Vitosha mountain is the greatest benefit that city of Sofia have. Four highest mountain in Bulgaria with area of almost 300 km2. A perfect direction to escape the city to enjoy nature and practice some outdoor activities. And because that, for me is mandatory spot for all visitors of the city. Unfortunately, only Boyana waterfall or Black peak (highest waterfall and peak in mountain) are part of guided tours on organisations like Sofia Green Tour, where I participate. But in the mountain have so many interesting spot that worthy and in fact is easy to explore and by himself. No matter that most maps of the mountain are on Bulgarian, major paths and alley are well marked with signs and strip marking. And always you can find local who will be happy to go in mountain with you.
People Vs Wild
No matter that mountain is so close to the capital, still that is a real mountain, mostly part of Nature Park Vitosha. Park is created in 1934 to preserve nature and wild life in mountain. In general mountain can be divided on two parts – North and South (geographically are 4). Illustrative touristic border of this two parts passes from Jeleznitsa village through Academica hut, Black peak, Sedloto shelter, Ostritca hut and Rudartsi village.
Most touristic accommodation and infrastructure are in North – facing to Sofia part, with lot of huts, shelters and resting places along the way. That is and most visited part of the mountain. For that reason is very rear to meet wild animals. Next to houses of Sofia districts you may see grass-snakes and foxes, in forest between 1500 – 1800 m.a.s.l. some deer and near top goats and vipers. But hardly at all the noise and crowds of tourists, so reconcile that will see only birds and salamanders. On South is a wild part – high grass, some pine groves, a few benches, a lot of blue and rose-berries and 5 – 6 bears and few wolfs… For now deal is that – we stay on North, bears in South. Only people break this deal, luckily…
How to go there
So close to Sofia give and easy access next to the mountain. Key here is NEXT. With public transportation of Sofia, you can go to any of Sofia districts or villages in the foothills, which is already 300 meters up from the city center. Most popular starting points are Kniazevo, Boyana, Vladaya, Dragalevtsi and Bistritsa – 35 to 50 minutes from downtown. Still to rich them in most cases you need to do at least one transfer. Easiest is to go to Kniazevo only with Tram 5 from center – behind Justice court or on boulevard where is Hostel Mostel. Buses for Vladaya starts few meters from last stop of Tram 5 in Kniazevo. With buses 107 to Boyana church and 64 to Boyana and Dragalevtsi is little more complicated. Again use Tram 5 to Acad. Geshov stops, then on left walk for 5-10 minutes and will find Bus 64 first stop, or on Ovcha Cupel stop (same for trip to Rila monastery) is 107 bus stop. Easy for Dragalevtsi is to get bus 64 not from Tram 5, but from Metro station Vitosha. For Bistritsa village, Business Park Metro station is perfect to make connection with bus 314.
To go up in the mountain is little complicated. There is two roads – leading to Zlatni mostove area and Aleko ski center, where you may go in weekend by bus 63 and 66 scheduled every 45-55 minutes and limited in seasons. I stop trusted this lines years ago, hope soon municipality will make access to the mountain much comfortable.
To go into the mountain by chair lift or gondola is a lot more complicated. No real and actual time table and work time, with two words – extortion tool of managing company when want to violate Park Vitosha protection rules.
For actual information about buses, better to check first Urban Mobility Center site.
Do not underestimate the mountain
Vitosha is one of biggest Bulgarian mountains. As I say up – four highest mountain (2290m), with circumference almost 100km and 280 km2. For the unprepared tourist or a self-confident urban boy is very dangerous “alpine” area which start from 1800-1900m.a.s.l. up. Top of the mountain is most prominent plateau and open, so weather change quickly (especially from September to April), rain is cold and clouds/fog make low visibility. In winter on plateau have more that meter snow and few avalanche danger areas. On North is easy, most of the time you see the city, and may go down for less two hours. South is tricky. Without GPS in bad weather is hard to follow path or find a shelter. Always in the mountain (every mountain) is good to have rescue insurance and to know how to connect with Mountain Rescue team.
What is worth seeing
Such a big mountain have a lot natural landmarks and sightseeing to offer.
Only “big” (18 m. high) and deserving to see waterfall is Boyana waterfall. Is not hard to go alone to him, but with Sofia Green Tour will learn more about mountain and the city.
Iconic symbol of the mountain are stone rivers. Popularly called Morines, round stones are the result of the action of water and wind, not a glacier. Most popular are Zlatni mostove (Golden bridges) area, where stone river is more that 1 km long and 60 m wide.
Nice meadows for picnic and games are next to Zlatnite mostove, Momina skala hut, Aleko hut and near to Zheleznitsa village. Boyana lake is also nice place to relax and recreation.
And at last – a peaks that need to go. First is Cherni vrah (Black peak) – highest in the mountain, next are Kamen del with best view to Sofia field (if look to Vitosha from Sofia will see peak and stone river) and Kikish (lower version of Kamen del – photo up with my niece). And of course – Kopitoto – the peak with old TV Tower…
See in next article about activities, hike and bike routes and marked paths… (work on it)