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What’s it like skiing in Bulgaria? Everything you need to know

A guide to skiing in Bulgaria in Eastern Europe – everything you need to know to plan a Bulgaria ski holiday, from which ski resort to choose and how much it costs to what the food and facilities are like.

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What's it like skiing in Bulgaria? A guide to Bulgaria ski holidays

For many people, skiing in Europe means the Alps. It’s where I learnt to ski and I’ve been back again and again. France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy are home to Europe’s best-known ski resorts, but thave a premium price tag – which only seems to be getting higher.

So it’s no many surprise skiers are abandoning the Alps to their five-star clientele and €10 vin chauds and looking for better value in Eastern European destinations like Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. And I joined them for a week’s skiing in Bansko in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria might not have the polish of the famous Alpine resorts, but it has plenty of charm and some great slopes. But what’s a Bulgaria ski holiday really like?

Skiing in Bulgaria: Your questions answered

Skiers on the slopes at Bansko ski resort
Skiing in Bulgaria

Where can you ski in Bulgaria?

There are three main ski resorts in Bulgaria, plus a few smaller, less-developed resorts. Closest to the capital Sofia is Borovets, Bulgaria’s oldest ski resort. It’s set on the edge of the Rila Mountains, with pine-forested pistes that could easily pass for the Alps.

Borovets has 58km of slopes at between 1300–2560 metres altitude, which are particularly good for intermediate skiers. The modern town centre is only 90 minutes from Sofia so you could easily combine a winter city break with a few days on the slopes.

The Rila Mountains in Borovets
The Rila Mountains in Borovets

An hour further away is Bansko, with a mix of a UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic old town and buzzing nightlife near the gondola. Bansko is located in the scenic Pirin National Park, 160km from Sofia, and is the biggest and most modern Bulgarian ski resort.

Bansko has fast, modern lifts, with 18 pistes covering an area of 75km. There’s a mix of blue and red runs plus a couple of black runs. Bansko’s slopes are located at 2000–2500 metres so it has the longest ski season and best snow record of Bulgaria’s ski resorts.

Then there’s Pamporovo in the east, 1.5-hours from Plovdiv. Being more southerly means a lot of sunshine but the pistes are limited at only 36km with mostly blues and greens, so it’s best for beginners. It’s a quieter resort with a family-friendly feel and good ski schools.

Building in Bansko's UNESCO-listed old town
Bansko’s historic old town

How cheap is skiing in Bulgaria?

Skiing is never going to be an ultra-low-budget holiday, but compared to previous ski trips to the Alps, Bulgaria was a bargain. You can book a cheap package holiday to Bulgarian ski resorts, but it’s also easy to book flights and accommodation yourself.

Budget airlines easyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair all have direct flights from the UK to either Sofia and Plovdiv in Bulgaria – our London to Sofia flight in February cost €35 each way (though checked luggage does cost extra and was needed for the ski kit).

Once you get to Bulgaria, you’ll find prices are around a half to two-thirds of what you’d pay for the same thing in the Alps. We stayed in a hosted chalet with eco chalet company Snomads, which costs around €320 per person for a week in January, including airport transfers, an en-suite room and half-board meals with local wine.

Skis and poles in the snow while skiing in Bulgaria
Skis and poles in the snow

Lift passes aren’t as cheap as they used to be – a six-day lift pass in Bankso costs 515 lev (€263) for adults and 200 lev (€102) for children in 2023, which is comparable to what you’d pay in a similar-sized resort in the Alps. However ski, pole and boot hire is cheaper, costing 155 lev (€79) for six days hire in Bulgaria, versus €116 in Morzine in France.

As ever, you pay do a premium for food and drink when you’re on the slopes in Bulgaria, but lev prices were similar to what you would pay in euros in the Alps. So 8 lev (€4) instead of €8 for a glass of mulled wine or 6 lev (€3) for a small beer. And prices are much lower in town at around 3 lev (€1.50) for a beer or 30 lev (€15) for a meal with wine.

Views across Pirin National Park from Bansko ski resort in Bulgaria
Pirin National Park

Is skiing in Bulgaria just for beginners?

Bulgaria is a good place for new skiers (or seriously rusty ones like me). Instructors in the resorts speak good English and lessons are reasonably priced, so it’s a good place to try skiing or boarding – if you decide you don’t like it you haven’t lost much.

