8 unique highlights beyond Varna

in Destinations

….that’ll make you want to come back again and again. 

You may not be aware of the wondrous places, exciting attractions, millennial history and culture that make Varna a bucket-list city but the Pearl of the Black Sea bursts with hard-to-forget things to see and do. 

When you had enough of Varna, venture beyond the city to explore offbeat sites along the Northern Black Sea Coast, with far smaller crowds, just over an hour away.

From the most famous medieval cave monastery on the coast and the fairytale-like Botanical Garden of Balchik to the awe-inspiring shore and nature of Tyulenovo, Varna's surroundings will mystify your mind, excite your senses, and fill up your camera roll.

We've put together a list of 8 fascinating spots you can explore on your dental travel to Varna. 

1. Aladzha Monastery  

Aladzha Monastery
Aladzha Monastery

Hidden in protected majestic forests, nestled in 40m high limestone rock, awaits Aladzha Monastery, offering the perfect combination of spiritual discovery and sightseeing. Aladzha Monastery belongs to a large group of natural caves formed in the limestone sediments of the former Sarmatian Sea, which were present in South-Eastern Europe about 12 million years ago. 

The origins of Aladzha Monastery are shrouded in mystery, but its fascinating heritage offers a glimpse into the life of people who had withdrawn from the world into the heart of nature to find unity with God. The first known inhabitants, the hesychiastians monks, date back to the 10th – 12th century. Seeking divine quietness and isolation, the hermit monks have found a pristine shelter for their spiritual practices.  

Here you’ll find churches, prayer rooms, monastic cells, dining, and kitchen premises, and a crypt hewed in the soft limestone by those who have sought enlightenment. In its heydays, the monastery was covered with frescoes, bursting with colour, some of which you can still see nowadays. 

Take a narrow, winding walk about 800 meters northwest of the monastery, and you will find a group of caves called the Catacombs. The archaeological findings, including ceramics, coins and graffiti, indicate that the caves have been used as dwellings as early as the 5th century.  

2. Balchik

The town of Balchik
The town of Balchik

Discover the character-filled town of Balchik with its fascinating stories, museums and cultural charm cultivated throughout its long history.

Founded as a Thracian settlement, Balchik has a 26-century history marked by the Ionian ancient Greeks who settled here in the 6th century BC, followed by the Roman Empire that claimed the town in the 1st century AD and the Ottoman Empire who came at the end of the 14th century and stayed here for four centuries until 1878. 

Undoubtedly, Balchik is home to a constellation of splendid places to see, but there’s simply no beating the real deal. Balchik is most famous for the summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania, thoughtfully located in the marvellous Botanical Garden, the Art Gallery and the Mill. 

3. The Residence of Queen Marie of Romania

The Quiet Nest Palace in Balchik
The Quiet Nest Palace

Like many who have felt in love with Balchik at first sight, Queen Marie of Romania makes no exception. After the Second Balkan War, Balchik was temporarily governed by Romania, and while on one of her visits, after she was fascinated by the landscape and the spirit of the picturesque coastal town, Queen Marie decided to have her summer residence built there. 

Today, the summer residence, perfectly perched amidst the Botanical Garden with sweeping views over the Black Sea, offers winding staircases and shady, tucked-away corners among the lush gardens where you can rest and enjoy the views Marie was enchanted by. You don’t have to think too hard to imagine how impressive it was in its prime. 

4. The Botanical Garden 

The Botanical Garden of Balchik
The Botanical Garden of Balchik

A trip to Balchik wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Botanical Garden. If you're a keen botanist, you can hire a professional guide to walk you through all the details about the species on display, but even if you aren’t, the hundreds of roses, shrubs, cacti, flower beds, ponds, and waterfalls are a treat alone.

Stroll along the easily accessible network of alleys to wander through the outdoor collection of large-size cacti and succulents. Be amazed by the successfully introduced exotic species like the ancient Ginkgo, the meta-sequoia, the Japanese raisin tree and the rubber tree, the holm oak or the evergreen magnolia Grandiflora. 

5. The Art Gallery  

The Art Gallery of Balchik
The Art Gallery of Balchik

Calling all art lovers! The Art Gallery of Balchik, located in a spacious former high school building with impressive views over the town, and the coast, is the oldest in the South Dobrudja region, founded in 1937.

