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Getting There & Getting Around

Surprise Tours offers direct transfers to Bansko (just under 3 hr.) for 75€ ($95). If you're counting every stotinka, take the public bus. The 3-hour journey from Sofia to Bansko will cost a mere 8lev ($6.50/£4.05), as does the 3 1/2-hour bus trip from Plovdiv. Buses pull into Ul Patriarch Evitimi, on the northern outskirts; it's a 10-minute walk from the old quarter and about 25 to 40 minutes to the new developments upslope, where most of the "better" hotels are located. If this is your destination, make sure you prearrange a transfer. Around the corner from the bus station you'll find the small train station. Bansko's only rail connection (via narrow-gauge track) is with Septemvri, which in turn lies on the Sofia-Plovdiv line. The journey between Bansko and Septemvri is wonderfully scenic as it trundles through forest-clad mountains and valleys of timeless bucolic beauty, but at 5 hours, the ride is inconveniently long. However, if you catch the earliest train (there are three a day; get your host to check most recent times), this could be the best way to reach Plovdiv, allowing you to take in some Pirin and western Rhodopean scenery without going to the expense of renting a car. Alternatively, you can experience two-thirds of the journey by booking with Intersport, which will put you on the train, pick you up from the Velingrad station, and take you to Bansko by road.

The tourist information center is located off the central square (pl Vaptsarov) just north of the old quarter, but opening hours are in reality inconveniently flexible (tel. 07443/5048; Mon-Fri 9am-1pm and 2-5pm).

For a wide variety of 1-, 2- and 3-day guided hiking or biking excursions in the Pirin National Park (ranging from 39lev-149lev/$32-$121/£20-£75), or 1-day rafting (99lev/$80/£50) and rock-climbing expeditions (49lev/$40/£25), contact Intersport (tel. 088 878 8859; www.intersport-bansko.bg). Intersport also offers sightseeing excursions to Melnik and Rozhen Monastery, Leshten and Kovachevitsa, and Dancing Bear Park; all of these include all transportation, a guide, and lunch, and cost only 59lev ($48/£30).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.