Vitosha Mountain

Last updated Sep 2015
Good to Know
 

Status: National park
Area: 300 sq km
Entrance Fee: Free

 

Accessible by city buses and lifts

 

Nature Reserve Areas:
Torfeno Branishte
Bistrishko Branishte

Rules of the game
 

No fires outside the designated fire pits

 

No camping outside designated areas

 

Do not pick flowers, cut branches, etc.

 

Do not litter

 

 

Sofia is fortunate to have many parks and wooded areas, but when thinking of nature one word comes to mind: Vitosha


Accessible by public transportation, car and taxi, mount Vitosha is a popular destination for day hikes, picnics and skiing. 

The mountain is encompassed with a good, though somewhat outdated, network of lifts, trails, ski slopes and mountain huts. 

In the summer and on weekends, the trails closest to the city can get crowded, but overall the mountain remains underutilized by the locals. One small step off the beaten track and you will feel like you have the place to yourself.

Plan to spend at least a half day or, even better, a full day of hiking.


VITOSHA MOUNTAIN: QUICK FACTS

The Balkan Range might be the mountain occupying a prominent place in Bulgarian folklore as a refuge for revolutionaries or brigands, but it was Vitosha that captured the imagination of the first mountaineers.  

It was the first to be designated a national park in 1934, and most its territory has remained protected ever since. Many of the mountain huts and shelters date back to that era. 


Relief

With 10 peaks reaching over 2000m, thick pine forests and barren alpine terrain, Vitosha deserves to be called a real mountain. 

Its geology remains open to interpretations and academic debate.

One urban myth even claims it is a dormant volcano.

It is not!

Vitosha had never erupted and we sincerely hope it stays that way.


Highest Peak

Cherni Vrah or Black peak (2292m) is Vitosha’s highest.
 

Boulder Slopes

Vitosha is known for its boulder-covered slopes, called “stone rivers” in Bulgarian and in some English language guidebooks.

The area of Zlatnite Mostove (Golden Bridges) is the best place to check one out.

 


Wrongly called "morains", the large boulders are not glacial in origin but formed by weathering and denudation


Mountain Etiquette

Bulgarian hikers have the lovely custom of greeting each other and do it with remarkable vigor and consistency, even on crowded trails!

A short "Dobar den" (Good day) or "Zdravejte" (Hello) will do.
 

 

APPROACHING VITOSHA 

Start your Vitosha hike from the one of Sofia's South Ring suburbs

  • Simeonovo
     
  • Dragalevtsi
     
  • Boyana  


Or head further south to 

  • Kniazhevo 
     
  • Vladaya  


Alternatively, go east to the villages of 

  • Bistritsa  
     
  • Zheleznitsa 

 

All are accessible by public transport.

If going to Simeonovo, Dragalevtsi, Boyana and Kniahevo you might also take a taxi. (Approx 15 lv)

Simeonovo has a cable car going 1 km up (recommended!).

Dragalevtsi offers a shortcut into the mountain by an open chair lift that operates on weekends.

Kladnitsa  and Bosnek (near the town of Pernik) are good starting points only if you have a car and want to explore the lesser known southern side of Vitosha Mountain.

 


SIMEONOVO - ALEKO CABLE CAR


The easiest way to approach Vitosha is to go to the suburb of Simeonovo and get on the Simeonovo cable car to Aleko hut station. 


HOW TO GET TO SIMEONOVO CABLE CAR STATION  

By bus: Bus 122 from Hladilnika bus station  (20 min) from 8 am to 7 pm (once per hour)
Bus 123 from G M Dimitrov Metro station
 (20 min) from 7.20 am to 18.30 pm (approx. once per hour)

By taxi: 10-12 lv from the city center

Car Parking: 5 lv per day


CABLE CAR FACTS

Length: 6.2 km
Time: 35 min
Bottom Station: Simeonovo
Top Station: Aleko area

2 intermediary stations 
Built: 1983


TICKETS

Adults: 8 lv / 10 lv two-ways 
Students: 6 one way /8 lv two-ways
Dogs: 4 lv one way /6 lv two-ways
Bikes: 4 lv one way /6 lv two-ways



Hidden behind a shopping mall and an IKEA, this is the most popular launch pad for a day in the mountain.

Hop on the cable car to Aleko area and start the 1h 30 minute climb to Cherni Vrah Summit  from there. 

