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Hiking in Sofia is surprisingly easy for a big capital city.
Dan and I didn’t have a car and we were still able to get our hiking fix during our two-month stay in the city.
One of the most popular places to go hiking in Sofia is on the nearby Vitosha Mountain. It’s less than an hour away and one of the biggest protected reserves in the country.
Ready to check it out? This guide has everything you need to go hiking on Vitosha Mountain, including:
- Why visit Vitosha Mountain?
- How to get from Sofia to Vitosha Mountain by ski lift
- How to get from Sofia to Vitosha Mountain by bus
- How to get from Sofia to Vitosha Mountain with a tour group
- 3 hiking routes on Vitosha Mountain
- What to pack for a day trip to Vitosha Mountain
- Where to Stay on Vitosha Mountain
- And more!
So, keep reading to learn exactly how to go hiking Sofia and enjoy a day out in nature on Vitosha Mountain.
Want more of the outdoors? Join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges.
Vitosha Mountain in the winter
Why Visit Vitosha Mountain?
Vitosha Mountian is more than just your average hike, it’s part of the history and culture of Sofia.
Vitosha is the oldest protected nature park in the Balkans. It was created in 1934 and now encompasses over 100 square miles. It has rivers, caves, waterfalls, monasteries, hot springs, lodges, ski lifts, hiking trails, and so much more to discover.
Vitosha itself is visible from the famous Vitosha pedestrian street that runs through the center of Sofia and rises to a menacing 7,513 feet at it’s highest point – the Black Peak.
This article will help you explore one of Sofia’s most famous sites and get some exercise and fresh air while you do so!
Vitosha in the fall – clearly, this park is worth visiting in any season
How to Hike at Vitosha Mountain
If you want to go hiking in Sofia, Vitosha Mountain is one of the best places to start.
However, bear in mind that outside of the winter season, both the bus and the ski lifts to hike on Vitosha Mountain only operate on weekends and holidays.
If you want to hike on Vitosha Mountain during the week, you’ll only be able to get to the base of the mountain (and not all the way to the top) by public transportation.
View of Sofia at the start of the Simeonovo chair lift to the top of Vitosha Mountain
How to Get to Vitosha Mountain by Ski Lift
You can takes buses 122 or 123 (or a taxi for 12 lev / 7 usd) to the Simeonovo ski lift at the base of Vitosha Mountain – click here to find it on Google Maps.
This is the best option if it’s running. The Simeonovo ski lift takes about 30 minutes and goes directly to Aleko Hut, the base for starting all the highest treks on Vitosha Mountain.
Visit the Ski Vitosha website to check which lifts are operating.
Simeonovo is called the “cabin lift,” so if you see a green checkmark next to it then you’re good to go. The cost for the Simeonovo cabin lift is 14 lev / 8 usd for a round trip and it runs from 9 – 5:30 in the summer.
You can also take the Dragelevski ski lift to the top if Simeonovo isn’t running. Once again, just check the website to make sure it’s operational before you head out!
I took this photo will hiking up Cherni Vrah. The red roof in the distance marks the parking lot where Bus 66 will drop you off near Aleko Hut
How to Get to Vitosha Mountain by Bus
There are two different buses that go to Vitosha Mountain depending on what part you want to reach.
Bus 93 will drop you off at the bottom of the mountain. Here you can take plenty of trails and walk up the mountain to the Dragelevski Monastery and even further to the Boyana Waterfall.
If you want to go to the top of Vitosha Mountain you need to take Bus 66 to Aleko Hut. This will tak you to the starting point to hike at Cherni Vrah – the Black Peak and highest point – or Kamen Del.
Bus 66 starts at the zoo, but you can also check out the Bus 66 route map to see the other stops you can pick it up at.
Like the ski lifts, Bus 66 only runs on weekends and holidays in the summer. However, if you want to go hiking on Vitosha during the week you can take Bus 93 to the base of the mountain any day.
The Dragalevtsi Monastery is easy to combine with the Boyana Waterfall hike because both are near the base of the mountain
How to Get to Vitosha Mountain with a Tour Group
The third option to go hiking on Vitosha Mountain is with the free Sofia Green Tour.
Between April and November, the tour leaves every day at 11 am from the Ivan Vazov National Theater. Best of all, you can just show up without a reservation – and it’s free!
