449km (278 miles) east of Sofia

Long the premier summer destination for the Eastern bloc, this heavily developed coastline is now a playground to hordes of package tourists from the West, keen to dance the night away at the numerous makeshift summer clubs along the coast. But when the sun rises and the shadows drawback to reveal the development that lines some of the beaches, it's a cluttered sight.

Bulgaria's once pristine coastline has been overdeveloped north of St. Konstantin, though between there and Varna the landscape just looks like prosperous resort property. But despite the crowds, a trip that incorporates a few days on the Black Sea Coast can be a good experience. Besides blowing off steam on the coastal capital's beachfront, it's worth coming this far just to view the "oldest gold in the world" in Varna's Historical Museum, which compares favorably with the National History Museum in Sofia as the most fascinating museum in the country. Afterward, head south to stroll past Byzantine churches and charming 19th-century timber houses in the UNESCO-listed village of Nessebar. Admittedly, Nessebar's cobbled streets can get clogged with day-trippers, but this is an excuse to head south to the gorgeous old town of Sozopol, with its plethora of seaside restaurants. Time your visit for lunch and, mesmerized by semitranslucent twinkling sea views, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were on the Riviera . . . only better, you realize, when the bill arrives.