Aleko

There are two waterfalls on the outskirts of Sofia, on the lower slopes of the mountain that overlooks Sofia from the south, Vitosha. They are Aleko and Boyana. Aleko is the name of the last stop on the cabin lift that climbs the mountain from the Simeonovo district of Sofia and finishes a few hundred metres shy of the summit, Cherni Vrah (‘Black Peak’). Aleko Waterfall, however, is much lower down the mountain, between the districts of Dragalevtsi and Simeonovo.

To reach Aleko Waterfall, the best way is to head to Dragalevtsi Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Sofia, which has an old church with valuable frescoes. Above the monastery is a car park. From the far corner of the car park a path leads directly up the mountain, with the monastery residential building on the left, but you don’t have to go any higher up the mountain. Instead you take a path that forks immediately left (with the monastery behind you and on your left) and then you stay more or less at the same height and wind your way around the mountain. Within a few minutes, the path forks again. Do not be tempted to start to climb the mountain; take the left fork and continue until you reach two wooden bridges crossing the Dragalevska River. This is a charming spot, with the river threading through the forest, and there is a wooden walkway between the bridges to help you keep your feet dry!

Continue at the same height. The path winds through a wonderful beech and pine forest. After a short time, you reach the disused Dragalevtsi-Goli Vrah chairlift, my first experience of taking a lift on Vitosha Mountain. It was like sitting on a park bench suspended in mid-air and for me, a novice at the time, it was a terrifying experience. I gradually became used to it, but sadly the lift has been discontinued. This is a shame since it offered a very useful way for walkers and mountain bikers to head up the mountain.

At a later stage, you will come across a fountain with a bench and a small copy of the Jerusalem icon of the Mother of God. All the time, paths continue up the mountain or drop down, but there is no need to change your height. After about an hour, there is a rocky outcrop with one of the most beautiful views of Sofia down below. Be careful not to go too close to the edge! This is an ideal place to stop and take some refreshments. You are now two minutes away from the waterfall. Continue along the path, and you will come to the waterfall, which when I visited in February was partially frozen and made for a wonderful sight.

The waterfall is formed by the river Skakavitsa, and I understand there is a second, smaller waterfall further down. You now have a choice to retrace your footsteps (if you have left the car in the car park) or to continue to Simeonovo and the Simeonovo Lakes, a set of small, artificial pools, which takes another half an hour. Buses go to and from the districts of Dragalevtsi and Simeonovo, so whether you retrace your footsteps or continue to Simeonovo, you should be able to take a bus from there back to the centre of Sofia.

A tree has been protected by a fence. On the left is the wire fence surrounding Dragalevtsi Monastery.
The monastery buildings through the trees.
The path forks almost immediately. Keep left.
A wooden bridge over the Dragalevska River.
Snow and beeches!
The disused Dragalevtsi chairlift, with Sofia in the background.
More cables cut through the forest, offering another view of Sofia.
Beneath the snow is one of many moraines – rocks left by glaciers – on Vitosha Mountain.
Small trees pushing against the odds.
Rock formations.
The rocky outcrop just before the waterfall.
From here you are within touching distance of the waterfall.
The waterfall, which in February was partially frozen.
A more general view of the waterfall.
The rocky outcrop offers one of the best views of Sofia.

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