Borovets is the oldest and largest ski resort in Bulgaria and is a favourite for beginners and families looking for a good-value ski holiday destination. The resort is situated on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountains at the foot of Moussala, the highest peak in the country. Nestled among old pine forests, the resort was founded in 1896 as a hunting lodge for kings and aristocrats and gradually developed into a modern resort with luxury hotels, restaurants and a superb network of ski runs varying in difficulty. There is also a wide choice of off-slope entertainment and nightlife as well as organised trips to places of interest in the Rila Mountains. Winters are mild and snowy and the air is clean, clear and invigorating. Borovets is a short 90 minute transfer from the airport in Sofia.
The ski slopes are divided into two main sectors, with the Markoudjik sector offering the best skiing above the tree line, including the highest ski point reaching 8,333ft (2,540m). Borovets has a total of 22 miles (35km) of ski pistes, and has recently installed new lift facilities with lighting and sound systems, which allows for night skiing and snowboarding. The resort also boasts modern snowmaking machines ensuring that conditions stay excellent. Snowboarders enjoy the Rotata half-pipe with a vertical drop of 1,050ft (320m), suitable for advanced riders at its upper end and beginners at the lower end. The Borovets ski schools have an excellent reputation, with professional English-speaking instructors.
The busy shopping street in front of the Rila Hotel is a beehive of open-fronted small shops, with a colourful market atmosphere, selling all sorts of goods from ski gear to souvenirs. The prices here much lower than elsewhere in Europe.
Most people go to Borovets on a package holiday, staying in a self-catering apartment or at one of the big hotels that have their own bars and restaurants. Those looking for a change of scenery will find that there are plenty of excellent restaurants in town serving international cuisine and traditional Bulgarian dishes, along with delicious local wines. There are also British-style pubs, burger bars and pizza restaurants. The mountain restaurants offer traditional warming stew and fast food alike.
Every night is party time when it comes to Borovets' nightlife, as it has a reputation for being one of the hotspots on the European ski circuit and a popular destination with lively holidaymakers. The fun is fuelled by the fact that drinks are cheap, there are long happy hours, and sometimes drinks are even offered for free. All the bars, clubs and discos serve well-known international brands as well as local beers like Astika, Zagorka and Kamenitza. Beware the national drink, rakia: it is a rather strong variety of plum brandy and not for the faint of heart.
Off the ski slopes Borovets has all the usual amenities of a winter holiday resort, and many hotels offering indoor swimming pools, saunas and gyms. Night skiing is often available from 5pm to 10pm. Visitors can also take excursions to nearby resorts or places of interest, like the Rila Monastery. Ice-skating and skidoos are also an option for chilly fun in the sun.
Borovets is perfect for those seeking a fun skiing holiday on a tight budget, but don't expect Three-Valleys sophistication. There are few challenging slopes for advaced skiers, and there is limited off-piste skiing. Borovets can appear almost abandoned in the summer, though there is good hiking.