The town of Bansko is in the Pirin Mountain Range. It is an idyllic Bulgarian village with fresh farm-to-table food, local wineries, hiking and swimming in the summer, and skiing and snow sports in the winter.
What sets Bansko apart is that it is also home to a thriving digital nomad community and that it also hosted the largest-ever digital nomad event – Bansko Nomad Fest 2023.
Bansko as it is for digital nomads, was founded in 2006 by the German digital nomad and entrepreneur Matthias Zeitler to create a haven for digital nomads year-round. He embedded within the local community a variety of coworking and coliving spaces and worked with local businesses to create infrastructure for digital nomads to effectively work, play, and experience Bulgarian culture while in the town.
This infrastructure also makes Bansko the perfect location for the world’s largest annual digital nomad gathering. Since it first launched in 2020, Bansko Nomad Fest has been attracting hundreds of digital nomads to the town each summer for networking and knowledge sharing, but also to experience the unique atmosphere of the town.
In 2023, more than 700 digital nomads from around the world attended. It is expected that more than 1,000 will arrive at the festival in 2024.
Bansko Nomad Fest 2023
Held between June 25 and July 2, more than 700 digital nomads from 40 different countries attended Bansko Nomad Fest in 2023, with people from different cultures and with very different digital nomad experiences sharing their knowledge of the nomadic lifestyle.
Around one-fifth (22%) of participants in the festival were from the United States. They were joined by 11% Germans, 10% Bulgarians, 9% from the United Kingdom, 17% from elsewhere in the European Union, 8% from Israel, 5% from Canada, 3% from Japan, and 1.5% from Australia.
While their numbers were lower, there were also delegates from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, China, and more.
This mix of people meant that the conference was much more than just “more of the same” since your digital nomad experience can be greatly influenced by the passport you hold.
Conference or festival?
It is hard to know whether to describe Bansko Nomad Fest as a conference or a festival since it is a little bit of both. The 2023 festival included 65 conference speakers, but also 100 sessions organized spontaneously by delegates based on who they met and the topics that inspired them. There were also more than 200 related activities.
These other activities included opportunities to explore the country around Bansko. There was hiking, mountain bike riding, wine tours, and visits to local sites such as the Rila Monastery and the local Bear Sanctuary. There were activities designed to develop necessary nomadic life skills such as yoga and meditation, and there was also just plenty of opportunity to socialize and network with other nomads with parties, dancing, and more.
Many attendees say that one of the things they value most about the festival is being able to reconnect with other digital nomads they met over the years.
How does the festival work?
The festival is relatively affordable, with tickets costing between €120-€250 depending on how far in advance you buy. It is then up to you to tailor your experience.
You book your preferred accommodation at any of the guest houses, hotels, and apartments in the village. Your ticket allows you to attend any of the conference and non-conference sessions, and many of the associated activities such as the opening party in the town square, the open mic night, and speed networking.
You can then pay for additional activities such as guided hikes, wine tours, and cooking sessions, with locals offering low prices to the audience.
This makes the festival both a great opportunity for professional networking and knowledge exchange, and for discovering Bansko and what it is all about.
All that matters to nomads
The themes explored at the festival focussed on topics that affect the day-to-day life of digital nomads, investments that allow digital nomads to flourish, and developing services that support the digital nomad community.
Discussions in 2023 covered topics such as AI, how it will affect remote workers, and how it can be leveraged to improve productivity. There were also discussions of how nomads can maximize their productivity while on the move and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
There were discussions of digital nomad income streams, developing passive income, investing in real estate, and many others.
There were also interesting discussions around coworking and coliving spaces, including what is needed and where the opportunities are, emerging travel trends, and what they mean for digital nomads.
One highlight of the conference was a startup pitching session that allowed entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to investors and business angels brought in from Sofia. The panel included Pavel Ezekiev, an investor with Neo Ventures.
Growing the community
Another highlight of the festival was a visit to Coliving Semkovo, which is just 45 minutes from Bansko. It is a new venture by Zeitler to create a digital nomad community using the abandoned infrastructure of a communist-era resort.
Due to its opening in 2024, Zeitler has opened the project to digital nomads as investors who can buy units as a personal base and/or rent those units out to digital nomads through the Semkovo management.
It is an intriguing new investment possibility, and the festival offered an excellent opportunity to see the true potential of the project up close.
Bansko Nomad Fest 2024
While the dates for Bansko Nomad Fest 2024 have not yet been announced, it is definitely worth penciling into your diary. It is a rare opportunity to truly connect with other digital nomads from around the world in an environment of celebration and positivity.
Will you plan to attend Bansko Nomad Fest 2024? Let us know.