Dirtbagging & DWS on the Bulgarian Coast: Kamen Bryag & Tyulenovo

DWS Tyulenovo Bulgaria

Swimming, cliff jumping, deep water soloing, seafood, scenic sunrises, sleeping under a billion stars steps away from the rocky coastline and the Black Sea… What else can you do on those scorching summer days?

When it gets so hot that the mere thought of climbing with sweaty palms and smelly armpits is too much to fathom, Bulgaria’s northern coastline is a sweet alternative. It’s perhaps the country’s most picturesque stretch of shoreline; it sure is in my eyes. 

In northeastern Bulgaria, between Kavarna and Shabla, the coast looks…different. It’s rocky; I mean sheer cliffs, from a few meters to 70 meters tall, rising straight from the sea. There are no resorts, no racket, no hassle, no mass-tourism. There are hardly any beaches in the “traditional” sense. 

For us climbers and dirtbags, Kamen Bryag and Tyulenovo are the focal points in this little corner of Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, two hidden gems lost in time and space. If it weren’t for the climbers, divers, backpackers, and dirtbags who call it their second home during summer, these two villages would be almost deserted. 

Whether you come for the DWS at Tyulenovo, to do some snorkeling, swim in the crystal clear water with excellent visibility, visit historic sights, or simply lay back and relax in Kamen Bryag, you’re in for a treat!

Kamen Bryag and Tyulenovo

Kamen Bryag and Yaylata Bulgaria

Kamen Bryag and Tyulenovo are two small villages five kilometers apart, with adorable stone houses, terracotta tile roofs, only a handful of guesthouses (at most), a few taverns, and a spectacular shoreline. 

With clear water, underwater caves, shipwrecks, rich marine life, and sheer limestone cliffs plunging straight into the sea, this part of Bulgaria is a coveted destination for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and SUP. It’s also Eastern Europe’s most popular DWS and cliff jumping destination.

There are no sunbeds or umbrellas, no crowds, amenities, toilets, changing cabins, or lifeguards; because the landscape does not allow for that. Everything’s rocky and steep, so you have to put in a little effort. Thankfully, that tends to keep the annoying crowds at bay.

Getting into the water can be a challenge. There are a few (note the emphasis on “a few”) places where you can go down a path and get into the sea from a more “comfortable” position – aka walk into the water or climb down.

There is another way to get in the water – jump! Tyulenovo is a popular cliff jumping destination and there are a bunch of places where you can plunge from, ranging from 1 meter to over 10 meters tall. It’s best if someone who knows the area points them out to you. Make sure you are 100% sure that the landing is safe – the water is deep enough, there are no underlying rocks, and the sea is not too agitated or you might hurt yourself when you get close to the cliffs.

Kamen Bryag – a dirtbag haven

Kamen Bryag Bulgaria

Hippies, dirtbags, backpackers, unquenchable travelers, all gather here. Some spend a few days, others the entire summer snorkeling, fishing, harvesting mussels, climbing, cliff jumping, and just chilling. Oh yeah, Kamen Bryag sure is a great place for dirtbags

The village is only a few hundred meters from the sea. You can pitch your tent on the plateau between the village and the sea on the grassy field (albeit rather burnt grass in summer). The only thing separating you from the Black Sea will be the sheer cliffs, over 30-40 meters tall. 

In mid-August, there were only a handful of tents there, all very far apart. You can also park your van here, or hit the sack under the stars without a tent, like we did. In addition to this, there are quite a few caves carved into the soft limestone cliffs that serve as refuge for dirtbags and hippies. Aaaand…you can use the “eternal flame” in Kamen Bryag (more on that below) to whip up your meals. 

In the village “center”, there’s a store with the basics. This is where travelers and dirtbags gather in the evening for a beer, making it the “most crowded” place in Kamen Bryag. 

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Getting in the water and DWS at Kamen Bryag

Kamen Bryag Bulgaria

There are a couple of places where you can go down into the water, on paths that descend through the cliffs. One of these paths is close to the large pile of stones that encircles the ever-burning fire. There’s another path further north. Do take note that the paths are a bit steep and the entrance in the water is rocky, so swimming is not exactly advisable when the sea is agitated. Also, it’s good to have water shoes.

You’ll see a visible path along the cliffs; if you follow it, you’ll undoubtedly find other ways down. Due to the many rocks close to the shore, there are no cliff jumping spots outside Kamen Bryag. 

However, there is deep water soloing at Kamen Bryag; within Yaylata National Archaeological Reserve, to be more precise, about two kilometers south of the village. You can drive there and get into the reserve through the gate (and pay a small entrance fee), or you can walk along the coast and get in for free. 

The deep water solo routes at Yaylata are located in the vicinity of the Byzantine citadel, within the reserve, and are mostly short, between 5 and 10 meters, from 5b to 7a. There are four sectors here and the farthest is two kilometers from the entrance to Yaylata Reserve.

