Bansko (Bulgarian: Банско) is a town in southwestern Bulgaria, located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains at an elevation of 927 m above sea level. It is a popular ski resort.
There are several legends about who founded Bansko. According to one, Bansko was founded by people who lived in Dobarsko, a village in Rila, itself, according to a legend, founded by the blinded army of Tsar Samuil. Another legend claims that Bansko was founded by an Italian painter by the name of Ciociolino, hence the existence of the name Chucholin in Bansko.
Still according to another version it was a Slavic tribe called the Peruns, who lived in Pirin and worshiped Perun, that founded the village later to become a town. There are a number of ethnographic texts, legends, prayers and oratories, which lend credence to this legend.
The archeological traces of the inhabitants of Bansko and the Razlog Valley in general date to the early periods of the Roman Empire. There are several housing structures at the outskirts of the town, which date to 100 BC. However, there is no consensus nor credible theory on who these people were.
Bansko, then part of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was added to Bulgaria during the reign of Khan Krum, most probably around 811 AD, and passed back-and forth between Byzantines and Bulgarians for the next few centuries, before control fell to the Ottomans in the 14th century.
The Bulgarian Evangelical Church Community, the first Protestant church in Bulgaria, was founded in Bansko on 6 August 1868.
Bansko, once mainly a stockbreeding and travelling merchant community, has become an international centre for winter and summer tourism. The mountain peaks near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for recreation. Bulgaria's share in European winter tourism is steadily rising, and Bansko increasingly competes with resorts in France and Switzerland due to the comparative lower costs but not in quality. Improvements to the infrastructure and organisation of the ski area on Todorka have been made annually to accommodate the rising number of tourists. A gondola lift was built from town in 2003, replacing the minibus ride to the primary base area of Banderishka Poliana. As of 2010, the ski area has 75 km (47 mi) of ski runs, 14 lifts and drags, serving up to 24,500 persons per hour. The lift-served summit rises to an elevation of 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level. The vertical drop is nearly 1,000 m (3,300 ft) to the base area at Banderishka Poliana, and over 1,600 m (5,200 ft) with the ski runs to town
The nearby village of Banya, located only 5 km (3 mi) from the town, is known for its 27 thermal mineral springs.
The town is served by the scenic narrow gauge line from Septemvri to Dobrinishte. Regular bus connections are available to Sofia, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Gotse Delchev, Razlog, among others.
Many of the infrastructure problems have been given attention to since 2009. The large portion of unfinished apartments are now being given attention as well. Due to the global recovery from the financial crisis and the more realistic pricing, apartments are attracting more buyers from across Europe. In 2010 the resort recovered from the crisis and has seen record profits.
Bansko has recently hosted FIS World Cup alpine ski races: the women raced in 2009 in two downhills and a super G. The men's circuit made its first stop at Bansko in 2011 with a super combined and a slalom. It hosted the men's giant slalom in February 2012 and the FIS World Cup ladies' downhill and super G, and men's giant slalom and slalom.
Alpine and biathlon competitions take place regularly. It is expected that the summer biathlon world cup will also take place in the resort of Bansko.
In recent years, the town has gained international popularity as a pop and jazz scene after the start of the annual Bansko Jazz Festival and consequently the annual Bansko pop-star concert featuring top pop stars. In March the town hosts the British underground dance fete Horizon Festival.
Bansko Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after the town of Bansko.
Bansko is twinned with: Amphipolis, Greece