Vitosha, one of the symbols of Sofia, is believed to be the first Bulgarian mountain tourist destination. August 27, 1895 is the date which laid the beginning of the mountaineering in the country. 300 men and women have climbed the peak “Cherni Vruh”, something unheard of before. It is now popular in Bulgaria that on August 27, thousands of tourists climb the peak to honor this tradition. Cherni Vruh is the highest Vitosha peak, 2290 m.
Vitosha is the most popular Bulgarian mountain in terms of the volume of tourists. The main reason for this is the proximity to Sofia. This makes Sofia one of the few capitals in the world situated in the vicinity of a mountain. Vitosha Mountain was pronounced national park in1935 for it is extremely rich in mineral water springs, rivers, and unique geographical formations – stone rivers.
The stone rivers, called moraines, are unique natural phenomenon. They are situated 1000 m above sea level; Vladayska River is the lowest they go. The moraines are enormous and smooth stone blocks, accumulated close to each other at the bottom of the river valleys. Each stone block has volume of at least 30 cubical m (2 km long) and weighs at least 80 tons. The weathering has played the most important role in the formation of the moraines and the running waters have smoothed them. Under the forces of gravitation and with the help of the currents of the rivers, these massive stone blocks have been pushed down the rivers’ beds. The most picturesque and breathtaking such a formation is the stone river at Zlatnite Mostove (The Golden Bridges).
Located at 1800 m above sea level, Aleko chalet is the most attractive spot in Vitosha. Aleko is well equipped with all the facilities needed for skiing: lifts, tracks, restaurants and hotels. The ski center is in the east part of the mountain.
The area of Vitosha is 278 square km. The temperatures are averaging -8 C in January and 9 C in July. The natural phenomenon inversion is very common for the mountain. When Sofia is cold and foggy, Vitosha is sunny and warm; this happens 15 times per year. The winter lasts 5 to 7 months, while the real summer for the mountain is only during July and August.
The best ski tracks in Vitosha are Laleto (The Tulip), Sinyata Pista (The Blue Track), Zelenata Pista (The Green Track), Stenata (The Wall), Zaek (Rabbit) and Vetrovala. The tracks are easily accessible and there are two lifts to serve the tourists.
The mountain is famous and important not only because it is a popular ski resort. It is also a member of Bulgaria’s 100 National Tourist Sites. The biggest cultural and historical landmark in Vitosha is Boyana Church. It was built in 1250 and its wall paintings are the most beautiful wall paintings in Europe preserved from that time. Boyana Church is one of Bulgaria’s most important sanctuaries and is under UNESCO’s protection for historical and cultural heritage of the world. Another sanctuary in Vitosha is the Dragalevtsi Monastery. There are mineral water springs in Knyazhevo.