The small town of Bansko nestled in the base of Pirin Mountains is one of the most popular winter destinations in Bulgaria.
A favourite to people of all ages and interests, Bansko is both a nature and culture lovers’ paradise.
With a full-range of winter sport activities, delicious local cuisine, wellness facilities and a variety of cultural experiences, you’re definitely going to enjoy your trip to Bansko.
There’s so much more to Bansko than it meets the eye – so without further ado, here are the best things to do in Bansko, Bulgaria!
Prepare for your trip to Bansko
➔ Book your accommodation in advance – find the best hotel deals for Bansko here.
➔ Find the best tours in Bansko – book your adventures in Bansko in advance.
➔ Rent a car – the best and easiest way to get around Bansko is by renting a car.
➔ Travel Insurance – make sure you’re covered before your trip! I always use SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance which is super affordable and flexible.
The best things to do in Bansko in the winter
1. Go skiing in Bansko
Bansko is the biggest and most popular ski resort in Bulgaria, so it comes as no surprise that this is the top of the list when it comes to things to do in Bansko in the winter.
The 48km of pistes gives you enough variety of terrain to enjoy during a week’s holiday or even for the full ski season.
With over 18 ski slopes with varying difficulty, Bansko is the perfect place for winter sports both for beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders.
If you’re a seasoned skier or snowboarder, doing the run down from Todorka peak can be just the perfect challenge for you as it’s one of the most popular slopes for those with experience.
If you’re a beginner, whether you have very little or no experience at all, I can highly recommend you book yourself a few lessons with a ski instructor.
We booked a ski lessons package last year and we had some amazing progress within our first 3 lessons which gave us the basic skills and confidence to try out some of the harder slopes in Bansko later on.
Skiing in Bansko is rising in popularity even though it’s still fairly unknown in comparison to other popular resorts around Europe. Despite that, Bansko’s facilities, terrain and comparatively low costs make the Bulgarian ski town a deserving rival of the large-scale resorts in Europe.
If you are looking for a place to rent your ski equipment make sure to head to for some of the best value ski rental in Bansko and amazing service.
2. Other snowy activities
If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, there’s still other activities that you can enjoy up in the mountains during the winter season.
For starters, you can still take the gondola from Bansko up to Banderishka Polyana (the starting point of the ski slopes). It’s a beautiful 25 minute ride up the mountain with gorgeous views over the mountains.
When you reach the top there are a couple of restaurants/bars where you can grab a bite or a drink and watch the skiers go by – the ski resort version of people watching 😀
It’s a great way to get closer to the mountain peaks and enjoy the views even if you’re not into snow sports!
3. Visit one Bansko’s hot springs
One of Bulgaria’s best kept secrets are the numerous healing mineral hot springs that you can find in different parts of the country.
And Bansko is the perfect base to explore hot spring pools in the area and take advantage of their healing and relaxing properties.
The water temperatures range from 37-57°C (100-135 °F) and there’s normally a plunge pool available to jump in and cool down after. In some cases the plunge pool is a cold river stream, something that is definitely unique to Bansko’s terrain!
Open all year round, the hot springs are a great way to wind down and relax your muscles after a long day on the ski slopes.
Most of the hot springs are located in the nearby village of Banya, with some being as part of spa hotels where you can purchase a day pass (dependent on availability) and some being privately owned and open to the public.
For a stress-free experience you can opt out to book a Thermal Pool Escape tour which includes transportation to the thermal spa as well as gives you the option to choose between three mineral thermal pools.
No matter which one you decide to go for, I can guarantee after an hour in the hot springs you will feel like a new person!
4. Go on a day trip from Bansko to the Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the must see cultural sights in Bulgaria.
The monastery is a symbol of Bulgarian national identity and was the biggest and most important literary center of the Bulgarian Revival period full of history dating back to the middle ages.
With its arcaded balconies, unique frescos and gilded iconostas, the monastery’s architecture represents a masterpiece of the creative genius of the Bulgarian people.
So if you have a free day in Bansko, I can highly recommend you go on a day trip to the Rila Monastery and explore this amazingly beautiful sight in the Rila Mountains.
The monastery is located about 1.5-2 hours drive from Bansko so if you don’t have a car, the best way to reach it is by booking an organised tour from Bansko.
5. Go horse riding in Bansko
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced horse rider, this fun horse riding experience near Bansko can be a great way to spend some time in nature.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience as this horse riding trip is suitable for both beginners and experienced riders. If you’re a beginner you will get to learn the basics of horse riding and ride within the ranch’s field.
If you’re a seasoned pro and have more experience, you will be able to explore the surrounding countryside with your instructor and your horse companions.
