Bulgaria holiday rentals, guides and travel

Child Friendly Activities In St Vlas, Sunny Beach And Nessebar

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Anyone with young children knows that life is way more enjoyable when the kids have lots to do. Luckily children have incredibly active imaginations so keeping them entertained takes just a little effort. I remember once telling my children that a paving stone was actually a ship and then watched them go on a half hour pirate adventure by jumping on and off it, in the end they found a treasure (a couple of pebbles) which they keep in their bedroom.

There are more traditional ways of keeping children amused: slides, swings, climbing frames are some of them but when you go on holiday finding a playground isn’t as easy as you would expect. Let’s face it a slide doesn’t count as a tourist attraction so it won’t be marked on a tourist map.

Luckily I have some inside knowledge when it comes visiting St Vlas, Sunny Beach and Nessebar because I’ve been there enough times with my children. In the map below I have marked a number of child friendly locations:

View the map of child friendly locations in St Vlas, Sunny Beach and Nessebar in a larger map

There are a few playgrounds with swings, slides and climbing frames in St Vlas. One is in front of Hotel Laguna near the main square, another smaller one is past the main square as you walk up the hill. There is another one on the last beach past the marina, there you will find other activities which are fun for children like a bouncy castle and mini golf. One more that I know is at the top of the hill above the last beach. There are other playgrounds in Nessbar new town and Nessebar old town (they are on the map).

water parks are a lot of fun

The water parks are a lot of fun. There are two of them, one in Sunny Beach and one in Nessebar. There are free buses running every 15/20 minutes that stop at all the bus stops in the area which will take you there and bring you back. Each water park has it’s own bus so make sure you get on the right one.

In the past years in St Vlas they organised a baby disco / singing / dancing activities for children two times a week on Tuesday night and Thursday night at the amphitheatre. The events are advertised on posters but I recommend you to go to the tourist office and find out the exact times and days of the week as I am sure the exact times and days change each year.

In the main square in St Vlas they organise events in the evening like classical/jazz music. Again I recommend asking at the tourist office which will have up to date information. Speaking of the main square there is also a fountain there with lights and music (not live, from speakers) which is enough to attract a lot of children every evening who like to play there.

Another place worth visiting is a restaurant on the mountain between St Vlas and Sunny Beach called Hanska Shatra (Han’s Tent). The building has an unusual tent type architecture and there is lots of space for the children to run around and play. It’s good to go at sunset because there are fantastic views better enjoyed as the sun disappears over the horizon. Also when I was there, they had a show with music, dancing and traditional costumes. Note that it’s not within walking distance if you go with young children so you will have to organise a taxi or find out about a shuttle bus.


How Sveti Vlas Has Changed

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I hadn’t been in Sveti Vlas for over a year so when I visited this summer I got to check out all the changes that have happened. Sveti Vlas is still very dynamic so there was a lot to see, here is a summary.

First let me start with some of the brand new. It probably comes as no surprise that there are new apartment buildings, some unfinished ones from my last visit have been completed and some new ones have been started. I’m happy to say that the new construction is visually very appealing which is good news. As well as using aesthetically aware architects, I suspect that the developers did a lot of learning in their first builds and now that the industry is more established they are doing a better job than ever. Today the area between the old town and the beach is much closer to completion with only a handful of areas of open land that either belong to local government or will no doubt be snapped up in the next few years.

