Working in the ski industry we have a lot of chats with people who describe some of the lesser-known resorts as hidden gems or national treasures. Hidden gems is pretty obvious, but what is a national treasure? Stephen Fry? The Beatles? The Crown Jewels? Obviously we looked to Google to translate for us:
Simply put, Borovets is one of Europe’s top party hotspots on the slopes. And with great value hotels, ski schools and lift passes, it won’t break the bank. But it’s so much more than just a nightlife hotspot.
Borovets is Bulgaria’s oldest, most famous and popular ski resort. But is it a national treasure? Let’s find out.
What’s the history of Borovets?
Borovets, known until the middle of the last century as Chamkoria, was the first mountain resort in Bulgaria. It has a royal pedigree, dating from 1896 when Tsar Ferdinand – the Bulgarian monarch at the time, had his summer residence and several hunting lodges built here.
In 1942, the name of the resort was changed to Borovets –a literal translation of the Turkish word Chamkoria – which means“pine trees”. As you can guess, there’s a lot of them about. Between the 70s and 90s, the resort became the centre of skiing in the Balkans.
The first race from the FIS Calendar in Bulgaria took place in 1974 in Borovets. As of today, the resort has hosted eleven European Cups and two World Cups.
Borovets is also home to the Bulgarian ski legend Petar Popangelov who grew up, trained and brought his European and World Cup trophies here.
The nearest town to Borovets – the town of Samokov, is famous for its rich cultural and historical heritage. The present town was founded in the early 15th century on the ruins of an ancient settlement. The town achieved economic prosperity in the 17th-19th centuries through the production of iron in the famous iron-melting furnaces and mechanical hammers, called “Samokov”.
Community spirit is number one in Samokov and Borovets. The people there love feeling part of the town and will do anything they can to make events run smoothly, and for the public image of the town remain sky high. The best example of this is during a World Cup race in Borovets in the 1980s, where the conditions on the piste were not as perfect as they could be. A huge group of people from the towns of Samokov and Borovets (and the Bulgarian Army) carried snow out of the forest with their bare hands to cover the piste and allow the race to go ahead. Now that’s commitment to your local town.
What makes Borovets unique and uniquely Bulgarian?
The Rila Monastery is around the corner from Borovets and is among the biggest, oldest and most picturesque monasteries in Bulgaria. Set-up in the 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski, it’s among the top most visited attractions in Southeast Europe.
To celebrate this, the town has a festival called “The Magic of Rila Mountain”. The festival has loads of folklore dancing and singing of Bulgarian and foreign groups. The festival is accompanied by exhibits of traditional local and national crafts and traditional costumes.
The “Chakurovi Holidays” were first celebrated in 1975 and are held during the summer, where you can watch a performance by local cultural clubs, displaying the historical events of a battle against the Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, which took place about 160 years ago. Must be pretty cheerful.
What’s the perfect day in Borovets?
Start off by having a hearty breakfast in your hotel. Most hotels are on the slopes, so chuck that food in your mouth and get straight on the slopes.
Even if you’re a decent skier, the ski school in Borovets is world famous – over 200 instructors, all super friendly, and many are former pro skiers. Spend the morning perfecting your technique and smashing the slopes of the Sitnyakovo area.
Then make your way to the Popangelov tavern, a cozy tavern on the slopes dedicated to Bulgaria’s favourite son. Try the local sheep yoghurt with wild berry jam as a starter, and follow with pine honey and a Bulgarian cheese filo pastry – a Banitsa.
In the afternoon, head to the Makudjik area, which is the highest point of the resort. Admire the views of the Musala mountain and work off that pastry.
Then head down to the Rila hotel for apres on the terrace. Have a cocktail, listen to the DJ and enjoy the best view in the resort.
Then it’s time to make plans for the evening. You can either find a quiet family restaurant, or hit the nightlife the town is famous for.
Sum up Borovets in a sentence
A unique experience in the Balkans.