Top 10 Day Trips from Bansko
Bulgaria,  travel

Top 10 Day Trips from Bansko

Last Updated on September 7, 2021 by Polly Dimitrova

Surrounded by the alpine granite summits of Pirin Mountains, the small town of Bansko in Bulgaria is not only of the best ski resorts in the Balkans, but also an excellent summer destination! During the last few years, tourists from all over the world have been tempted by the top-notch ski conditions during the winter and the abundance of adventure activities. Even still, Bansko has managed to preserve its authentic, traditional atmosphere while still offering a huge list of things to see and do!

Families with children love visiting Bansko for its fabulous 5-star hotels with large indoor and outdoor swimming pools and spa services. The narrow cobblestone streets welcome couples who visit Bansko for a short romantic getaway. Nature and outdoor enthusiasts head straight to the rocky summits in Pirin National Park eager to embark on a thrilling mountain adventure! Regardless of your motivations to visit Bansko, you can be sure to find something interesting and unique to see and do!

If you have a few additional days to spare, and you would like to further dive into the surrounding area – you will want to take one of the 10 Best Day Trips from Bansko!

Rila Monastery

Distance: 100 km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: Free

Founded all the way back in the 10th Century, Rila Monastery is the largest monastery in Bulgaria. Located in Rila Mountains, approximately 100 km Northwest of Bansko, it can be easily reached by car. The monastery has been named after its founder – St. Ivan of Rila, who was the first Bulgarian hermit and is now considered as the patron Saint of the Bulgarian Nation.

The entire complex covers more than 8,7 ha and has an interesting rectangular shape. Right at the heart of the inner court, you will find the incredible main church, which is covered with stunning frescoes on the outside. Right next to it, you will also notice the 23-meters tall tower, which once served as a defensive tower and is now the oldest structure in the religious complex.

Once upon a time, Rila Monastery was Bulgaria’s religious center. Nowadays, it is one of the most important cultural and historical sights you can visit in Bulgaria. No wonder that it has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Just stroll around and soak in the beauty of the mountainous scenery around you; Rila Monastery is nestled between lush, green hills populated by spectacular pine trees.

Rila Monastery
Stob Earth Pyramids - One of the Best Day Trips from Bansko

Stob Earth Pyramids

Distance: 70 km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: 2 lv per adult

Just 70 km away from Bansko, visitors will find the small village of Stob, nestled at the foothill of Rila Mountains. While the village is not popular, it is home to one of the most interesting natural phenomena in Bulgaria – the Stob Earth Pyramids.

It is believed that 2 million years ago the entire area was part of a shallow lake, which has helped with the creation of these interesting rock formations. The Earth Pyraminds may differ widely in their size with some reaching a height of 12 meters, however, they all have a very similar cone shape. What is even more interesting, though, is that some of them are topped with a flat stone, and it looks like they have hats!

Once you leave your car at the little parking area, you would need to take a short, relatively flat trail to reach the Stob Pyramids. The last part of the path is quite narrow with steep cliffs on both sides, so keep this in mind if visiting with your children. The views from the top are incredible as the rock formations beautifully change their colors from red to brown and orange to pink shades, as the sun shines through the fluffy clouds above you.

Note: If you would like to make the most of your time, plan to visit both Rila Monastery and Stob Earth Pyramids in one Bansko trip!

Dobarsko Church - One of the Best Day Trips from Bansko

Dobarsko Church

Distance: 21 km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: Donation Basis

Widely known for its mysterious and unique frescoes, Dobarsko Church is not only one of the easiest and most convenient day trips from Bansko, but it is also one of the most spiritual and intriguing ones as well. The religious building is also referred to as the Church of St.Teodor Tiron and Teodor Stratilat and is nestled on the Southern Slopes of Rila Mountains in the small village of Dobarsko.

What is peculiar about the church are the three round windows facing east, and the small holes spread across the rest of the walls, which allowed continuous ventilation inside. As a result of this, the remarkable frescoes covering the entire church have been preserved for more than 400 years! It was approximately 40 years ago when the masterpieces were uncovered by chance as the walls were being cleaned of the black soot layer caused by constantly burning candles.

Despite being relatively small, the Church of St.Teodor Tiron and Teodor Stratilat has also an incredibly rich decoration with over 460 figures! By far the most unique and unusual ones are the two representing Jesus Christ painted in spaceships surrounded by flames! Dobarsko Church is also one of the few places where you can see such a large number of women saints and the 12 apostles painted in full-length.

Note: You can easily combine the Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa and the Church in Dobarsko in one Bansko trip!

Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa - One of the Best Day trips from Bansko

Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa

Distance: 33km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: 15 LV per adult

Only 33 km away from the ski resort, the Dancing Bears Parks in Belitsa is one of the best Bansko trips! Covering more than 120,000 sq meters, the park is a sanctuary for 20 bears, which were once mistreated. Surrounded by dense green forests, the park provides a safe and secure environment, in which the bears are taught how to develop their natural instincts and learn once again how to live in their original habitat.

