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Winter Resorts in Bulgaria ski slopes, winter holiday in mountain resorts, Bulgarian winter resorts

Borovets winter resort

Borovets is the oldest winter resort in Bulgaria, spread over a large area of altitude between 1230 and 1390m in the eastern part of the Rila mountain. Its establishment is told to originate back in 1896 when the then-mayor of the nearby town of Samokov (12km) built a mountain chalet here in hope of relieving the suffering of his wife sick with tuberculosis. Gradually, the resort has developed into a modern ski centre and a favourite place of middle and high-class tourists ever since the early part of last century. The authorities have recently designed an ambitious plan for further expansion and upgrade of the resort, called Superborovets, which, if successful, suggests that the ski centre is still far from its apogee.

Apart from the Vitosha mountain’s ski tracks, Borovets is the only ski resort situated at such a close distance to the capital city of Sofia - just 72km, which makes it an easy weekend ride for Sofia dwellers and guests. The resort avails of more than 45km of ski runs, varying in difficulty and grouped into 3 regions – Sitnyakovo-Martinov woodsheds (8 runs), Markudzhik (4) and Yastrebets (3). When the winter is mild or during the warmer season, many tourists enjoy undertaking hikes in the beautiful region. One of the most popular routes leads to the Moussala peak (2925m, highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula). The trip takes approx. 6 hours from Borovets and 3 hours – from the last station of the cabin lift.

Pamporovo winter resort

Pamporovo is the second largest ski resort in Bulgaria following Borovets. Even if Pamporovo lies in the medium-high Rhodopi mountain, it is located some 1650m above sea level in the relatively high western part of the Rhodopi. The closest town is Smolyan (16km), while the distance to Sofia is no less than 240km.

The resort’s name has its roots in the Turkish word of pampor (meaning train), and is said to come from a local trader’s mule caravans, which traveled through the mountain, resembling train wagons. The first tourist hostel here was built in 1933, laying the ground of a future ski centre. The resort is pleasant to visit out of season as well, due to its picturesque surrounding areas and peculiar rock formations such as the famous Orpheus Rocks. Hikes to the Rhodopi’s peaks (Snezhanka – 1925m, Murgavets – 1858m, Orleto, etc) are also quite popular among summer tourists.

Due to the influence of mild Mediterranean weather, Pamporovo’s temperatures show relatively little variance throughout the day. Moreover, the peaks surrounding Pamporovo isolate the resort from strong winds and also prevent the snow cover of its ski runs from being blown away. All these factors, complemented by modern ski facilities, make Pamporovo a friendly and enjoyable winter resort. The area abounds of natural slopes where numerous ski runs of different categories function. The resort offers a total length of 17.5km of alpine ski runs, serviced by 5 chair lifts and 13 tow lifts.


Bansko winter resort

The town of Bansko has developed into a modern winter resort in just few years with its ski facilities and hotels offering accommodation at average to high prices. The place is particularly popular among foreign tourists, drawn by the blend of antique Revival-time architecture and up-to-date amenities. Construction works have seen an astonishing boom here since 2002 with real estate prices often outstripping those in Sofia and large Black Sea resorts. The emergence of new luxurious buildings and dense construction have gradually given the resort the looks of a modern European resort, depriving it of some of its authentic spirit of antiquity. Yet this has not reduced its appeal to tourists in any way - just the opposite, the town enjoys increasing numbers of visitors with each and every year and booking of accommodation during the top winter season beforehand is recommended.

The town of Bansko lies in the northeast skirts of the Pirin mountain, at the foot of the most beautiful karst part of Pirin and some 160km to the south of the capital city of Sofia. Its name comes from the old Bulgarian word of ban, meaning master. The town saw its apogee in the 18th century, when it served as a regional crafts and trade centre, with the caravans of Bansko traders selling Bulgarian produce of tobacco, poppy seeds, cotton, gold, and textiles in the Aegean region and central Europe. However, the development of the alternative trade route down the Danube waterway deprived Bansko of its leading role in regional trade and gradually led to its decay after the second half of the 19th century.
At present, the town’s inhabitants make their living primarily out of tourism and accompanying services. Besides high-quality ski and winter sports facilities, the town is famous for its Bulgarian Renaissance architecture and ancient remains. To mention a few, visitors are taken by the St. Trinity Church, the native houses of famous Bulgarians such as Neofit Rilski and Nikola Vaptsarov, marvelously designed houses built during the Bulgarian Renaissance period such as Velyanov’s house, the Sirleshtov’s house and Todev’s house.


