Sports you can do in Bulgaria this autumn and winter
From cycling in the mountains to climbing over an ice waterfall, there is life beyond skiing in Bansko
Written by Marta Valverde Rios, edited by Gabriella Permaul and Scott Green, photos by Scott Green
Did you know that in Bulgaria you can do more than just skiing at Bansko during the winter? We are not saying that this is a bad option, in actuality skiing is a very complete exercise that can help your immune system, which is important in these times. In any case, if skiing is not your thing, here we bring you a compilation of sports in addition to the ones that you can practice during the coldest months of the year.
Hiking in the mountains
Not all capitals can boast about having a mountain so close to the city. Sofia’s Vitosha Mountain is a perfect destination for amateur and professional hikers since it has a lot of different trails to choose from. You can check some of them in our previous articles Hiking in the Sofia area and 13 hiking trails near Sofia to try. Also, if you feel like exploring beyond, you can see here our favorite hiking spots in Bulgaria.
Autumn is one of the best times of the year to go hiking, as you can experience the change of seasons and enjoy all the colors of fall: yellow, brown, green, orange, and even red trees. Winter can also offer a singular landscape, but make sure to bring all the necessary equipment to fight the cold.
Since most of the cities in Bulgaria are not so bike-friendly yet, apart from the green city areas, you can take advantage of the vast Bulgarian nature. Vitosha Mountain and Borovets Mountain Bike Park are good options to start. To find more routes, you can use some apps like Bikemap or Komoot (this last one also shows hiking trails).
Indoor climbing or ice climbing for the bravest
Winter is not here yet but it is getting colder every day, so depending on your thermal sensation, you can choose to either practice in an indoor climbing wall (almost every city has one), or go to an outdoor one. In Sofia, some of the most popular ones are Walltopia Climbing Center, Bonsist Climbing Gym or the National Sportive Academy in Studentski Grad.
But, if you are an experienced climber, the range of options is bigger for you and you could try ice climbing in some of the numerous frozen waterfalls and cliffs that the country has to offer. The most visited spots for this form of climbing are Boyana’s waterfall, the ice cliff in the Rila National Park, the region of Skakavitsa, and the North Dzhendem in the Central Balkan National Park. Keep in mind that it is always advisable to practice climbing with a guide, and especially if you choose this type.
In Bulgaria not only can you do ice skating on ice rinks but you can also do it on several lakes. In Sofia, the most popular rinks are located at the Winter Sports Palace, the Slavia Ice Centre, and Lake Ariana in Borisova Gradina. Many other well-maintained ice rinks are also available in the ski resorts, as well as in all major cities like Varna, which hosts the indoor Black Sea Ice Arena, and Plovdiv usually opens a nice one in the city center, next to the Tsar Simeon Garden.
Skiing, snowboarding, and snowkiting
While there are many ski resorts in Bulgaria, Bansko, located on the Pirin Mountain, is the most famous, among other things, because it has the longest ski runs and good infrastructure. There are also popular destinations like Borovets, situated in the Rila Mountain; Pamporovo and Chepelare in the Rhodope Mountain, and Vitosha Mountain. Some of them, apart from traditional skiing and snowboarding, offer the option to practice snowkiting, where the kite power is used to glide on the snow.
Whether you live in Bulgaria or you are considering this Balkan country for your winter holidays, you can enjoy some of these activities that, in addition to guaranteeing some fun, will help you stay healthy.
Keep in mind that if you work in Bulgaria, you may have the possibility of benefitting from the Multisports program that many companies offer to their employees and grants access to hundreds of different sports centers across the country.