The Via Pontica was an ancient Roman road link on the western shore of the Black Sea (ancient Greek Pontos Euxeinos) and led from Byzantium (Istanbul) to the Danube Delta. It connected Byzantium via the Danube (Via Istrum) and Via Militaris with Rome.
Today, the Via Pontica is from a touristic point of view a part of a Balkan roundtrip, if you start for example from Belgrade, take the Danube or Via Istrum and then take the Via Pontica towards Istanbul and follow the Via Egnatia or Via Militaris for the return journey. On this tour, culture, nature and beach holiday can be well combined and is ideal for motorhome drivers. The Via Pontica passes by the best and most famous beaches and seaside resorts of Bulgaria and Romania (Black Sea).
Today, a north-south migration route of migratory birds along the ancient road also bears the name Via Pontica.
Because of the many border crossings, it is important to inform yourself in advance about customs and traffic regulations when traveling with your own vehicle. A few basic knowledge of the Cyrillic script facilitates much on the ground, as not all signs are also available in Latin script, especially off the main roads.
- Car or RV: It is recommended to drive this tour with your own car. Because of the many border crossings, it is very problematic with a rental car, as few companies allow border crossings.
- Bus or train: You can take the train bus to the larger towns and drive from there with a rental car to the outlying attractions and nature parks. Intercity buses connect all major towns in Bulgaria and also drive along the coast.
The path goes along the coast past many beautiful seaside resorts. There are few visible relics of Roman times on this route because most have been replaced by new buildings and there is low esteem of the Greek-Roman antiquarians in Turkey anyway.
- 1 Istanbul (Constantinople). Byzantium was the starting or ending point of the route via the Via Pontica to Rome. Istanbul is one of the most interesting cities in Europe and you should plan several days for the visit.
- 2 Rumelifeneri (Thimea). Right on the mouth of the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, the village has remarkable ruins of a fortress, a lighthouse (after which the modern village is named) and wonderful views of the Bosphorus. According to the ancient Greek myths, this place happens to be the site of the Symplegades, "the Clashing Rocks", a pair of rocks which constantly change place, and crashing and crushing any ship unlucky enough to strive passing through in the process. According to the myth, Jason and the Argonauts became the first sailors managing to pass through into the Black Sea during their pursuit of the Golden Fleece. The steep rocky islet just off the village, now firmly secured to the mainland by the harbour jetty, is often thought to be the European one of the duo.
- 3 Kumköy (Kilios, Kilyos). A small quiet seaside resort. It has good bathing facilities and became popular as a tourist destination in the 2010s among the inhabitants of Istanbul. In the village is a Genoese castle from the 14th century, which was restored at the time of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II. However, it is not publicly available because it is in the military zone.
- 4 Karaburun (Philea). Seaside resort with many good beaches, but no real sights.
- 5 Yalıköy (Podima). Approximately 8 km east of the village, near the beach of Evcik Plajı you can still see remnants of the Anastasius Wall, which served to protect the capital Constantinople. It stretched from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea, although only bits in the northern parts resemble anything in its original construct. Yalıköy itself is a nice seaside resort without other attractions.
Past Podima, the route often retreated inland to avoid many headlands steeply rising right from the coastline. Even today, you will not find many roads following the coastline north from here.
- 6 Kıyıköy (Medeia). It is a small village on the woody Black Sea coast with good marina and passable beaches. In the village you can still see gates and walls of the Byzantine fortifications. In the surroundings you can visit the very interesting Byzantine monastery caves Aya Nikola with unusual stone furniture. It is the main attraction of the village.
- 7 İğneada (Staniera). Seaside resort with extensive beaches. The Black Sea is a bit dangerous here because of its strong currents.
While the narrow Rezve/Rezovo River north of İğneada marks the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, for crossing the border (legally), you should head inland to the Dereköy/Malko Tarnovo border crossing, a detour of more than 200 km if you follow the main highways.
- 8 Ahtopol (Agatopolis). Remains of the city fortress, the 12th-century monastery of St. John the Forerunner ("Sveti Yani") and a fountain with a rider are the only remnants of antiquity. Another landmark is the Assumption church from 1796. Today, the city of Ahtopol is a popular seaside resort with beautiful beaches and a marina.
- 9 Sozopol (Apollonia Pontica). Today it is one of the most important beach resorts in the country, known for the Apollonia Art and Film Festival. Of special tourist interest is the old town. The ancient and medieval city lay on the peninsula Skamnij, as today's old town of Sozopol. The old town is characterized by narrow, steep streets with cobblestones and the characteristic houses and was declared in 1974 an open-air museum with their very worth seeing residential buildings, the Ethnographic Museum, the art gallery, several churches and chapels and the remains of the former city monasteries and the city wall. Also worth seeing are the three small islands in front of the Old Town: Sveti Ivan, Sveti Petar and Sveti Kirik. The mountainous region around Sosopol is dotted with over 1500 Thracian dolmens, necropolises and smaller burial mounds. However, these are still unexplored, in contrast to the necropolis of ancient Apollonia, which have been archaeologically studied since the 19th century.