Maliovitsa resort

Maliovitsa is a smaller resort in comparison to Borovets but there is no other place not only in the Rila Mountain but also in the whole of Bulgaria, which can compare with its beauty and grandeur. It is situated within the Maliovitsa sub-part of North-Western Rila at about 1,700 metres above sea level. An asphalt road connects it to the village of Govedartsi (13 km) and to the town of Samokov (27 km). There is a regular bus transport to the village of Govedartsi and once per day - to the town of Samokov, too.

Maliovitsa is a symbol of Bulgarian alpinism and mountaineering and a natural base for alpine sports. Along with the sublime mount of Maliovitsa, a dozen of other Alpine peaks rise within the region, turning the Maliovitsa sub-part into a preferred place for high-mountain rock climbing and hiking in Bulgaria. One of the most beautiful high-mountain lakes on the Balkan Peninsula - the Strashnoto Ezero (the Frightful Lake) - is located in its proximity, too.

The School for Training of Qualified Staff in Mountaineering Sports was established here during the 1950’s. It is unique of its kind on the Balkan Peninsula and is specialised in training mountaineers, hiking and ski instructors, mountain leaders, ski-tourism instructors, etc.

A number of marked hiking itineraries start from the resort and advance towards North-Western Rila - some of these lead to the Ivan Vazov Chalet (7 hours), the Ribni Ezera (Fish Lakes) Chalet (9 to 10 hours), the Rila Monastery (6 hours), the Strashno Ezero (Frightful Lake) Shelter (3 hours), the BAK (Bulgarian Alpine Club) Shelter (2 hours), the Vada Chalet (1.30 hours), the Lovna (Hunter’s) Chalet (2.30 to 3 hours), the 7 Rila Lakes Chalet (8 hours along the ridge and 5 hours under it), the Mechit Chalet (4 hours). The Maliovitsa Chalet (including an old and a new building, as well as wooden bungalows) is situated at an hour-walk from the resort against the stream of the Maliovitsa River. It lies at over 2,000 metres above sea level and here one can find accommodation and have a freshly cooked meal.

The Mount of Maliovitsa can be climbed along a marked path for 2 to 3 hours of leisurely walk. There are several ski- runs and ski-related facilities within the region.

The number of places of accommodation is relatively limited here. The Maliovitsa Hotel has the greatest number of beds (180). It offers also a restaurant, a discotheque, a coffee bar, a games hall, a souvenir shop, a ski-equipment rental and safekeeping services. The Training Centre has a lower number of beds, with the rooms being for four people and more. The centre has its own restaurant at self-service, a bar, a sports hall, a man-made Alpine wall, and a museum of mountaineering. There are a lot of small coffee shops scattered around the Mecha Polyana (Bear Meadow) where one can have a drink and a meal or just relax listening to nice music. There is a post of the Mountain Rescue Service in the building of the Training Centre, too. 

Aleko chalet

Aleko, together with Zlatnite Mostove (The Golden Sands), are the two ski centres in the Vitosha mountain. Yet Aleko is much older, more popular and bigger in comparison to the Zlatnite Mostove. It lies at 1,800m. above sea level, with its highest point for skiers being the very peak of Cherni Vruh.

There are three hotels in the Aleko ski centre – Sthaslivetsa, Prostor and Moreni, a large number of corporate holiday houses and a chalet of the same name. The Aleko chalet can accommodate up to 100 people and is the oldest one in the Vitosha mountain. It rents out ski equipment and offers highly-qualified ski instructors.

The area around the complex avails of specialised ski facilities such as a cabin tow-lift from the Sofia quarter of Simeonovo to the Shtaslivetsa hotel, a ski run for Alpine disciplines, named Virtoshko Lale, a separate cross-country track for ski runners, etc. The ski runs are of different degree of difficulty, which makes them appropriate for both advanced skiers and beginners. The proximity of Aleko to the Sofia city centre is both to its advantage and disadvantage, as during weekends, it gets quite overcrowded.


Chepelare resort

The town of Cehpelare lies in the heart of the Rhodopi mountain and is Bulgaria’s only town situated so high above the sea level. The town has gradually grown from a cattle-breeding and wood-processing centre into a popular ski resort, offering a budget alternative to the nearby high-class resort of Pamporovo, lying some 10km away from Chepelare.