Aleko is also the starting point for trails back down to Simeonovo (2h 30min), Bistritsa (2h 30min) or Zheleznitsa (3h 30min). 

Another easy and popular trail cuts through the flat Vitosha Plateau to the area of Zlatnite mostove, famous for its picture perfect “stone rivers” and its staggering crowds (2h 30min).

Not in the mood for serious hiking?

Walk around and have lunch at Moten hostel (open year round on weekends only) or have a picnic on a sunny meadow.

 

ALEKO BY BUS

Want to miss out on the fun of riding a cable car and don’t feel like hiking up? 

The city runs bus 66 to hotel Morenite(via Dragalevtsi) once per hour on weekends (7.50 to 5 pm). It is 10 minute walk to Aleko from there.

The bus leaves from Hladilnika bus station across from Paradise shopping mall. 

Price: 4 lv one way / 6 lv two ways

 

ALEKO BY CAR

For the car-obsessed, a 14-km cobbled road leads from Dragaletsi to Aleko. 

Bear in mind that the parking at the top can be difficult on weekends. 

 

DRAGALEVTSI LIFT STATION


 

The Dragalevtsi chair lift offers an alternative shortcut into Vitosha on weekends.
 

HOW TO GET TO DRAGALEVTSI CHAIR LIFT STATION 

Bus: Bus 93 from Hladilnika bus station  (20 min).
One bus per hour from 8.20 am -7.20 pm

Taxi: approx. 10-12 lv from city center

Car Parking: free street parking 

Walking from Dragalevtsi’s central square (25 minutes) 


This antiquated chair lift operates on weekends and holidays only (9 am to 5 pm).

Note that times of operation might change in wet or windy days.


DRAGALEVTSI CHAIR LIFT STATIONS

  • Intermediary Station: Bay Krastyo (1380 m above sea level / 15 min) 

    Get off at Bay Krastyo station to hike to Kominite peaks (30 min) or to the Vitosha plateau (1h 30 min).

    CAUTION: Avalanche –prone area! Avoid in the winter!

  • Top Station: Goli Vrah (1818 m above sea level / 17 min) 

From Goli Vrah station head to Cherni Vrah summit (1h 30 min) or simply walk to Aleko area for lunch (10 min).
 

If hanging from ropes put up in the 1960’s is not your thing, take a short walk from Dragalevtsi lift station to the Dragalevtsi monastery  (15 min).



Dragelevtsi Monastery

 

Fit hikers might brace up for a rewarding climb to Aleko (2h 30min) or Cherni Vrah Summit (4h).



DRAGALEVTSI


 

Many Vitosha trails commence at the suburb of Dragalevtsi.


HOW TO GET TO DRAGELEVTSI 

Bus: buses 64, 93, 98 from Hladilnika bus station 

Taxi: 10-12 lv

Parking: Free parking at the central square


This upscale Sofia neighborhood is a good starting point for a short walk to the Dragalevski Monastery (50 min). 

Serious hikers might head to Aleko (2h 45min) or Cherni Vrah (4h 30min). Follow the red trail markings to Goli Vrah and the pole markings to Cherni Vrah.

 

BOYANA


A number of hiking trails start here.
 

HOW TO GET TO BOYANA 

Bus: 64 from Hladilnika bus station  or Centar po Higiena bus station. Every 20-35 minutes (5.30 am - 11.10 pm).

Taxi: 10-12 lv


The poshest of the posh suburbs along Sofia’s south ring road is known to tourists mainly for the UNESCO listed Boyana church and the National History Museum, but it is also a popular launch pad for Vitosha hikes.

See the Boyana Church, the Boyana Lake and the Dragalevtsi Monastery in one day (1h 40min) and ride back to the city on bus 93 that services the Dragalevtsi Lift station

Hike up to Momina Skala hut (2h 10min), have lunch, and walk to Zlatnite Mostove area (30 min) and descend to the the suburbs of Kniazhevo  (2h) or Vladaya  (1h 30min) from there.

 

KNIAZHEVO

HOW TO GET TO KNIAZHEVO 

Public transport: Tram 5 from behind the Court Buliding on Vitosha Blvd  to last stop (40 min).

Taxi: 15 lv


Famous for its mineral springs, Kniazhevo was the place where the early 20th century elite had their villas and summer residences. Today, this neighborhood is far less pretentious. Until recently the busy road to Greece ran along its main street. 

