12 Best Day Hikes Near Sofia

hikes near sofia

Are you planning to visit Sofia soon? If you are a hiking lover, I have amazing news for you – Sofia is a great starting point for exploring Bulgaria’s beautiful mountains. From Sofia’s own mountain Vitosha, the top of the Balkans, and the starting point of the longest hiking trail in Bulgaria, in this post, I share with you the best day hikes near Sofia.

Sofia is an exciting travel destination that has a rich history and culture, is full of fine restaurants and awesome coffee shops, creative and mind provocative street art, offers a free food tour, and on top of everything offers plenty of opportunities for fun outdoor activities. Vitosha is a great getaway from the busy city, Rila mountain – the highest not only in Bulgaria but on the whole Balkan Peninsula – is located just an hour or so from Sofia, and the beautiful Iskar Gorge is also a short ride away from the capital city.

So without any further ado, these are the best places to go hiking while exploring Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia:

Quick tips for hiking near Sofia: 

  1. I highly advise you to have an online and offline GPS map viewer. I use OruxMaps. This app is very easy to use and follow. By using it, all the hikes that I mention in this article can be followed without any chance of confusion.
  2. Hiking in Bulgaria in winter is amazing, but if you don’t have the experience, please choose something else to do instead.
  3. Always make sure to bring enough water and some food.
  4. Although it is technically possible to hike with sneakers, proper hiking shoes are recommended.
  5. 02 963 2000 is the number of the Bulgarian PSS (Mountain Rescue Service).
  6. Many people that you will have an encounter when planning your day hike from Sofia will most likely not be speaking English; so it would be nice if you learn some words/phrases in Bulgarian.
  7. Check my travel tips for first-time visitors to Bulgaria for more info on the best time to visit, how to get around, etc.

Day Hikes near Sofia in Vitosha Mountain 

1. Cherni vrah 

Cherni vrah is the highest peak of Vitosha Mountain rising at 2, 290 meters above sea level. The name of the peak can be literally translated to ”black peak” and comes from the fact that it is often shrouded in clouds and fog. In clear weather, however, you can enjoy a stunning view of Rila Mountain.

On top of the peak, there is a metrological station that offers drinks and a buffet, as well as accommodation.

The most popular hike to Cherni vrah starts from Aleko hut. The hike is not difficult at all, you just have to be careful if you’re going to do it in winter, as snow might freeze and it can be quite slippery in some areas. I do prefer the hike to Cherni vrah from the Pernik’s village of Kladnitsa, but it is more time-consuming and difficult to reach the village and start the hike from there, so for the purpose of this article, I would focus on the route from Aleko hut.

day-hikes-near-sofia-cherni-vrah-vitosha

How to get to Cherni vrah from Sofia: 

The closest place to start the hike is Aleko hut. To reach the starting point, take bus #66 from Sofia. This bus runs on the weekend and very rarely during the week, and its first stop is Sofia’s ZOO. The last one is Hotel Moreni – this is where you need to get off. From here, you have to walk for approximately 10 minutes to reach Aleko hut and start the hike to Cherni vrah.

The bus has a stop just outside Vitosha metro station and it might be the most convenient place for you to catch it. Check for the schedule on this link.

2. Boyana Waterfall 

The Boyana Waterfall is not that high and not that impressive like some other Bulgarian waterfalls, but it’s the perfect getaway from the city. The waterfall is one of the locals’ favorite hikes near Sofia.

Boyana Waterfall is situated in Vitosha Mountain and it’s just 5 km away from Boyana district. Your hike to the waterfall can start either from the district of Boyana, from the Golden Bridges, or from the Kopitoto TV tower (Kopitoto is a place with an awesome view over the city. To get there, you will need a car). The hike is very nice and generally easy. It only gets a bit steep close to the waterfall.

When you get to the waterfall, you can relax, have a picnic, enjoy the silence (if there are not many people), or continue exploring. It is a very popular route so it gets pretty busy during the weekends and for that, I would recommend doing the hike during the week if possible.

Tip: Hike to the top of the waterfall for another beautiful view over a part of the city.

How to get to Boyana Waterfall from Sofia: 

Bus #63 goes to the Golden Bridges every weekend. From there, there are marked routes that you can easily follow.

Buses going to the district of Boyana from different locations in Sofia include buses #64 and #107. You can check the bus schedule here.

day-hikes-near-sofia-boyana-waterfall-vitosha

Day Hikes near Sofia in Rila Mountain 

3. The Seven Rila Lakes + Otovishki peak

The Seven Rila Lakes are one of the most popular and most beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria. The lakes are a group of lakes of glacial origin. They are situated at an elevation of between 2 100 and 2 500 meters above sea level. The 7 lakes are named The Tear, The Eye, The Kidney, The Twin (the largest), The Trefoil, Fish Lake, and The Lower Lake.

