Ski Resorts in Bulgaria
Bulgaria Winter Holiday Travel Guide
Planning on a ski holiday in Bulgaria? Check out Bansko and Borovets and what amenities they can offer.
Bansko is known to have the best snow record and the longest ski season which runs from Dec 15 – May 15 of all ski resorts in Bulgaria.
An old cobbled town with a 20-minute gondola link to a ski center 12km up the mountain, constitutes the brave new world of Bulgarian skiing. Situated in the Pirin mountains, 150km beyond Borovets towards the Greek border, it already exceeds its rivals in some aspects, with a bigger ski area, 80 per cent of it served by snow cannons, and more modern lifts, among them an eight-man chair. When snow conditions are great, it is possible to take on the 16km descent from the top of the mountain to Bansko.
There are obvious advantages to staying in an historic town instead of a purpose-built resort, particularly one with a selection of well-appointed hotels. The best is the Grand Arena, a low-rise luxury complex next to the gondola which opened for the 2003-4 season. The Bansko is on the outskirts of town, with a swimming pool, while the more traditional Pirin is recommended for its central location and tavern restaurant.
Tourists who are on a tight budget won’t have to worry as there are a number of lodging places at Bansko to choose from. Rates can go as low as $7 per night on some hostels. An affordable place to stay would be Gondola Apartments & Suites located 300 meters from the ski lift. Their modern studios and apartments have fully equipped kitchens, private parking and free Wi-Fi. Other facilities offered include bicycle hire, linen service, luggage storage, lift, elevator, and gym.
This is the biggest and oldest of Bulgaria's three international resorts, is reigned by two massive Communist bloc hotels at the base of the slopes. In other aspects, the resort resembles a bazaar, with hustlers peddling trashy goods, dodgy money-changers and restaurants selling pizzas and English breakfasts. Flashing neon lights pinpoint karaoke and erotic bars around the clock.
Borovets has two unlinked ski zones on the same north-facing mountain. You can get to the upper area via an old 'egg'-style gondola, with the main nursery slope and a complex of mountain restaurants at the top. Three farther draglifts serve a series of pistes along the ridge, primarily rolling blue cruisers, though they're marked red on the map. They are groomed daily and pleasant to ski, except when the wind factor sets in. This is especially pitiful for beginners, who find themselves stranded and bruised on top of an ice mountain. More ambitious skiers can traverse farther out along the ridge with a guide to the picturesque if unappealingly named Avalanche area: the off-piste descents through the bushes are abrupt, but they make a welcome option to the marked slopes. The runs back to Borovets are red, having a narrow black section to the gondola mid-station and a snow-challenged walk at the bottom.
The other zone is at resort level, accessed by a four-person chair opposite the Rila Guesthouse, but only the baby drag at the base is perfect for beginners. All the runs on the lower slopes are extremely short. The two major ones are floodlit during night skiing until 10pm.
Rila Guesthouse is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of the Bulgarian Rila Mountains in the historical Kostenets resort, which is also renowned for its hot mineral springs that they say have many healing properties.
The best on-mountain pit stop is the White House, at the top of the gondola, which serves burgers, omelettes, salads and gluhwein.
The central Samokov is the top hotel in town, with an indoor pool, sauna, shops and sensible food, especially in the faux art deco Panorama restaurant on the 10th floor. The huge Rila is run-down and noisy, though conveniently located by the slopes, with a large swimming pool, modern fitness center and popular nightclub. Of the smaller hotels, the Moura and the Breza are recommended.
The Borovets pub circuit begins with karaoke in Peter's Bar, then gets to Franco's Pizzeria, which has good, cheap food in a wine bar atmosphere, and the Black Tiger, a karaoke and cocktail haunt with a dancing pole that marks the start of the end of good behaviour. The last official stop is the Buzz Bar, conveniently located for one of Borovets' quartet of girly bars.