Skiing isn't just about Aspen anymore. Croatia, Tehran in Iran, Serbia and Bulgaria are quickly becoming popular with novice and seasoned skiers who are looking for alternative destinations. The highest peaks in these locations still receive heavy snowfall until June, so if you’re looking to go somewhere a little different and unique, look no further than the following hot spots.
The Balkan nation of Bulgaria has a little bit of everything, from a beautiful coastline to a mountainous terrain. The town of Bansko is the country’s leading ski resort, while Borovets and Pamporovo-Mechi Chal are a quieter and more family-oriented options if you prefer less noise and smaller crowds. They are serviced by Sofia Airport, and direct flights from Dubai run about four times a week.
The Pamporovo resort is located in the foothills of Snejanka Peak in the Rhodope Mountains. With over 240 sunny days a year, it’s known as the sunniest mountain resort in Bulgaria. The region’s great appeal lies in its beautiful natural landscape, lush green forests, healthy fresh air and lack of avalanches or sharp cliffs.
Its ski zone is compact and located at an altitude of 1,926m. It includes 60 km of ski slopes for alpine skiing, along with cross-country ski runs, a Fun Park with a half-pipe runway and a great number of stretches fit for sleighing. With easy slopes, a well renowned ski school and a special separate area for kids, it’s no wonder that Pamporovo has been recognized by a number of international organizations as the best European resort for families and beginners.
The resort also serves the neighboring ski slopes of Mechi Chal, a smaller 20 km ski area comprised of slopes and roads favorable for the development of biathlons, ski running and snowboard practice.
The modern lift facilities, optimal snow cover and excellent conditions for winter sports make the Pamporovo-Mechi Chal resort an increasingly popular attraction for tourists and ski enthusiasts alike.
Located on the north slopes of the Rila mountain range and known as Chamkoria until the mid-20th century, Borovets is a unique mountain resort in Bulgaria that dates back to 1896, when Knyaz Ferdinand, Bulgaria's monarch at the time, had his summer residence and several hunting lodges built there. Soon after, aristocrats and members of the Bulgarian elite followed, painting the Bovorets scenery with their own summer cottages and chalets.
Today, Borovets is a modern four-season resort with an excellent network of ski slopes and lifts, cozy alpine hotels and numerous dining and entertainment outlets, at the backdrop of breath-taking nature.
Nestled in southwestern Bulgaria, Bansko rests on the foothills of the majestic Pirin Mountains and transforms into a stunning expanse of snow covered peaks during the winter months.
From its base at 900 meters to the lift-served summit at 2,600 meters, Bansko’s ski area includes 70 km of ski runs, 14 lifts and drags and a vertical drop of nearly a kilometer.
Its accommodation options are plentiful, with more than 100 hotels and several restaurants and cafes to choose from, making Bansko one of Bulgaria’s leading ski resorts and a great holiday destination.
Croatia has plenty to offer skiers of all skill levels. There's the Croatian Olympic Centre Bjelolasica in the mountainous Gorski Kotar, which has nine pistes and six ski lifts. It is served by Zagreb Airport, and direct flights there from Dubai are available three times a week on average.
Platak, in northern Croatia, offers skiing on the Radesevo mountain slopes and has five pistes served by four ski lifts. The closest airport is in Zagreb. At Platak, you'll be treated to stunning views of the islands of Cres, Losinj and Krk and the Adriatic Sea. Finally, there's Velika with its incredible 6 km downhill pistes, 10 km cross-country pistes and eight ski lifts. Velika is situated at Papuk Mountain's southern slopes.
Sitting on the southeast part of the Balkan peninsula, Serbia boasts a wide range of ski resorts. Direct flights from Dubai to Serbia's Belgrade Airport run around three times each week.
The Kopaonik resort has elevations ranging from 1056 meters to 2017 meters and 24 ski lifts. It is tucked around Pančićev Peak, the highest point of the majestic Kopaonik mountain range. Stara Planina / Babin Zub, the highest point in the Balkan Mountains and close to the Town of Knjazevac. It boasts more than 13 kilometers of runs and a gondola lift.
Tehran, Iran's capital city, is definitely an off-the-beaten-track option for skiers, but it offers a truly unique skiing experience. The ski season lasts longer here than it does in most European countries because of the higher altitudes. One of the largest skiing resorts is Dizin, nestled in the Alborz mountain range near Tehran and the City of Karaj. Dizin's highest ski lift reaches 3,600 meters, making it one of the top 40 highest ski resorts in the world. There are villas, private apartments and two hotels around the resort, along with restaurants and cottages. Direct flights from Dubai to Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport are available several times a day. Next to Tehran is Mount Tochal, and the ski resort there has several runs and a gondola lift.
While you're in Tehran, spend a bit of time discovering what this intriguing city has to offer. The Treasury of National Jewels on Ferdosi Street features exquisite pieces from various dynasties, for example, and the Seyhoun Art Gallery on 11th Street is perfect for viewing the work of young Iranian contemporary artists. Before returning home, make sure you experience dining in true Iranian style at the SPU Restaurant in Darakeh Square.
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