When you announce that you’re spending the summer in a ski resort people look at you strangely. But then this is no ordinary ski resort, this is a town on the edge of the Pirin National Park in Bulgaria. It’s a town where the local community have been catering to year round visitors for decades. We have had a Bankso Summer and it’s been glorious.
What's in This Article?
- Where is Bansko?
- Where to stay in Bansko
- What to do in Bansko in summer
- Cultural and Historic Bansko
- Summer Safari in Bansko
- Get your Adrenalin Going – Buggy Tour
- Bansko – A New Coworking Location
- Bulgarian Lessons at the Bla Bla Club
- Our Bansko Summer continues
- Other Resources to Help you Plan your Bansko Trip
Where is Bansko?
Bansko is well known as Bulgaria’s biggest ski resort and is at the foot of the Pirin mountains. The town is around a 2 hour drive from Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. The town is also only 2.5 hours from Plovdiv, these are two closest cities with airports.
The town sits at around 900 metres above sea level. It’s a 90 metre altitude difference between the old square at the bottom of town and the ski gondola at the top.
To find out how to get from Sofia to Bankso – read our new guide – which includes details of buses, trains, shared and private transfers. It’s also easy to get from Plovdiv to Bansko by the same modes of transport.
Where to stay in Bansko
If you;re a skier, then you may want to stay at the higher end of town near to the Gondola, however, during ski season most hotels, apartments and guest houses in Bansko will provide a shuttle service to the ski area. Outside of the ski season, there are more restaurants and places to eat in the old town. Here are our recommendations for where to stay in Bansko.
Momini Dvori Boutique Hotel
2 Nikola Vaptsarov Sq., 2770 Bansko, Bulgaria
Fabulous location off a side street in old town Bansko, this family run boutique hotel provides free shuttles to the gondola ski lift during the ski season and is charmingly located in the old town area.
- Large private bathrooms with robes and slippers
- Free sauna
- Fabulous Bulgarian and international food at the tavern with terrace
Book a room in the old town now! Rooms here aren’t often available!
Boutique Hotel Uniqato
119 Pirin Str, 2770 Bansko, Bulgaria
Balconies with town or mountain views and free parking at the hotel. This is a great location located very close to the gondola ski lift.
- Private bathrooms
- Flat screen TV
- Free wifi
- Great Victoria Italian restaurant attached to the hotel
- Free steam bath and sauna
- Private underground parking
Great location – fabulous books – reserve yours now!
Guest House Hayloft
4 Mingyo Todev Str., 2770 Bansko, Bulgaria
One of the best places to eat and stay in Bansko. A superb family run traditional tavern and guest house, rooms have free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Next to Pirin Street, with pubs and restaurants, but off the main track.
- Rooms all have hardwood floors & wooden furniture
- Private bathrooms with hair dryers and free toiletries
- Incredible hosts with amazing food and hospitality
Amazing hospitality and lovely rooms – book yours now!
Regnum Bansko Apart Hotel & Spa
Asanitsa 2770, 2770 Bansko, Bulgaria
Great location next to the Glazne River with incredible pools and spa rea. There is a heated huge outdoor pool, water slides and children’s pool as well as a sauna and steam bath.
- Complimentary fruits and water on arrival
- Turkish cuisine during the winter season
- Live jazz music at weekends in the lobby bar.
- Gym & entertainment room
- Underground garages.
Superb pool and spa area – get a little luxury here in Bansko now!
What to do in Bansko in summer
July and August in Bansko can be hot – it’s hit 30 degrees a lot here this year. It’s a lot cooler than some of the other areas of Bulgaria where it’s regularly been 40 degrees. The vast majority of the activities in Bansko are outdoor and it’s a glorious place for anything outdoors.
Walking and Hiking
There’s walking through the meadows and fields of the valley. There’s a much more extensive trail system in the National Park which extends through the Pirin Mountains. There’s an eco path up towards the ski area and even a chained route to reach the Vihren Peak. There are stunning walks in the Spring and Autumn too, as you’ll find in all season Bansko.
