Bansko and around: 15 tested ideas for active tourism out of the season in the winter capital of the Balkans

My first visit in the town of Bansko happened almost 20 years ago. At that time the town was very small, and many of its current outskirts were pastures and meadows. Then I remembered two things: the enormous silhouette of Pirin Mountains as a beautiful background, throwing its shadow, and the imposing church of the Holy Trinity.

Bansko

Bansko

Quite recently, I have been in Bansko several times, mostly with a plan for hiking.

Autumn in Bansko

Autumn in Bansko

This article is dedicated to interesting sights in Bansko and nearby, places I have personal impressions of. I recommend them as travel ideas out of the active ski season. If you are there – choose one of these places to enrich your mountain holiday. If you have not been to Bansko – read the brief information about each of the places and you may find a reason to visit the town.

Before describing the places, let me say that in 2010 Bansko received the high award “winter capital of the Balkans” at the international tourism fair in the Serbian town of Novi Sad.

The small central streets

If it is your first time in Bansko, start with a walk along the streets around the central square. The calderums, the houses with typical old-fashioned architecture, the massive church and the unique background of Pirin Mountains will immerse you in the atmosphere of the town.

Central streets

Central streets

Just next to the main square in Bansko there is another square with a massive monument of Paisii Hilendarski – an clergyman, Bulgarian revival, and the author of old History of Bulgaria, born in Bansko.

Paisii Hilendarski monument

Paisii Hilendarski monument

Church of the Holy Trinity

Going to (or just passing through) Bansko and not visiting the imposing church of the Holy Trinity is like going to Rome and not seeing the pope 🙂 . The church is one of the town symbols and it used to be the largest church in Bulgaria before the “St. Alexander Nevski” cathedral in Sofia was built.

Church of the Holy Trinity

Church of the Holy Trinity

The church was built in 1835 by local masters, with local donations, following the initiative of the local merchant Lazar German. To have the right to build a church, people from Bansko buried an icon and a cross in a yard around to prove to the Turks that there was an earlier church in this place before. Such were the rules then – the Turks allowed a temple to be built only on the remains of an older temple. The impressive tower-bell was built a bit later – in 1850.

Architecturally, the church is a three-nave basilica without a dome. The interior is in Baroque style. Great attention deserves also the beautiful iconostasis.

The church and the Neofit Rilski Museum House

The church and the Neofit Rilski Museum House

Next to the church of the Holy Trinity is Neofit Rilski’s house-museum.

House-museum Neofit Rilski

It is located near the church of Holy Trinity and was the home of the Bulgarian Revival writer Neofit Rilski. He came from the famous Benin family and thus the house is also known as the Benin House.

House-museum Neofit Rilski

House-museum Neofit Rilski

House-museum of Nikola Vaptsarov

This is the birth house of one of my favorite Bulgarian poets, Nikola Vaptsarov, born in 1909, and shot dead in 1942.

House-museum of Nikola Vaptsarov

House-museum of Nikola Vaptsarov

Opened in 1952, the house-museum is among the first museums in the Pirin region and marks the beginning of the museum activities in Bansko. It is located on the central square and is part of the famous 100 sites.

Art Gallery

The Art Gallery is located in the central town square of Bansko, near the house-museum of Nikola Vaptsarov. In the gallery you can see a lot of paintings by Bulgarian authors – popular and not so.

Art Gallery

Art Gallery

The Painted church

This is an archaeological site, not far from Bansko – very close to the Pirin Golf Club. It is remnants of an Early-Christian Basilica dated back to 5th-6th century, a monastery building and a smaller church dating back to 13th century. Once upon a time, the church was beautifully decorated and painted, and the name of the object came from there. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed during a large fire in 14th century. Remnants were investigated during the period 2006-2008.

The Painted church

The Painted church

Unfortunately, you can not see much of the Painted Church, currently – the object is fenced, which is normal, but there is no one to open for visits. You could only look through the fence.

Visitor center of Pirin National Park

In the visitor center you could learn more about the park itself, the plant and animal species, and the hiking routes in Pirin Mountains.

Visitor center of Pirin National Park

Visitor center of Pirin National Park

Pirin National Park covers most of the mountain and is one of the three national parks in Bulgaria. There are two natural reserves within the National Park – Bayuvi Dupki and Yulen. Pirin National Park is part of UNESCO’s natural heritage since 1983.

