Vitosha National Park

Vitosha National Park



Location: Sofia Province Map

Park map

Area: 27 079 hectares

Directorate of the Vitosha National Park:

1303 Sofia City, Vazrazhdane residential section

Tel. 359 2 98 5841

359 2 989 53 77



Description of Vitosha National Park

Vitosha National Park is covering much of the Vitosha mountain that overshadows the Bulgarian capital of Sofia below. Vitosha National Park a nature reserve that covers most of Vitosha mountain that towers over Bulgarian capital of Sofia. First trails through the Vitosha mountain were made in the 19th century by private organizations and their volunteers. On 27 October 1934 Vitosha National Park was officially established and thus making it is the oldest park in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula. Today it covers an area of 27 079 hectares. In addition to Vitosha National Park, parts of Vitosha mountain are also protected by Bistrishko Branishte (Bistritsa Forest Reserve) on the North- East slope of Golyam Rezen Peak (2,277 meters above sea level) and Skoparnik Peak (2,226 meters above sea level) and reservation Torfeno Branishte (Turf Forest Reserve). Bistrishko Branishte is of particular value. It was established to protect virgin broad- leaved forests and in 1977 it was declared a biosphere reservation by the UNESCO.
Some of the most prominent destinations on Vitosha mount include Boyana waterfall, which is the highest in the park, Samokovishteto waterfall on the river Bistrica, declared a natural landmark. Additionally Vitosha contains the Duhlata Cave near a village of Bosnek on the left bank of the Struma river. Its natural underground tunnels stretch for 18 km thus making it one of the longest cave systems in Bulgaria.
Vitosha National Park is a favorite place for tourism among international and domestic tourists alike. During summer months a network of hiking trails allow visitors to venture in all areas of Vitosha National Park. In Winter Vitosha mountains is open for skiing and snowboarding. Aleko chizha (mountain inn) which offers ski and snowboard rental is located in the extensive ski resort.


Vitosha National Park is located just miles from a Bulgarian capital of Sofia it is easily accessed by public transport. Most popular starting points for hiking are villages of Zheleznitsa and Bistritsa or Northern suburbs of Sofia, Dragalevtsi, Simeonovo and Boyana. Unlike other protected reserve mount Vitosha is doted by more than 40 lodges and small hotels as well as several shelters. Some of the larger hospital on mount Vitosha include Aleko (named after Aleko Konstantinov) located in the area Aleko on a Black Peak, Kupena hut (Academic) at Mount Golam Kupen, hotel Kamen northwest of Mount Kamen Del, Hotel Bor North of Mount Cherna Skala (Black Rock), hut Selimitsa west of Mount Selimitsa and many others. Additionally you might be interested in visiting ruins of hotel Fonfon. It was constructed in the 20th century to house people who are deaf. Unfortunately an accidental gas explosion destroyed much of its structure. Today only ruins of the former beautiful building are hidden in the vast forest of Vitosha.
Some of lodges on Vitosha National Park offer room for overnight stay, while others serve food and drinks for tourists. Soups like Bob Chorba (bean soup) or Shopska salada (type of salad) are worth a try. Shkembe chorba is probably the best soup you will try on Vitosha or anywhere in Bulgaria. It is made of lamb intestines, but despite it is worth a try. It tastes much better than it sounds.
Tourist routes on Vitosha National Park are numerous. You might spend weeks hiking on Vitosha and still won't see most of them. However some of the more popular routes include trailes between Dragalevci to Aleko hut and Black Peak (marked with red paint). Zheleznitsa village to Black Peak (marked with blue paint), two trails from Bistritsa to Aleko hut (marked with gree paint), from Knyajevo to Golden Bridges (marked with yellow paint) and Black Peak to Bukapreslapski passage (marked with red paint).
Vitosha Mountain is famous for many features, however its stone rivers also known as moraines are of particular interest. These natural formations track the movement of former glaciers that broke the cliffs of Vitosha mountain into smaller boulders. These rocks range from a size of a football to a size of compact car. Particularly famous moraines are those found at the Zlatni Mostove or Golden Bridges located at an elevation of 1,390 meters above sea level. It gets its name from bright golden lichens that grow on boulders making it appear as golden.
In addition to natural beauty Vitosha National Park contains several historic sights. One of the most popular and most visited is the Dragalevsky Monastery of Saint Mary of Vitosha. First monastic community of Eastern Orthodox monks settled this desolate are in the 14th century. Over time it grew in size and complexity. Another less impressive, but notable Orthodox Kladnishki Monastery of Saint Nikolas Miliyski the Miracle Maker was established in the 19th century. The Boyana Church of Saint Nikolas (wonder worker and one of inspirations for Santa Claus) and Saint Panteleymon (protector of doctors and medical workers) date back to the 10th century. It is located within borders of Vitosha National Park and is included in the UNESCO List of Global Cultural Inheritance.


