Our family ski holiday to Borovets, Bulgaria
Hey y’all. So we’ve been back from Bulgaria for a while; maybe we’ve unpacked everything or maybe we’ve put an entire case of ski stuff up the loft ‘cos we can’t be bothered? You’ll just have to guess.
Now we are back and our legs have stopped aching, we can tell you what to expect if you fancy skiing in Bulgaria, or skiing with kids OR EVEN… skiing in Bulgaria with kids.
To summarise, it was awesome. We had an amazing week, loved the resort and just had a grand old time. If you want to ask us anything specific about skiing with kids leave us a comment, ping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a DM over on Insta cos we basically live on that thing, yo. In the meantime, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the ski resort of Borovets:
Travel time: The flight was 3 hours from London Gatwick to Sofia airport, which is more than doable with kids (iPads and Haribo, amirite?). It was then a 90 minute coach ride to the resort; the kids were shattered as our flight had been delayed so they struggled with this, but for us parents it was lovely to be able to drive through the countryside and see Bulgarian villages in all their snowy cuteness.
The price: We stayed at the Samakov hotel around 100m from the main slope, on a half board basis for one week. With flights, transfers, lift passes, ski hire and ski school, this came to around £2000, which is extremely cheap for a skiing holiday.
The snow: We had good snow. Actually we had great snow. Apparently it was the best for 20 years which is funny because that’s the last time I came to the resort as a kid, and I remember the powder being great then, too. The moral of the story? I’m a snow good-luck charm; you need me on your ski breaks, people.
The skiing: There is a really good variety of runs from absolute beginner to off-piste for experts. The kids snow-bunnied around on the nursery slopes with LTF Dad, getting their ski-feet for the first time. When LTF Dad and I hit the slopes we like to go a bit hectic and got up early a few times to be the first down the runs, which was magical. There are several chair lifts and button lifts and a gondola that takes you on a breathtaking 30 minute ride to the top of the mountain. Ski school was included in our holiday package but we only bothered with it once as we are crazy-mad rebels and we really enjoyed having some ski-dates with just the two of us (is there anything sexier than seeing your spouse absolutely nail a sport and looking like some total James Bond-esque snowy mirage? No, there is not).
The size of the resort: Borovets is small, which means that you are never too far away from your hotel or villa. After a long day in ski boots this is an important aspect of a ski holiday as you don’t want to trek with sore feet for ages to peel off your kit!
The food: We love rustic, authentic food and proper Bulgarian food is a real treat. Imagine a cross between Greek and French food, perhaps? Hearty soups, stews and hot breads, all freshly made at the local tavernas and cooked on open fireplaces in the middle of the room, were our mid-piste treat.
Overdevelopment of the resort: It really makes me sad when global burger chains and knock-off Mexican restaurants start popping up in places with their own valuable, unique and attractive culture. That said, it is understandable that in any developing country they need to make money in any way they can, so this wouldn’t put me off going. There is also a kind of upside to this which is that if you need familiarity when travelling with kids, you have the option of popping into Subway and ordering something that you know will comfort them and that they will definitely eat!
Customer service: This is a notion that seems to have skipped over some of the Borovets tourism industry. The receptionists at our hotel were so rude that it was laughable. As in, I literally burst out laughing when I asked to speak to our rep and they told me to go to the third floor, find her number on a wall sign, and use my own phone (which I had already tried and it wasn’t working). It took three attempts at persuading them to help me before they did, and made no attempt to hide their displeasure. When our bath flooded across the bathroom floor, it took two phone calls to reception before they came to fix the plumbing. They just aren’t that customer-focused. Culturally, people seem to speak in quite a harsh tone and manner, and as pampered Western softies this comes across as a bit of a shock if you are not used to it. I had remembered from previous visits and it doesn’t bother our family at all; however some British and American guests were struggling to cope. We had similar incidents at two local cafes, with much eye-rolling and audible sighing when we asked for the wildly taxing items of an ice cream and a coffee. I would stress that we would advise people as follows: instead of avoiding places where they have different mannerisms, simply change your expectations. It is not reasonable to expect a country recovering from a harsh Communist regime to have the same service levels as, say, the ultra-all-inclusive five star Ikos Olivia resort where we stayed last year. If you want to see the world, see it, warts and all, and let it move you to compassion for people and their experiences.
Strip clubs/ brothels: We saw three of these on the high street of the resort. Not much more to say other than wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t need to exist at all? When we came twenty years ago (I was seven) there were lots of ladies in the sex industry in the lobby of our hotel; now they seem to all be in the establishments. We are hoping that this means more regulation and protection for the women; in reality we have no idea.
In summary, our family ski holiday to Borovets was a fantastic adventure and we would thoroughly recommend it to those families who want to ski with kids on a budget (and who aren’t easily offended ;)) We booked our holiday through Neilson who do all kind of sporty activity holidays.
Disclaimer: We booked and paid for our holiday ourselves and are not affiliated with Neilson or any other tourist body; all opinions, as ever, are our own.
Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.