That part of Sveti Vlas has grown into a modern, sun drenched, residential resort with well kept, self contained complexes perfect for families with young children. By self contained I mean that each has it’s own communal and private areas to relax in like gardens and swimming pools. Quite a number of them also house food/clothes shops, restaurants and bars which are of course open to non residents as well. And some buildings have more exotic outlets; I came across a gym, a few beauty salons and a sky-bar. For sure the character for this area of Sveti Vlas has matured into one that suits quite relaxation and luxury.

businesses are beginning to find their feet

Now that most of the eastern side of Sveti Vlas is complete, businesses are beginning to find their feet. For example this year I noticed some of the beach bars look very much like they are actually there to stay, with temporary structures replaced by permanent ones, proper bathroom facilities and kitchens. Also on the beach the places where you can hire equipment for water sports like windsurfs are better run, for a start they openly advertise prices so they no longer give you a price based on how much money they think you are willing to spend. I might even rent a board for a few hours next year. And another thing just about every establishment in Sveti Vlas has free WIFI so if you need to get onto the internet just pull up a chair, order a drink and get the barman to give you the password.

The general infrastructure of the area has also been markedly improved. Roads that used to be dirt tracks are now tarmacked and well lit. One of the new roads that leads to the port even has pavement level lighting which gives a really great effect and I’ve never seen it before anywhere. Also there has been an effort to put in pavements everywhere which makes it easier if you have a pushchair, although I would say that some haven’t been thought out that well. On more than one occassion I was forced onto the road with the buggy because there was a lamp post right in the middle of the way.

There is one big part of Sveti Vlas that I haven’t talked about yet and that is area that joins it to Sunny Beach. On my first ever visit to the area this piece of land had no construction on it at all, but it has been growing and in the last year it has really begun to pick up momentum. Here too construction is primarily holiday style apartments with all mod cons. Some of the builds have direct access to the sea and although not all this coastline is beach, although I have heard (and seen evidence) that there are plans to transport sand so that Sveti Vlas beach joins the one at Sunny Beach. Certainly this is a prime location if you are want to buy a property abroad.


Hard To Find Niche Accommodation

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Image by seanmcgrath

Despite their homely character and exclusive feel there are some villa’s, chalets and guest houses that are very hard to find on the internet. I’m going to explain why and give you tips on how to search for this niche accommodation.

The vast majority of holiday accommodation is booked on the internet with the help of a hotel search or hotel comparison search which makes sense because they look through thousands of hotels and apartments with a single convenient action. However hotel search engines are unlikely to have really niche properties in their database and it’s to do with the how those search engines make money from internet bookings. Let me explain.

Online travel companies that operate hotel search engines add properties to their database as a result of a contract with a hotelier. The essence of the contract is that every booking made through the search engine is subject to commission which is payable on a monthly basis as long as it’s over a certain amount. This is ideal for big hotels or companies that own many properties since this is similar to how traditional travel agents work so they are used to this kind of contract which they can process and honour efficiently.

Niche properties on the other hand are often owned by individuals or are a family business. These kind of owners aren’t used to dealing with the kind of contract I just described and in any case they usually don’t want to be tied to a contract that gives them little control of their own properties. On top of that search engine operators aren’t that keen to have properties owned by individuals in their database for two reasons. The first is that those kind of properties often have a very limited number of rooms so accumulating sufficient commission to get paid on a monthly basis is not likely. The second is that the owners aren’t able to process and uphold contracts, and commission payments efficiently or reliably. This means that this kind of business takes a lot more effort to deal with and it’s simply not lucrative enough.

How do you get to stay in those niche properties?

Said that, it’s clear that niche properties are bookable and based on my experience are often fully booked throughout a season. So how do you get to stay in those niche properties? To answer that I’ll explain it from the owners point of view. The way I attract guests to my property is with local classified adverts, by operating my own web page (not on hotel search engines), from repeat customers and by word of mouth from guests who have stayed in previous years. I know some property owners who also use local travel agents, however the agents’ websites are unlikely to have a tailored search facility on their website.

Based on that, seen from a travellers point of view this is what I recommend if you wish to book a niche property using the internet:

  • Spend time on niche sites that offer accommodation, here’s our section for holiday properties in Bulgaria.
  • When friends and famliy talk about a particularly good holiday, ask them for details of how to book.
  • Offer contact information to friends and family for any good places you have found.
  • Make sure you get in touch with good local travel agents.