With its prices up and new laws laid down, the erstwhile queen of clubs, Ibiza, is seeing its fans move on to Mamaia, the new party paradise on the Black Sea coast
NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Mamaia lies on Romania’s Black Sea coast, around 140 miles (225 km) east of Bucharest
WHEN 1 May: La Mania opening party; mid-August: Sunwaves Festival
Jan: 39°F (4°C); Apr: 57°F (14°C); July: 79°F (26°C); Oct: 63°F (17°C)
Once upon a time Ibiza was an island Aphrodite emerging from the cobalt wash of the Mediterranean, heaven sent to welcome young, wild, beautiful dancers from the world over. Unfortunately, not even goddesses are immune to the ravages of excessive late nights and vodka lemonade. Roofs crept over the open-air pleasure palaces; rules silenced the bongo pulse of full-moon parties and – worst of all – package holidays transformed an enchanted hideaway into an overpriced stop on the 18–30 tourist trail. A new generation of hedonists, craving the freedom and spontaneity that made Ibiza legendary, is increasingly heading east, to the Black Sea.
Sun-soaked, carefree clubbing may have been born in Ibiza, Spain, but Mamaia, in Romania, is where it has come to evolve. Set on the west coast of the Black Sea, Mamaia’s striking beaches provide a dazzling backdrop to the throbbing beats of its super-clubs, La Mania and Kristal. Sea, sun, and stunning bodies are obvious charms, but it is the heady mix of liberality, low prices, and a ravenous appetite for cutting-edge electronic music that has the dance cognoscenti bobbing with glee.
Just 5 miles (8 km) long, Mamaia cleans up in the hedonism-per-square-foot stakes. In striking contrast to Ibiza, where the club scene is largely tourist-fueled (the locals tend to prefer rock), Romania buzzes with passionate home-grown clubbers. Dance music is still fresh and exciting, and there is a real sense of freedom after years of dreary Communism. Every weekend, taillights unfurl on the highway leading from Bucharest as thousands of workers flee the capital for a weekend of seaside debauchery.
DJs who are bored of Ibiza’s chilly attitude towards partying are flocking to Mamaia. La Mania and Kristal attract A-listers such as M.A.N.D.Y., Loco Dice, and Booka Shade, who can’t get enough of its giddy atmosphere. Unlike the blasé clubbers in Ibiza, who linger around the bars before breaking any shapes, the fans here get on the dancefloor early and stay there till the last record plays.
Mamaia even has its own festival, Sunwaves, held in August. Headliners have included Danny Tenaglia, John Digweed, Ricardo Villalobos, Troy Pierce, and local boys Rhadoo, Raresh, and Pedro, all for the ticket price of US$20. In most Ibiza clubs, you’d be lucky to get a drink for that. Even DJs such as Luciano, who made his name at Ibiza’s famous after-hours club DC10, can’t stop raving about Romania. Finally, the next generation of dance fans has found its own island in the sun.
Getting There and Around
Fly to Bucharest and travel by train (3–4 hrs), car or coach to Mamaia. Alternatively, fly to Budapest, in Hungary, from where you can catch a flight to Constanta Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport, which is about 15 miles (25 km) from Mamaia and served by taxis and buses. Local bus routes 23E, 41 and 301 also run from Constanta to Mamaia.
Where to Eat
Romanian fare is rich in meat, fish, and dairy – think cheese and cold cuts to start, followed by meat or fish stew. For a first-rate meal with a choice of local and international cuisine try the restaurant at the 4-star Iaki Hotel.
Alternatively, for something budget-friendly but equally delicious, opt for one of the traditional eateries along the seafront, specializing in hearty grilled meats to refuel you for the night’s adventures.
Where to Stay
The bright, cheerful beachfront Hotel Ambasador is a perfect place to recharge.
When to Go
July and August is peak season.
Devoted clubbers arrive early for La Mania’s May 1 opening party.
Budget per Day for Two