Situated in the foothills of one of the
country's most beautiful mountains, Bansko is a charming and historic town with
the stunning alpine backdrop formed by the Pirin Mountains. A climatic mountain
resort, Bansko is known as an alpine skiing, hiking and climbing centre, but
it combines its natural beauty and outdoor opportunities with the atmosphere
of an ancient Bulgarian town from the 10th century, and boasts a wealth of culture
and history, as well as traditional taverna-style cuisine and colourful folklore.
The traditional stone and wooden buildings are an integral part of its charm
and character and many relics and monuments survive from its past. The alpine
character of the Pirin Mountains create excellent skiing conditions for all types
of skiers and experts can enjoy some of the country's best downhill skiing at
the nearby resort of Shiligarnika.
The Bansko ski area is particularly well suited to beginners and intermediates.
The slopes of Todorin Vruh are the best spot for novices, with gentle slopes
and long runs from the chair lift. The slopes also give access to some good
off-piste skiing and snowboarding. Intermediates can take the triple chair
lift to the
top of the peak and try one of the downhill runs. Snow conditions in Bansko
are good and there are seldom queues even in the height of the season. A multi-million
Euro project has recently seen the installation of new lifts, including an
gondola, adding to the popularity of the Bansko ski area. The Ulen Ski and
Snowboard School offers good tuition, particularly for children who are cared
for at the
Ulen Junior Ski Club.
Shopping in Bansko is confined to the necessities of life, but
visitors will find plenty of souvenirs in the form of local handwork, especially
Bansko is rich on cosy eateries, with hundreds of taverns
in the town serving up hearty Bulgarian cuisine. Don't expect to find
McDonalds here, though!
Après ski in Bansko is not as wild as Bulgaria's other popular
ski resorts at Borovets and Pamporovo. This small old-fashioned town
takes its tone from the quiet locals, who prefer to while away the evenings
selection of low-ceilinged taverns and pubs before a roaring fire. Two
of the favourites are Dedo Pene and Molerova Kushta.
Most offer entertainment in the
form of local musicians or folk orchestras. There are some low-key discotheques
offering dancing, also frequented by the local youth who have a reputation
for hot tempers. Bottom line is that Bansko is quiet and not suited to
The town does not offer many diversions in winter apart from
good skiing and boarding, but the area is well known for its thermal
these together with several excellent swimming pools, which also have
saunas and fitness
rooms alongside them allow for pleasant après-ski relaxation.
Bansko centres around the modern pedestrianized pl Nikola Vaptsarov, where
the Nikola Vaptsarov Museum (MonFri 8am6pm, Sat & Sun
8amnoon & 26pm) contains a display relating to the local-born
poet and socialist martyr, as well as housing a crafts exhibition where you
can purchase distinctive local rugs. Immediately north of here, pl Vazrazhdane
is watched over by the solid stone tower of the Church of Sveta Troitsa,
whose interior contains exquisite nineteenth-century frescos and icons. On the
opposite side of the square, the Rilski Convent contains an Icon Museum (MonFri
9amnoon & 25pm) devoted to the achievements of Banskos
nineteenth-century icon painters a school largely centred around the
Vienna-educated Toma Vishanov, who, with pupils Dimitar and Simeon Molerov,
travelled from village to village decorating local churches.
Pirin National Park: Situated in the highest reaches of the Pirin
Pirin National Park encompasses rugged alpine peaks that rise above 8,202ft
(2,500m) and more than a hundred glacial lakes spread at their feet. The magnificent
landscape is made up of old forests, waterfalls, caves and areas of limestone
that are home to the near extinct edelweiss and the Pirin poppy. Characteristic
to the park is the abundance of rare and endemic species of plants and animals,
and the unique environment is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural and National
Heritage site, with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Alpine mountaineering
and skiing are popular, and together with the cultural heritage of the surrounding
mountain settlements and stunning scenery, Pirin National Park is an attractive
The easiest way of getting into the Pirin mountains from Bansko is
to walk (or take a taxi) west to the Vihren hut (where dorm accommodation is
available; £510 / $816), a steep 14km uphill. This is the
main trail-head for hikes towards the 2914m summit of Mt Vihren (Bulgarias
second-highest peak), or gentler rambles around the meadows and lakes nearby.