Introducing Bansko

Bansko is the big daddy of Bulgarian ski resorts. With trails starting from 900m high to 2600m, and with over 100 hotels and pensions, the once-quiet village has more beds than permanent residents. In winter, Brits, Russians, Bulgarians and others come to ski (and party) in this sunny yet snow-filled resort. In summer things are quieter (except for August's jazz festival), and the action shifts to the leafy central square, while elderly women in traditional dress sit chatting on the doorsteps of lovely stone-bullt homes in Bansko's old quarter.

Built in the 10th century over an ancient Thracian settlement, Bansko became wealthy by the mid-18th century, well positioned on the caravan route between the Aegean coast and Danubian Europe. It spawned eminent traders, artisans, icon painters and woodcarvers, plus Otets Paisii Hilendarski, the 18th-century monk who fuelled Bulgarian ethnic nationalism with his literary work and travels.

Bansko’s historic significance is attested to in several museums and over 150 cultural monuments, most from the 19th-century National Revival period. These stone-and-timber houses were buttressed by fortress-style walls, with hidden escape routes, protecting their inhabitants from the Turks. As elsewhere, many have been reincarnated as mehanas (taverns) or guesthouses, and there’s an old quarter with cobblestone lanes.

Bansko’s adjacent bus and train stations are right on the main road north of the centre, a 15-minute walk (or 3 lv taxi ride) to the main square, pl Nikola Vaptsarov, and then nearby pl Vâzhrazhdane. This 'summer centre' features shops and cafes on the pedestrian mall, ul Tsar Simeon. In winter, however, the slopeside ski gondola and its terminus up at Baderishka Polyana become the real centre.