- 10 Debelt (Deultum, Debeltos, Debeltus, Develtum, Dibaltum). The place was a Thracian settlement on the western shore of the Mandra Lake at the mouth of the river Sredezka. In 70 AD, Emperor Vespasian established a veteran colony nearby under the name Colonia Flavia Pacis Deultensium, about 10 km west of Burgas, near the village of Debelt. In the area of the later Roman colony Develtum, settlement traces were found from the Late Bronze Age, then a Hallstatt Thracian settlement. Develtum was connected in ancient times over the then further south extending Mandra Lake with the sea. The archaeological site and the museum are on the eastern edge of today's village.
- 11 Aquae Calidae. The mineral baths of Burgas. Since the Neolithic period, the warm springs were used and expanded by the Romans into a large bathing complex, which was also used and redesigned during Byzantine and Ottoman times. The ruins are worth a visit. Today's baths lie in the midst of a large landscape park. There is a clinic for physiotherapy, a spa clinic, drinking water sources, an outdoor swimming pool with hydrothermal basin, sanatoria and convalescent homes.
- 12 Burgas (Pirgos, Poros). The current city has a Thracian-Roman origin and can look back on over 3000 years of history. The present city developed from several nearby villages, the most important being Deultum, Poros and Aquae Calidae. Burgas is a tourist nationwide known city. The geographical location between several protected lakes, the Black Sea, the ancient and medieval archaeological sites and the festivals attract many visitors.
- 13 Pomorie (Anchialus). Pomorie can look back on a millennia-long, very varied history. Today Pomorie is surrounded by vineyards and orchards and is one of the most famous mud bath and seaside resorts in Bulgaria. The city center is located on the peninsula. The old cobbled streets and characteristic 19th-century Black Sea houses in the style of the Bulgarian Revival still exist in the Old Town - mostly roughly squared, two-storey houses with hipped roofs, the lower level of which is made of light stone, the upper one of dark-painted wood.
- 14 Nesebar (Mesembria). On the north side of the Bay of Burgas, on a small rocky peninsula, this city has, like all cities of the Black Sea coast, a long and varied history. Today it is a very popular seaside resort on Sunny Beach. Since 1983, the old town of Nesebar, with its fortifications, the church buildings and historic residential buildings, belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage. The mountainous region north and west of Nesebar was predestined for the construction of fortresses and ramparts protecting Via Pontica and the region from invaders from the north. In addition to the city fortifications of Nesebar, the region has the remains of 20 other fortresses, 5 watch and protection towers and three earthworks.
- 15 Devnya (Marcianopolis). In ancient times, it was the capital of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior (Lower Moesia), and for a time, the second capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The place offers touristy little, but interesting is the Stone Forest (Dikilitash) about 15 km east of the city. Columnar rock formations cover a sandy area.
- 16 Varna (Odessus). Varna is the most important traffic junction for the northeast of the country and has a lot to offer in terms of sights and entertainment. It is the most interesting city on the Bulgarian coast. The proximity to several summer resorts turns Varna into a busy tourist center during the summer months. The port city is the cultural center of northeastern Bulgaria and known for its festivals. The archaeological museum of the city also preserves the oldest gold artifacts in the world.
- 17 Silistra (Dorostorum). With its long history, it is one of the oldest Bulgarian cities. The large Ottoman-era fortification (Medzhidi Tabia) is worth a visit. Here was a main branch on Via Istrum along the Danube to Belgrade to Via Militaris.
- 18 Kavarna (Byzone). Kavarna was built in the 5th century BC. Founded by Greek colonists who came from Mesembria, now Nesebar, also a Greek colony. They founded the colony Bisone (also written Byzone or Bizone). The city has its hope for the development of tourism, because it is on the Black Sea. The beach at Kavarna, however, mostly consists of a narrow, artificially heaped up strip of sand. The competition against the established "bed castles" of Albena (30 km southwest), Golden Sands (40 km southwest) and Sveti Konstantin and Elena (43 km southwest) is difficult. These have a much nicer beach to offer, are closer to the International Airport Varna and have since 1960/70 a developed tourist infrastructure.
- 19 Kaliakra. Since antiquity here was a fortress along Via Pontica. It was called by the Thracians Tirisis, under the Romans Akra and under the Byzantines Akres Kastelum. In the Middle Ages, the strategically important fortress was called Kaliakra. The region has always been the bone of contention of its neighbors as well as of the great powers interested in the Black Sea. Thus, Cape Kaliakra was repeatedly fortified: The oldest fortifications come from the Thracians and date from about the 4th century BC. Later, the Greeks took over the region and for more than 200 years, the Romans. Today, the rugged cape with its fortress ruins is a popular destination for tourists.
