We had never heard of Vama Veche and we’re not sure anyone outside of Romania has heard of Vama Veche either. Nor had we heard of Sozopol but here’s why you should seriously consider the Black Sea Coast for your next (non-tropical) beach holiday.Vama Veche
Vama Veche is like an 18-year-old Romanian’s wet dream, the rustic Ibiza of the Balkans if you will. It could easily be compared with Zante or Kuta or any number of beachside party towns BUT this one is still mostly undiscovered by the classic Brit or Aussie party goer. I’m sure it won’t be long before Thomas Cook get their teeth into it.Approximately 1km of sandy shore makes up the town, crawling from end to end with beach bars, booze and bass. We were there at the weekend, granted, but the music didn’t stop once in the 30 or so hours we spent at Vama Veche.When I got up at 6.30am to take a snap of the rising sun the nearest club seemed to be clicking into it’s ‘metal phase’. Obviously the DJ thought he could finish off the 50 strong group of hedonistas and have an early morning but it seemed only to inspire them. By 8.30am he was spinning a devious web of Bonobo to lull them into their awaiting coma, but this fired them up even more! Those Romanians put on a great show and there were still a few of them going when we packed up and left at around 10.30am, by this point I had seen more than a couple of snoozing bodies collapsed on the sand.We stayed at Sandalandala, a permanent festival style campsite with tents crammed in anywhere they would fit. It was a stark contrast to many of the other campsites we had stayed at, if only because of the social aspect. They had some standard ‘package holiday style’ party games going on (the commentary of which was broadcast through every speaker on the site, with extra volume in the toilets..!) and a decent restaurant and bar area. Actually it was pretty well done, mostly made of wood and with a Sandal theme throughout, I know of a certain salty beach bar that would have once been proud to have achieved their level of ‘shabby-chic, beach-rusticness’ (wink wink Freo people!). Like the rest of Vama Veche, Sandalandala is the perfect place for a young holiday maker to spread their wings (legs) and open their… mind. I would highly recommend it if that’s the kind of thing you are looking for – you won’t be disappointed. It wasn’t however the place for us.We decided to hit the road and kiss Romania goodbye. Fortunately the Bulgarian border is about half a mile south of Vama Veche so it wasn’t long before we could tick another country off of the list. The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast was a dream for the motorbikes and we enjoyed it so much that we had covered about 80% of the possible distance before we stopped for (a late) lunch. Our chosen restaurant was in the old town of Sozopol and we decided to stay.Sozopol
Sozopol is everything that Vama Veche isn’t. We stayed at a campsite on South Beach, Gradina Bay, most of which is hidden down a small side road. The bay was about 3km wide in the shape of a crescent moon which seemed to keep the water incredibly flat, perfect for the relaxation we had in mind.We spent two full days baking/basking in the sun and generated more solar power than a 5kw goanna. On the morning of day three we felt extra adventurous and walked to one end of the bay but even the adrenaline promised by the cable towed wake park we found there couldn’t keep us away from the simplicity of a good book and green lay-bag.
The northern end of the bay was littered with beach bars (altogether more civilised than VV) serving tasty food and cool drinks while the southern end was a more ‘public interest, leave nature to do its thing’ affair. Both ends were fantastic. If you were going to stay long term you might be persuaded to try some of the jet skis, rubber rings or kite surfing lessons that were on offer but we didn’t need to. The long ride was starting to take it’s toll and relaxation was all we wanted. These activities were never in your face and the bay is large enough for them to not impinge on your tranquility. Perfect.Our campsite had two restaurants, wifi and a toilet/shower block (which looked unfortunately similar to the one we saw at Auschwitz!) and we were camped no more tha 100ft from the sand. The staff were friendly and spoke good English so between the site and the rest of the bay we didn’t need to leave for anything the whole time we were there.The Verdict
Both towns had world class beaches, but that’s where the similarities end. VV was a raucous party town and although there were families there I would say it definitely lends itself to a ‘Sun, Sea and Suspicious Parents’ kind of holiday. Sozopol was as idyllic as it was peaceful and anyone could spend a week or two unwinding there. The Black Sea Coast has everything you could want from a beach holiday, it is very affordable and is mostly unspoilt by modern tourism trends. We had heard it was underrated but it surpassed every expectation we could come up with. Just make sure you pick your destination carefully!