby horse-riding, fishing, tennis, scuba diving, canoeing, sailing and golfing activities.
Check out the walkabout in an ancient fortress of a protected area known as the Cape of Kaliakra, which was occupied at various times by Thracians, Romans, Greeks and Bulgarians. According to legend, the fortress guarded the treasure of King Lyzimah, successor to Alexander the Great. Much of the settlement remains intact and houses a small museum and restaurant. For nature-lovers, Durankulak Lake located 25 miles away, is a must-see. It is home to more than 250 rare species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and plants; many of them are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria.
Also, archaeological ruins, located on an island in the center of the lake known as the Bulgarian Troy, are considered to be the remains of one of Europe's oldest settlements. The harbor town of Balchik is also worth visiting, boasting a castle and grounds designed by Queen Mary of Romania and a picturesque seafront of bars, restaurants and beaches.
Kaliakria impressed with its relaxing accommodations, charming atmosphere and all its activities that left us wishing we could stay longer to experience them all. Looks like we'll just have to return again.