This year we decided to go on a winter vacation to Bansko, Bulgaria. Bansko is one of the most famous ski resorts in Bulgaria located 150 km from Sofia and literally at the foot of the Pirin National Park. As we are not really into winter sports, my review will only cover things you can do, eat and see outside of the ski slopes ):
We stayed in Banya village (only 5 km by car from Bansko) and the first day we visited Bansko.
What to see in Bansko?
First, just walk around and admire the architecture of the town – the biggest part of the houses in the center are built up in a traditional architectural style of Bansko from the 18th century. The houses are made of stone and wood, with yards surrounded by high walls and solid front gate.
Passing by the city square you will see the museum – houses of Nicola Vaptsarov – a great Bulgarian poet born in Bansko and Neofit Rilski – a famous activist of the Bulgarian Renaissance. There is also an Art Gallery where you can see more than 500 paintings of Bulgarian and international artists. One of the landmarks of Bansko is The Church of the Holy Trinity with its church clock tower that looks at you from above. You cannot miss it out as it’s on your way to the shopping street and the ski slopes. The church is magnificent and impressive building – very beautiful from outside and inside. Don’t just pass by, visit it!
After the old town, begins the shopping street – you can do some shopping, have a coffee or buy souvenirs for your family and friends there.
The ski slope Shiligarnik is located at the end of the shopping street. You will see all the tourists there. Plenty of ski schools and shops can be found on that street and you can gather information about ski and snowboard lessons if you decide to give it a try.
As we were not prepared for skiing either snowboarding, we decided to spend the afternoon soaking in an open-air mineral swimming pool in the Villa Victoria’s swimming pool. Villa Victoria is a hotel in Banya village that has an open-air mineral swimming pool and offers sauna, salt room, and spa activities. See what a great time we had in the swimming pool in the picture below.
The next day we embarked for two absolutely must-try experiences while in Bansko region: eat a giant Mekitza in the Macedonian bistro in Dobrinishte and have a ride for 3 hours (one way!) in the Rhodope Narrow Gauge from Dobrinishte to Septemvri. As we had to go back and forth to Velingrad we spend 6 hours in total in the Rhodope Narrow Gauge! Tiring but worth it!
First stop: Dobrinishte and the Macedonian Mehana.
Dobrinishte is a very small town in 10 km from Bansko famous as an alternative to Bansko for winter sports (lessons, equipment and the like are way cheaper than in Bansko); cheap accommodation at the locals and home-made breakfasts and food and the Big Macedonian Mekitzas! It’s useless to describe what Mekitza is, just go to Dobrinishte and try it yourself!
After this hearty breakfast, it was time to take the Rhodope Narrow Gauge. It’s once in a lifetime experience as the narrow gauge runs with 20 km/ per hour and crosses all the biggest mountains in Bulgaria – Rila, Pirin, and the Rhodopes. The scenery is breathtaking and you will see mountains, rivers, animals, cozy villages and Virgin Mother Nature on your way. The highlight of the trip is the highest railway station on the Balkan Peninsula – station Avramovo located at 1267m/ above sea level. Unforgettable experience!
After all the beauty we’ve seen, all the food we’ve eaten, all the snow we saw falling down it was time to say goodbye and head to the sea – Varna, my love!
Next time I will go to Bansko in the summer. Why? To see the Baikushev’s pine one of the oldest trees in the world which is also a contemporary of the foundation of Bulgarian country.
See you there and thanks for reading!