Bansko is situated on the northeastern foothills of the Pirin Mountains which has made it a premier ski resort. During winter, Bulgarians and foreigners alike queue on the main gondola lift from town to enjoy pistes at altitudes from 900m to 2600m. And while winter is the high season for Bansko, the town can offer so much more if you visit it off-season.
We had the opportunity to visit Bansko TWICE this year during summer. We have always associated the town with winter sports and spa experiences. But we were very much surprised to see how many things you can actually do in the town in the summer. The Bansko Municipality organizes music, art, and movie festivals almost every week. Tourists can enjoy rich history and sights of cultural significance. The surrounding nature can offer so much to any adventure seeker. Bansko truly has it all.
Here is what we saw and did when we visited Bansko in the summer of 2022.
HISTORICAL SIGHTS IN BANSKO
Bansko is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria and has a rich cultural heritage. House museums of prominent Bulgarian historical figures, significant religious sights, along with the preserved historical old town of Bansko. These are just a few of the historical sights in the town that every tourist can visit.
The Old Town Of Bansko
During the Bulgarian Renaissance the old town of Bansko was the most developed settlement in the whole region. Many crafts and a busy trade flourished here. You can clearly see this in the architecture of this part of Bansko. The old town has preserved houses with rich decoration – painting and carving that are extremely region-specific. They are testament to the pursuit of Bansko people towards beauty and aesthetics that spans throughout so many years.
Allow yourself enough time to just wander around the picturesque cobblestone streets of the old town. You will find a lot of bakeries, restaurants, cafes and shops around here which will make your stroll even more enjoyable.
Holy Trinity Church
At the heart of the old town you will find probably the most important historical sight of Bansko – the Holy Trinity Church. It was built during the Ottoman rule when building big Christian religious churches was absolutely forbidden. But that did not stop the Bansko people of the time. They did not only build an impressive structure and decorate it with wall paintings and icons, but they also made it the largest of the entire Balkans of the time. A bell tower and a town clock were later added next to the church making the complex what it is today.
House of Velyan
Speaking of the unique architecture of the old town, one cannot miss visiting the house of Velyan. It is the most prominent example of the architecture and a hallmark for the greatness, economic prosperity and spiritual aspirations of the people of Bansko. House of Velyan is officially a national cultural heritage. It was built during the 18th century and is one of the oldest house-fortresses with thick stone walls, underground hideouts, inner and outer towers, small windows with iron fences.
Nikola Vaptsarov House Museum
Nikola Vaptsarov was a talented Bulgarian poet. The home in which Vaptsarov, the beloved son of Bansko, grew up opened for visitors in 1952, the time when the World Peace Counsel awarded the poet posthumously with the honorary diploma. In past years the museum was reconstructed and renovated several times so the exposition could take its final look.
CULTURE IN BANSKO
Cultural tourism has become one of the top priorities for Bansko in recent years. Music, art, and movie festivals are happening all the time during the off-season months and especially during summer. When we visited the town in August we managed to enjoy the Jazz Festival (6-13 August 2022) and a concert by the amateur ensambles from Bansko Municipality (20 August). You can find the full event calendar and what is still coming in September here.
OUTSIDE OF BANSKO
If you plan on staying more days in Bansko, I would highly suggest exploring options for day trips outside of the town. Bansko is located within Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is very close to numerous lakes, old pine wood, and thermal springs.
The Eye, Banderishki, the Frog, the Long, and Muratovo lakes are one of the most visited lakes in the region. Many of those are very easily accessible by car and a short trek. So it is definitely advisable to check them out and plan a picnic in nature. The views won’t disappoint!
Baykushev’s pine is a coniferous tree from the species Bosnian pine. It is named after the forest ranger Kostadin Baykushev who discovered and described this tree in 1897. Its estimated age is at more than 1300 years, which makes it the oldest pine tree in the country and one of the oldest trees in the world. The approximate sizes of the tree are as follows: height 26m, diameter 2,48m, and circumference 7,80m. It is located near Banderitsa Hut on the road from Bansko to Vihren Hut.
Bear Sanctuary in Belitsa
Just 30km outside of Bansko you will find a truly remarkable site – the Bear Sanctuary in Belitsa. This is a sanctuary in Bulgaria that provides a second chance and lifelong care to rescued brown bears and is a cooperation project between the FONDATION BRIGITTE BARDOT and FOUR PAWS. Most of the bears in this sanctuary were former ‘dancing bears’ from Bulgaria, as well as some from Serbia and Albania. In addition to them, bears from other various forms of poor captivity have also found a lifelong home here.
For more information on the natural treasures around Bansko you can check the full list from Bansko Tourist Portal here.
Have you ever visited Bansko? Let me know in the comments below.