Though it may be less well-known than the bigger Alpine resorts, Bansko is well on the rise as a ski destination. It offers something really unique, while also giving the bigger names a run for their money when it comes to quality of runs and après options. Having recently overtaken Borovets as Bulgaria’s biggest resort, Bansko is one of the country’s best locations all year round. Read on to discover some of the best reasons you should choose Bulgaria for your ski break this year.
Bansko is perfectly situated between an old medieval town and the beautiful, 400km² Pirin National Park. With 75km of pistes reaching up to 2,500m above sea level, the resorts boasts reliable snow cover for most of the season, with the months between December and March being especially reliable.
The town itself is also deeply interesting, having changed hands many times over the centuries. Roman styles mix with Byzantine and more modern European architecture to produce something recognisably classical, but with a unique and modern twist.
As with most popular ski resorts, Bansko is home to a number of truly killer parties. The Horizon Festival brought the very best of European electronic music to the area for a few years in the mid-2010s, and the resort continues to offer dancing, drinks and dining in a variety of settings. Just this year, for example, you can see the pros tackle the piste in major winter sporting events, party at a club or even take in the ballet!
Now we come to the reason for your trip in the first place: the skiing. Serviced by a variety of uncovered chairs and drag lifts, Bansko’s runs are perfect for intermediate skiers, with a wide range of good, moderately trying blues and reds. The resort is split into two areas: the Chalin Valog between 1,100m and 1,600m, and the Shiligarnika, between 1,700m and 2,500m. The 14km ‘ski road’ from the slopes back into town can become very packed after the lifts stop around 4.30pm, but it’s balanced out by some stellar off-piste when snow conditions are good. What’s more, 90% of the runs here have snow-making facilities, to ensure good, reliable skiing no matter the weather.
First, a word of warning: there’s a big discrepancy between the town and the slopes when it comes to prices, so if budgets are a big concern you may be best off avoiding the major tourist spots. Not to worry, though: Bulgaria is so affordable across the board that you’ll barely notice, with even inflated prices on the piste remarkably reasonable compared to what you’d find at the French resorts.
Bars range from British-style pubs, for the lager and football lovers, to mehanas – traditional medieval taverns. For the evenings, Wine Bar 25 is one of the highest-rated spots in town, though the Karaoke Bar is arguably even more fun for a laidback night. Beyond drinking, Bansko also boasts craft markets and monasteries.
How to Get to Bansko
The best way to reach Bansko is with a flight to Sofia, the country’s capital. Though not as well serviced as some other, more popular European cities, Bulgaria’s growing popularity as a holiday destination for all seasons has seen most major airlines offer regular, direct flights there. Still, it’s well worth shopping around for the best price, to avoid paying over the odds.
Once you’ve landed, you’re best off booking a Shuttle Direct transfer to the resort, which will take around 3 hours. Many have tried to brave the Bulgarian public transport system, but few have come back with positive stories – especially with your skis in tow. It’s easier by far to set up a safe, easy transfer ahead of time. If you advise them when you book that you’ll be bringing sports equipment with you, they will carry your skis free of charge.
Where to Stay
Mamin Kolio – Located within Bansko town, Mamin Kolio offers mountain views and ski storage. A ski school is also on offer for those who need to brush up on their skills, and each room comes equipped with a television, private bathroom and balcony or terrace. Free WiFi, of course, goes without saying, letting you keep in contact with friends back home – in case you need to make anyone jealous …
Guest Rooms Granat – With cable television, a minibar, an electric kettle and private bathrooms in each room, along with shops, bars and restaurants all within walking distance, Guest Rooms Granat is so well-equipped you might be tempted to stay on site for your whole break. Don’t worry, though: it’s situated right at the foot of the cable car up to the slopes, so you won’t be wasting any time when you go out to hit the slopes.
Bansko Holiday Apartments – Perhaps the most upmarket of these hotels, Bansko Holiday Apartments is nevertheless affordable. Again, a barbecue, flat-screen television, kitchenette and private bathroom are provided, along with free WiFi. But the real appeal lies in the extras: the Holiday Apartments provide guests with a garden, sauna and solarium, with massages and shuttle services to the slopes offered at a reasonable surcharge.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct has earned its reputation as the best-regarded airport transfer operator in Europe and North Africa with its intuitive booking system and friendly, experienced drivers. It offers shared and private transfers to cater to a range of budgets, and guarantees to get you from the airport to your destination by the safest, quickest, easiest route available.