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Sozopol, Bulgaria

Location map: Sozopol
Distance to district city: 31 km.

Price Category: 2 What's this?

Sightseeing nearby: Ropotamo River - Alepou Marsh

Location: The town of Sozopol has population of about 7,000 people and is situated 31km south of Bourgas. The town lies on a small rocky peninsula in the farthest southern part of the Bourgas Bay. A one hundred-metre long strip of land connects it to the mainland. From 1925 on, the town has expanded in the direction of the Harmanite Area (the so-called 'new town').

History: The earliest settlements in the area belonged to the Thracian tribes of Nipsei and Skirimian. In the 7th century BC Greek colonisers settled there and called the town after their god of Apollo, Apolonia. To the honour of Apollo, the construction of a thirteen-metre high bronze statute of the god was carried out by a sculptor named Kalamis. Apolonia developed mainly as a trading centre for honey, wax, corn, wine, olive oil, olives, textiles, jewellery, and pottery. Apolonia was frequently in economic and political disputes, including occasional wars, with the Doric inhabitants of Messembria (present-day Nessebar). Apolonia was included in the territory of the Macedonian State at the time of Alexander the Great. It was frequently subject to, but warded off, invasions of Nomads. The town fell under Roman domination in the 1st century BC after it was severely ruined by the armies of Marcus Lucul. The latter sent the famous statute of Apollo to Rome as a symbol of his victory. Yet Romans quickly restored the ruins, built new temples. Already in the 6th century BC Apolonia minted coins of its own. The high level of cultural development of the town at that time is testified by items found in its necropolis - ceramics, vases made of Egyptian glass, silver and golden decorations. The upturn of the town was so great, that Sozopol managed to establish its own colony, Anhialo (present-day Pomorie).
Roman domination secured three centuries of peace before the next invasion of barbarian tribes. It was only in the 5th century that the town was included in the territory of Byzantium. During the reign of Khan Kroum it was within the borders of Bulgaria and like all other sea towns it frequently changed hands between Bulgaria and Byzantium. It was severely devastated in the middle of the 14th century during an attack of the Genoa fleet. Later it was conquered and sold to the Romans by the knights of Amadeus of Savoy. After a long siege the town fell under Turkish rule in 1453. Only wooden houses have been built there ever since; the oldest of these can be still seen in the old quarter of the town. A small fishermen's settlement at the time of the Liberation, Sozopol gradually became the biggest fishing centre of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, which also developed a tourism industry. The famous Tsar's Beach is located to the north of the town. Raiski Zaliv (Paradise Bay) is nestled among rocks to the south of the town, while further southwards are the Kavatsite beach and camping site. The Harmanite Beach is immediately to the south of the so-called 'new town'. An ancient necropolis was found here in 1993 and excavations are still going on.

Places of Interest: The sights of Sozopol are many, but none of them can be separated from the rest since all of them impact the visitors as an attractive ensemble. Among these are two ancient churches from the Renaissance period - St. Zosim Church and The Holy Virgin Church. The houses of Dimitur Laskaridis, who used to be a fish trader (built in the 17th century, and now hosting an art gallery), Ana Trendafilova, Kourtidis, Una Psarianova (now redesigned into a restaurant, Stenata Restaurant), Grandmother Koukoulissa Hadzhinikolova (today housing the office of Sturshel Newspaper), Metropoliev (a medical centre at present), Kreanoolu, are only a few of the more than 45 architectural monuments of Sozopol. The ancient atmosphere of the town is further fed by cobbled streets and high fences in front of which the old women sit and chat, knit laces and sell jams. Interestingly, one can still hear Greek speech among natives, particularly in the old town. Interesting places to visit are the Archaeological Museum and the Art Gallery. Moreover, at the beginning of September each year the town hosts the big Apolonia International Art Festival, which attracts artists and art lovers from all over the country and abroad.

The isle of St. Ivan is situated just 2km away from the old town in northern direction. St. Ivan is the biggest Black Sea isle in Bulgarian territorial waters. The isle shelters a sonar lighthouse, which together with the lighthouse on the Emine cape shows the way to the Bourgas Bay. Once upon a time, the isle hosted a monastery called the Holy Virgin, which was later renamed into St. Ivan Prodromos.

Outside Sozopol, there are a number of fjord-like formations to the south. The coast here is particularly high and jagged by the incoming waves. There are numerous secluded caves as well. Some 20km to the south is the mouth of the Ropotamo River, which is declared a natural reserve. The Duni Resort is situated 12 km north of Primorsko and was completed in 1987 as a Bulgarian-Austrian project. It offers lots of hotels, villas and bungalows. The Alepou Beach and Arkoutino Beach just next to the resort in southern direction are wild and beautiful places where the sea is traditionally rough. Cape Maslen is situated just after the mouth of the Roporamo River. Its rocky profile and steep slope down to the sea offer a great view to tourists on top of it. Beneath the cape, one can see small and quiet coves among the fiords, covered with pebbles and seashells. Further southwards is the Perla Camping located in one of the most beautiful bays along the Black Sea coast. Here the beach gradually turns into a green grove. Nearby is the marsh of Stomoplo. Two natural reserves cover this area - Vodna Lilia (water lily) and Velyov Vir. Via Pontica - the way of migrating birds flying to the south passes through here. Every year at the end of the summer thousands of storks, pelicans, and about 30 species of birds of prey gather in the area before they head southwards to spend the winter.

Accommodation: While there are private lodgings in both the old and the new part of the town, the latter is constantly expanding and offers a bigger choice in terms of prices and quality alike. Private hotels have been also increasing in number in recent years (particularly in the new town), with the Radik Hotel and the Groudov Hotel being among the more popular known ones. It is worth noting though that at the time of the Apolonia festival the town is flooded by people (held traditionally in the first 10 days of September), and prior booking is recommended.
There are a lot of camping sites around Sozopol where many tourists spend their holidays: Kavatsite, Smokinya, Vesselie, Zlatna Ribka and Gradina. They offer bungalows of different categories, sites for caravans, tents and vehicles. Prices are quite moderate, while service is of acceptable quality to less picky tourists. One can also choose to sleep in the nearby town of Chernomoretz, where prices are much lower than in Sozopol. Chernomoretz is just 6km away from Sozopol, while it offers a rich choice of accommodation in spacious new houses.

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Catering: Judging by occupancy rates, tourists seem to rate best most of the small coastal restaurants and private pubs both in the old and new part of the town. Stalls for fish, pizza places, and snack-bars scattered all over the camping sites are also popular among visitors. Among the most attractive places are Vyaturnata Melnitsa, Sozopol Tavern, Athens Tavern, the restaurants Xantana, Neptun, Drouzhba Fishing Boat, Orpheus, Olymp, Stenata, Kladentsa, Lilia. Some of these are very interesting as they are built over ancient remains after detailed archaeological research and restorations. Such an example is the Stenata Restaurant, the basement of which was used as a grain warehouse far back in time while the Kladenetsa Restaurant was built over a spring, which used to supply the town with drinking water via water pipes. Prices at restaurants are traditionally high. Places at camping sites and small restaurants along the beach offer more moderate prices. There are a lot of groceries and marketplaces. One could buy fish directly from fishermen at the quay.

Transport: High-frequency bus lines connect Sozopol to Bourgas. Route taxis, minibuses and ordinary taxis run along the same route as well.

More information about Sozopol:
Sozopol and its islands - a different view

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