There’s something rather endearing about smaller cities. Whether you’re heading to Bansko for a handful of days or you’re thinking of staying for longer, it won’t take you long to fall in love with this place. In fact, with so many thrilling things to do and awesome attractions to see, you might never want to leave!
Bansko is a beautiful town and ski resort in Bulgaria, located at the foot of the pristine Pirin Mountains not far from the borders with Greece and North Macedonia and also a very cheap place to live and pay taxes. Over the last ten to fifteen years, Bansko has become an international destination for summer and winter recreation and tourism. The mountain peaks near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, and rafting and kayaking.
In this post, you will find some of the most popular things to do in Bansko but also some more off-the-beaten-path experiences that mostly just locals know about. We hope you find some inspiration from this post and that you have the best time in Bansko.
In 2003, a new gondola lift was built from the town up to the base area of Banderishka Poliana. The skiing resort has almost 50 miles of trails and snowboarding runs, with 25 ski lifts and drag lines. All skill levels from beginner “bunny slopes” up to expert level skiing can be found here.
The summit is over 2,600m above sea level, and is served by lifts. There is a vertical drop of over 1,000m back to the base area, and if you continue down into the town, over 1,500m of drop. The quality is so superb, that Bansko recently hosted the World Cup for Alpine ski racing for women’s downhill (two) and a super combined, and the men’s slalom and a super combined. Competitions take place regularly now, and 60 snow cannons can extend the season until well into April each year. Bankso ski holidays offer such good vluw for money with the good snow, après ski and the amount of activities to do for all ages.
Snowboarding at the Resort
Snowboarders also enjoy this Balkans resort immensely, and can build their own custom jumps as they wish in the snowboarding areas, according to their abilities and style. Daily local competitions are held on the run on Shiligarnika, with prizes from the resort.
Hiking in the Pirin Mountains
Summertime brings wonderful weather to the resort and areas around Bansko. The mountains are mostly granite, and the crag and peaks jut up from picturesque valleys and trails. Hikes can start from the town itself, on foot or by rental car to further trails, or can be arranged by tour bus or with a local private guide at quite reasonable prices. Trails range from grueling with serious climbing, to easy and enjoyable day hikes. Camping trips are easily arranged in the town, and supplies are available for week long hikes or more.
Mountain Biking near Bansko
Mountain biking around Bansko was unheard of until the last 10 years or so, and now guides and maps can show you over 1,000km of fabulous trails. The most popular areas include old loggers’ tracks, forested trails, and along mountain streams with serious vertical drops. Local guides are becoming more common, and can help you plan your trips. You should leave a full day at least, although with gear or support, you can bike without seeing the same trail twice for days.
Rafting and Kayaking
The winter snows guarantee wonderful rafting and kayaking all over Bulgaria in the Pirin National Park. The Struma River offers awesome white-water trips running down into the Sandanski Valley. The Mesta River is also lovely, and beautiful gentle-water trips of varying lengths offer time to decompress and relax. These beautiful mountain areas are practically untouched, and are a fresh and rewarding destination.
Have a bite to eat at The House in Bansko
The House is one of our favourite restaurants in Banko. The food, service, and restaurant itself is really nice. Every time we go for lunch or dinner the staff is very welcoming and we’ve never been disappointed with the food there.
This is not a traditional Bulgarian restaurant but we’ll get to one later in this post. The House has a wide variety of different meals from burgers to risotto. The thing all the meals have in common is the quality. The quality and portion size are great especially for what you pay!
Get your dance on Salsa style
You got it! You can get your dance on in Bansko too. Usually every Wednesday there’s a Salsa dance class anyone can join. The location is downtown inside the Municipality building of Bansko through the side door. The class is from 6-7 pm and you’ll see people going through the side door a few minutes before class. Make sure to bring 10 Lev for the class!
The best part is after class you can test out your new moves at Cafe Club “NEW” later in the evening where they host a salsa night every Wednesday! So you basically get a full evening of Salsa dance if you want!
Visit the Rila Monastery
The Rila Monastery (or The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila) is a must-visit if you’re in Bansko for an extended period of time. This is one of the most famous monasteries in all of Bulgaria and the painting is very unique.The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila is located at the foot of the Rilomanastirska Gora nature preserve which is located in Bansko’s neighbouring province: Kyustendil Province. The drive from Bansko to the Rila Monastery is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Explore the alpine lakes in the Pirin National Park
Vihren Peak is the most popular mountain in the Pirin National Park but one other thing we absolutely love about the national park is all of the alpine lakes in the Pirins. The best part is that they’re way easier to get to than Vihren Peak.
To get to Vihren Hut where the majority of the trails start from, you can drive up, take a taxi, take the shuttle, or even hike to Vihren Hut. From there, you can get to an alpine lake in as little as 20 minutes. There are quite a few alpine lakes located within a short distance from the hut that are totally worth checking out.
You really don’t have to hike far in the Pirins to see some incredible sights. It’s worth spending at least an afternoon up in the mountains enjoying the mountains all around you. After you go exploring you can always go have a drink or food at the restaurant connected to Vihren Hut.
Fresh fruit and veg at the Sunday market
Sunday is one of our favourite days in Bansko because it means we can stock up on fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, homemade peanut butter (you seriously need to try this!), and whatever else our hearts desire. The Sunday market is where all the local villagers and farmers who have produce and stuff to sell come together in Bansko for the market.
The prices are amazing, the quality is great, and the variety is really good. If you want to cook at home and make some yummy food with local ingredients then go between 9 am and 1 pm and see what they have at the local market.
Depending on the season you can get certain fruit and vegetables for really cheap. It’s an awesome place to get a sense of the local culture and to be surrounded by a bunch of local Bulgarians!
There’s nothing like it and it’s such a fun experience going to the market and seeing the variety of stuff and also being immersed with the locals. Needless to say that this market is cash only 😉
Eat local food at Banski Han
One of the things you have to do in Bansko is to try local Bulgarian cuisine. That’s why we saved the best for last. Banski Han is a traditional, local, and family owned restaurant here in Bansko and in many people’s opinion has the best Bulgarian food in town.
It feels very local, tastes very local, and is very local! It’s right at the beginning of Bansko and a great place to really dive into the Bulgarian cuisine. Something you have to try at least once. There’s a good chance after going once you’ll probably want it again because it really is that good.
Eat Banitsa at the Super Bakery
Banitsa is a Bulgarian specialty that you can get from local bakeries and the one here in town is absolutely delicious. Be quick though, Super Bakery does tend to sell out of their Banitsa quite quickly in the morning.
One thing you can do is walk by the day before and reserve one for the next day. That way you don’t have to go before 8 am and know you’ll still get some yummy Banitsa.
If you’re curious about what it is, it’s basically a filo pastry with whisked eggs, natural yogurt, and cheese inside. It’s heavenly and this bakery in specific makes a delicious Banitsa.
They also have a variety of bread, cookies, and other goodies to choose from while you’re there. Super Bakery is definitely one of the hidden gems here in Bansko.
Even for a small mountain town in Bulgaria, Bansko has plenty of things to do. Even for expats and nomads who live here more permanently there’s an abundance of things to do in this awesome mountain town.
This list of things to do in Bansko isn’t even everything but it’s a good start and will give you some inspiration if you ever need a kick start or an idea on what to do on any given day.
If you’re living here or just visiting we hope you have a great time hiking, eating, and doing whatever else you may be doing in Bansko. It’s a great place and there’s a reason why more and more people are starting to call it home.
EXPLORE THE TRIP: Ski holidays Bansko – skiing in the national park! – Top Travel Greece
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