Geological structure and geomorphological features

Regarding the rock base and the folding of the earth's crust, Vitosha together with the surrounding territories is part of the Viskyar-Vitosha synclinorium or the Sofia synclinorium. As a result, many fault processes can be traced on its territory. The main areas in which these processes take place are the Bosnian fault, the Railway Shear Zone and others.

Vitosha is built of powerful monzonite (syenite) plutonium in the core of the mountain, located among the Upper Cretaceous volcanics - andesites, andesite breccias, tuffs, tuffs, on which in places on the northern periphery lie Tertiary conglomerates and sandstones. At its northern foot, Pliocene lake sediments are deposited, overlain by alluvial-proluvial deposits of Quaternary age. The mountain itself was formed during the Neogene and the Quaternary as a result of tectonic uplift on the above-mentioned faults and faults located on its periphery. Mineral springs - Pancharevo, Zheleznitsa, Rudartsi and Knyazhevo - gush along some of these still active faults. There are karst springs in its southern part, the most famous being the Living Water in the Vreloto area, above Bosnek.

The shape of the mountain is domed and it is not characterized by deep relief formations such as valleys, etc. This is due to the fact that Vitosha is a relatively young mountain. For easier description, the mountain is divided into four main parts, with the dividing lines of all four starting from Cherni Vrah and ending at the foot of the mountain.

During the Quaternary, the ridge parts of the mountain fall into the periglacial climate zone and then the characteristic stone rivers (often incorrectly called moraines due to their visual resemblance to them), snowfields, scree and landslides are formed. The stone rivers are large accumulations of rounded rock blocks, formed as a result of running water and weathering, which gradually smoothed their edges. They are a major tourist destination in the mountains.

The Bosnian karst region is interesting not only for tourists but also for science. This is the largest area with karst forms in Vitosha. Its area is about 30 km2 and almost all of it is included in Vitosha Park.

Climate and water
The climate of Vitosha is typically mountainous with a large rainfall of 1250 mm. In its lowest parts the annual rainfall reaches 700 mm, and in the higher parts this value exceeds 1000 mm. At Cherni Vrah the precipitation is 1050 mm. Solid snowfall and hail represent over 50% of the total annual precipitation. The average January temperature for the mountain is -4 ° С, and on Cherni Vrah it is -8 ° С. Summer temperatures are also not very high. The average July temperature is 13 ° С, and on Cherni Vrah 8 ° С. The absolute maximum temperature of Cherni Vrah is +24 ° С, and the absolute minimum is -27.4 ° С. Main for the mountain are the southwest winds. Often the winds in the higher parts reach high speeds and as a result of their actions remain extensive winds. On the ridge of Vitosha the average annual wind speed is over 10 m / s. The total time of sunshine is relatively short, as for the middle parts of the mountain it is 2400 h, and for Cherni Vrah it is less than 2000 h.

There are a large number of small water sources in Vitosha, but the only large river that springs from the mountain is the Struma River, which flows south, passes through Bulgaria and Greece and flows into the White / Aegean Sea. The other, smaller rivers, forming relatively deep valleys are Palakaria, Zheleznishka, Bistritsa, Dragalevska, Boyanska, Vladayska, Matnitsa and others. All of them, with the exception of Matnitsa, belong to the basin of the river Iskar. There are also 6 underground rivers on the territory of Vitosha, in the galleries of Duhlata Cave, near the village of Bosnek.

The great variety of geographical conditions and the great differences in the altitude of different parts of Vitosha are a prerequisite for great soil diversity. Soil formation occurs mainly over the products of weathering of rocks of acidic nature. The specific Vitosha flora also participates in the formation of the soils. The largest areas cover brown forest, mountain-meadow, peat and peat-swamp soils. There are also cinnamon forest soils, which are often leached.


Forests occupy over 50% of the entire mountain area, pastures - 25%, and the remaining areas are occupied by rock massifs, stone screes and areas that due to relief features can not be afforested.

On the territory of Vitosha are found about 1500 species of higher plants, which is nearly 50% of all described in Bulgaria. Among them there are 24 Bulgarian and Balkan endemics and 52 species included in the Red Book of Bulgaria.

