Tue, November 30th, 2010 - By

Europe’s Secret Cheap Winter Getaway

So, the deep freeze is here.  Snow and ice is everywhere, and Twitter is flooded with #uksnow tweets (second only to Strictly Come Dancing tweets, I might add).  It’s enough to make you march right over to that computer and book the next flight to palm trees and umbrella drinks.  You can get that and more in places like Cancun, but in today’s spotlight, I’d like to encourage you to consider another “secret”  getaway.  Secret not as in nobody knows about it, but secret as in not everyone considers it.  Where?  Bulgaria.

Where is Bulgaria?

This is usually one of the first questions I get when I suggest to someone to consider Bulgaria.  (The rest, I assume, pull out their smartphone and look it up themselves.)   It sits on the west coast of the Black Sea, and it is just north of Turkey and Greece.  It’s a fairly mountainous country, so as you can imagine, you can find all sorts of different pockets of weather, from ski resorts in the mountains of the north, to calmer finds along the coast and towards the south.

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, and from here it seems the tourism infrastructure is slowly building steam.  I think the first time I’d heard about Bulgaria as a hot travel spot was back in 2005, so understandably it’s not quite “off the beaten path” as one might think.  But it’s still very inexpensive relative to say France or Switzerland, and you can have just as much fun.

Ski Zones

Borovets is probably the ski destination I hear the most about.  It’s in the shadow of the mountain range known as Rila, the tallest in the Balkans (and 6th highest in Europe).  What’s nice is you’ll get plenty of culture skiing here – this resort is the oldest in Bulgaria, founding at the end of the 1800s.  You’ll find downhill ski, night ski (requires an extra pass!), and cross country ski, so no shortage of options.  There’s even an English ski school if you need a bit of prep.

Bankso is another popular stop, somewhat well known in expat circles as there was a huge construction boom – evident now by all of the new, but empty, buildings scattered around town.  Because of all this influx of foreigners, Bankso also got a massive upgrade in the ski equipment here, making it some of the best in the country.  So, expect some great deals in Bankso and great value for money.

Pamporovo, last by not least, is probably one of the more well-known ski areas in Bulgaria, for a number of reasons. It has some excellent ski facilities, with recent upgrades meaning you can choose between five star luxury or more modest value accommodation.  It’s also one of the sunniest places in Bulgaria, but you still get enough snow to have some great runs.  And most interestingly, it’s near the Greek border, and you can get to the Agean sea in just over an hour.  So, if you wanted to ski in the mornings and then sit in the sun in the afternoon, this is theoretically possible.

Bulgarian Culture

So, the skiing is good and cheap.  What else is going on in Bulgaria?  Well, Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe, so year-round there is plenty of sightseeing.  If you fly you’ll no doubt land in Sofia, so consider an extra day or two so you can have a look around.

Food is another interesting aspect of a visit here; you’ll notice both Greek and Turkish influences.  I’m not a fan, but perhaps their most famous dish is the salad – when you see the size of it and the number of ingredients, you’ll understand why.  Their pastries are also delicious, and the perfect snack after a busy day on the slopes our just out exploring.

Photo Credit: cod_gabriel, chrisjroos, nedko

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 12:55
Category : Spotlight
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