Ahtopol

Ahtopol is a peaceful sea resort in southeastern Bulgaria with a long beach and warm water, perfectly suitable for families with children.

The port of Ahtopol with the lighthouse in the back
The port of Ahtopol with the lighthouse in the back

Ahtopol is situated on a 15 m high rocky peninsula and is the southernmost Bulgarian Black Sea town. Today, it is rapidly developing as a resort, offering its guests a beautiful, long beach with fine sand, lovely seafood restaurants and wonderful natural surroundings. Being located at the foothills of the Strandzha Mountains, Ahtopol is a nice combination of forest and seaside environments. The town is believed to have the mildest climate in Bulgaria: spring comes early, summer is hot, while autumn is long and warm. Ahtopol’s symbol is its small picturesque lighthouse, located on a reef next to the entrance of the port.

Ahtopol's symbol, the lighthouse
Ahtopol’s symbol, the lighthouse. Source

The beach of Ahtopol is around 1.5 km long but quite narrow. The water is clean, shallow and warm almost all year round, making it a perfect holiday destination for families with small children. The only thing to be aware of is that the bottom might be rocky in some places.

The beach of Ahtopol
The beach of Ahtopol. Source

Ahtopol has a turbulent history dating back 2500 years. The town was founded around 430 BC by Greek colonists and quickly became an important center, even minting its own coins. During the Roman times, the site was used as a coastal defense fortress, called Peronticus. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was captured and destroyed by the attacks of various barbarian tribes – that was the fate of most of the Black Sea cities at the time. The town was rebuilt by the Byzantine general Agathon and included in Byzantium after the barbarian invasions. It is unsure if Ahtopol was named in his honor or way earlier. Either way, the name has a nice meaning in ancient Greek: ’the city of happiness/prosperity’.

Ahtopol often changed its possession between the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empire in the Middle Ages because of its busy port, attracting merchant ships from all over the Mediterranean. In 1362, Ahtopol was conquered by the Ottomans, who also used it over the centuries as a bustling port and shipyard. Later the settlement became well developed, exporting timber, coal and fish to Constantinople. The Arab geographer and traveler, al-Idrisi also mentions Ahtopol in his memoirs as a remarkable hub and famous city.

After the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, the Strandzha area remained under Turkish rule. Unlike most of Bulgaria, Ahtopol was only liberated in 1913, after the Balkan Wars. Only a few years later, a large fire almost completely destroyed the town and it had to be rebuilt.

Parts of the ancient fortress wall, reaching a height of 8 m and width of 3 m in some places, are still visible in the town center. Another interesting sight to visit is the History of Anchors Museum. Despite its name, it has much more than just old anchors. There are also ship cannons, mortars, coins, pottery and bells found among the remains of Turkish, Greek, French, Russian, Byzantine and Roman ships. The old port lighthouse is exhibited here as well.

Location

Ahtopol (BG: Ахтопол) is located 75 km south of Burgas, just a few kilometers north of Sinemorets along road 9901. Burgas Airport is 86 km away.