With its proximity to the capital of Bulgaria, beautiful nature and amazingly rich flora, Vitosha is one of the “jewels of Sofia”. The National Park Vitosha, which covers an area of 300km2 is the oldest nature park on the Balkan Peninsula, declared a National Park on 27 October 1934 and Natural in 2000. Its sumptuous silhouette is visible from almost all positions in the city and is finally a part of Sofia’s image. The National Park Vitosha is definitely a very nice place to discover nature close to the city.
If you are not Bulgaria and have never been to Vitosha Mountains, I advice you to read my “How to get to it” in the end of my article, because it can be a little bit difficult the first time to find the good way to get it. Alone or with your family, discovering the National Park Vitosha is a very wonderful experience which offers you lot of possibilities to spend time there. Without waiting for the snow, it is a very nice place where walking, strolling alone or in family. Located at only 25 km from Sofia, in South-West direction, it is a very nice place just to take the air on a Wednesday afternoon with the kids or Sunday morning with the family or any other free day in the week. So, like for me the first time I went there, you can just climb to the top. From Aleko, you have to join the top by walking (approximately 30-40min), along beautiful rivers with the sound of water flowing a real pleasure for the senses.
Golden Bridges, the largest stone river in Vitosha Mountains, is situated along the valley of Vladaya River. Arrived on the top, you will be at 2 290 meters (above sea level). The culminating point of Vitosha mountain, the « Cherni Vrah » peak, is situated on a kind of non-wooded platform of approximately 2 km of 2.
A weather station is installed there, as well as military radar equipment. Think to be well covered because on the top of the mountain, it’s not super hot.
Vitosha is the fourth highest mountain in Bulgaria, after Rila (2 925m), Pirin (2 914m) and the Grand Balkan (2 376m).
Arrived there, you will have deserved a break as it climbs. Take your picnic up (with rakia, of course) on this area and thereby observe the scenery breathtaking.
A part of the panorama offers you an amazing view of the city of Sofia which is apparently also one the highest capital in Europe.
The Mountain and the road to join it are very quiet and beautiful. Vitosha’s flora includes all vegetation zones characteristic of the Bulgarian mountains, boasting 2000 varieties of plant species, except the alpine one. Apparently, the number of orchid species found there counts to 30.
It is really very rich and impressive. In Spring and Summer, there are lot of colored flowers and it’s very wonderful. The Vitosha mountain is also home of a diversity of bigger and smaller mammals as bears, foxes, wild pigs, squirrels, rabbits, many birds, insects, reptiles and of course lovely Bulgarian dog who took pose for me.
Then, after having enjoyed the impressive view and what the nature offers you, go down very quietly, take you time for a different perception of the area. For the most sporting of you, Vistosha mountain is mainly and definitely a very nice place to hike for few time. You can find the hiking paths near Boyana Church but domes others places around it. Lot of guides propose group circuits as Bulgaria Walking or Sofia Accueil (an association for french people who live in Bulgaria and which propose, for a 45 levas annual subscription, lot of kind of activities as hiking in Vitosha every weeks).
So, the mountain provides excellent conditions to trek all the year round, to make ski sport because it is also a very famous Ski resort in Bulgaria (there are 6 ski-run of 13km total length), rock and ice climbing, paragliding, riding tours, mountain biking, snow-kiting, kite-winging. Lot of mountain chalets and hotels take place to welcome you as Aleko , Selimitsa , etc. To check all the mountains chalets on the area, click here. Then, Vitosha mountain area offers also other nice and historical places to visit. The Dragalevski Monastery (the 14th century) and the Kladnishki Monastery (he 19th century) are also located on the territory of the park.
The Boyana Church (the 10th century) is situated on the park border and is included in the UNESCO List of Global Cultural Inheritance. The Boyana Waterfall, 5 km away from Boyana center, is the largest waterfall in the territory of Vitosha Mountains. The water falls from a height of 15 meters (it is most easily accessible from the direction of the locality Kopitoto). Then, Duhlata, declared a natural monument in 1962, is the longest cave in Bulgaria (17600m/its depth is 53m) and a natural attraction with galleries of around 18-kilometers length placed at 6 cave levels. It’s also located on the park area, in the locality of the village of Bosnek, on the left bank of the Struma river. So, the Natural Park of Vitosha covers almost the entire Vitosha Mountains. It’s one of the most visited natural monuments in Bulgaria, a popular spot for walks and tourism with the residents of Sofia. It’s definitely a place to visit if you plane to spend few days in Sofia. Enjoy it !
To get more information : Environmental Protection Information Center “Vitosha” (at the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters, Sofia) – Opening hours : Apr – Oct : 9.00 am – 5.30 pm ; Nov – Mar : 9.00 am – 4.30 pm/ Guided tours (in Bulgarian language – free of charge) only upon a preliminary request / Movies in English language are played free of charge upon a preliminary request – Directorate of the Natural Park Vitosha 1303 Sofia City, Vazrazhdane residential section / Tel : +359 2 988 58 41, +359 2 989 53 77/ Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.park-vitosha.org / 17 Antim I Str.Environmental Protection Information Center “Vitosha”, 1 km from Dragalevtsi residential section/ Tel : +359 2 9554152, +359 882 408442/ Email: email@example.com/ Website: www.riew-sofia.org
How to get to it : by car, you have to cross the “Eagles Bridge” and to follow the direction of Carigradsko Sose, on the direction of Plovdiv. On the ring road, turn on the right. Once arrived in Dragalevtsi, take the road up to the ski resort Aleko (25km/48min). Park your car there (it’s free and a guardian is often there to take care to all the area). During the summer season, there are no restrictions on the access. From there, you can walk to the top of the mountain (by Taxi : 7-8 euros). By pubic transport, take the tram 9 on the Hristo-Botev Boulevard to the terminus. At 200m from it, you can find the Bus Station Hladilnika, located at the foot of the mountain. From there, take the Bus 66 to the departure of the chair lift that leads to the Aleko ski resort. You can also take the Bus 122 which brings you to Simeonovo from the chair lift also leading to the ski resort (40min of climb).