The flora in Vitosha Park is a result of climate change, as well as human influence. Near the mountain was a settlement from more than 2 millennia ago. This has greatly affected the plant species that grow in the park. For example, in the 20th century, due to the uncontrolled felling of timber, the centuries-old beech and oak forests, which covered the foothills and the lower parts of the mountain, were severely damaged. At the same time, the highest parts of Vitosha were deforested in order to find free pastures.

For several years, a new natural regeneration of the forest has been noticed. An example in this respect is the area around Venetsa Peak (east of Belchova Skala Peak), among which grow young 4-5 year old white pine trees (as of spring 2007), afforested by the nearby artificially planted old pine forest. On the spacious and long southern slope between Yarlovski Kupen peak and Palakaria river, young coniferous trees, reaching about 1800 m above sea level, are also naturally afforested. The situation is similar in other places in the mountains. Breccia is found in the lower and middle belt, which is considered a criterion that this is an authentic old forest.

Alpine belt
Despite the high altitude of the mountain, Vitosha lacks a real alpine vegetation belt. This is partly due to the discovery of areas and the creation of extensive pastures, which has erased the characteristic vegetation. In the highest parts there are communities made up of plants characteristic of the alpine vegetation belt, but they are only separate groups and do not form a whole system. The main representative of the plants characteristic of this belt is the mountain thrush. In Vitosha this plant is also found in the lower parts of the mountain, although it is not so common there.

Subalpine belt
The subalpine plant belt is relatively extensive and well defined. It is characterized by shrub vegetation and individual conifers, as well as individual areas covered with grass vegetation. In the upper parts of this belt there are dwarf pine and common spruce, and the spruce is represented only by individual trees. The dwarf pine does not occupy as large areas as it occupied in the past, but it is still one of the characteristic plants of the higher parts. It is most common in the areas above the Aleko hut and in the Bistrishko Branishte reserve.

In places where dwarf pine grew in the past, groups of Siberian juniper have formed secondarily. In addition, in the subalpine zone there are bush species of bilberry, feverfew, blueberry. In some places you can see bearberry. In the subalpine as well as in the alpine vegetation belt, the grass species are represented mainly by fescue, voles and others.

Coniferous belt
The most extensive for the mountain and occupying the largest area of ​​the nature park is the coniferous plant belt. In its higher parts the forests are made of spruce and with decreasing altitude they start to mix with white pine, white fir, fir and others, and in the lowest areas - with beech and birch. The border with the subalpine belt is lower than the usual altitude. This is due to the artificial increase of pasture areas. Larger groups of white pine or small forests of this species can be observed in a few places. Groups of white fir can also be observed, but the distribution of this species is relatively limited. White fir is a relict species and a Balkan endemic, which is why many attempts are being made to expand its range. The plant species in this part of the park are complemented by blackberry, raspberry and blueberry bushes. The grass vegetation is not highly developed, but there are endemic species of medium pyrrole and Bulgarian bitterness.

Mid-mountain belt
The upper parts of this belt are dominated by mixed forests of spruce, white pine, beech and oak. In the belt there are also hornbeam, birch, aspen, maple, ash, linden and others. The most common are beech forests, which in some places occupy an altitude of over 500 m. These forests are one of the best preserved and unaffected by human intervention. Beech trees have a relatively high average age, and in some places there are centuries-old beech forests covering large areas.


Along the rivers and in the places located in the immediate vicinity of water basins, there are groups and individual trees of mountain willow and alder. The lowest parts of the belt are covered with birch and hazel, as well as many shrubs. This is because a large part of these areas have been turned into clearings and the characteristic forest plants have been destroyed.

Low mountain belt
This belt covers the territories between 1000 and 1400 m above sea level. The main representatives of the plant world in the belt are oaks and beeches, but in some parts there are also groups of some coniferous tree species, characteristic of higher altitudes. In some places the vast oak forests are mixed with trees of maple, aspen, maple and others.

In some areas there is a gradual natural replacement of beech with hornbeam, as the first species is gradually replaced by the second. In these lower parts of the mountain a great variety of flowering herbaceous plants began to be observed.

Large mammals are few. This is mainly due to illegal hunting. As a result, only a few species of these animals remain - red deer, roe deer, wild boar, brown bear and wolf, and their number is not very large. In addition to these species, there are also water shrews, white-bellied white-toothed, common rabbit, common dormouse, fox, otter and others. There is also a wild cat, but the number of representatives of this species is extremely small.

Attempts have been made to import several species of foreign mammals, but none remain in the park. Of particular importance are the identified 11 species of bats, which is a very large number for such a small area. The greatest variety of bats is in the Bosnian karst region. All species of bats are protected by the Nature Protection Act, but their number has decreased in recent years. This is due to the development of tourism and the transformation of caves, which are the natural home for bats, into tourist sites.