The town of Chepelare is mostly valued by middle-class skiers who prefer to stay at one of its many family hotels or winter villas at much lower prices as compared to those prevailing in Pamporovo. Chepelare’s closest ski lift has its first station at some 1.5km away from the town, near the main road between Chepelare and Smolyan. The two-chair lift is 2471m long and takes skiers and tourists up to the Chala peak (1873m high) for 17min. The ski runs that start there are of total length of 8,400m. Alternatively, skiers can easily take the 10km distance to Pamporovo and enjoy the high-quality skiing facilities there.

For those not fond of skiing or during summer months, the town offers numerous tourist routes in the Rhodopi mountain. It also hosts Bulgaria’s sole museum of speleology and carsts, recognised for its uniqueness all over the European continent. Some 15km away to the south east of the town, one can also visit the Rozhen observatory and enjoy remarkable sights through powerful telescopes in exchange of a modest entrance fee.


Panichishte ski resort

The Panichishte ski resort is located in the Rila Mountain at 1,400 m above sea level, near the town of Separeva Bania, in the surrounding of beautiful old coniferous forests. There are many recreation facilities, profilactoria, big, modern information centre, ski-lift with a good ski-run and several hotels - Bor, Pondera, Doroteya, Zdravets, Lira, Temenuga, CSKA, etc. There are many catering facilities, offering delicious Bulgarian cuisine. The lowest-lying glacier-lake in Rila, the Suhoto Lake is located in the vicinity of the resort.


Beklemeto ski resort

The Beklemeto area is situated 20km away from the town of Troyan at 1,360 meters above sea level. It abounds of private country houses and public catering establishments. There are also a hotel complex named “Bulgaria” with 50 beds, a restaurant, a ski-run with a tow-lift and a private ski-school, open during the winter. The location is suitable for summer and winter hikes in the high part of the mountain. In eastern direction, hikers can reach the Dermenka, Dobrila, Ambaritza and Chuchul chalets ehile to the west, paths lead to the Kozya Stena, Haidushka Pesen, Echo and Vezhen chalets.


Byala Cherkva resort

The ski base of Byala Cherkva is situated in the Rhodopi natural park, 37km away from the city of Plovdiv. Byala Cherkva spreads over the northern slope of a peak of the same name. The road connecting Byala Cherkva and Plovdiv is well kept during all seasons.

The name of the resort is more than 10 centuries’ old. It is named after an old Christian church, remains of which can still be seen in the newly built church of the St Peter and Pavel monastery. The monastery emerged during the early Middle Ages in the place of old Thracian and Roman sanctuaries. It is believed that the monastery was first established as a convent at the St Kozma and Damyan church of the Kuklen Monastery but then it grew into a separate monastery. The monastery’s area was inhabited during Thracian and Roman times, if judging by a plate with an image of Thracian horseman and Roman bronze coins in its yard. The monastery was destroyed during the Ottoman rule but was rebuilt with donations and voluntary labour by local people following the Liberation. It was reopened in 1883 and named St Peter and Pavel.

The ski base of Byala Cherkva lies at 1,600m. above sea level. Its sole ski run has a total length of 1,100m, with its width ranging between 25m and 30m. The difference between the height of the start and the finish is 180m. The ski run’s upper part is suitable for slalom and giant slalom, while the lower part is suitable for slalom, giant slalom, and parallel slalom. The ski run appeals to both advanced skiers and amateurs.

It is serviced by a 960m-long ski tug with a total capacity of 250 skiers per hour. Since November 2003, a small coffee shop with tea, coffee, sandwiches and refreshments has been operational at the base. The region of Byala Cherkva offers a number of rest houses and hotels where one can spend the night and have freshly cooked meals, but prior booking of accommodation is recommended.


Kulinoto winter area

Kulinoto is an area in the Northern Pirin mountain, situated in a centuries'' old beech forest to the south of the Predel saddle. It lies in the valley of the Kulina river at some 1,400 metres above sea level. The area is reached down an asphalt road that starts from the Predel. Kulinoto is 3km away from the Predel and further 14km from the mountain town of Razlog.

The Kulinoto ski track lies in the heart of the area of the same name. The track is 1,300 metre long and offers good conditions for all types of winter sports. The ski track has a ski tug for adults and a separate one for children that ends at the start of a special ski track for youngsters.

At the end of the Kulinoto ski run, skiers can take a rest at a tea-room, combined with a BBQ, named Yeti. Here skiers can taste herbal tea, hot rakiya (grape brandy) and barbecue. A rental for ski equipment also operates at the tea room.