All you need for the free hiking tour is sturdy shoes, lunch, and water, and they’ll take care of the rest. You’ll pay for your share of a taxi ride but after that your payment is tip based.
There are also quite a few guided hikes on Airbnb to the various parks and natural sites around Sofia, including a few up Vitosha Mountain like this night hike for a panoramic view of the lights after dark and this hike with a professional photographer.
Hiking in Sofia toward the Kamen Del view point on Vitosha
Where to Hike on Vitosha Mountain
If you decide to skip the tour and tackle this adventure on your own, here are some of the best places to hike once you reach Aleko Hut at the top of the mountain.
There are three great routes to try out, and it all just depends on what you’re looking for…
View of Sofia from Kamen Del
1. Kamen Del
The first option is to hike to Kamen Del for a view of Sofia. I just did this hike and it was easy and had beautiful views. To be honest, of the the three popular routes on Vitosha Mountain, this one is my favorite.
I wrote a step-by-step guide esplaining exactly how to do it, so click here to learn how to hike to Kamen Del if you’d like a stress-free visit!
Cherni Vrah from Aleko Hut – the hike to the top takes about two hours
2. Cherni Vrah – the Black Peak
The second option is the hike to the peak.
To do this, you first need to take the ski lift of Bus 66 to Aleko Hut.
When you’re facing the building, you’ll see a trail going up on the left. This will take you to Cherni Vrah, the peak of Vitosha Mountain, with about two hours of uphill hiking.
I walked up this trail for only 30 minutes, but the views were spectacular. If you want a workout and some nice photos, take this trail.
Hiking near Aleko Hut on a flat and easy trail
3. Easy Hike at Aleko Hut
Finally, the third option is the easy and flat Aleko Hut trail (that’s not the official name, but I don’t know what is so that’s what I call it.
If you take Bus 66 to the final stop, keep walking straight down the road (which will become a trail).
You’ll pass another small shop on your left side, but keep going. You’ll hike into a forest and walk past a small chapel, some chairlifts, and more. This option is flat, easy, and goes through nice forests and fields.
Hiking to Cherni Vrah, the Black Peak and highest point on Vitosha Mountain
What to Pack for a Day Trip to Vitosha Mountain
Vitosha Mountain is close to Sofia and most hikes on it are fairly short and easy.
However, you’re still at high altitude, which means the weather can change quickly and get much colder than it is in the city, and you’re still out in nature, which means you can get lost and should always come prepared.
For hiking on Vitosha Mountain, I recommend bringing a day pack with:
- Water bottle (I’m partial to the Vibrant Bottle so I don’t have to buy plastic every time)
- Snacks and paked lunch for a picnic
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Jacket or long sleeve to layer of the weather changes
- Cash for the bus or Vitosha chairlift
- Hiking boots (I use and love Timberland boots for all my hikes)
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Where to Stay on Vitosha Mountain
Did you know you can spend the night (or a whole weekend) high above the city on Vitosha Mountain?
Aleko Hut itself actually has terrible reviews (for spending a night, I still recommend stopping in for coffee or a meal) but there are other lodges scattered all throughout the nature park.
You can rent a cabin on Airbnb or check out the hotels.
The Pinus Villas Conference Lodge has an awesome 9.2 rating on Booking.com and is situated over 4,000 ft. above sea level with balconies in every room to enjoy the view. The Family Hotel Saint George has a fab 8.7 rating and panoramic mountain views as well.
Both will allow you to escape the city and experience nature in comfort, with a relaxing room to end your active days in every evening 🙂
Ski lifts on Vitosha Mountain
Use This Guide to Go Hiking in Sofia on Vitosha Mountain
Whichever route you choose on Vitosha Mountain, finish your afternoon relaxing with a beer. At Aleko Hut there are a few restaurants and bars to enjoy after a long day hiking in the sun.
If you’re only hiking in Sofia for one day, don’t miss Vitosha Mountain.
Simply catch bus 66 to Aleko Hut or take a ski lift to the top and enjoy the nice views, fresh air, sunshine, and all that natural Bulgaria has to offer!
Ready to go?
Then, explore more food, nature, and cultural experiences in Sofia to round out your itinerary (or, book a multi-day Eastern Europe tour with Intrepid to see the whole region and finish your travel planning in one click!).
Finally, join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges.
This article is part of the See Sofia Series. Read the rest below:
Or, explore the complete Bulgaria Series for more insider tips on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in the country.
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