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Whether you prefer snow sports or sunlit adventures, Bansko is a great year-round holiday spot. The stone houses and old streets of this quaint town are surrounded by the snow-topped mountains of Pirin National Park. Best known as a ski and snowboard wonderland, Bansko has hosted several skiing and biathlon World Cups, so you can be sure the facilities are top notch.
December to March for skiing; May to October for summer activities.
Sofia Airport (SOF), about 170km north of Bansko.
Book your holiday to Bansko with Thomas Cook for skiing and snowboarding on the Pirin Mountains and lively evenings in traditional Bulgarian tavernas.
Glide down one of the many ski runs, or pull on a pair of skates and zoom around the open-air rink in the town centre. When it’s time to kick back and relax after a hard day on the slopes, visit the spa town of Dobrinishte, just 6km away from Bansko. Have your aches and pains soothed in an open-air natural mineral water pool. Come to Bansko in the summer time to explore the mountains, lake and forests of Pirin National Park.
Winter activities in Bansko are focused around its 75km of ski slopes. If you’re a confident skier, the Tomba run is an exciting downhill challenge. But if you’re new to the slopes, join one of the ski schools in the centre of Bansko; it’s a great way to learn the basics. When the snow melts, the mountains become a playground for hikers, horse riders and mountain bikers. Head into the Bayuvi Dupki Dzhindzhiritsa Reserve to see endangered black and white fir trees and walk part of the E4 European long distance path, which stretches all the way from the Pyrenees to Greece.
Stroll through the centre of Bansko for a glimpse of life before it became a modern ski resort. Some of the 18th and 19th-century stone buildings that dominate the oldest parts of town are now open as museums. One of the best places in Bansko is Velyan’s House, which has a display of murals and carvings by the artist Velyan Ognev. For more art, head to the Rilski Convent near the centre of town. Here you’ll find an exhibition of icon paintings that the town has become famous for.
Start your day off with a plate of banitsa, a traditional Bulgarian pie made with eggs and cheese. After a long day on the slopes, head to a modern mountainside bars for après-ski cocktails. But if you’re after an authentic Bansko experience, visit a traditional taverna. Tuck into a plate of shopska, a salad of fresh peppers, onion and fragrant parsley, drizzled with vinaigrette. Meat lovers will want to get their teeth into cheverme, spit-roasted lamb, or some spicy Banski starets sausage. Wash it all down with a glass of rakia, a potent Bulgarian spirit made from fruit.
Skiers and snowboarders: Get your adrenalin pumping on the slopes before hitting one of the great après-ski bars.
Thrill-seekers: Try paraskiing through the snow-topped Pirin Mountains.
Art lovers: Central Bansko is a treasure trove of work by some of Bulgaria’s best-known artists.
Language: The language spoken in Bansko is Bulgarian.
Currency: The currency used in Bansko is the Lev (BGN)
Local time: Bansko is 2 hours ahead of GMT/UK time.
Fly to: Sofia Airport. Transfers to Bansko resorts take 2–2.5 hours.
Flight time from UK: The flight time to Bansko is 3–3.5 hours.
Tourist Information: Further Bansko tourist information can be found at http://bulgariatravel.org
Visa & Health: Before you travel, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/bulgaria for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to Bansko.
Temperature: Average highs of 0-2°C December-February. It often reaches highs of 22°C in July and August.
Best time to visit: December to March for skiing; May to October for summer activities.
The winter snow on the slopes is supplemented artificially if necessary, so you can be sure of great skiing and snowboarding conditions all season. And when it thaws, look forward to comfortable hiking weather in Bansko, especially in late spring/early summer and the early weeks of autumn.
By car: Explore the area at your own pace. You’ll find plenty of well-known car rental companies in Bansko.
By lift: There are modern ski lifts and a gondola system to get you up and down the mountainside.
By mountain bike: Make the most of the summer with a bike ride on the thawed-out ski runs. It’s an exhilarating way to explore the mountain scenery.
Local tradition: Brightening the cold January days with music, masks and colourful outfits, the nearby town of Razlog (about 6km away) hosts traditional costumed ‘mummer’ troupes from all over Europe at the International Mummer Festival. Razlog’s mummers are called Old Men (chausi) and they’re known for their towering cone heads and heavy bells.
Fire dancing: In May, fire dancers in mountain villages dance on hot coals to the sounds of drums and Bulgarian bagpipes (gaidas) in honour of Saint Helena and Saint Konstantin.
Free music: In August, the International Jazz Festival holds free concerts in Nikola Vapstarov Square.