Six half-day lessons cost €224 in Bansko, or a two-hour private lesson is €95. Private lessons are cheaper than in France but group lessons are more expensive, so it’s a good place to take advantage of private one-to-one tuition to improve your skills quickly.

It’s not all about beginners either. The slopes are pretty diverse, and both Bansko and Borovets have a good mix of blue, red and a few black runs. The extent of slopes isn’t huge though so if you’re covering a lot of ground every day you might find yourself revisiting slopes, so advanced skiers might want to look at off-piste or guided ski touring.

Beginners on the slopes on a Bulgaria ski holiday
A Bulgaria ski holiday in Bansko

Are the facilities any good?

Apparently before 2003 you reached the slopes in Bansko in an army minibus. But things have changed a lot since then and the facilities in Bulgaria are as good as anywhere. Bansko especially has had a lot of investment recently as it’s been hosting World Cup races. So there’s a modern eight-seater gondola up to the ski area then fast chairlifts.

The other resorts have a mix of lifts, and there are still some older, slower chairlifts and T-bars but they’re slowly being updated. There are also snowmaking facilities and some floodlit pistes. Off the slopes there’s a lot of building work going on, some of the roads aren’t the best and resorts aren’t as chocolate-box pretty as some Alpine ones.

Slopes in Pamporovo ski resort in Bulgaria
Slopes in Pamporovo

But there’s a good choice of places to eat, drink and stay in Bulgaria’s ski resorts, from budget apartments (especially in Bansko where prices to buy one start around €25,000) to a growing range of affordable five-star hotels like the ski-in and ski-out Kempinski Grand Arena* in Bansko or the castle-style Festa Winter Palace* in Borovets.

If you want to be looked after (even the idea of doing anything more energetic than sitting, eating and drinking after a day skiing tires me out) but without spending too much, a chalet is the way to go. We stayed in Chalet Diana-Ross which sleeps 25 and has a hot tub and sauna to relax in and chalet hosts to take care of food, drink and entertainment.

Skiing in Bulgaria: the gondola in Bansko ski resort
Bansko gondola

What’s Bulgarian food and drink like?

One of my biggest surprises was how good Bulgarian food (and wine) was. It’s a bit like Turkish food with a twist – soups served in bread bowls, barbecue skewers and pots of slow-cooked meat and vegetables. There are also good salads, yogurt dips and filo pastries. Organic, seasonal food is a big thing in Bulgaria so fruit and vegetables burst with flavour.

In our chalet everything was organic, fair trade and homemade, from the fresh bread at breakfast to the jams and pickles, and the chai tea made from locally picked herbs.

The chalet hosts work with small producers to get the best and freshest produce they can, including organic red, white and rosés wines from a nearby vineyard. We even had fresh organic trout straight from the lake at a fish farm in the Rila Mountains.

Traditional Bulgarian food at a mehana
Bulgarian food at a mehana

How about après-ski – is it all stag dos and shots?

I can’t lie, Bulgaria’s bargain beers make it a stag-do favourite (I saw men in tutus and a T-Rex costume on the slopes in Bansko). Both Bansko and Borovets are known for their nightlife so you’ll find plenty of bars and clubs. And if you need something to get you going, the local shot is homemade rakia, a type of brandy that burns its way down nicely.

If you’re not up for partying till dawn then there are a few quieter places to go out. There are some more relaxed bars and Bansko’s old town is full of mehanas, a kind of cosy traditional tavern where they serve food and sometimes have live music. And Pamporovo’s nightlife is fairly low-key, with a decent selection of family-friendly restaurants.

Apres ski in Bansko, Bulgaria
Après-ski on the slopes

So, should I try a Bulgaria ski holiday?

If you’re a first-timer wanting to give skiing or snowboarding a try, or a mixed-ability group wanting to ski together, if you want to make the most of your money or are just looking to experience a different culture and try something new, then skiing in Bulgaria is definitely worth trying. I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities and the value.

But if you’re an expert skier who’s looking for adrenaline-fuelled black runs or wants to cover lots of ground during their trip, or a luxury-lover looking for designer shops and Michelin-starred restaurants, then you might be better off sticking to the Alps.