236 species of birds have been identified, of which 120 nest on the territory of Vitosha. The most common is the sokerica, which is found mostly in spruce forests. There are also the yellow-headed king, the crossbow, the pine tit and others. Of particular importance are the species of great hawk and small hawk, black woodpecker, spotted woodpecker, which are rare species.

Other birds that can be observed are the Kerkenes, the White-tailed Buzzard, the Great Hawk and others. In the highest parts there are Balkan lark, water kidney, variegated rock thrush, gray stonecrop, house red-tailed deer, white-throated thrush and others. In the lower parts, in the broad-leaved and mixed belt, hazel is found.

Of the nocturnal birds there are forest owl, forest eared owl, domestic owl, feathered owl. From the larger living rooms - birds of prey such as bald eagle, small bald eagle, snake eagle, osprey and others. They are very rare during the breeding season, mainly in the southern and southwestern parts of the mountain.

Fish are not very common. This is due to the small number of water basins and their nature, which is mainly of the mountain stream type. The most common species is the river trout, for which the fast cold river currents are a characteristic habitat. In the past, attempts have been made to stock Vitosha reservoirs with the Balkan trout species, but at the moment this type of fish is almost non-existent.

The number of invertebrates is huge. Vitosha has been declared a territory of great importance for the protection of invertebrate species. There is a large number of endemic and relict species - nearly 150 Balkan and Bulgarian endemics and 85 relict species. There are about 300 species of invertebrates present in the lists of rare animals. Vitosha is the second most diverse endemic endemic species. Local endemics are three species of cave crustaceans and here is the only place where information about them can be extracted. Almost all cave invertebrates are placed under the protection of nature protection law due to their inadaptability to habitat change.

The most common of the insects are the species Big oak cutter, Beech cutter and others. In recent years, the number of the Apollo butterfly has dropped dramatically, and scientists predict that if no measures are taken to protect it in the coming years, it will disappear completely.

Tourism on Vitosha

Vitosha is located near Sofia and Pernik, and as a result the mountain has changed more than other Bulgarian mountains. On the territory of the mountain is Vitosha Nature Park, the oldest on the Balkan Peninsula. It is a favorite place for tourism of Sofia and Pernik.

Starting points. The most popular tourist routes for the high parts of Vitosha start from the northern surroundings of the mountain near the Sofia districts of Dragalevtsi, Simeonovo, Boyana and Knyazhevo and the villages of Bistritsa, Zheleznitsa and Vladaya. Asphalt roads lead to them, they also have a connection with regular passenger bus lines from Sofia.
Chalets. In Vitosha there are more than 40 chalets and small hotels and over 10 shelters. The larger ones are: Aleko hut (named after Aleko Konstantinov - The Lucky One), located in the Aleko area below Cherni Vrah; Kupena hut (Academica) at Golyam Kupen peak; Kamen del hut northwest of Kamen del peak; Bor hut - north of the Black Rock peak; Selimitsa hut west of Selimitsa peak; Kikish shelter in the area of ​​the same name; shelter Blue Arrow over the Railway and others.
Tourist routes. The most famous tourist routes are from Dragalevtsi to Aleko hut and Cherni Vrah (marked in red); from Simeonovo to Aleko hut (marked in yellow paint); from Zheleznitsa to Kupena hut and Cherni Vrah (marked with blue paint); from Bistritsa to Aleko hut - 2 paths (marked with green paint); from Knyazhevo to the Golden Bridges (marked in yellow paint); from Vladaya to the Golden Bridges (marked in blue) and from Cherni Vrah to Bukapreslapski Prohod (marked in red).
In the mountains there are good conditions for winter sports - skiing / snowboarding, sledding and others, and among the most famous slopes are the Wall, Blue Trail, Green Trail, Vitosha Tulip 1 and 2, Vetrovala and "Konyarnika".

In 2011 the routes of the slopes are 45 ha. There are fourteen lifts and the length of the slopes is eleven kilometers. In 2012 the slopes Stenata, Sinya pista, Zelena pista, Vitoshko Lale 1 and 2 are closed.

At the foot of Vitosha is the Boyana Church, which is one of the cultural symbols of Bulgaria and a cultural monument in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. On the territory of the park is also the Dragalevtsi Monastery, which has great historical significance.

The transport from Sofia is carried out by buses, minibuses, Simeonovo-Aleko gondola lift and Dragalevtsi chairlift.

The mountain is among the Hundred National Tourist Sites with its leader - Cherni Vrah.