Mountain Holidays In Bulgaria
Mountain holidays are good for the mind, body and soul. If you’re looking to get away from it all,
then there’s no better place for your next break than high up in the peaks. With fresh air in
abundance, surrounded by nature in all its glory, the health benefits of a mountain retreat are
exceptional. But how many of us think Bulgaria when planning a retreat to the hills?
The other great highlight of a mountain getaway is the year-round holiday opportunities it presents.
In the height of summer, depths of winter and everything in between, it offers a completely different
holiday experience, and all equally wonderful, whatever the season.
Bansko in Bulgaria is one of the best destinations in Europe for a mountain break, as it offers an
excellent range of activities year-round, set in beautiful scenery. Here are some ideas to help you on
Hit the slopes
As Bulgaria’s top ski resort, Bansko offers incredible winter sport opportunities. Situated within the
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pirin National Park, Bansko offers a variety of trails and an impressive
18 slopes catering for all skill levels from beginners to experts. There is also the opportunity for off-
piste skiing and heli-skiing for the very brave, and an excellent ski school for newbies, so there are
plenty of opportunities for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities to enjoy the snow.
You’ll see plenty of cafés close to the slopes if you want to stop for a drink or something to eat
during the day and they also make the perfect place to people watch for any non-skiers in your
party. There is also a fantastic row of bars near the gondola lift for après-ski partying.
The resort has snow canons too, which keep the white stuff topped up and the season going well
into April, so it really is a great destination for those who want to enjoy the snow.
Wander the Old Town
The cobbled streets of Bansko’s Old Town are dotted with old buildings, which gives the town a
feeling of a place where time has stood still. The Holy Trinity Church is well worth a visit and one of
the highlights of the town, with its interior walls adorned with beautiful frescoes, and you might
even spot the resident stork family who live in the bell tower!
While in town, you must visit one of the traditional mehanas. These are old-style taverns where you
can eat Bulgarian food and enjoy live entertainment. Local dishes to try include, gyuvech, a stew
packed with beef, mushrooms, peppers, onions, eggs, paprika and topped with cheese, or in the
summer, cucumber soup will cool you down a treat. You can’t leave Bulgaria without ordering a
banitsa, a pastry stuffed with cheese, which is often eaten for breakfast or as a snack with coffee –
On Sundays, the market comes to town, so make sure you stop by and pick up a treat or two. There
are always well-stocked produce stalls which give you the perfect opportunity to buy some
ingredients to replicate one of those dishes yourself.
When the snow melts
Bansko doesn’t hibernate when the snow melts, the excitement and holiday adventures carry on
throughout the year! The spectacular peaks, numerous lakes and the beautiful old pine woods, make
this destination a popular location for adventure holidays. There is hiking, mountain biking, horse
riding, and white water rafting, among so many other activities to keep you busy. Those who love
nothing more than getting out and being active will be in their element here.
There are numerous places nearby that are great for day trips and excursions. For those who want to
rest their ski legs, head to the village of Banya just outside Bansko, for a bit of down time in its
thermal mineral springs. You can soak away your aches and pains in the pools which range from
32–43 degrees centigrade, so whether the sun is shining, or there’s snow on the ground, it makes for
a perfect chill-out day.
For yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site to explore, Rila Monastery makes for an interesting
visit. The monastery was established by Saint John of Rila in the 10th century and is located in the
deep valley of the Rilska River and surrounded by lush forests – it is the most picturesque place.
The church within the monastery is filled with colourful frescos and is incredibly peaceful. There is an
on-site museum, which is filled with lots of artifacts and information about the history of the
monastery – one of the most important items held there is Rafail’s Cross – a wooden whittled and
carved cross showing 104 religious scenes. It was created by a monk named Rafail in the late 18th
century and was said to have taken him 12 years to complete, before he went blind.
August brings the International Jazz Festival to Bansko, which is the biggest summer music festival in
Bulgaria, attracting top jazz musicians from all over the world, each year since its foundation in 1998.
This year, it runs from 6 – 10 August, with all jazz music genres to be showcased. Concerts run day
and night, though the evening events draw big crowds – it is quite a party atmosphere. Smaller
daytime concerts are often played in the larger restaurants and bars. Larger concerts are staged on
the open-air at I Nikola Vaptsarov Square, each night for the week, kicking off at 19:00. Many bands
from Bulgaria, Germany and Austria will be joined this year by guest performers from the US and UK,
including Maceo Parker, Ray Gelato & the Giants, and Tony Momrelle, so don’t miss it.
Where to stay
The Balkan Jewel, situated between the picturesque towns of Razlog and Bankso, in the foothills of
the majestic Pirin Mountain is the perfect place for a home-from-home holiday in the mountains.
The perfect base for skiing in the winter, activity holidays when the snow melts, or a spa retreat for
whenever you need to get away from it all, this resort has everything you need for a holiday in the
heart of nature.
The Balkan Jewel accommodation comprises studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-
bedroom chalets to cater to different families’ needs. Studio apartments sleep up to two guests and
are open plan with kitchen facilities, for those who want to make the most of the self-catering
aspect. For families, the one- and two-bedroom apartments are ideal. They have a separate living
and dining room, so there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out and have their own space –
and some even come with a beautiful wood-burning fireplace. This is the perfect accessory for a cosy
night in with a glass of wine after a long day on the slopes.
For those who have a big family, or who are travelling with a large party, the three-bedroom chalets
are definitely where you will be the most comfortable. They offer three double bedrooms (one with
an en-suite bathroom), a main bathroom with bath and shower, a spacious lounge area with large
flat screen TV, fully-equipped kitchen, dining area and a large outside living area and garden, free
Wi-Fi and a laundry room with washer/dryer. If you want a break from the kitchen, the resort has a
great restaurant which serves local and international cuisine, so guests have plenty of options.
For those who want to indulge in a bit of ‘me time’, The Balkan Jewel has a full-service spa offering
numerous treatments to soothe your aching muscles after a day on the peaks. Not to be left out,
therapists also offer a children’s massage, which could be a special holiday treat for the younger
ones. The Wellbeing Centre also has a well-equipped gym, indoor swimming pool, an outdoor
swimming pool for summer holidays, a sauna, steam bath, and relaxation areas to really make the
most of your down time.
Guests can also enjoy a drink or two at the lobby bar after an activity-filled day, and for those who
want even more action, there’s a fantastic games room with a pool table, table tennis, mini-football,
air hockey, darts, chess and backgammon.
The resort has a free children’s club for younger guests aged from four to 12 years old, as well as
indoor and outdoor play areas to keep them entertained. There is also a babysitting service available
for an extra fee, so if you’re looking to have a romantic evening out or a few hours to yourselves, this
could be a great option.
Staff at the resort can organise day trips to nearby places of interest, including the Rila Monastery
and Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, which both come highly recommended. Also, for those who want
ski lessons in the snowy season, or want to take part in any outdoor and adventure activity in the
summer, the resort staff can organise all of that too, so all you need to do is turn up and have fun.
Own timeshare but are not an RCI member? Unlock the potential of your timeshare and access the
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up to RCI membership today. Balkan Jewel is affiliated to the RCI Exchange Holiday programme.
For inspirational member stories and travel guides, visit the RCI Blog.