Think of Bulgaria for a ski holiday, and you may imagine horse drawn carts, battered trabant cars, babushka grandmothers and locals so laid back they’re practically horizontal. Although this might not be miles from the truth, don’t be fooled into thinking that Bulgaria’s not for you. Crystal’s Product Manager Alex Sparasci took a group to explore Bulgaria last month – here’s how he got on…
Been to a Western European resort this winter? You may be familiar with the 4-hour-plus coach transfers to reach your ski resort of choice – hardly the ideal start to your holiday! Head to Bulgaria to avoid this problem, with both Sofia to Borovets and Plovdiv to Pamporovo coming in at well under 2 hours transfer time, short enough for those of you with little ones to make sure your little angels don’t get too fidgety.
If your impression of Bulgarian hospitality is run-down hotels staffed by gruff individuals, then think again! We’ve put together a programme of quality hotels to suit any budget. My favourites were the Hotels Snezhanka and Orlovetz in Pamporovo and the Alpin and Samokov in Borovets.
The Hotel Snezhanka is modern, well placed in resort and available for an amazingly good price. It even has a log fire, leather sofas and a violinist in the lobby area.
The Orlovetz is rated 4.5 by Crystal – this hotel wouldn’t be out of place in the French Alps; it has a swimming pool, spacious rooms and yummy cakes.
Over in Borovets, the Alpin Hotel is new for us for next season; with an unparalleled location, cosy atmosphere and beautiful rooms, this property is sure to sell out.
In contrast the Samokov is a larger communist-era hotel; however with really good food, refurbished bathrooms and a brand new spa area it won’t disappoint.
3. Ski School
Ski instructors aren’t always the friendliest people in the world; but this accusation cannot be levelled at the wonderful staff working in Bulgaria. Leading a trip for 6 people who’d never skied before was a little daunting but I needn’t have worried. The instructors were reassuring and friendly, with our novices progressing quickly. They also all spoke good English, an important factor that can’t always be assured elsewhere.
4. Ski areas
Bulgaria does beginner skiing really well but as an ex-seasonnaire who loves to get some serious kilometres under by skis, I assumed that I’d be bored stiff! How wrong I was. Pamporovo’s ski area offers some beautiful cruising blues, quick reds – (try ‘The Wall’), and black runs to get the thighs burning. Those of you who like jumps and freestyle will be at home in the park or the neighbouring half pipe; be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Bulgaria’s international pro riders who often pop in to practice their 1080s. There’s 3 different ski areas in Borovets, all offering a mix of runs. My favourites were the reds in Yastrebetz and the Martinovi Baraki 2 run near the Rila Hotel.
5. Food and drink
Over the years Bulgarian food and drink hasn’t had the best of reputations… thankfully this situation has forced them into improving! I was more than happy with all of the food I ate; with the buffets at the Hotels Rila and Samokov providing a better standard than food I have tried in French or and Austrian hotels.
If you want to eat in a traditional Mehana restaurant, our resort teams organise cultural nights. My favourite Bulgarian foods are Snezhanka (their version of Tsatsiki) and Sirene cheese. Drinks-wise the local Kamenitza lager is very cheap and a much better drink than the generic beers we get in every pub in the UK”.
For more information see Crystal’s Bulgaria ski holidays page.
Plus, keep your eyes open for our great value Crystal Ski+ packages for 2011/12. Bundle your flights, transfers, accommodation, lift pass and ski/board hire or carriage into one unbeatable value package. Available on selected accommodations in Pamporovo and Borovets. Book by 30 Nov 11.