Known for its world-class ski slopes, Bansko has been named the best ski resort in Bulgaria for the 8th year in a row. This small town is nestled in the beautiful Pirin mountain and is filled with not only great opportunities for skiers, but also many remarkable places to visit for non-skiers, like me.
I got to spend a weekend in Bansko recently and I am eager to tell you all that I got to see here. The town is of great historical importance to Bulgaria and it will allow you to learn a lot about the culture and history of the country.
In this list I share with you the top things to do in Bansko, as well as what places to visit around the city and what festivals are taking place here.
I hope this guide helps you to plan your trip to Bansko the best and most efficient way possible. And hopefully it proves to you that Bansko is not just for ski lovers, but there are also many things to do for those who do not want to hit the slopes.
Historical Things to do in Bansko
Roam the Old Town
Bansko has a very rich history. During a field research there have been over 100 archeological sites found here: fortresses, settlements, temples, sanctuaries and more.
Walking around you will notice the beautiful architecture in Bulgarian Revival style, as well as some monuments and interesting places.
Roaming the old town is a must-do when coming to Bansko, even if it’s just for an hour or two – it will certainly leave an impression.
2. Marvel at the beautiful Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Church is one of the symbols of Bansko. It’s located in the very centre of the city and is one of the most visited sights here.
Up until the construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, St. Trinity has been the largest church in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula.
The complex consists of the church, the bell tower and the fencing wall. Something interesting we noticed right at the entry of the church are a Christian cross and a Turkish crescent close to each other. It turned out they serve as a symbol of tolerance between the two religions.
3. Visit the Neofit Rilski House-Museum
One of the top things to do in Bansko is to visit the numerous house-museums, dedicated to important people from the history of Bulgaria.
Neophyte of Rila was a Bulgarian monk, teacher and artist, and an important figure of the Bulgarian National Revival who lived in the 19-th century. He was born in Bansko and nowadays his house of birth is turned into a museum, which can be visited by everyone. Being a typical house of the local traditional architectural style from the 18th century, it was built almost entirely of wood and stone.
4. See the Paisiy Hilendarski Monument
Paìsiy Hilendàrski was a Bulgarian scholar and a priest, who was an important Bulgarian National Revival figure. He is best known for being the author of Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya (Slavonic-Bulgarian History) – an important historical book that was published in 1762 and is considered to be among the reasons for the “awakening” of the national spirit of Bulgarians during the Ottoman rule.
The monument represents Paisiy in front of stone images and text from his own book.
5. Tour the Nikola Vaptsarov House-Museum
Nikola Vaptsarov is considered one of the best Bulgarian poets even though he only ever published one poetry book. Vaptsarov was born in Bansko and his home has been turned into a museum, welcoming visitors since 1952.
You can learn about him, his life and his work through documentaries, photos and other memorabilia, left from his time.
6. Pay a visit to the House of Velyanovs
The house of Velyanovs was built in the 18th century and it’s one of the few fortress-houses with thick stone walls and underground hideouts. It impresses with its unique frescoes and woodwork, as well as elegant design. It is considered that there is no other such house in the Bulgarian Revival art.
7. Check out the Radonov’s House
Radonov’s house was built in the beginning of the 19th century and the exhibition displays the history and development of Bansko from its origins up until the Liberation from Ottoman rule in 1912.
You can also see archeological finds from the excavation works in the region, which are proof that Bansko dates back to Thracian times.
Things to do in Bansko in the winter:
8. Go skiing at the best Bulgarian ski resort
Bansko has been named the best ski resort in Bulgaria for 7 years. Here you will find 16 ski slopes with a total length of 75 km.
The slopes vary in difficulty quite a bit – you can find anything from easy, beginner-friendly slopes to such for professional-level skiers and snowboarders. There is basically something for everyone.
Due to its popularity, Bansko is quite expensive, especially compared to other ski resorts in Bulgaria. However, it also offers the best skiing conditions among them. Combine that with a lovely historic town and numerous restaurants and bars at your feet – it makes for the perfect ski getaway in Bulgaria!
