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Bansko - A Destination For Year Round Tourism

The quaint town of Bansko is situated on the boundaries of three mountain ranges Rila, Pirin and Rhodope, which provide amazing views of towering snow capped peaks, fertile meadows and lush

green pine forests. The town is most renowned as Bulgaria's most popular ski resort, yet the area's picturesque landscape of woodland, crystal clear lakes, mineral spas as well as dramatic panoramas of the Pirin Mountains is making its mark as a fashionable summer resort. Visitors are enchanted by the town's captivating mix of history, tradition and culture.The Mediterranean influence on the climate here makes for ideal year round conditions with winters providing temperatures perfect for ski conditions and long hot summers with temperatures soaring as high as 35 degrees.

 

Bansko A Year Round Tourist Destination

Easily accessible from the capital Sofia and Bulgaria's second city Plovdiv, Bansko has regular bus services running between these two cities. One of Bansko's more scenic modes of travel is the narrow gauge railway between the towns of Septemvri and Dobrinishte, which connects to the main railway line to Sofia. The nearest airports are Sofia located 150 km away and Plovdiv 180 km away. A proposal for Bansko's own airport is currently well advanced, but to date it is still not at the construction stage.

As the town grows in popularity, so does the retail environment and Bansko sports some fashionable clothing retailers, as well as stores selling a variety of skiwear and equipment. These stores will soon share their High Street location with equivalent golf stores. Bansko also has numerous souvenir shops selling a range of generic Bulgarian items, as well as traditional, locally crafter goods. A five million euro retail mall is currently under construction at the lower station of the gondola lift and the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena. The new Mall Bansko offers a wide range of stores as well as banking services, restaurants and bars.

A Dip Back in Time

Bansko is a town steeped in legend and intrigue. One tale suggests that the town was founded by the blinded army of Tsar Samuil, another proclaims that it was an Italian painter called Ciociolino who created the town and evidence to support this lies in the name of the local church, Chucholin.
Archaeological evidence dates Bansko and the Razlog Valley to the early Roman Empire. Under Ottoman rule the village was known as Baniçka, but it was a semi independent region with a high degree of self-rule by town elders, which had been permitted by the sultan. During the Bulgarian National Revival period, Bansko was one of the most significant trade and craft centres in the Southeast. The leather and timber industries thrived and local craftsmen opened up a large number of workshops where they fashioned ranges of highly wrought furniture as well as handcrafted whistled, which are now symbolic of the town's reputation for crafts.

Bansko did not become part of Bulgaria until it after the First Balkan War in 1912.

Recreation and Sport

Year round Bansko offers a wide range of pursuits to suit all tastes. Mountain bikes can be hired in the town for those who wish to test their nerve down the ski pistes. The area is also a renowned hotspot for hunting and fishing, not to mention horse riding, walking and mountaineering. But skiing and more recently golf are the sports, which have given the town international acclaim.

Golf

New golf courses have been planned for this area. Lyuben Tatarski, the Mayor for Razlog Municipality maintains that "Our ultimate goal is attracting wealthy lovers of this aristocratic sport from all over Europe. This way we'll be able to profit from tourism around the year."

The Pirin Golf and Country Club is a year round development in Bansko which offers its owners both golfing and skiing as leisure pursuits. The resort features two 18-holes golf courses - one an Ian Woosnam designed championship course (par 72) and the other, designed by skilled German company. Both courses lie conveniently between two ski zones and are 3 km from the town and 5 km from the newly developed Kulinoto ski zone with 45 km of ski runs. The courses and the development is for the exclusive use of Pirin Club property owners who can enjoy a number of additional exclusive facilities which single it out from the rest. It's PGA academy, driving range, and exclusive putting greens are set in its own pine forest with open-air leisure facilities including a riding and equestrian centre, four tennis courts, a mini football pitch plus volleyball and basketball grounds.

Skiing

Much has been invested in Bansko's ski facilities with a range of new lifts and pistes as well as excellent facilities for snow boarders. More recently, 161 artificial snow machines have ensured that the season extends from December through to May. Bansko's highest ski centre is located at a staggering 2560 m, and the lowest at 1000 m. The ski area covers an extensive area of 65 km and they are well maintained by a fleet of snow ploughs.
Bansko is ideal for skiers of all ages and abilities and the resort has invested heavily in providing first-rate facilities for children, which includes a movable path in the form of merry-go-round, ski trains to transport children and a ski-garden play area. Banking on the growth and long-term appeal of Bansko as a ski resort, internationally renowned skiers, Alberto Tomba and Mark Girardelli have set up ski schools in the area.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

Bansko is rapidly developing to offer a good range of shops, restaurants, bars and numerous cafes. Bansko itself has around 40 traditional Bulgarian kitchens known as Mehanas, hotel restaurants and cafés. The Mehanas are particularly good here and serve a delicious selection of traditional Bulgarian cuisine and some palatable house wines, many of which are made in the Mehana and come straight from the barrel.

Some of the most noteworthy restaurants in the town are the Italian restaurant behind the Kempinski Hotel, which serves a tasty selection of pasta and Italian meat dishes, the Bansko Mehana on Pirin Street, which offers an authentic Bulgarian atmosphere and some classic mountain dishes, Café Blonde, which does a particularly good breakfast and the Happy Bar and Grill opposite the gondola station, which serves everything from healthy salads to low calorie dishes. A three course meal with wine in any of the Mehanas can cost as little as 10 euros.

The nightlife in the town is buzzing all year round and notable clubs to dance the night away include the Happy End by the Gondola station, which offers a lively atmosphere and the Amnesia Club in the centre, which plays a wide selection of music. Clubs are open from 10pm through to 4 am and cost as little as 5 leva (2.5 euros) to enter.

Unlike many other winter resorts, both towns' hotel facilities are situated exclusively in the town and there is a wide range of luxurious hotels and residential complexes to choose from. During Bansko's high season, hotel rates average 150 euros per night, and rents in quality resorts are around 250 euros a week for studio apartments and up to 1,500 euros for luxury penthouses. Bansko's five star Kempinski Hotel is probably the resorts most luxurious with a wide range of facilities from pools and restaurants to saunas and a gym. The Villa Roka four star Spa Hotel offers some fabulous treatments and a wide range of facilities as does the four star Park Hotel Gardenia, which has a well equipped Wellness centre and is an ideal family hotel.