For vacation my husband and I have chosen the ancient town of Nessebar, although for a long time we could not choose between it and Balchik. Therefore, a trip to the city-botanical garden was in our plans almost on the first place. After reviewing prices for excursions and comparing them with independent bus trip, we chose the second variant.
Such variant was obviously cheaper. Moreover, we did not want to depend on the plans of the group and the guide. We went from Nessebar by the first bus at 8:00. Unfortunately, there is no direct bus from Nessebar to Balchik and we had to go with a change in Varna. We spent time between trips in one of the largest shopping centers of Varna – Grand Mall (it is located next to the bus station).
We would like to pay your attention to the duration of the bus trip, summary it takes about 4 hours. About 2 and a half hours will take a ride on serpentine road to Varna (the cost of trip is 12 levs per person), then about 30 minutes you’ll have to wait for the next bus to Balchik and about an hour to get there (the cost of travel is 5 levs per person). Therefore, an independent excursion with children – not the best variant of the rest. The trip turns out very tedious.
The entrance to the Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden has two entrances. They are very close and you can enter or exit through any. At the entrance to the garden on both sides are located stalls with a variety of goods and cafes. As you can well understand, prices there are intended for tourists, so you should take care of the water and a couple of sandwiches in advance.
Directly ahead of gates are located two ticket offices – in one of them you can buy a ticket to the garden (the cost of it for adults is 7 levs, for children from 7 to 18 years – 2 levs, and for kids up to 7 years the entrance is free), and in the second – a ticket to the Palace (the cost of the ticket for adults is 5 levs, for children – 1 lev).
Working hours of the ticket offices are limited: in summer time – from 8:00 to 20:00, and in winter – from 8:30 to 17:00.
From our experience we can honestly say, that you can not buy a ticket to the Palace, as there is not much to look at there. But we will tell more about it further in the article.
History of the Garden
The territory of modern Botanical Garden of Balchik almost a century ago was a summer residence of Romanian Queen Maria. Its construction started in 1921 and thanks to the efforts of the Queen became the favorite place to visit among European aristocrats, musicians, poets and artists.
The palace park is made by using different styles of landscape architecture and is undoubtedly a work of art. Symbols of Christian and Moslem religions are harmoniously united in it. Special thanks to the design of the park should be said to the Swiss gardener Jules Janie.
The summer residence of the Queen was unmatched. There were planted rare plants and a rose garden of fantastic beauty. Also there were many bridges, pavilions, ponds and alleys.
And already since 1955 at the territory of the residence with the participation of academic and professor Ducky Yordanov was founded The University Botanical Garden with a total length of more than 6 hectares, which is now pleases tourists from the whole world.
Today, the park has an important function – to it has been officially assigned a status of the rescue center .
Territory of the park
Our joy was boundless when we saw the Botanical Garden and realized that this excursion will be one of the best in Bulgaria.
From the entrance to the garden is opened just a fantastic view of the beautiful neat flower beds, a tiny pond with lotuses, symmetrical rows of cypress trees, openwork pavilions. Walking through the garden is a real pleasure. And when you realize that in the past Romanian Queen walked along these alleys, then you are even a little envious of her.
The territory of the garden – is an imitation of the labyrinth of the island of Crete. In this regard, the local chapel was completely copied from one of the churches of the XV century of the island of Crete.
Here you can see a plurality of alleys with all sorts of flowers and trees, beautiful combinations of plants and architecture, waterfalls and, of course, the highlight of the park – summer residence of the Queen.
As it seemed to us, the most beautiful parts of the park are “Garden of the Gods” (Garden of Allah) and a rose garden (even despite the fact that most of the roses by the time of our visit were, unfortunately, withered). But we should not forget about the greatest collection of cacti and succulents, as well as a variety of unusual plants in a garden: the rubber tree, ginkgo biloba, metasequoia (until recently it was considered extinct forever from our planet), beautiful and delicate lotuses. And also pleased tourists are very often leave small change in the ponds with lotuses, to return once again to this fabulous place.
At the territory of the garden, you can find two wineries. Only here you can taste and buy exclusive drinks, but they will cost more than in other establishments of Bulgaria.
In spring in the territory of the Botanical Garden is held a very beautiful and colorful Tulip Festival. At this time you can see a variety of flowers of different shapes and colors. It is said, that the sight is truly unforgettable. And besides, it is more comfortable to walk through the garden in spring, than in summer heat.
The administration of the park takes care about its visitors. That is why for people with visual and motor difficulties there were created special areas. For blind people there are special signatures to the plants in Braille. It means that all guests will be able to enjoy a stroll through the garden to the full.