Kamen Bryag’s eternal flame and July Morning Festival

Kamen Bryag eternal flame

Outside Kamen Bryag, between the village and the sea, you’ll find Ogancheto – “Little Fire” in Bulgarian. Also called the “eternal flame” or “ever-burning fire”, this is a small flame that burns unceasingly at the end of an abandoned gas pipe that comes from a crack between the rocks. It used to be on the very edge of the cliff, which led to a good number of fatal accidents (there are memorial stones near the edge bear testimony to this). Hence, it was moved farther from the precipice.

Each year, the July Morning Festival joins together thousands of people on the plateau outside Kamen Bryag, around the eternal flame. There are rock and folk concerts, and the cult song “July Morning” is performed. In 2012, John Lawton, former Uriah Heep lead singer, sang “July Morning” during this festival. The John Lawton Memorial, a stone-built bench with the statue of John Lawton sitting on it, is close to the ever burning fire.

Before July 1st, people across Bulgaria travel to the Black Sea to greet the first sunrise of July, a tradition reminiscent of the hippie era. People often camp by the coast and there are usually festivals and music concerts. Kamen Bryag is one of the most popular venues to celebrate July Morning

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Deep water soloing at Tyulenovo

Deep water soloing Tyulenovo Bulgaria

Thanks to its impressive rock shapes, Tyulenovo is a tourist attraction. Tyulenovo Rocks and the Tyulenovo Arch are the most popular sights, and sometimes groups of tourists will come here to take a few pics and then usually be on their way.  

In summer months, chances are you’ll hear a lot of “allez” and “gamba” below the edge of these cliffs. That’s because Tyulenovo is Bulgaria’s premiere deep water solo destination. 

Deep water solo Tyulenovo Bulgaria

There are over 70 DWS routes at Tyulenovo. Most of the routes are between 5c and 7a, which makes it great for getting used to deep water soloing (it’s a whole different feeling when you climb without any equipment, with only the sea to catch your fall). There are some harder lines, too, all the way to 8a+. Most are vertical and overhanging, but there are also some very easy lines that are a bit slabby that are often used for exiting the water. 

You’ll find a couple of easy lines south of the village, close to the popular access to the sea. There are some next to the Tyulenovo Arch. However, most of the DWS routes in Tyulenovo are north of the village. You can easily get above them by car on the dirt roads along the shoreline.

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Getting in the water and cliff jumping at Tyulenovo

Swimming Tyulenovo Bulgaria

There are several places where you can get into the water. One of the most popular is south of the village, where a friendly path descends to a rocky platform. From there, you can get into the water as you would in a pool because the sea is already deep. There are some ropes to help get out.

Another one is the Fishermen’s Bay in front of Hotel Tyulenovo, a small, rocky bay with fishing boats. You can walk into the water here, but the seabed is not that friendly, with lots of sharp rocks, so water boots are recommended.

Furthermore, you can walk on the Tyulenovo Arch and make your way all the way down to the sea where a natural pool awaits. There are various rocky platforms here where you can chill and sunbathe. Then, there are a bunch of other places, such as the access paths to the deep water solo routes at Tyulenovo, where you can also access the Black Sea.

The other way to get in the water is…to jump.

Cliff jumping Tyulenovo Bulgaria

Aside from deep water soloing, Tyulenovo is a popular cliff jumping destination. There are several places where you can cliff dive, some quite tall. There are cliff jumping spots ranging from 1 meter to 17 meters. The depth of the sea ranges between 3 and 9 meters. 

Obviously, both DWS and cliff jumping are dangerous activities. This is mainly because of the underlying rocks that can be hazardous. Also, when the sea is restless, getting out of the water can be quite difficult, not to mention the risk of being smashed onto the rocks by the waves. 

Do not attempt deep water soloing or cliff jumping if you’re not an experienced swimmer. The water is deep and the exit from the water can be tricky. Also, do not attempt these activities in places where you are not 100% that the landing is safe. When the sea is agitated, stay safe and try easier stuff, going in and out of the sea in a controlled manner. Or don’t go in at all if it looks dubious.

Best time to go

Tyulenovo Bulgaria

The best time to go climbing at Tyulenovo and Kamen Bryag is, obviously, summer. The water gets warmer in July and stays warm all through September. Sometimes, June can be good, too. The average water temperature in summer is 24-25 degrees Celsius. 

The downside is that there’s almost no shade (consider yourself warned!). The sun rises from the sea and sets behind it. You can hide from the sun down on the rocks, next to the sea, moving with the shade, but that’s pretty much all you can do. 

Dirtbagging in Kamen Bryag Bulgaria

Summer is a great time to enjoy all that Kamen Bryag and Tyulenovo have to offer, especially in terms of water activities. But this coastline is spectacular in all seasons – it’s super green in spring, impressive on very cold winter days when there’s ice on the rocks, and peaceful in autumn with its many hues of orange, yellow, and brown.

