The Black Sea Highway, Straight to the Golden Sands of Bulgaria

Dreams of future coastal cruising along the beautiful coast of the Black Sea.

Shot of a happy young woman enjoying a summers road trip
The Black Sea Highway will soon connect two major destinations on the Black Sea Coast: the historic cities of Varna and Burgas. Photo: iStock / Gradyreese

One of Europe’s most beautiful coasts will finally receive a highway that has been in the pipeline for decades. The Black Sea Highway will connect the two pearls of the Black Sea, the historic cities of Varna and Burgas. Locals and tourists alike will rejoice as becomes much easier to visit all the beautiful sites the region has to offer. 

The Bulgarian Riviera has been a magnet for tourists for nearly a century. It also served as one of most attractive vacation destinations for people living behind the Iron Curtain during the decades when travel outside of the Soviet sphere was difficult. The region is famous for its wide and golden sandy beaches that occasionally meet with the rocky headlands springing out from the Balkan Mountains, creating cliffs more than 70 meters high just by the coast in the northern parts of the country. 

The region’s two largest cities and main seaports, Varna and Burgas, are the country’s third and fourth largest cities respectively. Their two airports also serve the millions of foreign tourists that visit the region each year. The same tourists who have thus been hampered in their efforts to more thoroughly explore due to the lack of a proper highway to make travel swift and easy. That is hopefully about to change in the coming years as the Black Sea Highway was added to the list of Three Seas Initiative Priority Projects during the organization’s summit in Sofia in 2021.

Cruising down the Black Sea Coast

Many Bulgarian have, for decades, had their fingers crossed for a scenic route to be built between Varna and Burgas. The first plans were laid out during the 1970s, but the idea really started taking shape around the time of Bulgaria’s EU accession in 2007.  Disappointingly, the project has since been marred with delays, with the start date for its construction constantly being pushed back. Following the Three Seas summit in Sofia, hopes are again high that work can start on the project, which is should consist of a 103 km stretch with a design speed of 120 kmph once finished. 

The highway will radically shorten the journey between the two cities, as traffic on the current, lower-standard road, is slowed down by the narrow passage through the Balkan Mountains between Nesebar and Obzor. During the hectic summer season, traffic on the I-9 road, practically all of which only provides one driving lane per direction, often comes to an almost complete standstill. 

The new highway, with its many bridges and viaducts adapted to the difficult terrain, will solve the existing bottleneck while also connecting the region to other planned highways. The hope is that it will make the region much more attractive for investors, locals and tourists alike. From Varna in the north, a new highway is planned to link up with the Romanian A4 Motorway, leading to Constanta and then via the already-finished A2, further to Bucharest. 

From Burgas in the south, there are plans for a new highway that will lead all the way to Istanbul. The Turkish metropolis with 15 million inhabitants is only 300 km away, but necessitates a well-over 5 hour drive at the moment. If everything goes according to plan, the planning stage of the Black Sea Highway currently underway will soon be replaced by the construction phase, paving the way for motorists to be able to cruise down the Black Sea coast in comfort and style by the early 2030s.

Filip Rey

Filip Rey comes from a Polish family that left the country following the outbreak of the Second World War and settled in Switzerland after a short interlude in Paris. Filip returned to Poland for his university studies in 2014 in order to better get to know the country of his grandparents. He specializes in International Relations and Security Studies, applying his knowledge within those fields to analyze the geopolitics of Central Eastern Europe

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