A fertile agricultural region of hilly plains shared between Bulgaria and Romania, Dobrudzha has usually been overlooked as a tourist destination. And though it may lie somewhat off the beaten path in the northeastern corner of the Balkans, between the Lower Danube and the Black Sea, Dobrudzha (also spelled Dobruja, Dobrudja or Dobrogea) definitely has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and tourism opportunities.
From spotting huge aquatic birds in the Danube Delta to visiting the glorious Black Sea beaches and extravagant summer palaces of “Bulgaria’s Granary”, kashkaval tourist presents 7 exciting things to do in Dobrudzha!
1. Pelican paradise: bird watching in the Danube Delta or Lake Srebarna
With its wetlands bustling with life, the Lower Danube is one of Europe’s top birding locations. And it can’t get better than the Danube Delta in Romania, the continent’s second largest delta inhabited by over 320 species of birds. Take a memorable boat tour towards the Black Sea on one of the delta’s branches and become one with nature!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site just like the Danube Delta, Lake Srebarna in the Bulgarian part of Dobrudzha hosts 180 bird species in a very compact area. At Srebarna, arm yourself with binoculars and observe the colony of giant white Dalmatian pelicans from the observation point!
2. Rock it like a Roman: Trajan’s massive ancient monument in Adamclisi
1900 years ago, Roman Emperor Trajan and his legions marched in Dobrudzha to defeat the sturdy Dacians and conquer this fertile region for the empire. To commemorate this major victory, Trajan built a glorious monument at modern Adamclisi, Romania: the Tropaeum Traiani.
Trajan dedicated the memorial to the god Mars the Avenger and decorated it richly with 54 magnificent depictions of legions fighting Rome’s enemies. Reconstructed in 1977, the Tropaeum Traiani today rises 40 metres above the plains of Dobrudzha, reminding of the Roman conquest.
3. Thanks for all the fish: gourmet dining by the Danube in Silistra
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; where there’s a big river, there’s big fish! If you feel like a hearty traditional dinner at the end of an enjoyable day discovering Dobrudzha, then head for the fish restaurant above the Danube in Silistra, Bulgaria’s most northeastern town!
A fresh salad followed by a grilled local codfish or carp and accompanied by a glass of local apricot rakia… all of this on a sunny terrace with a breath-taking view over the lush Bulgarian and Romanian banks of the “beautiful blue Danube”. A perfect end of the day indeed!
4. Ottoman-style extravagance: Queen Marie’s palace in Balchik
Between 1913 and 1940, the southern (Bulgarian) part of Dobrudzha was part of Romania. Romania’s queen at the time, the British princess Marie of Edinburgh, fell in love with the Dobrudzha coast so much that she built her unique summer retreat in Balchik, on the Black Sea Coast. Queen Marie’s Balchik Palace, with its verdant botanical garden and exquisite villas, has to be one of Bulgaria’s most special tourist destinations!
Queen Marie’s Bahá’í beliefs result in a wonderful oriental palace designed by Italian architects throughout the 1920s. With a minaret topping the main building and a Byzantine-style Christian chapel and a monastery nearby, the Balchik Palace is a true monument to tolerance and acceptance. And it has a collection of huge cactus species to boot!
5. Sun and sand: the wonderful Black Sea beaches
When you touch the gentle sand of Albena or visit the gorgeous beach of Rusalka, you’ll know why Queen Marie loved the Black Sea coast of Dobrudzha so much. The region includes all of Romania’s coastline as well as about a third of Bulgaria’s Black Sea beaches. Coastal Dobrudzha has a pleasant subtropical climate, which is ideal for a beach holiday from June to September.
And with most tourists booking their summer holiday in the larger resorts of Bulgaria’s southern coast, Dobrudzha remains a place of relatively unspoiled nature for a tranquil and relaxing beach holiday. Celebrate July Morning in Kamen Bryag, visit the famous nude beach in Vama Veche or hit the clubs in Mamaia… just let Dobrudzha entertain you!
6. The place of Ovid’s exile: Constanța, Dobrudzha’s largest city
With a population of over 400,000, Constanța in Romania is by far Dobrudzha’s largest city. Being the Black Sea’s largest port, it may not quite have the gentler charm of Varna and Burgas, but it’s a must-see destination in Dobrudzha nonetheless. Founded as Tomis 2600 years ago, Constanța is Romania’s oldest city and was the site of world-famous Roman poet Ovid’s exile and death.
Today, Constanța attracts with its monumental architecture, including the beautiful Grand Mosque with a panoramic view from the minaret tower, the abandoned but gorgeous Casino by the sea and the towering Museum of National History on the main square. With its blend of new and old and variety of styles, Constanța almost looks like a movie set rather than a real place!
7. Meet the Old Believers: Russian fishermen’s communities on the Danube
Want to dig deeper into Dobrudzha’s cultural history? Then visit one of the Lipovan villages in Romania or Bulgaria. The Lipovans, a group of Russian Old Believers, escaped persecution in the 18th century and settled along the Danube, where they’ve been making a living as fishermen since then. The Lipovans still speak Old Russian and have conserved their ancient customs – in some communities, they even build their houses of reed and mud from the Danube Delta!
Nowadays, you can pay the Lipovans a visit in places like Slava Cercheză near Tulcea in Romania or the Tataritsa neighbourhood of Aydemir near Silistra in Bulgaria. In both places you can see their unmistakable Russian churches and learn more about their specific traditions.