Bulgaria is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and with good reason. Summer resorts, winter resorts, mineral baths, heritage cities, monasteries Bulgaria has them all.
But winter tourism in Bulgaria is special. Bulgaria probably has some of the best winter resorts in Europe, or even the world. Come winters most European tourists and ski enthusiasts seem to make a beeline for the several destinations in Bulgaria. With a whole host of mountains in the country this shouldn’t come as any surprise though. The Balkan mountain range runs through the width of the country dividing it into two clear halves and it is in the south western part of the country that most of the ski resorts are located.
Probably the best developed Winter Resort in Eastern Europe is Bansko. At 925 meters above sea level Bansko is located at the foot of Mount Pirin. Until 1912 Bansko was a part of the Ottoman Empire. It was only after the First Balkan War that it got incorporated into Bulgaria. Of all ski resorts in Bulgaria Bansko has the longest spanning ski season. It stretches from mid December to mid May. The best luxury and super luxury hotels make this resort a pretty upscale place. The two main ski runs are at Chalin Valog and Shiligarnika. Both of them can be reached easily on the Gondola lift which starts from the main town and goes up about ten kilometers to the beginning of the runs. Bansko is also home to the firstfun park on the Balkans. Extreme sports lovers can build their own jumps. Snowboarders from all over participate in the daily competitions on Shiligarnika’s new piste. Also available are slalom and giant slalom rides. The cross country track at Bansko is five kilometers long. All in all Bansko offers something for the skier of any ability.
There is much to do other than or after skiing too. Though there is no consensus on the historical particulars, much of the houses and buildings in Bansko date back to 100 BC. The archeology buff will find the remains of Staroto Gradishte, an ancient fortress and the Thracian mound hills. UNESCO includes the National Park Pirin in its list of cultural and natural must-see sights. The park not only has beautiful waterfalls and caves but also several historical sites. After skiing and sightseeing are all done, sit at a Mehana, a tradition Bansko tavern, and enjoy the local cuisine and some great Bulgarian wines.
Borovetz is Bulgaria’s oldest ski resort. It is located on the northern slope of a mountain called Rila. At 1350 meters above the sea level it is one of the higher mountain resorts of Bulgaria. Until the middle of the last century Borovetz or Borovets was known as Chamkoria. From being the hunting grounds for Bulgarian kings Borovetz has become a modern mountain resort that caters to all types of tourists. With a good mix of luxury hotels and budget motels, five star restaurants and late night bars no visitor to this resort will go back unhappy. Twice it has played host to the World Cup Alpine Skiing rounds. Borovetz has one of the best Biathlon tracks in the world.
An extensive web of ski runs and lifts across the Rila Mountains makes sure that all types of winter sports can be enjoyed here. Another reason why several ski enthusiasts visit this mountain resort is the ski school here. With much lower prices than the average resort in Western Europe its instructors and instructions is of a very high standard. Not only are there instructions for every skill level, the ski school also runs a ski kindergarten for very young children. A special pass also allows skiers to ski until ten in the night. On Wednesdays a ski jumping show is put on by the local instructors. There is a small entrance fee to the show for those who have not enrolled in the ski school but it can be watched from any of the locals bars.
Mount Rhodopes ski resorts
Chepelare has one of the longest ski runs in Southeastern Europe. It is located in the in the central part of Mount Rhodopes, the mythical birthplace of the Greek god Orpheus. The town of Chepelare is also famous for being the location of the only factory in the Balkan Peninsula that manufactures skis and snowboards. Close by are the Wonderful Bridges, the natural rock formation on the Rhodopes mountains formed by erosion of the once high level water. The remaining structures look very much like bridges and hence the name. Pamporovo is the other ski resort on Rhodopes. With more than a hundred and twenty days of sun, in spite of a lot of snow, in the winter, it is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. Uzana, located in the Central Balkan National Park and Vitosha, a mountain mastiff formed as a result of volcanic activity are the other two popular winter ski resorts in Bulgaria.
It’s not just for snow enthusiasts that the Bulgarian winter offers a myriad things to do. There are several festivals like St Barbara’s day on the fourth of December is celebrated with cooking and baking while St Trifon’s Day in February is all about wine. There is the International Festival of Masquerade Games in Pernik. Celebrated only in the even years this is a unique event which no audience forgets. It is a combination of all these things that makes Winter Tourism in Bulgaria great for all tourists.
Photo of Bansko ski resort originally posted by Nickolette22