When most visitors think of Sofia, they rarely think of spacious forests and lush green scenery. Nevertheless, Bulgaria’s capital has a lot to offer for those looking to escape its somewhat drab concrete aesthetic. The city itself nestles right up to Vitosha mountain, which is easily reached with cars or public transport. If you’re looking to spend a day hiking mountain trails while enjoying breathtaking views of the city, a day hike on Vitosha should not be missed out on!
Vitosha’s wooded slopes can be seen from almost any point in Sofia, providing a landmark that reminds visitors that there is more to this city than just hidden bars and trendy corners waiting to be discovered. In summer, its verdant mountain trails provide a cool relief from the hot urban temperatures. In winter, snow covers all; this is when the ski slopes start drawing in the crowds. However, the Vitosha hiking trails are still accessible during the snowy months, with mountain huts serving hot soup, hearty dishes and strong rakia.
So if you’re looking for the most scenic hiking trails on Vitosha, your search is over! I’ve listed some of my favourite day hikes below, all of which can be completed within a few hours. Besides serving up unforgettable views of the city below, these hikes also provide ample opportunities for a break in one of the many mountain huts on Vitosha. Be sure to bring cash!
Click on these links below to jump to each section:
- To Cherni Vrah Peak
- The Aleko Loop
- The Boyana Waterfall Trail
- The Kikish Trail
- The Bohemian
- What to bring on a Vitosha hike
- Where to stay on Vitosha
1- To Cherni Vrah Peak
This route starts and ends at the Aleko mountain hut, which you can easily reach with a bus from the city. From Aleko, the trail takes you through a short stretch of forest, after which the landscape opens up to fields of tall grasses and sturdy shrubs. Up here, the trail then winds its way up to Vitosha’s peak, Cherni Vrah.
This is an easy trail, with well-marked footpaths leading all the way to the top. You should come prepared for sudden changes in the weather though, so always bring a wind- and waterproof jacket and sturdy walking shoes. Near the top of Cherni Vrah, you’ll find a mountain hut with the same name that serves delicious home-made soups and hearty meals all year round. To go back, just follow the same trail down, or continue on on of the trails mentioned below!
2- The Aleko Loop
Just like the Cherni Vrah climb, this hiking trail starts and ends at the Aleko mountain hut. The first part follows much the same route, but instead of following the road up to peak, it turns onto open ground before going down a narrow, but panoramic summer hiking trail on the northeastern slopes of Vitosha. From here, you’ll make your way underneath the leafy shadows of trees and climb over fields strewn with large boulders while enjoying the best possible views of the city below.
Do not attempt to walk this part in winter! Avalanches and deep snow make this summer trail inaccessible. For an alternative, see route 4 below.
After a while, the route follows easier trails while passing the Kikish mountain hut. The trail then passes by the old abandoned Sredets Hotel before making its way uphill again as it loops back towards Aleko.
This hiking trail can be a bit demanding for beginning hikers, especially on the narrow path leading down from the higher meadows on Vitosha. It is recommended that beginners take an easier trail, or at least bring someone with a bit more mountain walking experience. For the experienced hiker, this trail should be no problem at all. The Momina Skala hut is a good place to exit the trail by either going down towards the Boyana falls (see #3 below), or by taking a bus from the nearby road down into the city.
3- The Boyana Waterfall Trail
This steep, but enjoyable hiking trail will take you from the bottom of Vitosha to the Boyana waterfall and the nearby Momina Skala and Esperanto huts. From here, you can choose to walk one of the many trails leading further onto Vitosha mountain (and connect to one of the other hiking trails mentioned here).
There are two ways to reach the waterfalls: one way leads close to the Boyanska river and is the more challenging of the two. It is recommended to bring good, sturdy hiking boots when taking this route. Alternatively, you can take a longer, but easier route up. On the Komoot map below, that route is marked as the way back down, and passes by nearby Boyana Lake for some memorable lakeside views.
The Boyana waterfall can also be enjoyed in winter, as the Boyanska river runs throughout the year. Be sure to wear solid winter hiking boots when attempting this trail in the snowy season!
4- The Kikish trail
This trail starts at the Aleko mountain hut, but instead of looping back, it takes you all the way down the mountain, ending at a bus stop on the outskirts of Sofia. From here, you can take a bus to the nearest metro station. I recommend taking bus line 66 to Paradise Mall (and Vitosha metro station below the mall).
The trail starts by following much the same route as the Aleko Loop mentioned above, going down a narrow trail that passes underneath the Olovo Gnezdo and Kamen Del formations on its way towards the Kikish hut. This is also the most challenging section for beginners, so this part of the trail is recommended only for those with a bit more hiking experience.
