Southern Europe is overcrowded, and numerous sunny spots on the coast are moving to limit tourism, with Italy going as far as enforcing a traffic ban on certain days on the scenic Amalfi Coast and France launching ticketing systems for certain natural parks.
Understandably, a growing number of Americans flying across the pond this summer is now wondering where they should go for less crowds and, most importantly, fairer prices.
In case you haven’t heard, much of the Mediterranean is poised for record price surges, including destinations that used to be comparatively affordable once, like Croatia, the Eurozone’s newest member, and an increasingly Westernized nation.
Luckily, the Black Sea is yet to be overrun with tourists, and boasting sandy beaches, azure swimming spots, and great weather, it is the Med’s strongest competitor this season.
Where Is The Black Sea?
The Black Sea is a partially-enclosed body of water surrounded by Eastern Europe and Turkey’s Anatolian Peninsula.
In total, six countries have ports on this sea. It borders Bulgaria and Romania to the West, Ukraine and Russia to the North, the small nation of Georgia to the East, and Turkey along its southernmost edge.
While Russia and Ukraine are not cleared for travel as of yet, due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the four remaining countries that straddle the Black Sea are perfectly safe for visitors and have enjoyed a sudden popularity boost as resort destinations.
Below, you will find four of the top-rated vacation spots in the region:
Batumi is the largest seaside resort in Georgia, a nation nestled in the Caucasus mountain range between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Dubbed the Georgian Vegas, Batumi is renowned for housing a large concentration of casinos and entertainment venues, and it’s the country’s gateway to the Black Sea, jam-packed with luxurious beachfront hotels.
The cityscape has Dubai-like glistening skyscrapers lining the whole extent of the grey-sand municipal beach, but other than modern development sites, Batumi is renowned for its traditional neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau architecture and more than 10 km of municipal beach.
Last year, only 5.4 million tourists landed in Georgia.
Not all of them would have fulfilled their stays in Batumi, as the country’s main entry points are in the capital city of Tbilisi and Kutaisi, making Batumi a not-so-busy beach getaway.
Trabzon is Turkey’s Black Sea gem, only a 3-hour drive from Batumi in Georgia.
Serving as the capital of the namesake province, it is a melting pot of the sorts, having been inhabited since immemorial times by native Anatolians before it was settled by the Greeks and ultimately conquered by Roman colonizers, who established a strong presence on the Black Sea at the apex of the Empire.
Eventually, Trabzon would become an important transit stop along the Silk Road, as well as an important Ottoman trading port later on.
As expected, all of these contrasting influences are still scattered all around the city, whether it’s Byzantine churches or Ottoman-era bazaars, but Trabzon’s true splendor lies in the breathtaking nature that it offers.
Providing guests with easy access to the ocean, it encompasses numerous Black Sea beaches, with the most famous being Çamburnu Plajı, a sandy strip bounded by calm waters.
South of Trabzon, nature lovers will find the Pontic Mountains, with hiking trails that lead to picturesque alpine lakes, ancient villages, and off-path Roman ruins.
Unlike Antalya or Bodrum, however, two other Turkish destinations on the Mediterranean provinces that are exploding in popularity at the minute, Trabzon is still flying under the radar of most Westerners, and it’s one of Turkey’s last few hidden gems.
Eforie Nord, Romania
On the European section of the Black Sea, Eforie Nord is one of the basin’s top trending holidays.
A small beach town, it boasts an extensive sandy beach lapped by the bright-blue sea, dotted with colorful parasols and beach bars.
Accommodation options are more limited, and occupancy rates are high over summer – mainly due to Romanians traveling on their vacations – but as Eforie Nord is yet to catch the attention of foreigners, who flock instead to Constanta, the largest Romanian port city, or Sunny Beach, in Bulgaria.
This means you should expect fair prices and less gentrification, as well as more authentic experiences, seeing that this is a traditional Romanian resort mostly frequented by locals.
Nightly rates at four-star hotels in the area start at just USD$62, though plenty of far cheaper options are also available on Booking.com.
Eforie Nord is where Romanians travel to relax, enjoy the coastal atmosphere, and catch a tan under the scorching Balkan sun, so it may not be the right pick for you if you’re looking for something a little more exciting.
In that case, you try instead the aforementioned Constanta, a vibrant city home to nearly 300,000 people and an extensive list of casinos, entertainment venues, and nightclubs.
Sveti Vlas, Bulgaria
Sveti Vlas is a resort town and development zone part of the Nesebar municipality, the most picturesque on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
As a majority of tourists flock instead to the neighboring Sunny Beach, where all of the beachfront resorts and nightclubs are concentrated, Sveti Vlas has a more traditional, quaint feel to it: it is, first and foremost, a historical destination.
Originally founded as a Greek colony, its Hellenism was evident in the town’s demographic and the locals’ way of life until the early 20th century, when the Greek families who were native to Sveti Vlas had to emigrate to neighboring Greece upon the redrawing of borders.
Nowadays, Sveti Vlas is largely populated by Bulgarians, who bring their South Slavic culture and tradition to the mix. Other than strolling the streets and sampling the flavorful Eastern Balkan cuisine, tourists are free to chill by the beach – golden sands, not pebbles – or take boat tours along the Black Sea coast.
In total, there are 14 five-star listings in the Sveti Vlas municipality on Booking.com, with overnight rates ranging from US$208 for an entire studio at the Garden of Eden Complex, to US$638 at the HVD Reina del Mar, an all-inclusive luxurious retreat in Obzor, 16km from town.
If you’re looking for a quieter Black Sea resort that also feels more exclusive and ‘expensive’ than the much busier Sunny Beach or Romania’s Constanta, this is where you should be headed.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com