For many, Bulgaria seems like an odd spot to have a winter sports holiday. Yes, this is not your typical go-to place like Austria or Switzerland. And it shouldn’t be. The country has a lot to offer to those who prefer a little something off the beaten the path. We’re not talking about the cheap booze. Beyond the cliché and the attractive low rates, Bulgaria’s winter resorts enchant the visitor with an eclectic folk culture and astonishing nature. This is exactly what makes Bansko, one of the country’s top resorts, so unique and different from the mainstream winter holiday destinations.
Bansko gives an initial impression of a typical Eastern European ski resort: lots of bars and local pubs, a handful of restaurants and hotels with a decent level of service and a set of standard ski runs. Once explored, the place reveals its colourful, warm and versatile vibe that will inevitably settle in your heart. Bansko is a fascinating mix of traditional and modern, where folklore and contemporary exist in a perfect balance. Luxury hotels and upbeat restaurants are walking distance from the lovely cobbled lanes and ethnographic wooden houses of the old town.
When speaking of winter resorts, it all comes to one thing – the quality of the ski pistes. In the last years, Bansko attracted some investments from local and foreign entities and experienced a complete make-over. There is no trace of the communist-like image that usually comes to the mind when thinking of Eastern Europe. A modern state-of-art lift system connects the base and slopes. Snowmaking is available in almost all of the runs. A new hub with up-market hotels and apartments is developed in a prime position on the edge of the pistes. There is a wide diversity of ski runs in terms of difficulty, from nursery slopes to black pistes. Resting in the scenic Pirin Mountain, Bansko will leave anyone in awe with its majestic pine-lined slopes and vast niveous meadows.
The breathtaking nature is not the only advantage of the place. Bansko is a bargain compared to other popular winter ski resorts. But in this case, the lower price does not require a compromise on the quality of the ski runs or the food and accommodation. Frugal travellers will appreciate the appealing level of services and the unmatched rates.
For some, the chief reason to visit Bansko ski resort is the lively nightlife. The town is known for being a party place for winter sports enthusiasts. However, those looking for a peaceful retreat should not scratch Bansko off the list. Plenty of private villas, guest houses, Airbnb rentals and hotels are situated in a more secluded and picturesque area, away from the city centre and the busy streets.
Travelers looking for a sense of where locals hang out should head to the traditional taverns called “mehana”. You will be greeted by a warm blaze from an open fireplace and the traditional Bulgarian hospitality. The wooden tables covered with red and black checked tablecloths and the striped rugs and upholstery give a traditional Bulgarian tinge to the place, which is further enhanced by the live folk music in the background. There is a good choice of typical Bulgarian dishes and delectable wines. If feeling particularly adventurous, try the famous Bulgarian drink “rakia”.
Bansko may not be your standard winter ski resort and that is why it is so intriguing to visit. With its rich culture, amazing selection of hotels and restaurants and promising après ski, Bansko should definitely be on your list of your next winter holiday destination.