The geologically minded can hike from here to the Zlatnite Mostove area famous for boulder covered slopes, which locals call “stone rivers” (2h 30min).

Another popular trail leads to Momina Skala hut  (2h 30min).

Both areas are accessible by car and popular with picnickers. 

To avoid the masses and the pervasive smell of grilled meat, head away from the paved roads.

 



POPULAR VITOSHA HIKING ROUTES

Ask 10 people about their favorite Vitosha day-hikes and you will get 10 different answers. 

There are so many marked and unmarked trails crossing the mountain that consensus is difficult.

Here are some suggestions for trails that are both popular and easily accessible.

 


Simeonovo - Aleko - Cherni Vrah (2h)

Take the Simeonovo cable car (35 min) to its last stop at Aleko area. 

From there, lace up your shoes for an easy—we mean plenty-of-children-and-dogs easy—walk to the boulder-covered summit (1h 30min).

 


The trail from Aleko to Cherni Vrah


Small lodge at the top sells tea and refreshments. 

Make sure you are back down to Aleko before the cable car’s closing time. 

Fit hikers might consider taking the steep trail from Simeonovo (last stop of bus 67) that meanders under the cable car line to Aleko (3h 20min) and conquering the summit after a lunch break at Aleko (1h 30min).


Aleko - Bistritsa village (2h 30min) or

Aleko - Zheleznitsa village (3h 30min)

Hikers without knee problems, take the Simeonovo lift to Aleko (35 min), turn left and follow trail marking for a steep descent to Bistritsa  (2h 30min) or Zheleznitsa (3h 30min). 
 


The trail from Aleko to Bistritsa, obstructed by fallen trees

 

Both trails pass through the Bistrishko Branishte Natural Reserve, where the extensive damage from a 2001 tornado is still visible.

While in the reserve, hikers should only stay on the designated trails.

Once down to Bistritsa’s (or Zheleznitsa's) central square, take bus 98 to James Bauchier metro station

Do the trails in reverse for a much more strenuous experience. 
 

 

Aleko - Zlatni Mostove Area (2h 30min)

This popular trail in the upper reaches of the mountain crosses mostly through the flat, treeless terrain of the Vitosha Plateau

 


Vitosha Plateau

 

The trail goes by the Torfeno Branishte Natural Reserve, a vast peatland, formed by moss and decomposed organic matter over thousands of years.

The highest point along the trail is between the peaks of Kamen Del and Ushite.

Photographers and view hounds should take the short detour to Kamen Del for a glistering 180-degree panorama of Sofia, before entering a lush forest trail that leads to Zlatnite Mostove

A free weekend bus operates between July and September from Zlatnite Mostove to the National Stadium .

Another option is to walk from there to Vladaya (1h 30min) or Kniazhevo (2h).

 

SAFETY 

Vitosha might be in the city’s backyard, but it should not be taken lightly. People do get lost on Vitosha and fatalities, alas extremely rare, do occur. 

The mountain is most dangerous in winter with several avalanche-prone areas. 

The so called Vitosha plateau between the peaks of Malak Rezen, Goliam Rezen, Cherni Vrah, Selimitsa and Kamen Del is especially tricky year round in foggy conditions for its flat barren terrain.



SAFETY TIPS

  • Don’t hike alone, especially in the winter.
     
  • Have a map, a compass and a fully charged phone and GPS.
     
  • Check the weather forecast for Vitosha. Note that the weather in Sofia and on Vitosha might differ significantly. The average temperature on Vitosha (0 C) is 10 degrees lower than the average temperature in Sofia (10,5 C). Strong winds, rain and fog are also common.
     
  • Leave early in the morning and be back before sunset.
     
  • Inform your local host, hotel reception or friends about your hiking plans and your intended route.
     
  • Avoid avalanche-prone areas in the winter. 
     
  • Have a small backpack with any emergency medicine you might need, sun hat or winter hat and gloves, light jacket (summer), sunscreen (summer and winter), matches, a reaincoat, some snacks and a water bottle.
     
  • When in doubt ask! Vitosha is fairly populated and the markings at times can be misleading. People who traverse the mountain are a special breed and will go out of their way to help you.
  • In case of emergency call 112 (English speaking operators are available).


 

Last updated Sep 2015
 
   
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