This year on May 1st, the international worker's holiday, I decided to get out of the city and go for a hike on Mt. Vitosha with Kiril and Elana. The mountain is one of the first things you notice when approaching the city, either with a car or by plane. It looms over the city, snow-capped in winter and vibrant green in summer, and has an almost magnetic pull for Sofia's outdoor enthusiasts. There are hundreds of trails and paths all around the mountain and and endless array of activities there, including horseback riding, skiing and soaking in the mineral-rich hot springs.
For hiking, there are lots of options. We chose to drive up to the hija (lodge) closest to Kamen Del, one of the most visible peaks from the city below. It's also one of the lower peaks- Aleko and Cherni Vruh are much higher up the mountain- but we didn't start early enough to summit either of those. On the way to Kamen Del you pass a natural rock formation called Zlatni Mostove (Golden Bridges) made up of huge boulders leftover from an ancient river. There are also waterfalls and caves scattered around the outskirts of the mountain.
Admittedly, the path we chose wasn't the most strenuous of hikes- there is a longer way to go starting from the Golden Bridges area, but we didn't have that much time. It took us about an hour or so to get from the lodge to the peak, and it was mostly a gradual climb; we moved through muddy forest, grassy field and rocky outcropping as we approached the peak. We were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the city below, and met two mountaineers who were attempting to summit every peak in Bulgaria, carrying the same flag around with them on every hike.
Now that the weather is getting hotter and the snow has mostly melted from the other peaks, I hope we can go back to the mountain soon and explore its other beautiful sites. There is a very famous trail in the Rila Mountains that traverses across seven mountain lakes- aptly named the Seven Rila Lakes. They're supposed to be breathtaking, although more difficult to reach, and weather is a huge factor there because the wind and rain can really ruin a hiking trip. Hopefully in the summer it will be warm and dry enough up there to go for a daytrip. There are almost too many places I still need to visit here in Bulgaria!