In case you are not familiar and have not heard of dancing bears before – this is a concept which dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. People used to capture wild bears, while they are still very young and used them to entertain people on the streets and taverns. The methods used to train the animals were extremely cruel and abusive. Unfortunately, even during the 21st century, dancing bears were found all across Eastern Europe. The park, however, has been able to rescue many of them and has given them shelter and a safe environment to live in, which makes the Dancing Bears Park one of the best Bansko attractions to visit!

Full honesty, visiting the Dancing Bears Park in Belista was a bit of a bittersweet experience for me. It is heartbreaking hearing the stories of these incredible animals and everything they had to go through – being mistreated and abused for many years. Knowing that they now have a sanctuary with all the necessary care and protection, as well as live in their natural habitat is worth remembering! As you are leaving the park, do not forget to only support good practices and do not take part in activities which would harm the wildlife.

Note: The road to the Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa is extremely narrow and some of it is only covered with gravel – careful driving is highly recommended!


Distance: 9 km

Transportation Mode: Car / Bus / Train

Entrance Fee: Free

Located just 9 km away from Bansko, Dobrinishte is an excellent choice for a day trip from Basko if you do not have a car. You can easily get the bus, which operates every hour or even hop on the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train.

With only 5 km of available slopes, Dobrinishte is a less popular ski resort than Bansko. Even still, it is often a better choice for families with small children or beginner skiers and snowboarders. As home to 17 mineral springs, however, Dobrinishte is one of the best days trips from Bansko if you want to spend a relaxing day, recharging your batteries or releasing the tension in your muscles after a few days of active hiking or skiing in Pirin Mountains.

Every year, when we go hiking in Pirin National Park, we plan for a day at the Alpha Thermal Spa and Pool. The complex offers one large swimming pool, one pool for kids and a Jacuzzi, each one of which has a different temperature between 25 – 40 degrees so visitors can enjoy the healing properties of the thermal waters.

If you are looking for a real authentic experience, you can also book a spa treatment at the Dobrinishte Public Mineral Bath. Keep in mind that this is the original public bath, so do not expect a luxurious 5-star resort. The baths are divided into female and male sections as everyone bathes naked. You can also book a private family bath for an hour if you prefer a more secluded experience.


Distance: 7 km

Transportation Mode: Car / Bus / Train

Entrance Fee: Free

Peacefully nestled in a valley between Bulgaria’s three most popular mountains ranges – Rila, Pirin and Rhodope, Razlog is a small town and another popular ski resort. With 5 buses and trains running throughout the day, Razlog can be easily reached on a Bansko trip even if you do not have a car.

Similar to Dobrinishte, Razlog is fairly small with just а handful of activities to try, yet it is an excellent destination for a more chilled and relaxing day, while still being surrounded by the incredible snow-capped mountains summits in the distance.

Stapalata Scenic Walk is by far my favourite spot in Razlog. The short trail will take you to the top of the highest hill in the valley, where you will find the impressive 12-meter tall Observation Tower. Make sure to climb the tower as you will be treated to the most incredible view of rocky peaks rising above the little town of Razlog in the valley below.

The walk is also suitable for young and elderly alike with plenty of benches and rest stops along the way. Feel free to roam around the hill – there is no danger of getting lost, but you might stumble upon interesting animal and plant species!

Photos of Bulgaria

Leshten and Kovachevitsa

Distance: 64 km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: Free

The mountainous villages of Leshten and Kovachevitsa are located just an hour away from Bansko, which makes them the perfect choice for a day trip of exploring and immersing yourself into the traditional Bulgarian culture and heritage.

Strolling down the cobblestone streets lined with unique, well-preserved buildings some of which date back to the middle of the 19th century is like taking a step back in time. Just allow yourself to get lost in between the alleys to be able to fully soak in the authentic charm and atmosphere of the two villages. There is no better way to experience the traditional architectural style from the Revival Period than admiring the white-washed stone houses holding well-kept secrets and stories passed from one generation to another.

Unfortunately, similar to other rural areas in Bulgaria, you will find these picturesque villages almost empty with just a handful of locals. They are so welcoming and friendly that they would share their meal and stories with you. Even if you do not know Bulgarian!

Leshten and Kovachevitsa are now recognized as architectural reserves. You will stumble upon little traditional family-owned taverns and restaurants offering delicious Bulgarian meals, worth trying!


Distance: 103 km

Transportation Mode: Car

Entrance Fee: Free

With a total population of just over 300 people, Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria. The incredible wines, the narrow cobblestone streets and the panoramic views make Melnik one of the most attractive day trips from Bansko.

If you are a wine lover, you would definitely want to stop by the Wine Museum, located at the heart of the city. You will not only learn more about the traditional wine-making process, but you will also get to try some of the best Bulgarian wines! History buffs, on the other hand, might want to pay a visit to the incredible Kordopulova House, dating back to the 1750s. This massive mansion with a unique fusion of Ottoman and Venetian architectural elements was once the home of the wealthy wine producer Kordopulos. Nowadays, visitors can explore the impressive interior of the house, the spacious gardens and the incredible wine cellar!

