Tucked into the foothills of the Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria, the ski resort town of Bansko is charming and historic against its stunning alpine backdrop. Bansko's alpine skiing, hiking, and rock climbing opportunities are extensive, and its culture and history, stretching back to the 10th century, is rich and vibrant with 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. While Bansko is well-known for its Alpine skiing, the town is also conveniently near the resort of Shiligarnika, which boasts Bulgaria's best downhill skiing.
Skiing in Bansko is particularly well-suited to beginners and intermediates. The slopes of Todorin Vruh are best 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. Expert skiers can go to the nearby resort of Shiligarnika for more challenging slopes. There are skiing and snowboarding classes available for adults and children. Snow conditions in Bansko are good and there are seldom queues even in the height of the season. In recent years a lot of money has gone into improving and replacing ski lifts at Bansko, vastly improving the amenities. Bansko has the best snow record and the longest ski season (December to May) of all Bulgarian ski resorts, and is one of the best-value ski destinations in Europe.
Holidaymakers shopping in Bansko will find plenty of souvenirs in the form of local crafts, especially embroidered goods. Many shops focus on skiing equipment, but on Sundays there is a market that offers fresh produce and a variety of locally-made goods.
Bansko is not short on cosy eateries, with dozens of taverns in the town serving up hearty traditional Bulgarian cuisine, and holidaymakers will not go hungry. Restaurants and pubs selling international staples are also readily available.
The nightlife in Bansko is not as wild as in some of Bulgaria's other popular holiday resorts, like Borovets and Pamporovo. This small, old-fashioned town takes its tone from the quiet locals, who prefer to while away the evenings in the large selection of low-ceilinged taverns and pubs before a roaring fire. Most offer entertainment in the form of local musicians or folk orchestras, particularly during the winter ski season. There are some low-key discotheques offering dancing, frequented by the local youth as well as visiting foreigners.
The holiday resort of Bansko does not offer many diversions in winter apart from good skiing and snowboarding, but the area is well known for its thermal hot springs and these together with several excellent swimming pools, which generally have saunas, Turkish baths and fitness rooms attached, allow for a relaxing experience off the slopes. There are a number of sights in the area around Bansko that are worth visiting, like the historic Rila Monastary, the town of Melnik, Yagodinska Cave, and The Dancing Bears Rehabilitation Park.
Bansko is quiet and not suited to 'party animals'. Expert skiiers may not find enough challenge on the skiing slopes, which are best suited to beginners and intermediates.