The Ethical Travellers Guide to Bansko

by Kayla Kurin

Bansko is becoming a popular destination not only for ski-bums, but for digital nomads and expats looking for a cheap and beautiful place to live in the mountains. Still crowned the cheapest ski resort in Europe, and now home to Coworking Bansko, tourism is only going to continue increasing in this small town I’ve had the pleasure of calling home for the last month.

When tourists, digital nomads, and expats come to a town like Bansko it can be a win-win situation. Foreigners come spend their money and boost the local economy. What could go wrong? Yet, this can also have a negative impact on a community like Bansko. If more foreigners move in, rent, food, and leisure prices can increase, making it harder for locals to enjoy the same quality of life they used to before we arrived.

I recently read this article on how, while digital nomads can help boost a local economy, we can also contribute to gentrification which can have a negative impact on the communities we’ve come to call home. It got me thinking about how we can make more responsible choices as nomads, and give back to the local communities we visit.

One thing I’ve loved about Bansko is how easily I was able to feel like a part of the community here. Even after one short month I was able to participate in numerous community events including the annual charity ball, and was able to meet people in the town who are trying to improve life for the human and animal inhabitants of Bansko. If you’re visiting Bansko, I encourage you to enjoy the ski hills and hiking trails, but also consider adding some of these ethical activities to your ‘to-do’ list!

Events

The Bansko Ball

Every December, the Bansko community comes together in their finest dress wear to raise money for local and international charities.

If you’re heading to Bansko to kick off the ski season in December, be sure to pack something nice to wear! Not only will you support local charities, you’ll get to eat a delicious 5-star meal, enjoy live music, and have the chance to win some great prizes in a raffle! This year prizes included ski lessons, lift passes, spa vouchers, fine whiskey, and more!

Tickets cost 72 lev but will vary year to year. Keep an eye on the Bansko Ball website for more details on the 2018 ball!

Enjoying the Bansko Ball with some coworkers

End of Season Party (hosted by Sunflower charity)

The Sunflower Charity helps elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged communities in Bansko. They host an annual end of season bash to help raise money for their work. If you’re here in April, expect food, drink, and dancing with the Sunflower team! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for event details.

Mountain Biking and Trail Running Events

Trail System organizes a number of events from April — November. If you enjoy mountain biking, trail running, or anything that takes you out into nature and leaves you covered and mud, these events are for you. Like their Facebook page to get notified about upcoming events!

Eco-tourism

Trail System

Trail system is a local organization aiming to help Banskonians enjoy the outdoors. They maintain walking and mountain biking trails in the Bansko area, run mountain guide training courses, and help run local mountain biking and trail running events in Bansko.

Mountain biking event beneath the gondola in Bansko

If your goal is to get on the hills in the summer, Trail System will be releasing a detailed trail map in 2018. If you’re interested in becoming a mountain bike guide yourself, Trail System runs MIAS certified courses in Bansko and Sofia. Get in touch with them if you’re interested to see if there’s a course running while you’re in town! There’s also opportunities to get outdoors and volunteer with Trail System in the volunteer section below.

Animals

Santerpaws Bulgarian Rescue

If you visit Bansko, you’ll notice the stray cats and dogs wandering around town. Santerpaws, and their sister organization below, Rilas Dream, help rescue stray or abandoned animals and find them a new home. You can help by donating to the Santerpaws team on their website, or by volunteering to foster a pet in Bansko.

Rilas Dream

The sister organization to Santerpaws, Rilas Dream helps to re-house rescued animals in Germany. You can donate to the organization to help cover the costs of transportation and immunization for the rescued pets!

Four Paws Bear Sanctuary

Usari is the Romani word for ‘animal trainer’, and, in the past, Usari trained bears to ‘dance’. Unfortunately, many of the tactics they used to train the bears how to dance were cruel to the animals and the bears are now being rehabilitated into their natural environment. The sanctuary is home to 25 rescued bears, and visitors to the area can now visit the bear conservation area to support the work of the bear rescue team and learn about how the bears are being rehabilitated.

Check in with the Bansko tourist information office for the opening hours of the park, or to arrange transportation!

Volunteer

Maintain trails and help run outdoor events (Summer, spring, and autumn)

Trail systems always needs volunteers who love the outdoors to help keep the hiking and mountain biking trails clean in summer or to help run outdoor events. In 2018, they’ll be helping to run three events: a mountain biking race in April, a trail running race in July, and a special event for the local children for international children’s day on June 1.

Volunteers with mountain biking or first aid experience are always needed, but no skills or experience is necessary to help out! All you need is a love for the outdoors and a willingness to learn. Get in touch with Trail Systems with your availability and they’ll let you know how you can help!

Foster an Animal

If you’ll be staying in Bansko for at least a few months, Santerpaws is in need of pet lovers to foster stray animals while they arrange for their re-location. If you’re an experienced pet owner or work in animal care, they also need people to do home checks to ensure that the rescued animal will fit in to their new home. If you’re interested in helping, send an email to Santerpaws here!

The Bansko Ball

If you will be in Bansko in the months leading up to December, the organizing team of the Bansko Ball is always looking for help to organize and run the event! Get in touch with one of the organizers on this page with your skills and availability, and they’ll let you know how you can help!

Donate

If you’d like to help support a local charity with a financial or in-kind donation, the amazing organizations we’ve highlighted in this article will be grateful for any contribution you can make. Here are a few ways you can donate:

Sunflower Charity

Sunflower charity is happy to accept all donations. Used clothes, household items, bedding, etc. can all go to a home in need. You can also make a cash donation. If you have something to donate, get in touch with a member of the Sunflower team!

Santerpaws & Rilas Dream

These animal rescue charities are in need of financial donations to:

  • Remove animals from homeless situations
  • Provide medical care and rehabilitation as needed
  • Place animals in secure adoptive homes
  • Provide affordable vaccine and spay/neuter services
  • Provide resources for stray and feral cats and dogs
  • Sustain a Petfood Bank for those pets in need

Donations can be made via paypal on their website here.

I hope this article helps you support causes you care about while enjoying your stay in Bansko!

Happy travels!

About the author:
Kayla left Canada to go on a round the world trip in 2012 and hasn’t stopped traveling since! She’s visited, lived, and worked in over 40 countries and writes about her travels, social enterprise, and the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Follow her journey on her website (www.wherecanifindwifi.com), twitter (@kaylakurin), and instagram (@kaylakurin).

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.