- 20 Mangalia (Callatis). The city was built in the late 6th century BC. Founded as a colony by Doric Greeks. From a historical point of view, it was one of the most important ports on the west coast of the Black Sea. Today, Mangalia is a health resort and destination for marine tourists. The city also has Romania's oldest surviving mosque and an archeological museum. In the newly built Hotel President you can visit interesting excavations of the ancient city in the cellar.
- 21 Constanta (Tomis). Constanţa was founded as a city almost 2600 years ago and, with 400,000 inhabitants, is Romania's oldest certified city, the largest port on the Black Sea (third largest in Europe) and also the fourth largest city in Romania. Constanţa was founded by the Greeks as a port on the Black Sea coast for trade in inland peoples and Tomis (6th century BC) called. The city was later renamed Constantina, niece of Constantine the Great (274-337). As late as the 10th and 11th centuries it was a thriving seaport trading with the Byzantine Empire and the city of Genoa. In 1420 it fell to the Ottoman Empire. During the Second World War, Constanta was the target of heavy Allied bombing, where much of the old structure was destroyed. Of tourist interest are some still-to-be-seen buildings and some museums.
- 22 Histria (Istriopolis). The historic village today has only the very worth seeing ruins and its proximity to Wolf's Hill National Park to offer.
- 23 Troesmis. An ancient legionary fortress, a major site on the Danube, forming a key part of the Limes Moesiae frontier system. The ruins of the ancient Roman city and military camp on the right bank of the lower Danube can be visited today.
see corresponding country article: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania.
Just off the route of Via Pontica are some very well-known sights or nature reserves.
- 1 Yoros Castle. Yoros Castle is a Byzantine castle ruin at the confluence of the Bosphorus and Black Sea north of Joshua's hill. It is also commonly referred to as the Genoese castle, since Genoa had it in the mid-15th century
- 2 Çilingoz Nature Park. The region was declared a nature reserve in 2005 because of its rich flora and fauna. The nature park is a combination of beach, forest, lake and reeds.
- 3 İğneada Swamp National Park. The landscape is mainly covered by oak forests, the typical flora of Yıldız mountains. It is home to one of the few remaining large alluvial forests in Europe, home to many different species of birds.
- 4 Strandzha Nature Park.
- 5 Mishkova niva. The Sanctuary is part of a large Thracian complex consisting of a fortress on top of the Golyamo Gradishte peak, mines in the foothills, a hill necropolis, fortified buildings and remnants of dwellings. The remains of a large, round Thracian fortress are located on the highest point of the Bulgarian Strandzha Mountains - the Golyamo Gradishte peak (710 m above sea level), next to the Mishkova Niva area.
- 6 Beglik Tash. Beglik Tash is a prehistoric rock sanctuary and was reused by the Thracian tribes in the Iron Age. Most megaliths have traces of rock carvings for Thracian rituals. Remains of a labyrinth through which visitors can walk, and a Thracian sundial consisting of huge stones, a 150-tonne rock that rests on the ground in only two places, and a "uterine cavity" are other attractions. Every day at noon, a ray of sun enters the narrow entrance of the cave and radiates to the back of the cave and was considered the Thracians symbolic fertilization of the womb or the mother goddess by the solar phallus of the sun god. Beglik Tash is located near two other Thracian sites: the city of Ranuli and the Pharmakida Fort in the Strandhza Mountains. About 3 km away is the rock formation Lion head, which resembles a lion's head. The lion's head is best seen from the Ropotamo River. It is a place where the Thracians had their fortress called Ranuli. If you want to go there, follow the hiking trail with blue markings at the parking lot in front of Beglik Tas. About 1.5 km away from Beglik Tash lies Dolmen Dragon House, a fully preserved, ten meter tall megalithic construction of the 13th century Thracians, untouched by raiders. The peculiar mausoleum was built from perfectly matched boulders.
- 7 Thracian Propada Sanctuary. The Thracian necropolis in Propada is located 3 km northwest of the town of Malko Turnovo. It is a typical example of Thracian cult architecture. The complex combines 4 different types of tombs dating back to II - IV centuries AD. The architecture of the entire complex shows the transition from dolmens to stone tombs
- 8 Castle of Ravadinovo. Nice Castle with park
- 9 Nature Conservation Center Poda.
- 10 Aladja Monastery. Worth seeing Cave Monastery
- 11 Wolf's Hill National Park.
- 12 Periteașca-Leahova National Reserve.
- 13 Babadag Forest Nature Reserve..
- 14 Enisala Fortress. Castle ruin from the 14th century, situated on a hill, surrounded by two lakes
- 15 Danube delta. Great natural landscape and Unesco World Heritage Site