The Land of Roses, the world’s second-largest exporter of wine, fantastic natural hot springs, and the sunniest ski resorts in Europe. Welcome to Bulgaria.
The enjoyment of skiing in Bulgaria is not that different from skiing at other western winter holiday locations; however, one fundamental factor differentiates her from the run of the mill European ski resort.
Bulgaria is cheap by every European standard. It is cheap to get there, cheap to stay there, cheap to play there and cheap to eat there. Understanding this fact will unlock the secrets and allow westerners a new skiing adventure.
On January 1, 2007, a mere 17 years after the fall of communism, Bulgaria entered the European Union and became a full-fledged member of the league of western nations. As travel became easier, citizens from Western Europe began an exploration of the Land of the Roses. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, tourists from around the Western world discovered one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War.
Bulgaria began to expand in areas unfathomable during the days of centralized control and Soviet influence. Real estate developers from Ireland and England joined with local contractors and property developers to exploit the numerous hot springs in the Rhodope Mountains and her sandy beaches along the Black Sea. Resorts sprang forth like mushrooms after a spring rain: Bulgaria was on her way.
Ski resorts from Berkovitsa to Pamporovo grew into world-class destinations to augment the established Bansko and Borovets tourist locals. Within a few years, Bulgaria had 14 established resorts designed to European standards. Downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, pristine climbing augmented the Soviet sports of ice-skating, cross-country skiing, and mountain climbing using large gondolas, high-speed ski lifts peppered among 5-star private resorts. Nevertheless, one thing remains, few people know how inexpensive her benefits are.
Cost of a Bulgarian Ski Holiday
To say Bulgaria is cheap is a definite understatement, but four subareas stand out that make a journey enjoyable. It is cheap to get there, cheap to stay there, cheap to have fun there and cheap to survive there.
- Flights – There are five civilian airliner airports in Bulgaria, with four primarily serving the resort areas. Europe’s largest low-cost airlines (Air Berlin, Easy Jet, Fly Niki, German Wings, Ryan Air, S7, and Wizz Air) serve these airports as well as 35 regional and international airlines from around the world. In addition, 48 nonscheduled or chartered airlines serve Bulgaria on a seasonal basis, providing ample competition. On November 22, 2010, Ryan Air’s listed weekday fare from London to Bulgaria’s Plovdiv airport (at the base of world-renowned Pamporovo ski resort) was £19.00 (about $30 US) traveling on November 30, 2010, to Bulgaria and £12.90 ($20) returning on December 14, 2010. (Prices are exclusive of specific airport fees.)
- Cheap rooms – According to Hotels.com on November 23, 2010, Bulgaria’s average wintertime ski resort rental price ranks below #1 France/Andorra, #2 Switzerland/Austria, #3 Italy and #4 USA/Canada. Her average resort rental fee is 31% lower than the average of the top three. Hochgurgl in Austria is a comparable ski in-ski out resort area similar to the much larger and newer Grand Monastery Resort at Pamporovo, Bulgaria. Hochgurgl has several 3-4 star properties (not as inclusive as Pamporovo) and has a nightly average of €225 for a one-bedroom unit. The 5-star Grand Monastery Resort at Pamporovo has 1-bedroom apartments for €100 per night.
- Cheap Lifts – According to reporter Dale Bechtel of SwissInfo.ch, “A family of four must pay more than SFr200 ($183) just for a day of skiing in Zermatt, not including food or transport to the resort. It really adds up if accommodation is factored into the costs.” The “Pearl of the Alps,” Kitzbuhel, Austria charges and astonishing €43 for a single adult pass. All the while Pamporovo charges a mere €16 for a single day, €22 at Borovets and Bansko has the highest prices in Bulgaria at €25.
- Cheap food and entertainment – The best secret is eating in Bulgaria. New restaurants abound with large quantities at extremely low prices. A meal for a family of four at an average resort restaurant is under €40, including a bottle of excellent Bulgarian wine. Most resorts include nightlight in discos, clubs, and bars with Soviet-era prices on alcohol.
Certainly, Bulgaria is a hidden jewel. With bargain prices on transportation, lodging, entertainment, and dining, she is among the best winter sports locals in Europe. Now that the west is aware of the diamond, those who arrive first will have the best deal for the longest time.