We are spending July and August in a small and beautiful ski village town in Bulgaria. The name of the town is Bansko. Here’s my brain-dump on Bansko, and the 6 reasons why I like coming here for summer time.
Why Bansko, Bulgaria?
For most people, Bansko is a winter destination, with its popularity reigning as a nice ski destination.
However, it turns out that summer is a great time to enjoy Bansko, too. And although people do come here during the summer (there are a number of attractions noted below), it’s not crowded in the summer. It’s pretty darn perfect.
When we arrived in Bansko, I was cautiously optimistic. There are so many immediate notable things: the cleanliness, the splendor of the beautiful mountains all around, the walkability of the town, the friendliness of the people, the ski-village-like design of the buildings, the flowers… so many flowers, especially roses. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the plethora of roses, as I quickly recalled “Bulgarian rose” from my beauty product mental list. Turns out, I’d been using products featuring Bulgarian roses since I was a teenager.
So, this is where it comes from? Duh. :)
My immediate fascination aside, I waited a couple of weeks before making an opinion. You see, I have a knack for falling in love with a place, shouting its praises, and then seeing more warts than I want later.
Bansko is Nice for Many People
Whether you’re a digital nomad looking for inexpensive living a few months a year (there’s a great co-working space here), a world-schooling family looking to explore Eastern Europe, or you just want a groovy place to go, Bansko, Bulgaria is a solid choice.
I won’t speak to the winter-time here, because I don’t have experience with it. I’ve heard from locals, though, that it’s a good time for people who like skiing and snowboarding – or for those who want to learn those sports, because the mountains aren’t overly extreme in their difficulty.
1. The Best Part of Bansko – The Prices!
Eastern Europe, in general, with countries like Bulgaria are super frugal travel spots, and this particular beauty, Bansko, Bulgaria… even more so. There’s some history here as to why everything is so cheap. Suffice it to say, there was a speculative real estate bubble that left the town overbuilt with vacation rentals. That specific issue plus our being here off-season (summer) plus it being Eastern Europe makes for a super cheap place to visit.
Our Apartment is Cheap!
We rented a 2.5 bathroom, 2 bedroom apartment, complete with a dining area, living area, and a super tiny kitchen. We pay €250 a month for this space plus €25 a month for Wi-Fi. We also pay utilities but those are small given were not using heat. It’s so cheap.
For the Love of a Terrace
We have an amazing little terrace off of our apartment. Honestly, I never realized how much I love having a terrace until now. Living with the terrace seems almost like a crucial part of life going forward.
We have cheap plastic chairs that we soften with pillows from the bed, and we just sit and look at the mountains. We work out there. We read out there. We have lengthy conversations just chilling and relaxing with coffee or a glass of wine out there.
Healing Water Sound
One of the best features of our particular terrace, in addition to the mountain views, is the sound of running water.
The snow melts from the mountains and it’s channeled down through town and some of the streets. Our terrace happens to be above a street where the water, very actively, rushes down (via a gutter on the side basically), and it makes noise like a fabulous babbling brook. It might sound silly, but the sound of the water while sitting on the terrace has done amazing things for my mood. It immediately calms my soul. We even sleep with our door open all night just to hear it.
Actually, not so weird since it’s shown that there are psychological benefits to hearing water (ocean, natural, or water features) including increased creativity and benefits for mood (stress reduction). There’s even a name for it: Blue Mind. According to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind, the term blue mind refers to the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water.
When you walk in town there are a few options to walk near the water running, too. So, we don’t just hear it while in the apartment… we enjoy it throughout the cute town, too.
Walkable and a Great Workout
Bansko is entirely walk-able so there’s no need for a car. This keeps it cheap. It’s a workout though. There’s quite the incline getting from one end of town to the other. It’s definitely a workout if you’re not used to walking at that grade. Just going out for dinner in the evening typically means going up and then going down because we live smack in the middle. So I’m getting good exercise, that’s for sure. Not to mention there are plenty of hiking trail and mountain biking trails in the mountains that are pretty easy to access.
Joining a Gym is Cheap!
We also joined a gym and got an extra great deal because there were two of us joining, for two months. Get this… it’s less than $15 a month for each. Admittedly, some of the equipment is quite sketch; however, it suits my needs fine enough.
It has dumbbells and benches and a few pieces of equipment I feel safe enough using. I can get a good full-body workout. And, besides, who needs to do a leg workout when you’ve got these hills to climb.
2. The Food: Traditional Bulgarian Restaurants are Delicious!
The traditional Bulgarian restaurant, Mexana (pronounced Mah-hah-nah), always has an expansive menu with many meat options from beef tongue to lambs head to kidney and chicken liver as well as pork, duck, fish, chicken and beef dishes. They also make amazing potato dishes.
There are many of these traditional restaurants, and they all serve delicious food. Plus? They usually have a cat wandering around. I can’t help but love that.
I am particularly fond of Bulgarian cuisine as it is heavy in meat. :) However, they have plenty of options without meat so vegans and vegetarians will be happy.
One of my favorite items is the Shopska Salad.
The Shopska Salat is a salad of simple tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and the local cheese. Sometimes a green pepper is added to the top, other times an olive – depending on the family making it. Nothing else is added and it’s so refreshing. Even this meat lover appreciates the refreshing experience this salad brings to the summer.
Everything we have tried has been tasty, but even better is how extremely affordable the food is here. You can eat out for dinner every night and not break the bank.