9. Ice skating
During the winter months you can enjoy ice skating in the city of Bansko. The rink here is one of the largest in Bulgaria and it’s easily accessed from the main shopping street. It is possible to rent skates on the spot!
It’s possible to explore the mountains nearby by snowmobile. You can rent one from Banderishka Polyana (Banderishka meadow) and go on a ride to explore the beautiful Pirin mountains.
11. Ski gliding
You’d like to fly over Bansko? No problem! Just get to the top of Todorka summit with the lift and book your adventure. Ski gliding is similar to paragliding, except you’re wearing skis and landing on snow.
Things to do in Bansko in the summer
Bansko is situated in the territories of Pirin National Park, which makes it a perfect place for hiking. There are around 20 hiking trails nearby you can explore and marvel at the beauty of the Pirin mountains.
Some of the more popular hikes are the ones to Polezhan peak and Bezbog peak. Both of them start from Bezbog hut, which you can reach with the lift from Dobrinishte.
13. Mountain biking
There are 7 routes with a total length of 196 km for mountain biking in Bansko. There is something for all levels – from beginners to advanced bikers. Some recommended routes are Bansko – Dobrinishte and Bansko – Banya – they’re easily covered and are suitable for “cross-country”.
14. Horse riding
If horse riding is your thing, there are two places nearby you can go on such an adventure. Head either to Kosherinata forestland or Belismata Reservoir and book your horseback riding trip.
15. Outdoor rock climbing
The mountains allow for people to try all kinds of sports, including rock climbing. Suitable spots nearby are the Cave forestland, the northern wall of mount Vihren, Banski Suhodol and others.
Visitors of all ages can try paintball in Bansko and experience this fun adventure.
17. Off-road tours
Conquer the Pirin mountains with a variety of 4×4 tours.
18. Rafting and kayaking
Try rafting or kayaking on either Struma river or Mesta river, both of which are bordering the Pirin National Park.
Festivals and events in Bansko
Here is a list of some of the festivals that take place in Bansko throughout the year:
19. Traditional Kukers festival (January)
20. Summer music festival (July)
21. International Jazz Festival (August)
22. Opera festival (August)
23. Balkan music festival (September)
24. Bansko film fest (September/November)
Things to do around and day trips from Bansko
25. Go skiing in the nearby Dobrinishte
Dobrinishte is another ski resort, which is located only 8 km away from Bansko. It is a much smaller and much cheaper resort, but also quite different when it comes to conditions. Nevertheless, I recommend giving Dobrinishte a try as well, simply because it’s so close by and it might surprise you.
Just don’t be baffled by the lift – it’s probably the worst and slowest one in the country, but it will surely give you plenty time to admire the view.
26. Visit the Rila Monastery
The magnificent Rila Monastery is located only 1.5 hours away from Bansko. This is one of the most visited places in Bulgaria, and – I dare to say – one of the most beautiful ones.
This is the largest Eastern Orthodox Monastery in Bulgaria, and it has significant importance as a cultural, historical and architectural monument. This place is huge and breathtaking, to say the least.
If you want to give yourself a break from skiing and explore a bit more of Bulgaria, the Rila Monastery would be one of my top suggestions.
27. Spend the day in Plovdiv
The second biggest city in Bulgaria is located 2.5 hours away from Bansko. If you came here by car and you have some time on your hands – I definitely recommend spending a day in Plovdiv.
Plovdiv is incredibly rich in history, cultural heritage, monuments, and beautiful sights. After all, it’s literally one of the oldest cities in the world.
Here is a full guide of all the things you can do in Plovdiv.
28. Visit the dreamy villages Leshten and Kovachevitsa
Leshten and Kovachevitsa are two beautiful mountainous villages, located only about an hour away from Bansko.
The architecture in both villages is authentic and unique, as most houses were built in the second half of the 19th century. In my opinion, these are among the most beautiful villages in Bulgaria (especially Kovachevitsa) and they’re definitely worth visiting.
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