Our hotel ran a free shuttle bus to the town of Bansko, at the foot of the Pirin mountains, and this was where we ate most evenings. It had a quaint old town feel to it, with houses that were clearly quite dated and traditional. On many of the doors you’ll notice posters, they look like ‘wanted’ posters but actually indicate the people who have died in that household. I can’t imagine that system working too well here in England, usually you try to hide the amount of deaths in a house, not broadcast it!
The town square was quite pretty, with fountains and a church. They also had a monument in the centre, dedicated to Paisiy Hilendarksi, a clergyman and an author on Bulgarian history. It looked pretty spectacular uplit at night.
Bulgarian food was very similar to Turkish and Greek cuisine, there was a LOT of goats cheese in everything and they eat a lot of stews too. We found restaurants in Bankso varied quite widely in places, in the same road you could find main meals from about £4 right through to £20.
Most restaurants in Bansko are traditional taverna type places and one of the first meals we had was at such a place, Mehana Dedo Tase. We thought the food was pretty good, although we enjoyed the appetizers a lot more than the mains, and everything was super cheap. The service was really good and the staff spoke good English, which was handy.
We also visited another traditional tavern called ‘Mehana Oreha’ which we ate at a couple of times which served some really delicious meats and had a seating area right in the main square.
Another place we happened on and ended up being a top lunch spot for us was the Ivmar diner, which had some of the most delicious pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. It was incredibly cheap, just a few quid for a pizza, and they were LOADED. They didn’t use a traditional pizza base, it was more like a short crust pastry, which I totally enjoyed.
We visited Boyanovi, another pizza place in the centre, where they had a wide range of flavoured lemonades and was one of the few places that offered a good-looking dessert menu too. The service was good and the prices, once again, affordable.
The Nova bar was much more modern, with a bright and funky outside seating area and a delicious cocktail menu. We stopped here a couple of times, sometimes for food, sometimes just for drinks. The food was really good and the menu was really reasonably priced.
There were a couple of sweet shops along the main road too which were filled with some seriously yummy sweet treats, all being sold for mere pennies. Bulgarian pastries are yummy so I’d recommend trying some out.
The town of Bansko is where we were also able to get the gondola to bring you up the mountain range. Whilst obviously a popular ski centre in winter, in the summer it had been transformed with a number of activities, including the longest water slide in Europe!
We bought a package that included the return gondola ride, a ride on the water slide and 5 rides on the inflatable tubing, which cost 35 Lev (approximately £16). The gondola ride up was so beautiful and even if you have no interest in trying any activities it was so worth it.
It was impressive being at the top of the mountain, as you can imagine the views were stunning however the activities were pretty terrifying. The tubing looked a bit horrifying as people went flipping and flying all over the place. We did manage to all come out of it alive though.
Europe’s longest water slide, at 350 metres long, looked pretty inviting, especially when we realised we had to walk the 350 metres up the hill first to reach the top! By the time we got there, exhausted, I couldn’t think of anything better than to jump into the cool water. It actually ended up being pretty awful though too, I genuinely felt like I was drowning the whole way down. The water covered your face the whole way down and even when I broke the rules and sat up I couldn’t get any air. I remember thinking ‘No one has ever died on a water slide right?!!’
Anyway death-defying experiences aside the mountain was really gorgeous to ascend as the views were breathtaking! Bankso is certainly a year around destination!