Do not attempt to walk this part in winter! Avalanches and deep snow make this part inaccessible and you should not leave the marked trails at any point!
A less difficult alternative (or winter alternative) would be to not go off the trail down the northeastern side of the mountain, but to continue north, following signs and yellow/black marking poles towards the Momina Skala and Kamen Del huts instead. Then, after coming down on the north slopes of Vitosha, follow signs to the Kamen Del hut and from there towards the Kikish hut to reconnect with this route before going down the mountain as indicated below.
The Kikish hut is probably my favourite place to rest on Vitosha! In recent years, the private owner has spent his own money to restore the place from a ruin to the cozy rest stop it is today. As it is only staffed by the guy himself and a number of volunteers, the place is only open during weekends and holidays.
From Kikish hut, the route will take you down picturesque, forested slopes until you reach Dragalevski Monastery, which is a place worthy of a short sightseeing break. Be prepared for some very steep declines along the way, though! This part can become quite difficult in wet weather, when most of the section between Kikish hut and the monastery turns into a big, slippery mudslide. The route takes you onto easier footpaths after passing the monastery, eventually leading into the outskirts of Sofia.
5- The Bohemian
This one is for the decadent hikers!
What better way to enjoy local mountain culture than by sampling the food and drink in every mountain hut Vitosha has to offer? This route might not actually visit every hut on the mountain, but it will have you savour the hospitality of at least five different huts along the way! This three-hour hiking trail (not including time spent inside the huts) will take you all over Vitosha’s northern slopes, but it is possible for the ambitious food lovers among you to extend the tour by visiting the Aleko and Cherni Vrah huts as well. This will take considerably longer though, so plan your edacious expedition accordingly.
The tour starts and ends at the Momina Skala restaurant, which can be reached by bus from the city. From the restaurant it is only a short waddle over to the Monina Skala hut, where your savoury adventure can enter its second course. From there, it follows well-trodden wooded trails to reach Kamen Del hut, famous for its outdoor grill in the summer months. Then follows the cozy Kikish shelter, where its dedicated staff of volunteers can help you get ready for the following uphill section.
After climbing up past the Sredets Hotel and Bor Villa, two abandoned structures, the route then takes you to the final stop at the luxurious Septembri mountain hut. Here you can rest your legs while sampling their excellent menu, getting you ready for the final, leisurely stretch back to the Momina Skala restaurant.
What to bring when hiking on Vitosha mountain
While Vitosha isn’t the highest mountain out there, it is still very much a mountain! This means you should definitely respect it as such; the weather can suddenly turn bad, your phone connection will be rubbish at times, and some hiking trails should not be walked alone by beginning hikers. That being said, your Vitosha hiking trip won’t turn into a nightmare if you just stay on the marked trails and bring some essentials.
In addition, it is best to always bring these items:
- Water- and windproof jacket. Even if the day starts sunny, the weather can suddenly change for the worst. Rain, cold winds or sudden fog can turn a relaxed stroll into a proper adventure in minutes.
- A water bottle. While it is possible to get drinking water from the huts and the occasional water spring along the trails, it’s always best to come prepared.
- Navigation app/GPS. Some hiking trails on Vitosha can be poorly marked, and some parts of the mountain’s trail network can be a bit of a maze. I recommend using an outdoor navigation app with visible hiking trails, like Komoot or Maps.me.
- Sturdy shoes. Can’t go hiking without them!
- Cash. In Bulgaria, cash is king. As many of the huts can not accept card payments, it would be a shame to pass up all that soup and rakia!
- Sunscreen and sunglasses. On average, Sofia gets a lot of sun during the year. This goes double for Vitosha mountain, where the average hiking trip will often see you exposed to the sun for hours!
Where to stay: spending the night on Vitosha
Did you know many mountain huts offer the option to spend the night on Vitosha? While some are rated better than others, you can stay overnight at these huts (I recommend using a translator add-on for your browser, as some sites are in Bulgarian):
There are more huts on Vitosha you can stay the night, but these are the mountain huts offering rooms on the trails mentioned in this article. For a more luxurious stay, you can also book one of the many hotels, such as Hotel Moreni or the classy Pinus Villa resort.
Enjoy your day hike on Vitosha!
Thanks for reading this list of my favourite day hikes on Vitosha mountain! When you go hiking on Vitosha in winter, please make sure to only follow marked hiking trails (recognisable by black/yellow poles, signs, or colour markings on trees). And, most importantly, don’t forget your phone or camera to take shots of the stunning views along the way!
See you on the Trail!