Day trip to Rila Monastery
Perhaps the most popular attraction in Bulgaria is Rila Monastery – often a day trip from Sofia, but being in the snowy mountains, actually quicker to reach from Bansko. At its peak, over 200 monks would have lived in the 199 bedrooms here, although now only about ten reside.
Inscribed onto the UNESCO world heritage list, the monastery dates back to the 10th century, although it’s been attacked and destroyed over the years, most notably by the fire of the Ottomans, it’s always been rebuilt. Parts of it are off-limits to day-trippers, although there is a chance to spend the night staying in one of the basic and traditional rooms for the monks, which I reckon would have been pretty damn cool to do. Alternatively, you can ask Tony or someone at the lodge to arrange a tour or driver for you, if you don’t want to hire a car.
Take the slow train to Plovdiv
Highly recommended is, if time allows, you add on a visit to Plovdiv after your trip, the second city of Bulgaria and one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture for 2019. This gorgeous old town is packed with history, architecture and good vibes, and I really enjoyed it, even more so than Bulgaria. A night or two will allow you to see the mains sights, and if you are feeling brave, you can forego the pricy transfer for the nearly five-hour slow train through the mountains.