Vitosha is a wonder, a nature wonder! Being so close to Sofia, it’s a remarkable destination for all citizens and visitors and one of the best choices for a day trip and quick escape from the busy capital. It is also one of the symbols of Sofia, clearly visible from its main streets, and also the closest site for outdoor activities like walking, hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking, paragliding or just barbecuing.
In this article we`ll give you an idea how to reach Vitosha Mountains from the capital Sofia, by using public transport – a local bus, tram or a lift ride.
From geological, biological and touristic point of view Vitosha represents a complex and very interesting object. Its great terrain and natural diversity of springs, rivers, waterfalls, bogs, seas and forests has always attracted and engaged every nature lover and tourist.
Vitosha is the oldest nature park on the Balkans established 1934. The highest point of the mountain is at 2290 m, called “Black Peak” (Cherni vruh, Черни връх). In 1895 the famous Bulgarian writer Aleko Konstantinov (his monument you can see on Vitosha boulevard – one of the main streets of downtown Sofia) convinced around 300 people to do a mountain hike (for many of them it was for the first time in their lives) from Sofia to the top of the mountain and back. This was the beginning of the mass organized mountain tourism in Bulgaria. What followed was the establishment of many local hiking clubs in order to connect all the enthusiasts and give them opportunities to enjoy the mountains together.
Start points for the hikes in the higher parts of Vitosha: there are two main starting points up in the mountain, reachable by road that you can start you trek:
- Aleko Hut (HIzha Aleko, хижа Алеко) – It is the first hut of Vitosha Mountains, named in the honor of Aleko Konstantinov, situated at 1840 m with good location for hikes. Preferred starting point is the route to Cherni Vrah (2290 m) with a duration of 2 hours and a displacement of 450 meters. Nowadays Aleko is also the center of the Vitosha ski area, with a few ski schools around and easy access to the ski runs. The building has a capacity of 100 beds, floor bathrooms and bathrooms, local heating, tourist dining room, buffet, restaurant, artificial climbing wall, ski wardrobe, ski slope, ski lifts, parking, ATM. The hut is an E-4 point. Exit points: Upper lift station of the lift from Simeonovo (Sofia) – in proximity, Dragalevtzi (Sofia) – 3 hours (14 km by road. This makes it an accessible destination during every season and an ideal location for anyone who wants to enjoy the beautiful view and silence of Vitosha mountain.) An asphalt road from Dragalevtzi reaches the hut. You can take taxi or rent a car. Please keep in mind that sometimes during winter the drive up the road is challenging. Saturday and Sunday Aleko Hut is served by bus №66.
- The Golden Bridges (Zlatnite Mostove, Златните мостове) – a nature landmark, located in the western parts of Vitosha, easily reachable by road. The nature sight itself is consisting of a ribbon of huge boulders running down the mountainside – that`s the so called “stone river”. Located along the shores of Vladayska River in an area of mixed coniferous and broad leaf forests. The name ‘Golden Bridges’ origins from the yellow, “golden” colour of the lichens growing on the surface of the boulders.
By type of transport: Depends of work or weekend days, summer or winter season are you going to hike, there are a few different transport options and combinations to reach your desired destination.
- By bus – there are three public bus lines plus the privately sponsored Lidl line that can drop you to the start points for exploring the Vitosha Mountains. Please note that unfortunately (and shamefully) they all operate only during the weekends and the official holidays.
- Bus №63 – starts from From “Tsar Boris III” Blvd. (magazine. № 2543) to the Golden Bridges ;
- Bus №163 – starts from the National History Мuseum to the Golden Bridges;
- Bus №66 – from Sofia Zoo to Aleko Hut;
- Lidl Greenline – seasonal (please find info below).
There are more regular alternatives that run to the villages located in the periphery of Vitosha – which are nowadays actually suburbs of the capital. Easily reachable are:
- Dragalevtzi (Драгалевци) – buses № 64, 66, 93 and №98
- Knyazhevo (Княжево) – tram №5
- Simeonovo (Симеоново) – buses № 67 and № 98.
- Bistritza (Бистрица) – bus № 68, 69, 70 and №98.
- Boyana (Бояна) – bus №63 and №64
- Zeleznitza (Железница) – buses №68 and №69
You can find the bus schedules on the website of the Sofia Public Transport Company, unfortunately only in Bulgarian.
All these can serve as start points for hikes in the lower parts of the mountains, including visits to Boyana Church and Dragalevski Monastery, and, if you are fit enough, you can even climb Vitosha from its foot up to the top in a day.
Free Lidl Bus (only in Summer) – The so called “green line” is sponsored from the supermarket chain LIdl. Free buses are going to Vitosha Mountains during the weekends and the official holidays only. There are special shuttles only for mountain bikers and other buses for people who prefer to walk or hike:
- If you want to go mountain biking you should catch one of the two lines. The first line starts at 8:20 and 10:30 in the morning from the station near the Sofia Zoo and goes up to Aleko Hut. The buses of the second one start at the same time from Studentski Grad district and are going to the villages Bistritza and Zeleznitza. They are taking passengers only in one direction.
- There are also free buses for the people who prefer to explore Vitosha by foot. They are travelling from the National Stadium “Vasil Levski” up to Zlatnite Mostove, starting at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. The buses return from Zlatnite Mostove to Sofia at 05:00 p.m. and 06:00 p.m. More info on the Lidl Greenline here (only in Bulgarian).
- By lift – the best option if it’s running at the time of your visit.
- The ride with Simeonovo Gondola takes about 30 minutes and you end up directly at Aleko Hut. Visit this website to check if it is currently operating at the time of your visit. It runs from 9 – 5:30 in the summer, in winter it serves the ski area of Vitosha, but also open for non-skiers. You can reach the bottom lift station, located near the Sofia ring road, by taxi or buses №122 from the Zoo or №123 from the so called Cancer Hospital.
- Dragalevtsi – Goli Vrah – a chair lift in two sections. The first one begins above Dragalevtsi Residential District (next to Vodenitsata Restaurant) and ends in Bay Krastyo Area. The lower lift station is located on 925 m. altitude, 1000 m. away from the central square of Dragalevtsi Residential District. The upper is on 1370 m. altitude, the displacement is 445 m. The second part connects Bay Krastyo Area with Goli Vrah Summit. Its length is 1700 m. and the displacement is 448 m. It’s working only in the weekends. Note: in 2018 season the lift is not in operation.
- By car – there are two main roads in Vitosha. One is going through Dragalevtzi main square to Aleko Hut (in the weekends after 11 and before 16 o’clock the road is closed). The other is through Boyana to the Golden Bridges (in the weekends after 11 and before 16 o’clock the road is closed) and further to the area of Konyarnika, passing by a number of huts and small mountain hotels, also near the minor ski area of Vetrovala. A short detour from this road will take you to the TV tower of Kopitoto (Копитото, The Hoof) and some great panoramic points to view the city – during day or night.
- By taxi – Taking a taxi can bring you from the centre of Sofia straight to Aleko Hut or Golden Bridges for around 15 euro one way.
See our recommendations for the best hikes in Vitosha Mountains!