Skiers on the piste in Bulgaria
Skiers in Bulgaria

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Everything you need to know about skiing in Bulgaria, one of Europes best-value ski areas – including a guide to Bulgaria's ski resorts, facilities, food and après-ski | Skiing in Bulgaria | Bulgaria ski holiday | Budget ski holidays | Skiing in Eastern EuropeA guide to skiing in Bulgaria in Eastern Europe – everything you need to know to plan a Bulgaria ski holiday, from which ski resort to choose and how much it costs to what the food and facilities are like | Skiing in Bulgaria | Bulgaria ski holiday | Budget ski holidays | Skiing in Eastern Europe

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Nigel Buckle

Friday 4th of February 2022

I have been skiing in Bulgaria and Pamporovo is my favourite resort. Not big, not flash, but, the friendliest people, enough runs to give you a challenge from Green to Black, especially the 'Wall', not long but as steep as you would want ! Night life is a mix of 2 or 3 clubs and an Irish baR, or some rrasonably priced and very good restaurants. I have never been bored there and have met a lot of friends there too. It also has a link to a second area called Mechi Chal, accessed by bus on your ski pass, which offers further slopes at a slightly steeper level and more challenges. There are plenty of good hotels to choose from and flights grom most UK airports. You never know, you could be my next skiing friend !

Lucy Dodsworth

Friday 18th of February 2022

Thanks for the tips, sounds like I might need to come and check it out!


Friday 24th of January 2020

Skiing the same piste day after day should not be a problem. If you are into touring, sit in a train and watch the scenery go by. If you are into skiing, take a two hour lesson every day and work on your skills. Can you carve like a pro, can you ski switch and take on some air off the jumps? So many skiers appear to be happy with just being able to move from point A to B. Why not learn to ski the slope with carved turns, short turns and enjoy the G-Force delights that your skis were made for?


Monday 27th of January 2020

I think I'm a bit of both – want to improve my ski skills but also really enjoy experiencing the different scenery in the mountains!


Saturday 26th of October 2019

I've spent a lot of time in Bulgaria over the last 10 years and this is a nice article but I think you skimmed over Pamporovo a little too quickly. It has a greater variety of slopes and is only 90 minutes from Plovdiv, the 2019 European City of Culture, if you do want to combine a city break. It's also close to the Greek border and although I love most of Bulgaria, it's the Rhodope mountains I keep returning too. The prices are much cheaper than other resorts but it's charm comes from close neighbouring towns where prices aren't inflated for tourists in season.


Monday 11th of November 2019

Thanks for the tips, I'll have to check out Pamporovo next time, the idea of a city break/ski trip combo sounds really good.


Thursday 10th of October 2019

Hi Lucy, I really enjoy your article about skiing in Bansko. Being born in Bulgaria, I know the good the bad and the ugly about it. Bansko is a resort that changed a lot in the past few years. Also, the service is much better than then before. Lately people are getting on board with the organic movement that gives traditional Bulgarian cuisine a pleasant twist. I understand that Bansko cannot compare to the Alps or at least to the top resorts.. Bansko has its own beauty and charm. Walking through the old town will bring you back in roman time ..... One thing about skiing in Bulgaria, I just got back from Zermatt where it is hard to get to the town of Zermatt sure. For untrained people, altitude can be a challenge in the Alps. On the other hand Bansko is easily accessible from the capital Sofia or even from Greece or Macedonia. I have been living in US for the most of my life but I still miss skiing in Bulgaria. It may be a nostalgia but at the same time I think it is the atmosphere, the people, the history, the food and the local rakia. Again Bansko cannot compare to the top resorts in the Alps but if you want to experience something different, try Bulgaria. BTW there are few other resorts that are worth visiting; Borovetz, Pamporpvo and Vitosha mountain that is in the hard of the capital city of Sofia.


Sunday 13th of October 2019

Thanks for commenting, I really enjoyed my trip to Bansko and would like to try out some of the other resorts one day.

Carla Fendt

Friday 8th of March 2019

Hi Lucy,

We're a large family group interested in trying Bulgaria but were hoping to do something in the period just after Christmas. I know in France this is really early in the season and you'd normally have to book a resort at very high altitiude to guarantee any sort of snow - would this take Bulgaria off our list of possibilities for that time of year?

Thank you, Carla


Sunday 10th of March 2019

Hi Carla, Borovets and Bansko are both fairly high altitude (2560m at the top slopes) – the season in Bansko starts in early December and they have decent snow cannon coverage. Last few years have been variable in terms of early snow so although chances are you would be fine in early Jan there's always a bit of a risk.