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The Vitosha Mountain

One of the most significant landmarks in Sofia is the view of the Vitosha Mountain in the background. Its close proximity to the city's centre means that visitors can enjoy a morning of cultural delights then take a short bus ride to exercise their bodies and minds on Bulgaria's most visited mountain.

Vitosha's EvolutionVitosha evolved as the result of volcanic activity. It is 19 km long and 17 km wide and can be separated into four distinct areas, all of which meet at the highest peak (2,290 m) known as the Black Peak or Cherni Vrah. In ancient times Thracians lived at the mountains base and one way or another it has always had a thriving community of people living at its foot. The variety in elevation has given rise to a number of diverse climates, which have spawned some rare and unique flora and fauna. Around 1,500 plant species, 500 mushrooms and 326 different types of moss grow here. Of these and many other plant species, 31 of them are native to the Blakans only and 52 are so rare that they are listed in Bulgaria's Red book of Endangered Species.


Vitosha Sights

You don't have to be overly active to appreciate the many wonders of nature on this spectacular mountain, indeed it offers something for everyone. Bulgaria's longest cave, Duhlata is located here. It stretches for 17.5 km and has 16 different sections over seven levels as well as six underground streams. You need to arrange a visit to the cave as it is not open to the general public, however it is possible to do this and the beauty inside is astounding; there are numerous stalactites and stalagmites and some rare animal species, which are still being studied by experts who think they have adapted from life on the sea bed. Archeologists have found many Thracian artifacts, proving that the entrance to the cave was once inhabited. There is also a 10th century Thracian burial mound nearby. The "Living Water" spring is also close to the cave. It is the only limestone spring on Vitosha and is so named because of the musical sound of the water as it hits the rocks.

The Golden Bridges is a scenic spot, which looks like a massive stone river. The mountain has many stone rivers but this is the largest of them all. It consists of a stretch of huge rocks, which run for over 2 km down the mountain. Whilst the remnants of this river have nothing to do with bridges, the site is so named because of the golden colour of the plants that grow on the stone's surface.

The Bistrishko Braniste nature reserve on the eastern slope isa Unesco Biosphere Reserve because it is home to an ancient spruce forest, where some of the trees are about 150 years old and 25 m tall. This part of the park is part of the oldest national park on the Balkan Peninsula; in addition to the forests it also contains some verdant, wide meadows, which are a carpet of colour during spring with rare wild flower species such as the beautiful yellow Vitosha Tulip.

One of the mountains most spectacular sites is the Boyana Waterfall, which is 15 m high. It lies at an altitude of 1,260 m and is at its best during the spring when the snow melts and gushes down through the water. Nearby in Boyana village there is a church, which is a UNESCO heritage site. It consists of several different sections each one built during a different period in history. Its interior walls are decorated with some remarkable wall paintings, some of which date back to the 13th century.
Another worthy natural sight is the Kominite, a very tall group of perpendicular rocks, which as their Bulgarian name suggests look like a stack of chimneys. The tallest "chimney" is around 70 m in height and is a great challenge to some of the areas avid climbers. Another rock formation known as the Orlovo Gnezdo or the Eagle's Nest is close by and is also worth seeing, though this group is not as tall as the Chimney Rocks.

Mountain Activities

There really is something for everyone on Vitosha with paragliding, challenging rock faces, which attract climbers to the mountain's eastern face and a mineral spa at the mountains foot. Hiking is one of the most practiced sports on the mountain and it is easy to understand why; the mountains tall peaks and lush forests, clean air and well-developed facilities make it irresistible to those who like to hit a new trail and enjoy nature.

During winter the slopes are full with Sofia's active inhabitants, who come to the mountain to take advantage of its ski facilities. There are two ski centres here offering three lifts, but because each lift has a different operator you need to buy a separate lift pass for each one. Nevertheless, compared to other ski resorts in the country, Vitosha offers excellent value reflecting the fact that it is still a local resort. The largest ski area is the one around the Aleko Chalet and it is at this spot that you can take the Romanski chair lift up to the Cherni Vruh peak.

You don't have to be fighting fit to enjoy the mountain - you can cheat and take a chairlift from one of the ski centres to the top of the Cherni Vrah, where you can marvel in the panoramic views of the area and the capital in the distance. There are also several restaurants and cafes where you can relax and enjoy the views.

Take Care

Whilst the facilities on the mountain are very good and you don't have to be an expert skier, climber of hiker to use them it is wise to take a few precautions to ensure your personal safety.
1. Make sure you inform someone of your whereabouts on the mountain.
2. Take adequate protective clothing with you as well as some food and water. Mountain temperatures can change significantly with very little notice.
3. Take a mobile phone with you and make sure that it is fully charged before you leave. The Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) is on call for 24 hours a day on 02 963 20 00 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 02 963 20 00 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

4. Plan your route and stick to it. Whilst there is so much to see, you should not bite off more than you can chew. Take a good map and stick to your planned route.