South of Rila lies Bulgaria’s second highest mountain, Pirin, with its Vihren Peak (2914 m). What makes this mountain so special is its biological diversity: thousands of different animals and plants live and grow on its territory, including some rare species such as the edelweiss flower.
No wonder that Pirin National Park made it to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1983. There tourists can see and touch the famous Baikushev’s Pine, a 26-metre-tall, 2.2-metre-wide, 13-century-old Bosnian Pine that happens to be one of the oldest and most special trees in the world. The outdoorsy types will find plenty to do in Pirin as well. The mountain has a few dozen tourist routes that wait to be explored by keen hikers and bikers and its steepy cliffs are just what climbers need.
But the place that attracts the greatest number of tourists is called Bansko, the most popular ski resort in Pirin. It mixes luxury and comfort together to produce the best possible environment for guests to enjoy its top-notch ski trails, fancy restaurants and exotic night clubs. And indeed the atmosphere is so positive that even the best professional skiers in the world visit the resort every year for a round of the FIS Alpine World Cup.
Bansko lies in the northern part of Pirin, 150 km away from Sofia and there are two possible ways to get there: by car or by rail. The car option is faster and you will only need a couple of hours to get to Bansko from the capital city. However, if you have time to kill and if you wish to experience something really amazing…pick the train. It is a narrow gauge mountain line that starts from the town of Septemvri near Plovdiv and runs through some of the most picturesque spots in Bulgaria.