“Normal” beaches near Tyulenovo and Kamen Bryag

Gog's Beach Shabla Bulgaria

Of course, the lack of beaches and the somewhat tricky access into the sea makes this place not so great for those who can’t swim that well. Also, the tall cliffs and the steep paths down to the sea may not make it child-friendly, either. You have to be extra careful when you get close to the edge because it’s easy to slip; even more so at nighttime. 

But, if you do want to go for the sheer beauty and tranquility of this place, maybe even bring some family or friends along, the good news is that there are some neat beaches where they can chill that are not too far.

Our favorite is the long, sandy beach just north of the Shabla Lighthouse – Gog’s Beach. This is a wild beach – no sunbeds, no umbrellas, no amenities. Only a handful of people at most, even on August weekends. The beach is quite long so if you want to truly feel like you’re all by yourself, simply walk a little farther. 

There are several other sandy beaches north of Shabla, but we really didn’t see the point of driving that far when we had this huge, almost deserted beach all to ourselves.

South of Kamen Bryag, the first sandy beach is Rusalka. This is a touristy place, with two beaches – a public one and a private beach. This is more crowded, with a large parking place, restaurants, and shops. There are several small beaches here, too. 

Bolata Beach Bulgaria

South of Rusalka, Bolata Beach is another wild beach, small, sandy, and welcoming. There are two breakwaters, on each side of the beach, which protect the place from big waves. It can get a bit crowded in summer, but there’s enough room for everyone. 

Where to stay

Kamen Bryag Bulgaria

Like I said before, Kamen Bryag is a very dirtbag-friendly place. Even though wild camping is not officially allowed in Bulgaria, a lot of people do it nonetheless. In summer, you’ll undoubtedly see tents on the plateau between the village and the sea. Even though it’s close to the village and you can easily walk to the shop and taverns, it still feels like you’re at the edge of the world.

On the other hand, some parts of Tyulenovo’s coastline are natural reserves and camping is forbidden there. There’s a dedicated camping area just south of the village, without any amenities and free of charge. Most climbers prefer to either pitch their tent north of the village or to simply sleep under the stars, next to their car. It’s also possible to sleep in one of the cave dwellings in the cliffs. 

Accommodation options in Kamen Bryag are a bit limited. You’ll find some hotels and guesthouses in Tyulenovo, as well as a few restaurants.

Getting around

Zipline Tyulenovo Bulgaria

There is an ATM machine in Shabla, which comes in handy because most places here don’t accept credit cards. Shabla also has a well-stocked supermarket.

There are some local buses operating between Kavarna and Shabla. Unfortunately, there’s no public transport from Shabla to Tyulenovo and Kamen Bryag. It’s a 12-kilometer drive from the center of Shabla to Tyulenovo; you can try to hitchhike, but these roads don’t see much traffic. Therefore, it’s best to drive here. Alternatively, you can ride a bike. 

There’s no freshwater source so we bought all of our water from the shops.

What else can you do on Bulgaria’s northern coast?

Shabla Lighthouse Bulgaria

Besides swimming, diving, climbing, cliff jumping, kayaking, SUP, eating seafood, and spending the evenings under a canopy of a billion stars (as if that isn’t enough), you can also visit the surroundings. 

For example, Shabla Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast and Cape Shabla is the country’s easternmost point. 

Kamen Bryag Bulgaria

Then, there’s the path along the coastline, just above the cliffs. You can walk between Kamen Bryag and Tyulenovo, between Kamen Bryag and Yaylata, even farther. You’ll get to see the many oil tanks around Tyulenovo (this is an oil field), which make for some interesting pics. You can also go inside the large cave dwellings south of Tyulenovo. 

Yaylata Archaeological Reserve Bulgaria

You can follow the path south of Kamen Bryag all the way to Yaylata, walking on top of 60-meter cliffs. Yaylata National Archaeological Reserve is a spectacular place with an ancient cave “city” of 100+cave dwellings, three necropolises with family stone tombs dating from the 5th century BC, a Thracian sanctuary, sacrificial stones, even an ancient winery, and a Byzantine citadel. Several thousand years of history can be traced back here. 

Yaylata Reserve Bulgaria

Pssst…there’s a splendid little cove under the Byzantine citadel, with large pebbles and crystal-clear water, just perfect for a spectacular dip next to these remnants from different epochs. 

This part of the coastline is a haven for birdwatchers, too. More than 50 bird species nest at Yaylata. In fact, Via Pontica passes through here, the route for migratory birds. There are also species or rare and threatened by extinction plants. 

Further south, Cape Kaliakra is a huge promontory, almost two kilometers long, rising 60-70 meters above the sea on sheer cliffs. A nature and archaeological reserve, Cape Kaliakra also has a fortress, ancient walls, and cave dwellings. 

Following the coast from Cape Kaliakra to Kavarna, you’ll find the Dalboka mussel farm, with a terraced restaurant perched over the Black Sea where you can sample a variety of mussel dishes and other types of seafood. 

Further south, the seaside resort of Balchik is famous for its Queen Mary’s Castle and Botanical Garden, ethnographic museum, nice beaches, lovely promenade, and delicious seafood. 

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