All year round in Bansko, Bulgaria

Nestled in southern Bulgaria’s rugged alpine scenery, Bansko is surrounded by meadows dotted with stone-built farmhouses and grazing animals. Within easy reach of Sofia, the town strikes a pleasant contrast with the nation’s cosmopolitan capital. Here’s how to enjoy Bansko all year round.
Pirin National Park, Bulgaria. Photo: Vladimir Petrakov/Shutterstock
Pirin National Park, Bulgaria. Photo: Vladimir Petrakov/Shutterstock


Horse-riding in summer

If you are wondering what Bansko is like in the summer, the answer is: glorious. And a horse-riding adventure is the perfect way to appreciate the region’s great outdoors. In the village of Bachevo, a 15-minute drive from Bansko, three generations of the same family run the Perivolas riding centre, offering lessons, guided trails and advanced treks. The instructors are all horse-lovers and extremely patient, making it well-suited for riders of all levels. 

As your body sways softly in the saddle to the gentle beat of the horses hooves along the dirt track, a route through the heart of the emerald green Razlog Valley takes you past a blue lake surrounded by swathes of trees, fading into fields that roll up to the towering peaks of the Pirin mountains.

 

Autumn hiking in Bansko

Aside from being an affordable, popular ski resort, Bansko also offers excellent hiking. There is more to this town than a quick pit-stop in the peaks. With three ranges all within 5km of each other – the Rhodope, Pirin and Rila mountains – there are plenty of hiking routes to tackle.

From pine forests blanketing the hills to peaks peppered with rock fragments, each mountain’s landscape is distinct from the others, all providing a splash of autumnal colours in their natural beauty and wildlife. With relaxing stretches and challenging ascents to choose from, you can enjoy a hike in the autumn season that gets your adrenaline pumping without having to don a pair of skis. A number of stone huts are spread along most routes offering basic, overnight accommodation, or if you prefer to head out on a day trek, nearby mountain villages – such as charming Dobarsko – make for rewarding resting points.

Koncheto ridge in Pirin National Park, Bulgaria. Photo: Evgeny Subbotsky/Shutterstock


Winter skiing in Bansko

The winter ski season (Dec–Mar) is the most popular time to visit Bansko, when skiers and snowboarders ascend the Pirin Mountains via a 20-minute gondola ride. At this time of year, the mountains are covered with thick snow and there are 11 slopes to choose from, suitable for skiers of all abilities. Back at ground level, cosy pubs tucked away down cobbled streets are perfect to unwind in, while restaurants serving delicious, hearty cuisine enhance the jovial atmosphere.

A stay with Snomads, just 10 minutes away from the main ski resort, provides the ultimate winter experience. At their eco-friendly, alpine-chic chalet Hotel Diana Ross, up to 20 guests enjoy daily cooked meals – from breakfasts of traditional Bulgarian pastries with cheese and eggs to three-course homemade dinners prepared with sustainable produce by the welcoming staff. Wine-tasting evenings are enhanced by a choice of craft beers from the local brewery, and there’s a guest-only hot tub, as well as a shuttle service to and from the ski slopes. Equipment hire and private ski lessons can also be arranged if required.  

Sunny winter day in Bansko, Bulgaria. Photo: Lucky Business/Shutterstock


Take a geothermal bath in spring

Spring is a wonderful time to visit Bansko. The main swell of visitors have left, so there is more space to take in the town’s charming traditional architecture and view the cherry tree blossoms adorned with bracelets. During the first days of spring when locals spot their first cherry tree blossom of the year, they remove their red-and-white string bracelets and hang them on one of the tree’s branches.

Bulgaria is home to the second largest number of natural hot springs of any country (after Iceland), and spring is one of the best times of year to enjoy them. Sink into the waters, watch the steam rise and soak up your surroundings as you watch the cherry blossoms flutter overhead in the breeze. Aquilon Residence & Spa, in the nearby village of Banya, offers a thermal pool, Jacuzzis and spa facilities, as well as a range of accommodation options, mountain views and a tranquil garden. 


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