I feel a lucky girl living in a city located in the foot of a mountain. Situated next to Sofia, Vitosha mountain with its highest summit Cherni Vrah (Черни връх, 2290m) is the fourth highest mountain in Bulgaria.
You can see the mountain almost from every point in the city. You can easily escape from the busy city life and find yourself surrounded by century-old pine trees.
Vitosha is the oldest national park on the Balkans. It is known for its stone rivers, called the Golden Bridges (Zlatnite mostove – Златните мостове). The longest cave (17.5 km long) in Bulgaria, Duhlata (Духлата), is also located here.
The mountain is covered with snow from January to March and it is a perfect place for skiing and snowboarding.
Check out below my favourite places in Vitosha mountain and how to get there. You can also join a hiking group that combines climbing the highest summit in the mountain with Boyana waterfall or with Dragalevtsi Monastery.
Climbing Cherni Vrah in Vitosha Mountain
The origin of the name of the peak, Cherni Vrah (which means Black Peak), is uncertain. Most probably the name comes from the black colour of the rock, which dominates the peak. According to other beliefs in the Middle Ages the peak was covered with pine trees, which were burned down to clear more grassland.
Cherni Vrah is the second most windy peak in Bulgaria.
There are many climbing routes, but the most popular starts from Aleko Chalet (хижа Алеко).
The chalet is located at an altitude of 1810m. It is named after the famous Bulgarian writer Aleko Konstantinov. On August 27, 1895, Aleko organized 300 people, including the famous Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov, to climb Cherni Vrah. This is how the tourist movement in Bulgaria was established. Since then, every year on the last weekend of August a mass climbing of the peak takes place.
How to get to Vitosha mountain from Sofia
The easiest way to get to Aleko Chalet from Sofia is by using Simeonovski gondola lift. You need to take bus 122 or 123 and take off on the last stop, which is in front of the lift station. From there you have to take the gondola lift to Aleko Chalet. To see the prices for the lift click here.
The trip is about 30 minutes. If you are using the underground you have to take off at G.M. Dimitrov station (Г.М. Димитров) and then switch to bus 123.
Cherni Vrah climbing route from Aleko Chalet
Take the path, located on the steep slope just next to the chalet.
The first part of the route is the hardest one and you will need about 40 minutes to pass it.
After that it is a pleasant walk to the peak.
The route is marked, so just follow the signs.
You will pass along few stone rivers, but more on that latter in the post.
The climbing will take you about hour and a half to the summit.
There is a meteorological station on the summit and a cafeteria offering hot meals. No accommodation is available.
A map of the climbing routes to Cherni Vrah you can find here.
The Golden bridges in Vitosha mountain
Probably your imagination is already drawing pictures of bridges covered with gold. Not to forget the fat wealthy trolls living under them and asking all your gold only to let you pass..
I don’t want to ruin this, but the truth is a different story. The Golden bridges are in fact stone rivers in Vitosha mountain. They are named in that way because of the golden colour of the lichens that grow on the surface of the stones.
The main river is extending to 2.2km in length and up to 150m wide with several smaller rivers starting from it. The rivers are a result of weathering of rocks accumulated in old river beds.
How to get to the Golden bridges
There is a public transport to the Golden Bridges during the weekends. You need to take bus 63 and take off on the last stop.
However its runs very rarely and it is over packed. I tried to catch it early in the morning around 9 AM, but there were so many people that I just couldn’t get inside. I waited for the next one, but it was almost the same story. This time I managed to get in, but the trip was a nightmare. I was barely breathing because of the crowd.
So my advice is to catch this bus really early in the morning or at noon and avoid it on public holidays.
The last stop of the bus is the Golden bridges. To take the bus back to the city you have to go 200m ahead from the stop you got off.
Numerous hiking routes start from here, but my favourite one is to Kopitoto.
Vitosha mountain TV Tower and the most beautiful view over Sofia
The TV Tower is known as Kopitoto (Копитото) which means the Hoof. It is 186m tall. The tower is most easily accessed by car. However it can be reached by foot from the Golden bridges.
How to get to Vitosha mountain TV Tower (Kopitoto)
There are no signs directing you to Kopitoto from the Golden bridges. You have to follow the signs to Momina Skala hut first. From there there are signs that will direct you to Kopitoto.
The path to the TV tower is easy with no steep slopes.
Although it can not be visited you can still see the city from above. Pass along the tower and enter in an old abandoned lift station.
Exit from the other side of the station and you will see the city spread under your feet.