Baikusheva fir

Baikusheva fir is the oldest coniferous tree in Bulgaria, and its age is over 1300 years. The tree was named by Kostadin Baikushev a forester, who discovered it in 1897 and described it. The Baikusheva fir is located near the road between Bunderitsa and Vihren huts – there is a sign and a mini eco path to the tree.

Baikusheva fir

Baikusheva fir

Vihren Peak

The Vihren Peak, 2914 meters high, is the highest one in Pirin Mountains. One of the most popular routes for its climbing starts from Vihren hut. The hut can be reached by car on a narrow asphalt road. The hiking route from the Vihren hut to the Vihren peak takes about 2 hours and a half without considering the breaks.

Vihren Peak

Vihren Peak

Muratov Peak

Muratov Peak, 2669 meters high, is one of the most panoramic Pirin Mountains peaks. The route for climbing to Muratov peak also starts from Vihren hut. Despite the fact that Muratov peak is lower than Vihren, the climbing to Muratov Peak is a bit more difficult, because the paths are more stony and steep. However, the views of Muratov Peak are extremely beautiful.

Muratov Peak

Muratov Peak

Muratovo Lake

The Muratoto Lake is part of the Banderitsa Circus and is situated at the foot of Muratov Peak. Near the lake is Hvojnaty peak as well. The route to Muratov Peak passes near the Muratovo Lake. It is about one hour walking from Vihren hut to the lake.

Muratovo Lake

Muratovo Lake

The Nameless Town

The Nameless town is an interesting and quite unknown place between Bansko and Dobrinishte. It is the remains of an ancient city aged over 3500 years. It is believed that here lived the Thracian Dai tribe, described by Homer as very bold and majestic.

The Nameless Town

The Nameless Town

Waterfall St. Nicholas

There are tall rocks near the Nameless Town, at the foot of which runs a lush river. You can hear the sound of water as far as from the fortress. A little further downstream, the river forms a small but interesting waterfall, named after the surrounding area – St. Nicholas.

Waterfall St. Nicholas

Waterfall St. Nicholas

The church “St. St. Teodor Tiron and Teodor Stratilat “

In the village of Dobarsko, located about 20 km north of Bansko, there is a very interesting small church, built and painted in 1614. The church is a museum now and a cultural monument. What makes it unique is the many strange symbols and frescoes (over 460 in total) that have been preserved over the years.

The church

The church “St. St. Teodor Tiron and Teodor Stratilat”

The many events in Bansko

Throughout the year a lot of interesting events happen in Bansko, many of which have become traditional. Some of them are: Bansko Jazz Fest, Bansko Opera Fest, Bansko Film Fest, spectacular opening of the winter tourist season …

I will not exaggerate if I say that during each of my visits to Bansko I have come across an event.

Hotels in Bansko

There are many hotels and guest houses in Bansko. I am going to share a few accommodation places that I used.

The first hotel in Bansko, which I can recommend is the Greenwood Hotel. It is located in the Pirin Golf Club area, not far from the Painted Church, mentioned above. The hotel is 4 stars, the atmosphere is pleasant – the rooms are equipped with a kitchenette, there is a spa center, besides the standard accommodation, the hotel also offers all-inclusive packages.

Another hotel in Bansko, where we stayed, was Corina Sky – a decent hotel in the central part of Bansko with a yard-parking lot, good price offers and very kind hosts.

If you prefer to pamper yourself in a luxurious setting, immerse yourself in a rich spa and start your day with a rich and varied breakfast, then head to Lucky Bansko Aparthotel.

Of course, the most avid mountaineers prefer to stay in the two high mountain chalets above Bansko – Banderitsa hut and Vihren hut due to the proximity of the routes and the charm of sleeping in the embrace of the mountain.

Restaurants in Bansko

I can not think of a restaurant in Bansko where they do not cook well – at least I did not have such a case. However, let me mention some of the eating places I have tried: Momini Dvori – at the central square; tavern Oreha, restaurant Orlovo gnezdo near the square, Damianitsa bistro, Chevermeto tavern. In addition, you can go to the little Coconut Cafe and try out their nice smoothies.

Coconut Cafe smoothies

Coconut Cafe smoothies

And more logistics

If you need an office space, take advantage of the open space of Coworking Bansko.

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