Just 7 km away from Melnik, visitors can also stop by Rozhen Monasteries, which is among Bulgaria’s most popular religious buildings. It is difficult to believe that the beautiful frescoes inside date all the way back to the 16th Century.

Photos of Bulgaria
Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train in Bulgaria

Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train

Transportation Mode: Train

Entrance Fee: 6 LV

Jump on the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train if you are looking for one of the most authentic and romantic day trips from Bansko. Running between Septeremvri and Dobrnishte, this is the last operational narrow gauge train in Bulgaria.

With its breathtaking mountain scenery, slow-motion ride and old-style train carriages, this is one of Bulgaria’s must-have experiences if you would like to fully immerse yourself into the authenticity and traditions of the country.

Along the way, you are not only going to meet other fellow travellers, but you will notice many locals, who are using the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train for their daily commute! There is nothing more thrilling and exciting than going off the beaten path and finding hidden gems and unique experiences, such as the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train – one of the best Bansko attractions!

Popovo Lake as seen from Polezhan Peak in Pirin Mountains

Hiking / Skiing in Pirin Mountains

Transportation Mode: Car / Taxi

Entrance Fee: Free

Situated at the foothill of Pirin Mountains, Bansko is a paradise for all adventure seekers. The snow-capped mountains summits attract skiers and snowboarders during the winter, whereas hiking and nature enthusiasts are tempted by the abundance of adventure trails waiting to be explored in the summer.

With 48 km of ski slopes, Bansko is one of the best budget-friendly European winter destinations, offering top-notch ski conditions. Regardless if you are just a beginner skier or an experienced snowboarder, you can find the perfect slopes in Pirin National Park.

The summer months, on the other hand, are ideal to hike up to the highest peak in Pirin Mountains – Vihren or embark on a real adventure and take the most challenging trail in Bulgaria to Koncheto Ridge.

Let me know in the comments below. Have you taken any of these Day trips from Bansko? Which was your favourite thing to see in Bansko?

If you have not visited these fantastic Bansko attractions, what are you waiting for?! If you are lucky enough, Bansko might just be one flight away!


  • bye:myself

    Since I was born in the Czech Republic, we used to spend two summers in Bulgaria. And yet, I don’t know much about the country and even less about the attractions it has to offer. Therefore, it’s so interesting and inspiring to read your posts. Bulgaria is definitely on my list.

    • Polly Dimitrova

      So happy to hear that you have already visited Bulgaria – I think that it gets less attention than it should be compared to other European countries.
      I am glad you found something new to inspire you to visit Bulgaria again!

      • Beverley

        I have not made it to Bulgaria yet, but would love to visit a couple of these day trips from Bansko.

        I am definitely keen on Rhodope Narrow Gauge Train it reminds me of taking the scenic train from Nuwara Eliya to Colombo in Sri Lanka. The journey is slow, but great views. I’d also love to hike the Pirin Mountains.

        • Polly Dimitrova

          Hey, Beverley! Yes, I have heard of that train ride in Sri Lanka and I would love to take it one day as well. Unfortunately, I have not made it to Sri Lanka yet, but hopefully one day.
          Yes, there is something extra magical about taking these old-fashioned train rides!

          • Polly Dimitrova

            Really? When were you in Bulgaria and Razlog, Carol? Was it recently? It is a shame that you did not get to see more of the nearby area!

    • Polly Dimitrova

      Yes, the dancing bears park is quite unique for sure. A bit of a bitter-sweet moment hearing how bad they have been treated before, but good to know that they have finally found sanctuary where they are well taken care of!

    • Polly Dimitrova

      They really are, Megan! The Rila Monastery is one of the most iconic sights in Bulgaria, but Dobarsko Church is a lot less popular and has amazing spiritual energy as well!

    • Polly Dimitrova

      I am glad that this article intrigued you to look into it further. Yes, Bulgaria, is not high on many travellers’ lists but it is a mistake because it is a beautiful country!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We have not yet made it to Bulgaria. So it was great to read more about Bansko and see how many great day trips there were in the area. We love to plan visits that let us head out in the area too. I love the mix of urban and outdoor spots we can explore. Such a variety of adventures.

    • Polly Dimitrova

      Yes, it is a bit unfortunate and made the experience a bit bitter-sweet for me.
      Bulgaria is a great place to visit, though, and there are multiple day trips you can take from Bansko!

  • Kat

    I have to admit that Bulgaria has never been on my radar to visit, but it looks quite spectacular! I can’t wait to get back to International travel and explore more of Europe. Thanks for the beautiful post and for opening my eyes to Bulgaria.

  • Agnes

    I regret spending only a week in Romania, and I was not in Bansko. I did not think that this area had so many unique attractions. I would love to go back there to see the places you write about. I would like to see Rila Monastery, Stob Earth Pyramids, and Melnik the most.

    • Polly Dimitrova

      Yes, Romania is slightly more popular than Bulgaria it seems, especially because of the Bran Castle. Yes, Bulgaria is definitely worth the visit – Rila Monastery is definitely one of my favourite spots in the country if you want to get a touch of the culture and traditions!

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