Inside, art aficionados will find more than 2 000 artworks collected in the last sixty years, including pictorial, graphic, and aquarelle art, posters, caricatures and sculptures of Bulgarian and international artists. 

On the first floor are the temporary, visiting and international art expositions. Make your way to the second floor to enjoy the permanent exhibition showcasing the most significant works of Bulgarian artists from the 20th century. 

6. The Mill 

The Mill in Balchik
The Mill in Balchik

Balchik was always of great importance as an economic and administrative centre over the centuries when, in 1909, the largest mill on the Balkan Peninsula was built in Balchik, turning it into a symbol of the European industrial culture and the entrepreneurial spirit of the new era.

Take a walk and gaze at the mill, which was once an absolute achievement of the industrial boom, exporting nearly 70 000 tonnes of grain flour across Europe from England, Belgium, and Germany to Denmark in its active period from 1910 until 1916. 

Today, the mill is home to the local tourist information centre and serves as a community and cultural centre, hosting art, musical and movie festivals.  

7. Tyulenovo 

The coast of Tyulenovo
The coast of Tyulenovo

Picturesque doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the Tyulenovo coast. Stood on an unmatched shore, carved with underwater caves, tunnels and canyons, it's one of the most iconic landmarks on the Northeast coast, especially for climbers and scuba divers. 

Here, you can admire the astounding natural phenomenons, created by the strength and might of the Black Sea over thousands of years – the Arch and the Lonely Rock, that will spark your imagination and calm the senses. Simply walking through the rocky shore, touching the red-coloured cliffs, and listening to the sounds of waves as they crash against the coastline is enough to let your imagination come up with its own stories. 

Keep your eyes open for seals as you’re walking around…the caves are supposedly home to the Mediterranean monk seal. The story says that in the 30s, Queen Mary of Romania received a pair of seals as a gift. At first, they lived enclosed on the shores of Balchik, but soon after, she set them free. The favourable conditions of the coast allowed the pair to have generations dwelling in the underwater caves of Tyulenovo. 

Some say that seals still inhabit the cliffs, while others argue that in 1978, a German cave expedition discovered the remains of the last seal. You can hire a boat from the locals and go for a row to explore the caves, not just physically but also imaginatively. 

8. The Stone Desert 

The Stone Dessert or Pobitite Kamuni
The Stone Dessert

Pobiti Kamani, also known as the Stone Desert, is an otherworldly fossil forest, a UNESCO Heritage Site, the only one of its kind in Europe and the second in the world. Situated along the Black Sea coast in the eastern part of the Moesian Plate, it’s a maze of smaller and bigger pale grey sandstone groups, home to unique, protected plant, vertebrate and invertebrate species.

Several theories surround the origin of the Stone Desert, including the legend that it was created by a giant. When it comes to science, though, scientists are still arguing about the origin of the formations, whether they are petrified corals or perhaps eroded cliffs. The newest hypothesis shows that the structures were formed around natural methane gas seeps in the sea floor 50 million years ago.  

This World Heritage Site was significant to the ancients as it was Stonehenge for druids, serving as a solar calendar to track the yearly movement of the sun. 

Let your imagination run wild as you stroll through the desert and its mesmerising formations, resembling people, animals, trees, mushrooms and all kinds of objects. 

A must-see while in the area is the Circle of Wishes. According to legend, your wishes will come true if you stand in the circle and whisper them. 

The 8 m high Stone of Fertility is another formation famed for its powers to increase fecundity. 

Just as mysterious and magical is the Stone of Divine Love, where from May to August, between 12 and 4 pm, you can witness the sunlight beaming right through the heart, projecting it on the sand. 

A few hours here will reward you with enough breathtaking wonders to last a lifetime.  

If you're not sure whether you want to relax on dreamy beaches, tour medieval cave monasteries or spend your afternoons sipping tea in the sun while on your dental holiday, in Varna you can do it all and do it well. 

A relatively compact city, Varna is stuffed and surrounded by remarkably diverse sites, landscapes and history, having something for every kind of traveller. 

Ready to explore the incredible array of delights that Varna has to offer? Check out your options for dental tourism in Varna with Dentaround here.

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