160km from Sofia, Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin Mountain.

History:The area around Bansko has been inhabited for centuries by the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines and Slavs. There are many ruins of old fortresses and burial grounds around the town. Bansko first became a settlement in the 9th to 10th century when several neighbourhoods joined together. During the Ottoman rule it was mentioned in the Ottoman register under the name Baniska. During the 18th Century Bansko was mainly the home of agricultural workers and craftsmen, who worked in the forests and fields around. Many mills were built along the river. Wood products, leather manufacture and fish, olives and tobacco were traded with settlements in the Aegean, Serresa and Drama. Horse drawn caravan trains would take goods across the country and further afield. Those living and working in the Bansko became wealthy and many travelled abroad or sent their children abroad. This led to a wise cultural diversity in Bansko. It also meant that the residents of Bansko were able to build magnificent houses; high stone houses with wooden beams and cladding and heavy fortified gates. The ceilings and walls of the rooms would be covered in colourful murals and religious paintings. It was not until 1912 that Bansko was freed from Ottoman rule, the day the Balkan war was announced. Bansko's council or local government was set up in about 1850 and consisted of local elected officials from the various local tradesmen. In the 1860's and 1870's the local municipality was particularly involved in fighting against the Greeks for independence for the Bulgarian church and attempting to bring education to the village. The first school was built in 1857. During the Balkan war the Bansko council collected food and clothes for the Bulgarian army. Due to its location at the base of the Pirin mountains, skiing developed above the town, but initially was only accessible by a mini-bus taking skiers up the steep hillside to the base of the small ski area. It was not until 2003 when the gondola was put in, that skiers could access the skiing directly from the town. Bansko quickly developed into a more modern winter holiday resort with an explosion of hotels and apartment blocks. 

Things to see:
Bansko is a popular ski resort and a perfect destination for a relaxing SPA weekend since it is also rich in mineral water springs. Many of the hotels here have indoor swimming pools and SPA centres, where you can choose from a wide range of wellness procedures. It is equally popular with Bulgarians and foreigners: beautiful nature, spectacular scenery, great food and very friendly locals. The local architecture is dominated by large neat stonewalls with dark wooden doors. Behind these rather austere but yet beautiful walls are courtyards with small single or two storey houses and wooden balconies. For those who are after outdoor activities a variety of activities are available depending on the time of year. Naturally skiing is the main draw to Bansko during the winter months. Both in spring and summer, it is possible to hike in the wonderful Pirin National Park. Picnics, cycling, fishing and horseback riding are also some of the outdoor activities you can indulge in here. Rock climbing and mountain biking in the surrounding area will surely give the extreme sport fans an adrenalin rush. The old part of Bansko still retains its character and authenticity. There are cobbled streets, traditional stone and wood houses and lively local bars with local musicians. There are over 120 cultural and historical monuments in the Old town of Bansko including the Holy Trinity Church with its 30 metre high clock town, which was the biggest Christian temple built under Ottoman occupation and its murals were done by the local art school.


Photos from Bansko

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