The Pirin Mountains have a series of huts that it is possible to walk between for the more adventurous. A Pirin routes map is available from the small supermarkets around town for 5 leva.
Ten Great Short Walks
The Bansko Tourist Information Office have developed a series of shorter walks, which they’ve categorised into easy, intermediate and advanced. They come complete with route maps and photographs of directional changes. You can get details from their offices in Bansko.
Many walkers start their trip from the Vihren Hut, and over the summer a minibus runs several times a day transporting walkers to and from this area. It’s possible to walk from Bansko up hill to the Vihren Hut in around 4 hours.
Take a Guided Walk
It’s possible to take guided walks and hikes with local companies, including Pirin Adventures, run by Lizzie and her team, which includes Charlie the Dog.
Activities and Transport on the “Mountain”
Each day during the summer the ski gondola runs from 0800 until 1630, taking visitors to the Bunderista Polyanna area where a host of activities are available. The trip takes you from the base to the 1500 metre level. Gondola tickets cost 12 leva one way or 15 leva return. The gondola also runs once a day from September 13th until the end of November. Times are 0800 and 1630. There are more details available from the Ulen company which runs the ski lifts here in Bansko.
This summer there’s been a water slide, mini golf, giant inflatables, tubing and mountain bike hire.
Close to the not so secret restaurant at Pesherite – about 20 minutes walk up the ski road (and also driveable) are a series of climbing routes. Each time we’ve walked past this summer we’ve heard (and sometimes seen) folks heading up or down these routes.
The area around Bansko is very popular with mountain bikers. Each Sunday the local MTB group meets in the main square and heads out on local routes. Trailsystem Bulgaria puts together a series of events and also maintains trails in the area. The popular Road to Nowhere ran on July 30th & 31st, attracting hundreds of MTBers to the town. Most recently, the Enduro Bansko ran on August 4th and also filled the town up for the one day event.
You must try Local Food in Bansko
The food is amazing here in Bansko. Freshest produce cooked to order. Pizza if you want it. Amazing wings when you need them. Cold cheap refreshing beer. We compiled a list of the local residents favourites – and translated the menus for you – take a look at our article on Bansko Must Eats.
Bansko in Summer Festivals
There are festivals here in Bansko throughout the year. They’re all FREE! Yes, FREE. The most notable summer events include:
The first musical festival of the summer season ran for two days in 2016, July 15th and 16th – held in the main square in Bansko. Bansko Beat is a free festival.
The Bansko Jazz Festival
An 8 day extravaganza that has now been running for 19 years. The festival is truly international with stars from all over the world, including Japan, China and the USA. The festival was in 2016 headlined by Joss Stone from the UK. The Bansko Jazz festival usually runs in the first week of August. In 2017 the festival runs from August 5th until August 12th. Book your accommodation ahead of time, the town is hopping – but there’s no need to book a ticket for the festival until you get to Bansko.
The Bansko Opera Festival
Situated in the main square, in 2016 this was a three night festival. As with the Jazz Festival it was free and another popular event. The festival this year included a performance of Romeo and Juliet and culminated with Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The Bohemi Festival
The first weekend of September sees the last festival of the Bansko Summer season. This is the Bohemi festival. This is the second time that the festival has run. Balkan musicians will convene in the main square, joined by the most famous Balkan voice, Dino Merlin.
The Open Air Cinema
In late July, in the central square “Nikola Vaptsarov” there’s an Summer Cinema under the stars. For four nights, starting at 2100, a program of three or four films, documentaries and shows are shown for free. Showcasing the great outdoors, it’s a fabulous way to experience the hospitality of a Bansko summer. More details (in Bulgarian, so put your auto-translate on – here)
There are several horse riding stables in the area, where its possible to take lessons or hire horses to go for an accompanied ride.
Perivolas Riding Centre
Situated in the village of Bachevo, 12 kilometres from Bansko (6 km from Razlog) is the Perivolas Riding Centre. Rides cost 30 leva an hour and lessons are also available.
