Bulgaria: Hiking Vitosha Mountain

If you've read my first post about Sofia, you'll already know that we experienced some drama on our hike in Vitosha Mountain. Actually, that's unfair - the hike was perfectly fine - it was getting back to Sofia that was the problem... let me start at the beginning.

After researching how to get to Vitosha Mountain, it seemed that the only way to visit was by either hiring a car, taking a taxi, or visiting on a weekend/public holiday, which is the only time when public transport and the ski lifts run (in summer). We arrived into Sofia on a Sunday, so the weekend was out, and we figured it would be easy to enough to get a taxi there and back so that's what we did. We used the TaxiMe app, hopped in our taxi and a 40 minute journey later, which cost 22.80 lev (about £15.50), we arrived at Aleko Hut. So far, so good.

There are several hikes you can do on Vitosha Mountain, and we decided to hike to the peak of Kamen Del, which gives you a stunning view of Sofia. It takes about an hour from Aleko Hut to get to the peak, then an hour back, which seemed the right amount of time for two novice hikers. (I bought these hiking boots from Decathalon for £14.99, which served me well, and we took water, sun cream and cereal bars with us.)

The hike was a peaceful one - we barely saw anyone - and was easy enough to follow the signs. There's no obvious sign when you get to Aleko Hut, but if you head on the path behind where the national park sign is, opposite the ski lift, you'll soon find signs pointing you in the right direction. After about an hour of hiking, we arrived at the peak, where a wonderful view waited for us.

We retraced our steps and headed back to Aleko Hut, and this is where the drama began. See, since we'd got a taxi to take us there perfectly easily, we figured it would be easy to get a taxi back. So we opened our app. No takers. We offered a tip (you can add an additional 20 lev to the fare as an incentive to get people to pick you up)... still no takers. We kept trying. Nothing. So we tried calling some taxi firms. Who promptly hung up when we said where we were. Cue panic.

At this point, I honestly thought we would be walking the 23km back to Sofia. Nothing was open by the hut - Vitosha Mountain is open more in winter when locals head up to the mountain to ski; all the hotels and restaurants by Aleko Hut were firmly closed in August - but finally we got through to a taxi company who said they'd send a car to pick us up. After a tense thirty minute wait, in which we were just about to start walking back to Sofia whilst it was still light - a taxi, thankfully, zoomed towards us.

Now we can laugh about it, but at the time it was a super stressful experience. So, if you're thinking of hiking on Vitosha Mountain, you don't have a car and public transport isn't running, whatever you do, make sure you have a taxi arranged to pick you up before you set off on your hike... otherwise you might just end up having to hike further than you'd anticipated! Oh, and a big shout out to Yellow Taxi for rescuing us!

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