The hike to get to the top and have a view of all lakes (one of the best mountain views in Europe) is pretty easy and takes about 2 – 2 and a half hours. It starts at the parking lot of Pionerska hut from where you can take a lift to the Seven Lakes hut and being your hike from there. Of course, if you want to save yourself 18 BGN, you can skip the lift.

Otovishki vrah

Not far away from the Seven Rila Lakes, you can hike to Otovishki vrah. The peak offers beautiful views and it’s not big of a detour so it’s definitely worth the extra time. From The Eye lake, there is a blue marked route that leads to the peak. It’s about 40 minutes from this point of the hike.

Just so you don’t get confused, Otovishki vrah doesn’t offer a view of the Seven Rila Lakes. To see them all, please continue the hike on the ridge.

day-hikes-near-sofia-otovishki-vrah-rila

How to get to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia: 

To reach the starting point for the hike, you need to take a bus from Sofia to Dupnitsa and then change to another one going to Sapareva Banya. From here, you’ll need to take a taxi or hitchhike to the lift. That might be a bit confusing and overwhelming, so I always recommend if you have the chance to travel around Bulgaria by car.

You also have the option to join a guided tour to the Seven Rila Lakes, which in my opinion, for a visitor with a limited time is the best and easiest option.

4. Vrah Musala; the top of the Balkans 

Rising at 2, 925 meters above sea level, Musala is the highest peak in Bulgaria and in all of the Balkans. According to some beliefs, the name of the peak means ”near God”  and is coming from the Arabic word ”Musalla”.

Although Musala is one of the best day hikes near Sofia and can be easily completed in a single day, I would recommend staying in the mountain for the night if you have the time. That way you can both watch the sunset and the sunrise from the top of the Balkan Peninsula.

To reach the peak, you have several options: start the hike from Borovets (without taking the lift), start the hike from Yastrebets hut (taking the lift), take the trodden path to the peak, try the off-the-beaten-path route that follows the ridge from the right or hiking through Malka Musala from the left.

day-hikes-near-sofia-musala-peak

I have done all of the above, but to choose which hike will be best for you, you should take a few things into consideration:

When are you planning to do the hike and from where? For example, hiking to Musala in winter is a very beautiful experience but since the day is shorter and you have to rely on transportation back to Sofia, it won’t be possible to do the hike without the lift. Regardless of the season, if you’re planning to take the lift up and down, then you’ll have more time to try alternative routes and more time to enjoy the views from the top.

With this in mind, it’s really up to you to decide which will work best for you. If you need any advice and can’t decide for yourself, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to find the best solution for you.

day-hikes-near-sofia-musala

How to get to Musala from Sofia: 

  1. Take the bus from Sofia South bus station to Samokov
  2. Take a minibus from Samokov bus station to Borovets (Borovets is one of the biggest Bulgarian winter resorts)
  3. Start the hike from Borovets or take the lift to Yastrebets hut and go from there

At the time of writing, the bus ticket to Samokov costs 6 BGN. The minibus to Borovets costs 1.50 BGN. You can find the schedule for the buses leaving for Samokov on the link, and the schedule of the minibusses going to Borovets here.

5. Vrah Malyovitsa 

Malyovitsa is a 2 729 meter high peak in the northwestern parts of Rila mountain. It’s one of the most recognizable and popular peaks to hike in Bulgaria. In summer, is one of the most visited places in the Bulgarian mountains and can be crowded with people, especially on weekends. To enjoy the beauty of Malyovitsa, I’d recommend doing the hike during the week or in the wintertime. Hiking to Malyovitsa peak in winter is a more challenging, but very rewarding experience.

*Please note that Malyovitsa is one of the most avalanche danger areas, so if you’re planning to hike in winter, you should be a well-prepared and experienced hiker or do the hike with a hiking guide.

day-hikes-near-sofia-malyovitsa

day-hikes-near-sofia-malyovitsa

How to get to Malyovitsa from Sofia: 

  1. Take the bus from Sofia South bus station to Samokov
  2. Take a minibus from Samokov bus station to CPS Malyovitsa (or take a taxi)
  3. The hike to vrah Malyovitsa starts from CPS Malyovitsa

At the time of writing, the bus ticket to Samokov costs 6 BGN. The minibus to CPS Malyovitsa is 7 BGN.

The schedule for the buses leaving for Samokov is here. From Samokov bus station, there are two minibusses a day going to CPS Malyovitsa. One is at 9:15 in the morning, and the second one is at 15:30 in the afternoon. The last minibus leaving from CPS Malyovitsa to Samokov bus station is at 17:30.

