With a surface of 168,500 square miles, the Black Sea is the world’s largest inland body of water. Stretching between Europe and Asia, the Black Sea is fed by such important rivers as the Danube, Dnieper, and Don. Its coast is bordered by six countries: Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. Each country features beautiful seaside towns attracting countless visitors each year because of the beaches, historical sites, forests, and mountains as well as great cuisine, different from one country to another. The water body is named “Black” not because it’s dirty but from a sailor’s point of view. During severe winter storms, the water looks so dark that it appears black.
There are various ways to explore and discover the charm of the Black Sea. You can go on one of several small ship Black Sea cruises, visit parts on Danube river cruises, or visit the countries on its coast individually. Whichever method you choose, today we’ll introduce you to the most beautiful seaside towns, listed by country. We have left out Russia and Ukraine because of difficult visa requirements, but there is plenty left to enjoy.
The Turkish Black Sea coast, divided into a western and an eastern section, is famous for its lush green forests, wooden houses, beaches, mountains, fruit orchards, and tea plantations. Summers are much cooler than in the rest of the country, which makes it attractive to Turkish families, so you will have a good chance to rub shoulders with the locals. None of the seaside towns are ever overcrowded; beach amenities can be rather basic, but it’s a paradise for adventurous travelers and lovers of nature and history.
Trabzon is the largest city on Turkey’s Black Sea coast and an ideal starting point for further exploration, as it has an airport with terminals for national and international flights. It is also an important port town and features several pretty beaches, the best being Camburnu Plaji.
Trabzon is the birthplace of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, under whose rule (1521-56) the Ottoman Empire was at its most prosperous. It’s a pleasure to stroll through the narrow streets of the old town or to walk in the green Meydan Park. St. Anne’s is the oldest church, but there are many more mosques and churches to visit. A highlight that should not be missed is a day trip to the stunning Sumela Monastery. At about one hour inland and glued to a steep cliff, the monastery is reached via a picturesque road that leads through dense woods, valleys, and along streams, and ends at a car park. From there you have about half an hour’s steep and a bit slippery walk to reach the entrance. Best is an organized trip.
Unye is a small but well-loved Turkish beach resort in the Ordu province at approximately 500 miles from Istanbul. You can drive, go by coach, fly, or go on a combined flight/ferry trip. In pretty Unye, beaches meet forests, especially the Asarkaya Forest and Uzunkum and Feneralti beaches. The beaches are a bit pebbly, but the water is turquoise clear.
The town is famous for stonemasonry and boasts many traditional stone-and-wood Black Sea houses. It’s also the only place on the Turkish Black Sea coast where you can hire a horse at the Equestrian Center. Hellenistic rock tombs are frequently found throughout Turkey, but here you can have your first glimpse.
Located on the northern edge of the Turkish Black Sea, Sinop is the birthplace of Diogenes. Visit his statue, where he stands on top of a barrel, an illuminated lamp in his hand with which he is searching for an honest man. Massive city walls run throughout, interspersed with seven towers giving you a splendid view over the city and sea. Walk along the sheltered harbor, and have a break in one of the many tea rooms to enjoy a glass of fragrant Turkish tea. Forty-five minutes outside the city, you find Erfelek Tatlica Selaleleri Tabiat Parki, a park with no less than 28 waterfalls.
Ordu is a port town and famous as the center of hazelnut production and mulberry tree plantations. In fact, a quarter of the world’s hazelnuts come from here. Boztepe is a hill overlooking the town and port, reached by either gondola or the Boztepe Hill aerial tram.
What hazelnuts are for Ordu, tea is for Rize. Located approximately 50 miles east of Trabzon, the small town of Rize is the center of Turkey’s tea production. Tea plantations cover every hill, making it a pretty, green landscape. The beauty is that several tea plantations have their own production places where you can see every stage of the process, from harvesting to drying to packaging. They also sell the most amazing array of products, such as tea soap and tea cologne, which is very fresh smelling and makes a great change from the ever-present lemon cologne.
