Stretching along Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast to the north of Varnas is the resort town of Golden Sands. It is situated adjacent to a national park of the same name, with its white sandy beaches and picturesque old-growth forests drawing visitors from near and far.
The beach resort is renowned for its upmarket hotels, shopping centres and golf courses, as well as the Aquapolis water park which is considered one of Eastern Europe’s best and designed in a Mauritian-Mediterranean style. Golden Sands Nature Park is home to dense oak forests, together with manna ash and yoke elms, while natural water drinking fountains scatter the park. Deer, badgers and squirrel inhabit the woodlands, while woodpeckers, tawny owls and green-headed duck can all be spotted. To the west of Golden Sands is the medieval Orthodox Christian cave monastery of Aladzha which served as a religious centre dedicated to the Holy Trinity during the Second Bulgarian Empire. It is hewn into a 25-metre high karst cliff face on the Franga plateau, with the remains of a 5th century cave monastery nearby. The surrounding forests are known as the Mount of the Cross and are regarded as sacred, with the local legend stating they are home to a mythical treasure keeper known as Imri Pop.
Golden Sands is connected by bus to the Varna Railway Station and the Varna International Airport. Many of its areas have been pedestrianised, with convenient walking access to the resorts, attractions and beaches.
The Roman naturalist and author Pliny first mentioned old growth forests between what was then ancient Odessos and Dionysopolis during the 1st century AD, while basilica remains dating to around the 4th century have been uncovered on the edge of the Franga plateau. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Golden Sands was developed as a resort, with spas, casinos, shopping centres and hotels all built, together with a yacht marina.