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, located in the southwest of Bulgaria. Bansko rests at the foot of the majestic Pirin Mountains and transforms into a stunning expanse of snow covered peaks during the winter months. It's serviced by Sofia Airport, and direct flights from Dubai run about four times a week.
Bansko's rails start at 900 meters high and some are more than 2,500 meters in height. There are accommodation options aplenty, with more than 100 hotels located in the area. There are also several restaurants and cafes to choose from in Bansko. Try some reasonably priced traditional fare at the Mehana Pri Dedo on pl Nikola Vaptsarov. In the winter, the Mehana Pri Dedo's interior is warm and cozy, and there's a guitarist playing live music while you dine. A favorite winter party is the Happy End disco on Glazne across from the gondola lift.
While the bustling Bansko is now the largest ski resort in Bulgaria, there's a quieter option if you prefer less noise and smaller crowds. Borovets, also served by Sofia Airport and located on the north slopes of the Rila mountain range, offers restaurants and accommodations despite being less developed as compared to Bansko. Explore the countryside at Bulgaria on Horseback at K.K. Borovets and try the BBQ at the fireside at Hunters on Main Street.
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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