Vitosha is the oldest Park in the Balkans.
Since the ancient times of the Thracians a large population has always existed at the base of Vitosha. For the last four thousand years the economy of this large settlement has always been connected, in one way or another, with the neighboring mountain. The name “Vitosha” comes from the two-peaked, twin ridge mountain, which rises above the Sofia field and has acquired its present shape in stages over many millennia. The mountain was built by volcanic activity and has been subsequently shaped by the slow folding of the granite rock layers and a series of gradual uplifts of the area. It appears dome shaped at first sight, but the mountain, 19 km long by 17 km wide, actually consists of concentric denudational plateaus rising in tiers one above the other. Vitosha is separated into four main parts whose main ridges gather at a crown known as “Cherni Vruh” (‘The Black Peak’). This is the highest point of the mountain at 2290 m and is one of 10 peaks on Vitosha over 2000 m in height. A meteorological station was built at the top in 1935, and is still operating. The station also serves as a rest shelter for hikers and is the headquarters for the mountain rescue team. Historical documents show that several centuries ago Vitosha mountain was still covered by the remains of the inaccessible “Great Bulgarian Forest”. Today, the natural coniferous forests of Vitosha remain only in the reserves Bistrishko Branishte, Peat Branishte, and around Zlatnite Mostove (The Golden Bridges). The Golden Bridges is an amazing phenomenon known as a “Stone River” and consists of a ribbon of huge boulders running down the mountainside. This scenic spot is located along the Vladaiska River in an area of mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. However, this is only one of the eight stone rivers found in Vitosha and they were once the moraines of ancient glaciers. Their further formation occurred due to the spherical erosion of the sienite rocks and their gradual movement to down stream valleys by the forces of gravity and moving water.
At a time when nature conservation ideas were a long way from the present understanding some enlightened noblemen took the first step in 1934 by declaring 6600 ha of Vitosha as a National Park, hence Vitosha became the first park on the Balkan Peninsula! During the following year some of the first Bulgarian reserves - Bistrishko Branishte (1061 ha) and Peat Branishte (784 ha) – were defined within its boundaries. The park boundaries fluctuated over many years and today it encompasses the entire mountain – an area of 26 606 ha.
Due to a great variability in elevation, a rich diversity of climates, flora, and fauna can be found within the park. Research has revealed that on the comparatively small area of the mountain there are 1500 species of higher plants, 500 species of sponges, 500 species of algae, 326 species of mosses, and 200 species of lichens. Among these there are 31 species which are Balkan endemics and 52 species which are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria.