Vitosha Mountain is the oldest nature park on the Balkan Peninsula. Its gorgeous silhouette is visible from almost all positions in the city and is inseparable part of Sofia’ image.
In 1934 with the active involvement of the Bulgarian nature-conservation society, part of the mountain of 6,600 ha was declared a park. Its boundaries have been changed many times and today encompass the entire mountain of 27,079 ha area. On the park’s territory 61 types of habitats were identified; among them of greatest interest as far as nature conservation goes are the natural spruce forests, the peat areas, the moraines and the caves.
Vitosha’s flora includes all vegetation zones characteristic of the Bulgarian mountains, except the alpine one. The park is habitation of a plenty of Balkan endemics, and the globular yellow blossoms of the Vitosha tulip (Trollius europaeus) can be seen on the open high-mountain parts. The number of orchid species found on its territory counts to 30. The mountain is home of a diversity of bigger and smaller mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians. In the different seasons 200 bird species can be observed in Mount Vitosha, of them 120 species nesting within the park’s territory.
Typical inhabitants of the spruce forests are the nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), coal tit (Parus ater), common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), etc. The longest cave in Bulgaria, Duhlata, is also situated in Mount Vitosha: it is a natural attraction with galleries of around 18-kilometre length placed at 6 cave levels.
Sofia is the single European capital in the vicinity of which brown bear lives. Since 2002 the park’s administration successfully carries out a project of reviving of the Balkan wild goat, a species that perished in the mountain more than 100 years ago. On establishing the park, some of the earliest reserves in Bulgaria – Bistrishko Branishte and Torfeno Branishte were set up.
Located on the north-eastern slope of Mount Vitosha, Bistrishko Branishte Reserve was established with the aim to preserve in their natural condition high-mountain spruce forests, sub-alpine grass cohabitations, rock formations and stone rivers. In 1977 the reserve was defined as a biosphere reserve according to UNESCO’s international Man and Biosphere Program. The largest in Bulgaria compound of high mountain peat areas with its characteristic hydrophilic vegetation and extraordinary water-holding qualities is preserved in the Torfeno Branishte Reserve.
Climbing Mount Vitosha was the purpose of the first organized tourist society in Bulgaria. The tourist movement in Bulgaria has been set up with the climbing of the Cherni Vrah Peak, the summit of Mount Vitosha, on 27 August 1895 organized by writer Aleko Konstantinov. Today the park is furnished with a well-built tourist infrastructure of paths and alleys of over 300 km total length. The mountain provides excellent conditions for trekking all the year round, ski sport in all of its varieties (there are 6 ski-run of 13.6 km total length), rock and ice climbing, paragliding, mountain biking, riding tours, and also for alternative, environment-friendly winter sports, such as snow-kiting, kite-winging, etc. There are a lot of mountain chalets and hotels in the northern part, the chalets being the following: Aleko, Selimitsa, Kumata, Fonfon, Tintyava, Edelweiss, Momina Skala.
The most familiar tourist routes start from points at Knyazhevo and Dragalevtsi Quarters leading to Aleko locality below the Cherni Vrah Peak, Zlatnite Mostove and Kopitoto localities. More information about the public transport to Vitosha and useful telephone numbers you will find in the Useful Information Section of this guide.
Vitosha Naturе Park is the most frequented protected territory in Bulgaria, and due to its proximity to Sofia it has turned into a site of education in responsible attitude towards nature. The park is preferable place for carrying out green and sports schools for children. In the recent years a lot of information centers and alleys were built in it. The nature conservation center in Dragalevtsi, the Museum of Bear in the Dendrarium Locality, the Museum of Dragon Fly and the House of Owlets in the locality of Belite Brezi, the information alley about the peat areas in the Ofeliyte locality, the dendrological alley arranged for blind people, and the Interpretative Center for children in the Dendrarium Locality function for all fans of nature. In the area of Iglikina Polyana a special alley adapted to people with locomotors-system disorders is built.
In the National Park Information Center in Sofia they will inform you of all Bulgarian parks and of a great number of other protected areas locally and in foreign countries as well. The access to Mount Vitosha is provided through regular bus routes and lifts.