Bulgaria

An honest review of Bansko in May

About Bansko

Following our trip to Sapareva Banya and our Rila 7 Lakes hike, the next stop was Bansko.

Bansko is a small town on the outskirts of the Rila National Park. In winter, it is a prime destination for budget British ski holidays – not my usual criteria when picking a place to stay. I was a little apprehensive about staying here. I’d heard mixed reviews with some people really enjoying it and other people, like this anonymous person on NomadList, not having such a great time:

“The town itself has a weird, unfriendly atmosphere. The food is pretty mediocre. The service staff hate you with every atom of their being. The nomads here are a bit odd and all seem to all be heavily into board games. There’s a troubling cult of personality built around Matthias (the owner of Coworking Bansko) who even has a picture of himself on a sign as you approach the town.”

However, I didn’t hold that much stock by this account because, well – who doesn’t like board games?!! Additionally, I thought, regardless of the potential for it to be resort hell, the location is fantastic for exploring the mountain and a great starting point for the hike to Virhen Peak. Staying there in “shoulder season”, we were bound to avoid the worst of the inebriated Brits!

Arriving at our accommodation was like driving into a ghost town. We were greeted only by the concrete shells of half completed buildings festooned with graffiti, rows upon rows of dilapidated, cheaply constructed blocks of flats and ‘for sale’ signs all around. The building we are staying in is clearly experiencing cashflow issues as well as our AirBnb host informed us that they introduced a parking charge (of 7 euro a day!) last week – a particularly futile effort at generating income when all around are empty streets for parking. This, coupled with the extremely dreary weather, did not fill us with much enthusiasm for the week ahead!

Conclusions about Bankso as a Destination in May

After that somewhat disheartening first impression, here is what we actually found in the end:

  • Apart from the amusing accusation of the coworking space owner in Bansko being a cult-leader (which we can’t comment on) we found everything the NomadList author said to be untrue. Everyone in the town was friendly and welcoming. Old people on the streets would smile and greet you, the restaurant staff were great. We ate out a few times and had only good experiences; the last meal we ate in a wonderful traditional restaurant with an indoor grill was exceptional.
  • The old town has some nice buildings and is much better than the outskirts. It is very small but a pleasant place – not the most interesting place to visit.
  • We can’t comment on the nature… Some weeks you want to hike 20 km a day seeing every monument and relic from a country.. And other weeks you just need to eat chocolate and hibernate playing Age of Empires. This week was one of those. I wasn’t feeling too great and the weather was not very inspiring, so apart from going into the woods (very nice woods) and going for a run, we really saw nothing. On the plus side.. I created this website!
  • I can’t emphasize how quiet it was. I think there was one other person in our huge building and I didn’t hear anyone speaking English or another language except Bulgarian.

Would I recommend staying in Bansko in May?

Probably not. If you want to do the hike (which I’m sure is great) I think you could do it on a weekend and stay overnight, or just drive. There are much nicer places in Bulgaria.

Accommodation in Bansko

Our Airbnb was located in a block of holiday apartments. The apartment itself was comfortable enough, if in need of minor maintenance but for 32 EUR a night (30th April – 5th May) we couldn’t complain. If I was the owner, I’d be slightly worried about the future of my property given the state of the rest of the building.

Where to Eat in Bansko

We had great food at Mehana Chevermeto. The staff were friendly and it was a real traditional atmosphere with live music on Sunday evening and a wood-fired grill in the middle. We also ate at Five M which was more of a modern place – very comfortable and really nice drinks but I didn’t think the food was anything special.

Pure enthusiasm: this sums up our trip Bankso!

Did you know Bulgaria has pyramids?? Continue reading to learn about the mysterious pyramids of Melnik.


A Road Trip through Southern Bulgaria

Check my other Bulgaria Posts for other off-the-beaten track destinations on Southern Bulgaria


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