Dvorene Riding Centre
Dvorene is based in Razlog (6 kilometres from Bansko). Further details and pricing from e-mail: [email protected]
Picnic and BBQ
Throughout the National Park there are sturdy tables and benches. It’s possible to drive to many of them, others must be hiked to. They’re usually close to a fire pit or BBQ and a cold mountain stream, making it possible to cook out and cool beer at the same time.
Relaxing in the Pools
Many of the hotels and resorts in Bansko have great pool areas, like Bansko Royal Towers, where we stay. A sunbed is usually available for rent for the price of drinks and snacks at most pools. There are, however, public pools locally too.
Very popular with local expats is the Piri Pool is to be found on the road to Banya from Bansko. It’s a short taxi ride or about a 30 minute walk from the main square in Bansko.
The Alpha Spa and Pool, Dobrinishte
This is the biggest spa and thermal pool complex in the area, right in the centre of Dobrinishte. Accessible by bus or local train. There’s a snack and drinks bar as well as spa services available too.
The Kompleks Izgreva
The Kompleks Izgreva is in Banya. There are thermal pools and a snack bar also available.
Microlight Flights Over Bansko
If your preference is to see the mountain from above, then there’s also a microlight service than runs from nearby Razlog. Razlog is just 6 kilometres away and can be reached by bus or train. Microlight flights start at 60 Leva and are run by Olimp-Air.
Cultural and Historic Bansko
Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Church is easy to locate on Pirin Street, which is the main street that goes through Bansko. It’s a small, but beautiful Orthodox Church.
Velyanov House is an 18th century mansion containing wood carvings and ornate paintings. There is a guide available in English, German and Dutch for the entry fee of 3 leva.
Nikola Vaptsarow House Museum
This museum was the birthplace of Nikola Vaptsarov, poet and activist. His writing caused his arrest and torture and it was while he was waiting for his execution that he wrote his most inspiring works. The museum documents his life alongside his personal belongings.
Summer Safari in Bansko
If a little more adrenalin is your thing, then a Bansko Summer Safari is a popular way to see the local countryside. An open topped jeep that can take up to 6, plus the driver, lets you head up logging trails on the mountain. You’ll ford streams and rivers, stop for refreshments or even lunch during your exploration of the area. Costs are from 300 leva for the jeep for four people, or 350 leva for 6 people. Contact Phillip via the Bansko Safari Facebook page.
Get your Adrenalin Going – Buggy Tour
Get out into the foothills of the Pirins and Rila Mountains and take a Buggy Tour in Bansko – you’l offfroad in these dune buggies and have a great time. You can read more about our adventures there in our Buggy Tour in Bansko article.
Bansko – A New Coworking Location
If you need to work while you’re here, or indeed if you plan to make Bansko your new work location, then there’s a new gig in town. Opening officially on 15th December, but currently operating in temporary premises, is Coworking Bansko. Coworking Bansko is a central hub for digital nomads and local freelancers alike.
Bulgarian Lessons at the Bla Bla Club
If you’d like to learn a few words to get by in Bulgarian, then you can also take in a few lessons in a social environment. The Bla Bla Club meets once a week – usually Monday’s at the Hotel Ida. The Club has been set up to both learn the basics of Bulgarian and at the same time socialize. More information at the Bla Bla Club Facebook page.
Our Bansko Summer continues
It’s not over yet, the heat has abated, the weather is pleasant for walking in the valley as well as in the mountains, so we’ll be here for a while yet. C’mon, plan your trip to Bulgaria, because Bansko summer is glorious!
Other Resources to Help you Plan your Bansko Trip
- Bansko Tourist Information
- Bansko Blog
- What to Eat in Bansko – Bulgarian Menus deciphered!
- Get your adrenalin going with a Buggy Tour in Bansko
- How to get from Sofia to Bansko – bus, train, transfer
- Find out how to get from Plovdiv to Bansko