The Black Sea is rising fast in popularity as a summer destination, with record rates of occupation in resort towns, a higher number of foreign guests landing in bordering countries, and a rapid post-crisis recovery that supersedes that of some Mediterranean countries.
For years, the Mediterranean – commonly called the Med – was seen as Europe’s only valuable summer offer due to its warm waters and balmy weather, while in the continent’s far North, the weather remains cooler year-round.
As some travelers are now finding out, however, Southern Europe is not their only shot at an idyllic sunny getaway across the pond, as the Black Sea claims the title of ‘New Mediterranean‘:
The Med Is Not Europe’s Only Warm Basin
Officially a marginal Mediterranean sea by definition – an enclosed sea with limited exchange of water with outer oceans – the Black Sea is yet another warm-water basin most tourists ignore, either due to its uninviting name or misconceptions relating to weather conditions and safety in Eastern Europe.
It is anything but dark-colored, and temperatures are the complete opposite of glacial.
The Black Sea is in fact incredibly azure, and even bright blue in certain parts, and it gets just as warm – if not warmer as it is even more enclosed than other similar seas than the Med in the hotter months of the year.
Some Black Sea coastal spots report temperatures of 40°C (104°F) and higher over summer, and this naturally reflects in the water temperature, which hits on average 26-27°C (78-80°). It’s surely no Persian Gulf, but it is pleasant to swim, and you won’t feel a shock jumping in the water.
Plus, the Black Sea is home to some of Europe’s most ancient nations and some of its most culturally-charged historical ports.
A Treasure Trove Of Ancient Gems
Countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Turkiye, Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia (though the latter two are off-limits due to the ongoing war) have their coastlines within the basin, and we still struggle to pick our favorite Black Sea beach town with such a vast array of incredible options.
Without a doubt, the best-developed resorts, and the destinations that are better prepared to host tourists, are located on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.
Bulgaria has re-emerged in the post-COVID scene as a strong alternative to the Mediterranean South due to its golden-sand beaches, slow-paced lifestyle, and huge affordability.
The leading resort town in Bulgaria, the aptly-named Sunny Beach, located on a sandy stretch of coast between the cities of Burgas and Varna, has accommodation rates as cheap as US$39 per night in the peak of summer, inexpensive restaurants where a modest meal will cost you as little as US$5.75, and a half liter of domestic beer for a negligible US$1.78.
The beaches in Bulgaria are also some of the longest and cleanest, extending for miles on end and bounded by lush marine parks.
Not to sound redundant, the beach in Sunny Beach already gets jam-packed over summer, but quieter, more secluded swimming spots can still be found within short driving distance of the town, such as the municipal beach near Nesebar island and St. Vlas.
Rougher Yet Equally Beautiful Romania
Romania, on the other hand, is not as well sought-after but just as promising a summer destination. Cities like Constanta and Mangalia offer visitors an escape from the gray, Brutalist cityscape of Bucharest, the national capital, and a whole range of attractions to keep them entertained for days.
Whether it’s some casino fun, family-friendly water parks, live music venues, or nightclubs you’re after, Constanta will most certainly not disappoint.
On the downside, beaches in Romania tend to be somewhat dirtier than their Black Sea counterparts, with the sands of Constanta, neighboring Eforie Nord, and Mamaia reporting high rates of crowding – mostly locals – and littering in the high season.
If you’re looking for less of this and more of those idyllic, peaceful coastal vibes, head out of Constanta to Corbu and Vama Veche, smaller coastal towns where tourism has not yet turned disruptive.
Fascinating Black Sea Turkiye
Then there is Turkiye’s hugely underrated Black Sea province, with its small, minaret-dotted coastal towns of Amasra and Sinop, bounded by the ocean, and the historical Trabzon, famous for its rich Byzantine heritage.
Trabzon has an up-and-coming resort scene. While it is surely not as popular as Mediterranean Turkiye, where extremely popular sunny getaways like Antalya and Izmir are located, it has a reputation for being a quieter seaport with a more laid-back atmosphere.
Guests are particularly fond of the slow-paced lifestyle they enjoy here and the crowd-free beaches to the West of Trabzon.
Bordering Turkiye, Georgia straddles the Black Sea as well, and its main attraction, the resort city of Batumi, has been making headlines this year as the perfect alternative to over-crowded, increasingly more expensive Mediterranean Europe.
With its beautiful architecture, futuristic skyscrapers and marine gardens that have earned it the title of ‘Georgian Dubai’, and a surprisingly long stretch of beach, Batumi is perhaps Europe’s most underrated beach destination.
Other than their diverse offer, Black Sea ports have exciting new hotel openings scheduled in the near future, including an Accor-Mardi Holding joint-venture expected to bow in Batumi, a whopping five all-inclusive Hyatt resorts in Bulgaria, and further IHG Hotels & Resorts listings in Turkiye.
Black Sea summers are super trendy right now, and it’s no surprise all these international brands want a slice of the pie while it’s hot.
The Black Sea Is More Affordable To Visit
Finally, prices across the region can be shockingly affordable compared to Western Europe, as all of the currencies in Black Sea countries are weaker than the American dollar, with the Turkish lira standing out as one of the most devalued currencies currently.
There are no Euroized countries on the Black Sea: even Bulgaria and Romania, both European Union members, have not yet adopted the euro, using their own national currency instead and being renowned for their low cost of living.
You can find modest hotel rooms in Burgas for as cheap as US$24 in the Bulgarian high season, as well as more luxurious, four or five-star offers with rates starting at just US$105 per night on Booking.com.
Turkiye’s Black Sea Province is no different, with well-equipped, five-star offers in Trabzon ranging from US$109 only, to an acceptable US$283 per night. In Batumi, you will find VIP beachfront apartments for US$51 and US$275 for four-star resorts.
The Black Sea is beautiful and warm, it has fewer tourists, prices are fair, and there are enough historical landmarks to keep the History buff, Europhile in you entertained for days – it’s no wonder it’s Europe’s best place to be this summer.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com