6. Scary Lake

The Scary lake is one of my favorite places in the Bulgarian Mountains. The lake is located at the foot of the peaks Little, Middle, and Big Kupen in Rila Mountain. Next to the lake, there is a shelter where you can spend the night. The shelter is not managed but it’s equipped with an oven and supplies of fuel left by people who have been there before.

As you might be wondering, its name comes from the sounds that can be heard during a storm.

The Scary Lake is in the Malyovitsa area and you can try and hike to both places in one day, but to do that you should plan your time very wisely!

hiking-malyovitsa-peak-rila-mountain-winter-views

How to get to the Scary Lake from Sofia: 

  1. Take the bus from Sofia South bus station to Samokov
  2. Take a minibus from Samokov bus station to CPS Malyovitsa (or take a taxi)
  3. The hike to the Scary Lake starts at CPS Malyovitsa

From the CPS Malyovitsa, there is a marked route that you can follow, but again, I suggest having the Oruxmaps application or another similar one.

7. Beli Iskar Eco Path 

Located right at the entrance of Rila National Park, the Beli Iskar eco path is a 7 km long trail that winds along a river that carries the same name. There are seven bridges on the trail that are crossing the river. This hike is very easy since there is not much of an ascent – just about 300 meters.

Although some people wouldn’t consider that as a hike, I wanted to include the Beli Iskar eco path on the list of day hikes near Sofia because this place is really beautiful and absolutely worth the day trip. Its an ideal destination for those who don’t want a challenging hike but just to go out and bein the nature.

day-hikes-near-sofia-beli-iskar

How to get to Beli Iskar from Sofia:

Beli Iskar is also located near the town of Samokov, so instead of writing about how to get there for the third time, I’ll explain how to get straight to Beli Iskar from Samokov.

From Samokov bus station, take a minibus to the village of Beli Iskar. There are frequent minibusses running throughout the whole day. For the schedule, check here. The ticket costs 1.30 BGN.

Day Hikes near Sofia in the Iskar Gorge 

8. Lakatnik Rocks 

The Lakatnik rocks are one of my favorite day hike destinations near Sofia. Located on the left slope of the Iskar Gorge above the village of Lakatnik, the rocks reach a height of 250 meters. The view of the village and the river is gorgeous.

The rocks and the whole surrounding area are named so (lakatnik, comes from the Bulgarian word lakat which translated to elbow) because of the bend of the river, which looks like a folded human elbow.

day-hikes-near-sofia-lakatnik-rocks

There are large numbers of karst caves in this region, one of which is Temnata dupka (the dark hole). The cave is easily visible but it hasn’t been developed for visitors. However, you can still get inside on your own responsibility. A flashlight is a must.

day-hikes-near-sofia-temna-dupka-cave

The Lakatnik Rocks are also a very famous climbing site. One of the most popular routes is the Alpine Meadow. It’s a small, red house built on vertical rocks and is visible even from the road. It’s called ”Eagle nest”.

How to get to Lakatnik Rocks from Sofia: 

Take the train from Sofia Central Train Station to Lakatnik. The journey to Lakatnik takes about one hour. A one-way ticket costs around 4 BGN.

You can find the train schedule on this link.

9. Tustenaq hut & Vrah Izdremets 

Trustenaq hut is located in Western Stara Planina at an elevation of 1, 130 meters above sea level. The place is most famous for its raspberry plantations and the production of raspberry wine. The hut attracts tourists with its closeness to Sofia, because of the easy hike leading up to it, and of course, the raspberry wine.

You can make the hike more challenging depending on the starting point and treat yourself with a glass of raspberry wine once you reach the hut.

Izdremets is a peak rising at 1, 493 meters above sea level. From it, you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of other parts of Stara Planina. The route from the hut to the peak is not marked, so you should better use an offline map viewer as I suggested at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, it’s very likely that you’re gonna get lost as there are many trails intertwining with each other.

day-hikes-near-sofia-izdremets

How to get to Trustenaq hut & Vrah Izdremets from Sofia: 

Take the train from Sofia Central Train Station to Lakatnik. From Lakatnik Train Station get a minibus to the village of Lakatnik. The starting point for the hike is the village and it takes about an hour, an hour and a half to reach the hut.

For the train schedule check here.

Schedule of the minibusses leaving from the train station to the village: 6:50; 9:00; 13:15; 18:00

Schedule of the minibusses leaving from the village to the train station: 7:05; 9:30; 13:30; 18:15

*It is also possible to start the hike from the train station. The distance from there to the village is about 6-7km. Hitchhiking is also possible, but I would rely on that.

10. Vazov’s Eco path 

Vazov’s eco path is just 50 km away from Sofia. The eco path has 2 starting points, one is from the village of Bov and the second one is from the village of Zasele. The first route is more convenient as it’s closer to both the road and the train station.

day-hikes-near-sofia-vazov-eco-path

Who is Vazov and why is the eco path named after him? 