Editor’s note: Intrigued by the area? Here’s Inka with nine reasons you’ll love visiting Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
Although neighbors, Turkey and Bulgaria are very different. The influence of communism is still evident in Bulgaria, especially in the buildings. But the seaside towns have been modernized and are now prettier than ever.
If you haven’t heard of the Gold of Varna, this refers to one of the world’s most important gold treasures, 6,000 years old and discovered in a burial site. But it also refers to the many golden beaches that make the port town of Varna such a beautiful seaside resort. But there is a lot more to entertain you. The Sea Garden is a huge park and promenade along the waterfront, with palm trees and flowers to cool off in on a hot day. The aforementioned gold treasure can be admired in the Varna Archaeological Museum, whilst the shining copper domes of late 19th century Varna Cathedral will attract your attention as well.
Nearby is a natural phenomenon that has to be seen to be believed. The Stone Forest, found in the only piece of desert in Bulgaria, consists of huge, hollow, natural stone columns. The stone needles along the river shore are equally eye catching. And for light entertainment, there is an Amusement Park.
For me, Nessebar is the best of Bulgaria’s seaside towns. The whole town is an open-air museum with the sea in the background. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Thracian settlement that was once an important trade center sits on a small, rocky peninsula, reached via a narrow causeway. This leads you straight into a maze of cobbled streets, along medieval and Roman walls, past churches and 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses. Take your time and explore the Roman ruins, the Hagia Sofia church, and all the other testimonies of thousands of years of history. The wooden Black Sea houses lean precariously into the streets, whereas the ground floors are occupied by restaurants, cafes, and shops selling handmade souvenirs. Nessebar’s history is trade, and it was here that the world’s first gold coins were made.
If you want a beach, head to nearby Sunny Beach. The beach is beautiful, but the rest is just a resort with apartment blocks, hotels, casinos, fast food, and strip joints. Much like Albena, which is only 20 miles from Varna.
Romania, which has a border with Bulgaria, is known for the forested region of Transylvania, connected to the Dracula legends. Its Black Sea coast is not very long, but it is one beautiful seaside town.
Located on a strip of land between the Black Sea and Lake Siutghiol, Mamaia is a destination for beach enthusiasts. The best time to visit the soft and sandy beaches, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and vacations with kids, is between June and late September. You’ll find bed and breakfasts and hotels for all budgets, and for entertainment, there is the Aqua-Magic waterpark or the Mamaia Cable Car.
Georgia is bordered by Turkey in the south and in great part dominated by the Caucasus mountain range, although the landscape varies greatly, from rainforest and swamps to snow-covered mountains and glaciers. There are several seaside resorts on the Black Sea coast that attract many visitors. Tourism is a growing industry in Georgia.
Batumi is the biggest seaside resort in Georgia, with lots of modern hotels. The beaches are pebbly. Only 35 miles north, in Ureki, will you find sandy beaches, but they are black. Batumi has a lot more to offer than beaches. There is a wonderful beach promenade with many quirky sculptures along the way, as well as colorful murals. The local market, with fresh and fragrant products, is a delight, as is the Batumi Botanical Garden. Look out for the tower of the university, which has a little Ferris wheel incorporated up high. Even the McDonald’s has flowers growing on the roof. Stroll through the narrow streets of the old town where people while the time away and laundry flutters across the street. Batumi loves art and is reinventing itself all the time.
Located in west Georgia where the river Enguri empties into the Black Sea, Anaklia is a modern resort with the usual array of hotels. The resort is connected to the village of Ganmukhuri by a 1,771-foot pedestrian bridge across the river. On a clear day, the Caucasus can be seen in the distance. The area between the sea and mountains is flat and very fertile, which is why you will see tea plantations and citrus orchards here.
If you are after a really quiet beach vacation with kids, Grigoleti is the place to go. Access to the water is shallow, the sand is fine but black, and there are neither beach bars nor sun loungers. Bring your own towels and a picnic and enjoy the sun (it’s one of the warmest places on the entire Black Sea), the scent of dense pine forests bordering the beach, peace, and quiet.