Horse riding in the Pirin Mountains is perfect for anyone looking for a fun outdoor activity in Bansko perfect for all ages and experience levels.
6. Eat in a traditional mehana
There are some amazing restaurants in Bansko including countless of mehanas scattered around. These are traditional taverna-style restaurants where you can try local Bulgarian dishes and wine.
The bigger mehanas often have live music contributing to the traditional atmosphere with cozy decor and delicious meals for an authentic experience.
There’s tons of different places all around the town so you definitely won’t stay hungry. Our favourite traditional restaurants in Bansko are The House and Bunare. If you want my take on the best restaurants in Bansko, read my article here!
7. Take a Bansko walking tour
My favourite way to explore a new place is to take a walking tour!
Bansko is full with history and old historical buildings but unless there’s someone to point them out to you, you might walk past them without realising.
That’s why I always recommend booking a free walking tour or a private tour of Bansko if you’d like a more personalised experience.
Here you can book a private walking tour around Bansko with a local guide who will tell you about Bansko’s history as well as point out some secret gems and good places to have a bite.
If you happen to visit Bansko during one of the periods below, you can book your spot at a free walking tour as well. This is the schedule for the free walking tour:
- Summer time: from June to end of September – start 11 am
- Winter time: from December to end of March – start 2 pm
8. Go on a self-guided walking tour in Bansko
If group guided tours are not really your thing and you prefer to explore at your own pace by yourself, I’ve got the perfect option for you.
You can rent an audio guide designed by locals which covers all the information about the history and culture of the sights in Bansko and Pirin.
It can be loaded on your phone and used within 10 days so you can use it any time during your trip giving you full flexibility and freedom to self-organise your days.
With a number of traditional stone buildings, streetside craft stalls and cozy restaurants, Bansko’s Old Town feels like travelling back in time with its traditional look and feel.
The audio guide is available in English, Bulgarian and Russian and can be loaded on your phone so you can listen to it whenever you want and however many times you’d like to!
9. Go on a snowshoeing day trip to Mount Bezbog in Pirin Mountains
Now this is one for the adventurous – a full-day alpine hike amongst the rugged peaks and glacial lakes of Pirin National Park.
This private tour with an experienced guide offers a truly unique opportunity to experience the nature of Pirin and enjoy the magnificent postcard views of the national park first hand.
The tour starts with a pick up from your hotel and a 45-minute drive from Bansko to Bezbog lift station which is the most easily accessible point for the hike.
After you reach the top of the Bezbog chair lift, the real experience begins. From here, you’ve got approximately 2 hours of snowshoeing up to the summit of Mt. Bezbog with an elevation gain of around 400m (1,300 feet).
All necessary equipment such as snowshoes and hiking poles are included in the tour as well as a lift pass. Make sure to equip yourself with thermal clothing and other cold weather gear so you can keep warm in the mountains!
10. Spend an evening with a Traditional Folklore experience in Bansko
If you want to fully indulge in local life and get a taste for traditional Bulgarian village living, you can book a traditional folklore experience while in Bansko.
This unique experience is the perfect way to indulge in traditional food, get to try your hand at local crafts and learn about the history and culture of the Rhodopean villages.
You’ll get to try a variety of traditional homemade dishes prepared with ingredients from the garden, weave a razboi (a distinctive regional craft), participate in local dances as well as try on traditional folk costumes.
Make sure to come hungry because there is A LOT of traditional food to try. And of course, you’ll get to taste one of Bulgaria’s signature national drinks – rakia.
A truly unique evening that will fill you with warmth and appreciation for Bulgarian traditions! Book the folklore experience here.
11. Go ice skating in Bansko
Swap the skis for skates and head to the ice rink in Bansko for a fun evening of ice skating. The rink is located in the very central part of Bansko so it’s hard to miss when you’re out and about.
Ice skating is one of the most fun things to do in Bansko suitable both for grown ups and kids and it’s especially a good alternative to skiing if you’re not too fond of the slopes.
Make sure to check their opening hours and time slots beforehand as they change occasionally and depending on the time you arrive it might not make sense to go on the ice if it’s too close to closing time!
I would advise you to arrive at least 2 hours before closing time to ensure you have enough time to get ready and to make the most of your time slot!
12. Visit some of Bansko’s museums and galleries
If history and cultural tourism is your thing, Bansko won’t disappoint you with its small but fantastic collection of galleries and museum houses.
One of the more prominent ones worth visiting is Velyanov House which is a traditional Bulgarian stone house decorated with colourful murals, 19th century paintings and carved wooden ceilings.
Or the childhood house of the Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov which has been restored to resemble its look from time he used to live there in the 1910s.
Similarly to the childhood home of one of Bulgaria’s most famous historical figures who was born in Bansko, Neofit Rilski.