Bulgaria isn’t the first place I’d think to go Skiing. Most people in the world will know little about Bulgaria. It’s more popular neighbours, Greece and Turkey are known for their food, culture and climate. Most people’s knowledge of Bulgaria is limited, rarely appearing in travel shows or online as a “must see destination”. Lonely Planet recently placed Bulgaria at number 5 in it’s top 10 countries for 2011.
This simple reason alone should be enough to make you curious about Bulgaria, but if that really isn’t enough then the Skiing really is! Bansko in the south east of Bulgaria is an increasingly popular destination for skiers and snowboarders in the winter. Cheap flights from the UK thanks to easyJet have made Bulgaria a cheap ski option. Once a destination for Greeks, Macedonians and locals, it’s rapidly growing more popular with the British and western Europeans alike.
It’s not the prettiest of towns. Like many that see a boom in tourism, there’s a vast array of newly built hotels, restaurants, shops and bars, while the residents struggle to keep up with the changing face of their surroundings. Expect the odd crumbling house and unfinished block of flats. Apart from the occasional pot hole the infrastructure works just fine and the slopes are what really matters here.
The Ski slopes in Bansko
A 6 day ski pass will cost you around 255 lev (£110) and a short cable car ride takes you to the main base. There’s a great set of nursery slopes here for beginners and some imposing black runs in the background to wet the appetite of the more experienced. There’s also an outdoor bar and large indoor restaurant for the thousands that flock here every day around lunchtime.
You can tell a lot of money is being spent on improving the accessibility and services here. In fact they’re holding the FIS Men’s World Cup here in 2011 so the slopes are great quality with lots of chair lifts to keep people moving. The Nursery slopes can get busy along with some of the blue runs leading back to the restaurant area, bottle necks are inevitable when numerous slopes of different grades converge to offer easy access. Never the less there’s a lot of great slopes here so it’s not too difficult to find less crowded areas to ski or snow board.
Video of Bansko Ski resort
A short mobile video of our time on the ski slopes of Bansko
Bansko Apres Ski
As any skier or Snowboarder will tell you, the Apres Ski (after ski) is almost as important as the skiing itself! Bansko has a couple of great areas worth frequenting. It’s wall to wall bars and restaurants serving the usual burgers and chipsalong with more traditional Bulgarian meals, usually involving lots of meats and very few vegetables! The local cuisine is very tasty so be sure to try something other than the typical western dishes. The food is very cheap here and the alcohol is reasonable too. You’ll have no problem getting a great meal for less than £10 in some areas. Bulgarians are big on meat and plenty of it. All the most popular dishes come with grilled meats and very few vegetables other than potatoes. So if you’re a vegetarian your culinary options are limited. The local dishes are fantastic though and many of the restaurants have that authentic Bulgarian feel to them. I can recommend Molerite Mehana and Baryakova Mehana. (Mehana means restaurant)
There’s also a number of good bars and night clubs in Bansko. The most popular of which is “The Happy End” bar located right next to the cable car station and a number of big hotels. I’d also recommend a lesser known bar called “The Irish” which is, you’ve guessed it an authentic (ish) Irish bar, run by English people and frequented by locals, tourists and ex-pats alike.
Flight details from England
Bansko is situated about 2.5 hours from the capital city of Sofia in Bulgaria and around 3 hours from Thesiloniki in Northern Greece. Flights are slightly cheaper to Greece so if you’re on a budget it’s worth considering.
London Gatwick to Sofia
Depart London Gatwick Airport at 06:30am
Arrive Sofia Airport at 11:30am
Depart Sofia Airport at 12:05pm
Arrive London Gatwick at 13:25pm
Cost around £112 per person
London Gatwick to Thessaloniki
Depart London Gatwick Airport at 06:50am
Arrive Thessaloniki Airport at 12:05pm
Depart Thessaloniki Airport at 12:45
Arrive London Gatwick at 14.15pm
Cost around £103 per person
There are also easyJet flights from Manchester to Sofia and Thessaloniki.
Transfers from Airport to Bansko are around €50 per person each way from both Sofia and Thessaloniki.
Check out Bansko Tourist Information for more details