Scammers in the park
We walked as if spellbound and enjoyed surrounding nature, until stumbled upon an interesting “exhibit”. In appearance – an ordinary old man in a cylinder, in practice – one another way to make money on curious tourists. The fact that in Bulgaria people are so friendly, that somehow you forget about paid photos and other ways of “earnings” on gullible tourists.
The man was sitting on a stone fence next to the “Garden of waterfalls” and smiled sweetly. We could not pass by and not to take his picture. As a result – he, like a spider, had lured us with proposal to sit down next to him and to make a couple of photos. Then he demanded of financial compensation or, at least, of cigarettes.
As a result, we have agreed on a small sum and our wallet was empty for just few stotinkas (few small coins with total nominal value of a little less than 1 lv), focusing on the fact that we are tourists and came from afar. In Turkey, this would not work. After all, Bulgaria is a wonderful country…
Then we quickly left, and the bad feeling was soon able to erase the charming American, who came on holiday with his family. He had not only offered to take a picture of us together, but also had placed us for a better photo. Thanking him and talked a little bit, we satisfied went further – to watch a rose garden.
This small incident with the old man became a good lesson for us. Now, on our example, we want to protect you from such incidents at the resort. We have lost not a lot of money, but the mood was spoiled.
The collection of cacti and succulents
The sight of the Botanical Garden is a huge collection of cacti (the second in the world after Monaco). The exhibits are striking with their size and shape. The collection is divided – one part is at an open area, and second part – in a greenhouse with succulents and other representatives of Submediterranean species.
The area of the greenhouse is only 800 square meters, it includes more than 2600 species . And this is only the representatives of the Cactaceae and the Euphorbiaceae!
An observation bridge, and also small ponds with plants and benches look appropriate in the greenhouse. I would even say – stylishly.
Exactly here we managed to see how beautifully bloom both huge and very tiny cactuses. The alley of giants has made an unforgettable impression on us – you can walk under the “branches” of these plants directly in the greenhouse.
Huge agaves, large aloes, bushes of fragrant oleander and collection of palm trees – in a greenhouse is a haven for plants. One upset – the greenhouse is only a small part of the Botanical Garden. One day is not enough to see the entire Botanical Garden.
On the open area eyes diverge from bizarre shape and large number of cacti. But you will not be able to admire them for a long time – it is an incredible heat here.
The Palace of Romanian Queen Maria as the highlight of the Botanical Garden in Balchik
The history of the palace dates back to the beginning of XX century. From 1921 to 1936 (in some sources listed 1937) by order of Romanian Queen Maria was built a small palace with a park, named by Queen “Lonely nest”. In project development and further construction took part Italian designers and architects. As a result, they have built a masterpiece – small (like a toy), by the standards of that time, Palace, 10 villas for private accommodation of guests and royal chapel named by Maria “Sea Star”. Exactly in this chapel, according to the will of the Queen, was buried her heart (if to believe the information from some sites later, in 1940, her heart was moved to Romania Bran Castle).
Constructed complex harmoniously combines different architectural styles. As I mentioned above, the entrance to the Palace is paid separately and cost of it is 5 levs for an adult. But in our opinion, the price is unreasonably high – inside the palace is almost nothing to watch, and outside you can enjoy it for free. We shall assume, that it is a payment for the maintenance and restoration of the palace.
The building has three storeys and a small tower-minaret. Royal chambers are striking in their simplicity and asceticism. On the first floor, where used to be a stateroom, now is an art gallery and a gift shop, on the second – a dining room, a bedroom, a bathroom, preserved in their original form. Some rooms are closed. we could not see the third floor, as well as the tower. I found an information about a large number of entrances and exits to the palace. Perhaps it was like that in former years, but now all tourists are admitted through one door. The wine cellar, that was created by Queen, is also closed from prying eyes.
From the balcony around the tower opens a beautiful view of the sea. Near the entrance to the Palace is located a stone throne, from which Queen liked to observe sunrise and sunset.
Exterior view of the Palace has made much greater impression on us, than its interior decoration. Therefore, we recommend not to waste time and money on this part of the garden. It will be enough to walk around the Palace. Believe us, you will not lose anything.
How to get to Balchik and the Botanical Garden on your own?
The easiest and the most popular variant to come to the Botanical Garden – get to Varna from your city, and from there – by direct bus to Balchik. If there are no tickets to Varna or from Varna to Balchik, you can go to Albena. It is literally close and buses run every 10-15 minutes from there.
If you will go to Balchik by bus from Varna or Albena, sure to ask the driver to stop close to the Botanical Garden – at the turn. From there you will have to walk only 15-20 minutes, that it is less, than about 50 minutes from the bus station.
You can go back from the bus station in Balchik, or hitchhiking, stopping the car on the same turn (you need to stand up at a gas station on the side opposite the one where you got off the bus).
Can be useful: how to travel by bus in Bulgaria? The article will be available soon.