The oldest of Bulgaria's coastal towns is located 34 kilometers south of Bourgas on a slender rocky peninsula. It is a popular tourist resort best known for its casual ambiance, two sandy beaches, and distinctive nineteenth-century stone and wood houses.
Sozopol is conditionally divided into two parts – The Old town keeping many traces of the rich history of the town and The New town. You will immediately notice the romantic atmosphere of the Old town with its over 200 houses dating from the middle of XVIII – beginning of XIX century and mysteriously and sinuous narrow streets. All the picturesque old houses, cobblestone streets, attractive sea-terrace restaurants and plentiful cafes, offer tourists unforgettable moments.
At the beginning of September each year the town hosts the big Apolonia International Art Festival, which attracts artists and art lovers from all over the country and abroad. It is named in honor of Apollo, god of music and poetry. This annual ten-day arts festival stages nightly performances featuring a variety of music, theatre, dance, cinema and other events, with both national and international talents participating.
Sozopol is one of the earliest towns on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and dates from 610 year B.C. It is situated upon a picturesque peninsula. The archaeological findings testify to the presence of the Thracians as its first inhabitants. In 620 B.C. immigrants from the rich city of Milet - the largest South Greek centre on the Asia Minor coast - turned the old Thracian settlement into a rich Hellene colony - the independent city-state Apollonia-Pontica.
Only as late as the beginning of c.4, with the great political and ethnic changes in the Roman empire and the growth of Constantinople's in its eastern part Apollonia regained its former significance. This is the source of the town's new name - Sozopolis, the town of salvation.
Sozopol resisted the barbarian invasions in the period from c.3 to c.7 A.D., it was annexed to Bulgaria's territory in 812 by Khan Kroum, and after that was continually conquered by Byzantium and regained from it (972-1366). In c.13 it was an important harbour centre, a mediator in the international commerce, an episcopal and metropolitan's seat. The monastery "Sveti Yoan Predtecha" (St. John the Forerunner) on the Sveti Ivan isle was a spiritual and literary centre not only on a local and a national, but also on an international level.
After the fall of Sozopol under Ottoman oppression in 1453 it gradually declined and turned into a poor fishermen's and wine-producers' settlement. It recovered in the years before the National Liberation in 1878 and especially after that because of the exclusive hardiness and vitality of its population.
Regretfully in Sozopol there are no retained churches and monasteries from the Middle Ages - when chronicles showing that at this time there have been more than 28 in the town. All have been ruined by the time Bulgaria been under Turkish control and churches and monasteries have been replaced by chapels.
- The oldest church, built in 1828 year, is still existing and open for all.
- In the city garden is siuated the church St. Zosim, built on the place of medieval temple.
- On Anaksimander Str., almost unnoticeable stays the digged in the ground church The Blessed Virgin.
- Also very interesting is St. St. Kiril and Metodii church, built in 1899 year, from the well-known Bulgarian master Usta Gencho.
- At two kilometers southwest from the town is based the chapel St Marina, built in honour of the patroness of the town.
At the beginning of 5th century, on St. Ivan island is built temple of god Apolon – who is called the Healer. There has been situated also the famous statue of Apolon, with height of 13.20m, made from bronze by the great Greek sculptor Kalamis. In year 330 the temple been destroyed and at its place is raised the Christian church Holy Virgin Kaleos. In V-VI century around the church is built a monastery. Later in 1268 year a new church is raised – named the St Ivan Precursor. After archaeological researches on island have been founded remains from two churches, library, king’s residence, part from a castle wall and monastic cells.
Around Sozopol there are 6 fantastic beaches covered in thin sand and dunes. The best beach in the area is at Dyuni resort village complex 6 km south of Sozopol. Past Dyuni, the coast road passes by the Arkutino swamp, a 62 hectare area of floating water lilies, irises and creeping liana vines.
A few kilometers further south is the Ropotamo River nature reserve; tour boats routinely ply the verdant-rich lower stretch of the river to the sea. Two natural reserves cover this area - Vodna Lilia (water lily) and Velyov Vir. Very near is the famous island of Snakes.
To the north is the village of Chernomorets, which borders the Gradina camping site.
From the sea coasts starts Strandja mountain, as 70% of its territory is covered in woods. This is the only place in Europe where the pont-evksin flora of the Caucasus thrives. Only here you can see the rare Strandja oak tree, considered by the scientists, as the very ancestor of all European oaks.
One of the most important bird-routes passes through Sozopol - Via Pontica. The lakes near the town enter the category of naturally and ornithologically important places in accordance with the world ecological standards. The unique flora and colourful fauna are preserved in the biggest Bulgarian natural park "Strandja", 7 reserves and other protected territories.
The isle of St. Ivan is situated just 2km away from the old town in northern direction. St. Ivan is the biggest Black Sea isle in Bulgarian territorial waters. The isle shelters a sonar lighthouse, which together with the lighthouse on the Emine cape shows the way to the Bourgas Bay. Once upon a time, the isle hosted a monastery called the Holy Virgin, which was later renamed into St. Ivan Prodromos.