We typically keep things in the refrigerator like yogurt (less than a $1 – Bulgarian yogurt anyone?) plus eggs, cheeses, deli-style meats, and some fresh local fruits. We also buy things like canned fish, pickles, and chocolate. We eat these things for breakfast, sometimes lunch, too. Our kitchenette is too tiny to do anything elaborate. Then, we head out for dinner almost nightly.
I am loving this little town in Bulgaria. It’s beautiful, there’s delicious food, it’s clean, and I feel safe here (day and night). There are plenty of cafés and you can get a delicious shot of espresso for less than fifty cents in many places.
Like I said… affordable!
One of our favorite places here is the Italian gelato shop. The owner is Italian and it’s authentic gelato, made in-house. We enjoy popping in, not only to get a delicious gelato, but to practice our Italian. It’s easier being homesick for Italy when Bansko has so many great features like this.
*Note: Not everything is open during the summer months, but more than enough things are in order to have a great experience. This town is getting more popular as people learn about how great it can be in the summer. I expect more people and more places opening in future visits.
3. Bansko, Bulgaria is F*ckin’ Gorgeous.
Waking up to views of the mountains will never get old to me. They’re breathtaking. Anywhere I walk in the town I can look up and see them. It’s a nature-seeker’s heaven. Our apartment has two rooms with mountain views and they’re simply spectacular.
Walking the Streets
There is also a great little street – pedestrian only – and it’s so pretty. As I mentioned above, the snow melts from the mountains, comes down, and is channeled through the town creating a lovely park-like atmosphere with cafés and restaurants on each side, with the running water calming you in the background. We love walking along this street at night, hearing the water run by, seeing kids playing, and people relaxing on park benches.
So many flowers, too. The people of Bansko make this place so beautiful and refreshing with flowers on balconies, terraces, and almost everywhere I look.
It’s also noteworthy to mention all of the gardens – like, everywhere. And, serious gardens. These aren’t just some trellises with tomatoes. No, these are serious and properly maintained, well-planned gardens.
As I walk down the street, there are apartment buildings left and right, with many of them sporting a huge garden for what would be the common area. It makes me wonder who the gardens belong to… the tenants? Someone else? I don’t know but they’re all over, and it’s really cool to see so much local food growing.
The other thing that is everywhere: stacks and stacks of chopped wood.
You can’t experience summer here without recognizing the impending cold winter that’s coming, by seeing the stacks of logs everywhere. All over, people are preparing for winter by chopping wood. It’s a chilly, yet kind of enticing(?) reminder of the cold. And seeing this, it kind of cools you down in a weird way on a hot summer day. It also makes me curious to come here and explore winter-time with the snow and skiing.
4. No Mosquitoes
Another major draw to this town is that I’ve yet to see a mosquito. We open the windows, let in the beautiful breezes day and night, and there’s no worry about mosquitoes. It’s the first place I’ve experienced where I can leave windows and our terrace door open without thinking twice. On only a rare occasion does the fly come in, but again no mosquitoes.
5. Bansko in the Summer – Many Things to Do
There are a number of activities for families including hiking, mountain biking, swimming, camping, four-wheeling, and more. There are hotels with swimming pools where you can go for the day, if you’ve chosen to rent an apartment without a pool.
You can also take the gondola up the mountain where they have a water-slide, picnic areas, lakes, and tons of hiking trails.
August is a happening time here with festivals.
There are a number of music festivals including an opera festival and a jazz festival! I think I read that the jazz festival has been a thing here for over 20 years, and it brings talent from all over the world. There’s also a a hip-hop festival for a day and a magic folklore festival. All free and all easy to access.
Camp for Kids
There are a couple of camps for kids, too!
We chose the one at Green Life which is one of the resorts in town. It repeats every week from Sunday through Thursday. It’s an incredible value including two meals for our daughter, and she gets to play with kids from all over the world (and all ages) who are visiting here at the time.
There are healing thermal spas that people loving going to in the area, too. They’re in the next town over (easy to visit via bus or cab for a whole day). We didn’t get the chance to go yet, but I want to. If I don’t get to though, I know there are some in Tuscany, too. ;)
Between the hiking, mountain biking, restaurants, camps, thermal spas, swimming pools, and just hanging out in general, there is plenty to do here in Bansko, Bulgaria in the summer.
6. Great Temperatures for the Summer
Another reason to come here in the summer is to escape the scorching hot temperatures that are seen around Spain, Italy, and other places. It does get hot here, but not crazy hot. In fact, some of the weeks here have been downright perfectly cool. It hasn’t rained much so most of the time the glorious sun shines. I love it.
I Recommend Bansko, Bulgaria!
Come to Bansko, Bulgaria for yourself and see the stunning natural beauty, experience the cleanliness and safety plus cheap prices, and enjoy the restaurants and activities. I won’t be surprised if we come back every summer.
- If you’d like help finding an apartment in Bansko contact Susan Dempster email@example.com
- For airport transfer hire Steve Transfers: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kids Camp at Green Life Bansko resort called Scout Camp
- Kempinski Hotel for those wanting luxury.
- Happy Food is a great place for burgers and Svetlana is so nice. It’s near the Gondola area of town.
- There is a Sunday fruit and vegetable market in the town square area.
- The gym we joined is at this address: 2770 кв. Глазне, Bansko, Bulgaria
- Victoria Restaurant delivers food (cheap pizza!) to apartments and hotels.