An eerily deserted hotel at Sunny Beach

After solo backpacking with three kids for four months in south-east Asia, we landed in Romania looking for a relaxing holiday and drove over to Bulgaria. We headed to Sunny Beach but all was not quite as we expected. Read on to find out about our travelling funny fail in Bulgaria.

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, Autumn

The Black Sea. Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, Autumn

A Deserted Sunny Beach?

We arrived into a semi-deserted Sunny Beach in late September. The sunshine was fading, the winds were picking up and Autumn was definitely on its way. What we didn’t realise is that Sunny Beach runs very much on seasonal bookings and that most hotel doors had been locked and their pools had been drained.

After waiting for three hours in a Bulgarian car park attempting to gain entry to a Russian owned AirBNB property in a closed resort, we gave up, cancelled the booking and found the first open hotel we could find.

Here’s a funny little story of how we spent two days in Sunny Beach and then drove away quickly.

sunny beach

Sunny Beach

The Black Sea Coast

Sunny Beach sits on the Black Sea coast and is dubbed ‘Bulgaria’s summer house’. It looks like a slightly more upmarket version of Morecambe Bay and is home to a gazillion hotels, holiday apartments, hostels, B&B’s and any other type of holiday accommodation you can think of.  Hotels line the coast for about 5km and it’s estimated that some MILLION people will visit every summer.

sunny beach

Choices but with nowhere open…

What Were You Doing There?

Why on earth did you book an apartment in Sunny Beach at the start of Autumn?  Negotiation & compromise!

In the name of negotiation with the kids (our apartment supposedly had a pool, gym, sauna and spa within the complex) and considering it was the very last week of the holiday season, we booked a week on the Black Coast to appease them. We’d just returned from three months backpacking south-east Asia & they wanted a bit of R&R. I guess I can’t blame them.

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, Autumn

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, Autumn

sunny beach

An empty beach

Wait, Where Is Everyone?

After a leisurely drive via The Wonderful Rocks and a castle on a big rock that we accidentally found en route, we arrived at about 4 pm and the place was deserted.

If you’ve ever watched the start of a horror movie and it’s located in some eerily empty town, that’s exactly what this was like. Tower blocks, hotels, shops, casinos lined the main road, shoulder to shoulder, as far as the eye could see but they were all were closed. No lights, no open doors, no cars, no people…

Rich and I look at each other, looked back at the road and then I think he mouthed to me ‘What is this?’. Finally, we saw a supermarket with its lights on and a smattering of people inside.

sunny beach

The sun setting over the beach

Empty hotel complex, Bulgaria

Empty hotel complex, Bulgaria, Sunny Beach

Arriving At The Apartment Complex

The map for the Airbnb wasn’t exactly correct which heightened our fears of being stranded in this weird place and when we finally arrived there, the pools were all drained, the doors firmly locked & all the lights off. Nobody answered the front door so I made my way around the back where a smoking Bulgarian man shouted at me in German that they were closed.

He locked the gate behind me with a chain and padlock and shouted again in German. I have no idea what he was shouting but it was all very hostile so I took the hint and left.

Deserted, half built hotels, Bulgaria

Sunny beach’s deserted, half built hotels.

sunny beach

Something boarded up

If In Doubt, Call Airbnb

It turns out the owner, based in Russia, only speaks Russian so we had to sit in the car park, call Airbnb and ask them to intervene. Airbnb have always been GREAT with us and even though it takes a while for them to sort things out they eventually do.

On this occasion, the whole palava took about three hours while we tried to track down the complex manager, speak to the owner, cancel the booking and arrange a refund.

sunny beach

Scratch deeper and it isn’t as shiny as it appears

sunny beach

Sunny Beach

Find A Backup Option

As dusk fell and with three very grumpy children in the back of the car we drove down the strip looking for any hotel that showed signs of still being open. Eventually, we found one with its lights on and booked two nights to give us enough time to change our plans.

We were the ONLY people staying at the hotel and they gave us an apartment at a discounted rate given there were no staff on-site and thus no restaurant, bar, sauna, spa, working pool etc…

Oh dear, our kids were not happy & Sunny Beach was not looking very sunny at all.

sunny beach

Our hotel complex

sunny beach

Our hotel complex

What To Make Of Sunny Beach?

The area a little bizarre and I’ll hesitate that it’s possibly because half of it is still under construction, however, I’ll try to describe it as best I can.

Imagine a beautiful hotel with a lovely pool and facilities built on wasteland surrounded by half-built roads, derelict caravans, weeds, stray dogs and rubbish.  The main road gives a pretence of grandeur but behind the shiny facades lies squalor.

Vast sections of beaches were privately owned and charged for use. There were just a few elderly locals who braved the wind to take a walk.

sunny beach

Not that appealing

Kids playing with stray cats, Bulgaria

Playing with stray cat

Sunny Beach Is A Purpose Built Town For Tourism

As I couldn’t really find many locals, I’m pretty sure that Sunny Beach has been purposefully built to attract tourists.  In the summer, when everything is open, I’m sure it’s a fun-filled location with loads to do but in the autumn, not so much.

A Half Built hotel complex Bulgaria

A Half Built hotel complex in Bulgaria Sunny Beach

Where Could You Go After Sunny Beach?

We booked some time in Sofia and had a stopover in Veliko Tarnovo and explored the historical city and ancient walls. 

Sofia has fast become one of our most liked cities in Eastern Europe. There’s loads to do and from here we hiked the Rila Mountains.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo

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