If you get the chance to visit Varna for a holiday, I recommend that you also explore the region as there are so many beautiful places nearby. One of those is the Botanical Gardens in Balchik, which is around 40kms (45mins drive) from the centre of Varna.
The Botanical Gardens are home to the Balchik Palace, Queen Marie of Romania’s summer residence. The palace was built by the Queen after she visited in 1921, during the Romanian control of the region. Interestingly, Marie of Romania was in fact the Princess of Edinburgh, Scotland and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married Ferdinand I of Romania in 1893.
The Balchik Botanical Gardens are truly stunning and showcase over 2000 species of plants. The gardens are impeccably maintained and as you walk around you will find small villas, fountains, a waterfall and a holy spring. All of this with the amazing backdrop of the black sea coastline.
The holy spring was a part of the gardens that I found very special. The spring existed here before the Palace and Gardens were built, and the local people believed that the water was able to heal and chase away bad thoughts and tiredness. There’s a folk legend that tells the story of a blind girl who had a dream about the place and after visiting and washing her face with the water, her sight was restored. Now, something slightly less dramatic and incredible I admit, but shortly before I reached the holy spring, I had been walking around the gardens and slipped and fell down some concrete steps! I hadn’t seriously hurt myself (more so my ego!) but I was aching and bruised from the fall. When I read the story at the holy spring, I washed my sore, bruised body in the water and I can honestly say that my injuries didn’t look half as bad as I expected them to the next day … Maybe I was just lucky, but maybe it was thanks to the holy water … I’d like to think there’s some truth in the legends anyway.
Another interesting part of the gardens was the small bridge. When I reached the bridge, I saw a group of people walking over it, very slowly and with their eyes closed. Naturally, I thought this was very odd, until I read that here there’s a legend that if you cross the entire bridge with your eyes firmly closed and while making a wish, it will come true! Despite having already fallen over earlier in the day, I thought I’d give this a go, after all, the healing water was nearby if I did fall again! I slowly and very carefully crossed the bridge with my eyes closed, while thinking about my biggest wishes. I can’t tell you what they are of course, but I will let you know when they come true!
Lastly, you should be sure to see Marie of Romania’s Palace. It’s quite small, but it sits high up in the gardens, and the sea views from the terrace are amazing.
You could easily spend a whole day at the Botanical Gardens in Balchik as they have restaurants and cafes and of course, the spectacular views. I didn’t stay for lunch as we had planned to visit the Dalboka Mussel farm in nearby Kavarna. However if I visit again and have more time, I would be happy to spend a whole day enjoying the beauty and tranquillity there. Also, as the gardens are right on a very nice beach, you can take your swimsuit and go for a dip once you’re tired of walking! The entrance fee to the Botanical Gardens and Palace is 10 leva per person.
I took hundreds of photos as everything was so pretty, but I’ve shared just a few favourites here. I’ll add more to our Facebook page if you’d like to see them all.