If Sunny Beach is the Cancun of Bulgaria then Bansko is definitely the Aspen of Bulgaria. I probably need to disclaim right off the bat I’m using the term “Aspen of Bulgaria” loosely here. You should not expect to catch Charlie Sheen doing coke off some hookers ass in the bathroom of a Chalga club or to see Jack Nicholson hitting the slopes with an 18 year old snowbunny on each arm. What I mean is that Bansko is the biggest, nicest and most expensive ski resort in Bulgaria and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I don’t mean that it’s 100% high class, it is certainly not and still littered with Chalga clubs and mafia douchebags but there is a 5 star Kempinski hotel as well as some other pretty high class joints.
If you don’t want to drop a lot of coin on a hotel room get a smokin deal on some all-inclusive package before you go or stay in one of the little towns right next to Bansko like Razlog or Belitsa. You should be able to find accommodation for 20-30 BGN ($14-$22) per person per night (yea they do that scam thing where the same room costs twice as much if you are two people instead of one). Razlog has some places that are only 4 to 5 km from the mountain.
Like Sunny Beach you’re not going to want to take a taxi there. In Bulgaria the rule is: where there are hoards of foreigners there are ripoff taxis. Rent a car, know somebody or find some other way to get too and from the bar and the mountain. If you can’t swing that go deal hunting for a hotel closer to the center.
You’re not going to want to go skiing at peak times, period. The logistics of the ski slopes and ski lifts in Bansko are designed by bone-headed retards. There are waits of up to two hours to get on the first lift, once you’re on the mountain it’s more reasonable but who the fuck feels like skiing after you’ve been standing around in ski boots for two hours? I don’t know about you but all I need is a bench and a beer after that! The moral of the story is to ski on extremely off peak days or just don’t ski at all and go for the parties. There are some other things to get into there besides skiing and partying such as horseback and ATV riding through the mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful there and I highly recommend you fit in time for some nature oriented stuff between all the parties. Ideally you’ll meet a couple of hot little snowbunnies you can take with you.
Bansko is basically the winter party capital of Bulgaria and it’s just as much like Sunny Beach as it is like Aspen although I always like it has just ever so slightly less of the DAFF and ripoff factor going on but I could be wrong. This is basically where everyone that can afford to goes to party in the winter time. It’s packed with Chalga clubs, house clubs, retro clubs and bar pub type places.
I don’t have any particular recommendations for you it’s the kind town you just arrive at and see who you meet and where life takes you. A hotel room is just a place to sleep and fuck so you get whatever is cheap there. As far as the parties go the layout of the town is such that you can just wander around on foot and poke your head in anywhere that looks like it’s happening. If you have transportation go to one of the next towns over to eat. You will stuff your face including drinks for $10-$15 instead of eating in the overpriced mediocre restaurants that cater to foreigners in the center of Bansko. Many of those places look really neat, old and authentic but they’re total tourist traps. Shit is unbelievably overpriced. I remember buying a couple beers, coffee and cake for the ladies in Bansko and paying twice as much as I did for a feast fit for a king in Razlog. If you aren’t the type of person that just likes to fly by the seat of your pants and you really need specific recommendations go check out Lance’s Bansko Blog where he details everything from the snow conditions to where to stay cheaply. Bansko as well as Bulgaria in general is a rapidly changing environment. New stuff is constantly opening and closing.
If Bansko is too rich for your blood try Pomporovo. It’s a smaller cheaper version of Bansko and you can still have a great time.
Lance wrote in to tell me that my information regarding lift lines is outdated. I’m not quite convinced because if there is one thing I’ve heard over and over and over about Bansko it’s “don’t go there at peak times” and “2 hour lines”. Luckily he has the perfect solution to end the debate… a live webcam of the queue including weather conditions. If you’re going there to ski this is a hot resource, better bookmark that one! If it’s true and the lines are rarely so bad Bansko just got upgraded a notch or two in my book.