Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, undoubtedly boasts several quite impressive features that will attract the attention of even the most skeptical of tourists, but there is one feature in particular that stands out from the crowd… literally. This is Vitosha Mountain.
Located on the outskirts of the city, it is an unexpected and refreshing alternative to the busy urban metropolis and its stressful ways. And the best part is that the mountain’s lofty grandeur and imposing body are clearly visible from basically any point in the city so there is simply no chance of missing out on its crisp natural beauty.
Those of you who happen to be in the neighbourhood during the warm and sunny autumn season are, in our humble opinion, the luckiest, because Vitosha looks prettier than anything then. It resembles a delicate impressionist masterpiece painted by a skillful artist. There are a few ways to become part of this picture.
Depending on how you want to approach Vitosha, there are at least two dozen bus services and shuttle buses which can take you to various points in the mountain. Of course you can also opt to go by car or, in case you are keen walkers, you can always take one of the numerous footpaths and hike your way up to the top.
If you are less energetic like us, though, and prefer to enjoy nature in a lazy sort of way, then we suggest taking either the Simeonovo gondola lift or the Dragalevtsi chairlift. They will take you on an exciting voyage through a colourful sea of red, golden and brown beech trees and oaks and majestic green pines and will offer the most breathtaking views of Sofia in exchange for just about BGN 10.
The two aerial lifts will get you to Aleko Mountain Hut and Bai Krastio Mountain Hut, respectively. Both of them are very cosy and provide food and shelter to tourists. Naturally, there are plenty of other huts and hostels scattered all over the mountain where one can get a warm cup of tea or a bowl of delicious chicken soup and spend the night in an authentic alpine atmosphere. But there is more to huts than their rugged stone-and-wood appeal… this is also where most of the mountain fun and adventures begin.
And speaking of mountain fun, Vitosha really flaunts a wide array of activities for tourists to choose from. First of all, there are virtually hundreds of amazing hiking trails, which run through cool forests and picturesque meadows. Our personal favourites are the sunny and quiet route from Zheleznitsa Village to Fizkulturnik Mountain Hut and the footpath between the villages of Bistritsa and Zheleznitsa which is not steep at all and is excellent for picnics and relaxing walks.
Due to its compactness and accessibility, Vitosha Mountain is also perfect for one-day tours and trips. For example, in just one day you can go across the entire mountain from Knyazhevo to Aleko Mountain Hut, climb Cherni Vrah (Black Peak) and then head for Selimitsa Mountain Hut where you can marvel at the astonishing views of the setting sun with a glass of mulled wine in hand. And if you have a soft spot for natural phenomena don’t forget to check out Vitosha’s Stone Rivers and the Boyana Waterfall.
Of course the snowy ski slopes of Vitosha in the winter can be just as attractive, but we will tell you more about them in another travel article.