Ivan Vazov is a Bulgaria poet, often referred to as ”the patriarch of the Bulgarian literature”. One of his most beloved works is the story ”Grandfather Yozo watches”. In this story, the main character – grandfather Yozo – is a blind, old man living in the Iskar Gorge who tracks the passing of the railroad. Here is where the writer wrote the story inspired by a local resident.

The hike of the eco path is not difficult and takes just about an hour and a half. At halfway, you will reach Skaklya waterfall. Skaklya waterfall is high 120 meters, which makes it the fourth highest waterfall in Bulgaria.

day-hikes-near-sofia-skaklya-waterfall

When you get to the top of the eco path, there is a large green meadow, which is the perfect place to relax, have a picnic or just enjoy the beautiful panoramic views.

How to get to Vazov’s echo path from Sofia:

Take the train from Sofia Central Train Station to the village of Bov. The train journey to the village of Bov takes about one hour. A one-way ticket costs around 4 BGN. From the train station, you need to walk a few minutes to get to the starting point of the echo path.

You can find the train schedule on this link.

P.S. Nearby is also another hidden trail leading to another pretty waterfall. It’s called ”Pod Kamiko” (Under the stone) and you can either try to do both in a single day or choose the one you’ll find most appealing.

11. Vrah Zdravchi kamak & Kutina’s pyramids

To me, this is one of the best day hikes near Sofia because it’s in the area where I grew up and live. Located in Western Stara Planina, in the village of Kutina, Zdravchi kamak (Healthy stone peak, 1, 015) is a very off-the-beaten-path hiking destination. Although I live in this area, I hadn’t heard of it until recently – so believe me when I say that it’s very unpopular.

The hike itself is very pleasant and easy and I have even cycled to the peak. Pretty much the whole route goes through the forest until it finishes at the beautiful panoramic view that the peak presents – a view of the Iskar Gorge and other parts of Western Stara Planina. You can even see Vitosha Mountain and Rila Mountain in clear weather.

day-hikes-near-sofia-zdravchi-kamak

day-hikes-near-sofia-cycling-zdravchi-kamak-peak

So, what about Kutina’s pyramids?

Okay, let me be clear and a million percent honest with you: Kutina’s pyramids are nothing impressive or, in my opinion, worth the day trip. However, if you come to hike to Zdravchi kamak peak, then sure, I’d encourage you to visit them.

The route leading to Zdravchi kamak peak passes through the intersection for the pyramids. Please note that there are a few orientation signs (in Bulgarian) and I have met people absolutely missing them and passing them unable to find the pyramids. You should take the intersection AFTER the church, turn right there and then follow the other sign, which is pointing to the narrow forest path that leads to them. From here, you have no more than 10 minutes of walking until you reach them.

Kutina’s pyramids are free to visit.

P.S. If you choose to do that day hike on your trip to Sofia, make sure to let me know, I would love to join and show you Zdravchi kamak peak!

How to get to Zdravchi kamak & Kutina’s pyramids from Sofia:

Take the metro from anywhere in Sofia and get off at Maria Louise metro station. From there take bus #27 that goes to the village of Kutina. You should get off at this bus stop. The hike starts from there.

Day Hikes near Sofia in Stara Planina

12. Vrah Kom 

Standing at 2,016 meters above sea level, Kom peak is the highest one of Berkovitsa Mountain part of the Western Stara Planina. The peak is also the starting point for the Kom – Emine route, the longest one in the country.

Kom peak also inspired the Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov to write a poem in which he praises this part of the Balkan. In his honor, a plaque with his image and quote from the poem has been installed on the peak.

”From here the eye does not find any barriers.

The universe in front of me obediently stretches.

The soul breathes proudly. From these mountains,

the mind aspires to something bright, great;”

day-hikes-near-sofia-kom-view

How to get to vrah Kom from Sofia: 

The easiest way to reach the starting point for the hike with public transportation is the following:

  1. Take the bus from Sofia central bus station to Berkovitsa/Montana
  2. Get off at Petrohan pass

The hike from the Petrohan pass to Kom peak is about 15 km long and takes around 3, 3 and a half hours.

Buses depart from and to Sofia at different times depending on the day, so check the schedule here before planning this hike.

And there you have them, my very best recommendations for day hikes near Sofia. I hope you have found a hike or two that you can go on during your trip to Sofia as this is a great way to enjoy the beautiful Bulgarian nature. There are a lot more opportunities for hiking, so if you’re looking for something else, don’t hesitate to contact me for a recommendation. Also, if you have any additional questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section below, and don’t hesitate to contact me – I would love to help you explore the mountains around Sofia and maybe even join you for the hike!

Thanks for reading,

Bilyana

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