Profile of Sofia Region

Geographic map of Sofia Capital. Asterisks present study areas.


The Region of Sofia is situated on the territory of Sofia pan, and on the territory of Ljulin, Vitosha, Plana and Lozenska mountains as well as the southern slopes of western Stara Planina mountain (Western Bulgaria). The largest area of the region is in Sofia pan (about 1300 km2). The average altitude of the pan is about 550 m (Figures 9, 10). As a very suitable area for the projects targets the Basin of Iskar River –from its springs to the town of Novi Iskar has been selected.

On the territory of Sofia pan the rural and urban areas cover 245.5 km2, the agricultural land covers an area of 509 km2, 466.5 km2 – forests, and 40 km2 – watercourses and water bodies.

Regarding the administrative aspect the region overlays the territory of Sofia municipality with 24 administrative sub-divisions. The municipality is composed of 4 towns – the Sofia-capital, and the towns of Bankja, Novi Iskar, Buhovo as well as 34 villages.

Morphology of Sofia Capital Region.

The area of interest has an important infrastructure position. The roads connecting Western and Central Europe with the Near and the Middle East pass through it as well as the roads connecting North and East Europe with the Mediterranean.


The Region of Sofia is the smallest administrative region in the country with regard to its area (1310 km2 or 1.18 % of the country area). It is overlaid with Sofia municipality. The municipality is a legal entity with its own property and budget. It covers 38 residential areas, out of which 4 towns (Sofia, Bankja, Novi Iskar and Buhovo) and 34 villages. In Sofia municipality there are 24 sub-divisions having status of municipality, in which there are mayor offices (the smallest administrative-territorial divisions in Bulgaria). The municipal administration is divided to departments and sectors, governed by deputy mayors, selected by the Sofia municipal council in accordance with a proposal made by the mayor.

The city of Sofia as being the capital of Bulgaria is unique with regard to its administrative function. All governmental bodies are concentrated there – the legislative, the executive and the judicial power. The capital has also important economic, transport and culture functions. In this respect it has a strong influence on the surrounding territory and plays a region-forming role.

Main demographic parameters for the town of Sofia









Population density (persons per km2)








Birth rate (‰)








Death rate (‰)








Natural growth (‰)






- 4.7

- 4.3

Infant mortality rate (‰)








According to preliminary data of the census took place in March 2001, the population in the Region of Sofia is 1 173 811 or 14.7 % of the population in the country (National Statistical Institute). Between the last two censuses (1992 and 2001) the population of the Region of Sofia has decreased with 1.4 % (as the decrease for the country is 6.1%). The population of the capital itself for the same period has decreased from 1 114 925 to 1 096 398.

Significant disproportions are observed also in the territorial distribution of the country. The density of the population in Sofia is the highest for the country (Table 15). According to data for 1999 the density is 917.8 persons per km2, as for 1980 the value of this parameter is 826.5. The average value for the country is about 75 persons per km2. The high urbanization leads to higher unemployment and necessity of improving the social and technical infrastructure in Sofia.

According to data of the National Statistical Institute, in March 2001 in the towns of the Region of Sofia live 1 121 309 people, which is 95.5% of the total population in the region. Comparing to the figures for 1992 the urban population has decreased with 17 585 people. This tendency is a result of the total decrease of the population in the country, including the Region of Sofia.


For the Region of Sofia the prevailing number of employed people are those employed in the sectors of services and processing industry. The trend is in increasing of the number of people working in the non-manufacturing sectors and decreasing the number of people working in the manufacturing industries.

The leading sectors with regard to employment for 1997 are: trade – 8.22%, health care – 9.69%, education – 9.69%, construction – 8.22%. Comparatively large is the share of the employed in the state administration, metallurgy, scientific research as well as finance sectors. Leading in terms of employment within the private sector are trade, construction, business services, finance and transport.

For the period 1991 – 1999, the Region of Sofia has the lowest unemployment in the country. At the end of June 1999 the registered unemployed people in the region were 17 990, as the unemployment rate is 3.4%. Within the unemployment structure prevail women (60% of all registered in the country). It is typical that the larger share of the unemployed in the Region of Sofia has secondary or higher education; as in the country prevail the unemployed with primary or lower education.

During 1998 in the town of Sofia about 13% of the industrial goods of the country are produced, as 25% of the goods come from the private sector. In the Sofia economy all manufacturing sectors are represented, as there are about 800 big enterprises. Ferrous metallurgy, electro technical and electronic industries, machinery construction, paper-pulp industry, polygraph industry, light and food industry are developing. Sofia provides 70% of the ferrous metals produced in the country, 17% of the electro technical and electronic production, 13% of the machinery production, 10% of the paper, 20% of flour, and 9% of the construction materials. Construction and trade sectors are well developed.

During 1990 – 1997 the share of the economy of the capital in national scale decreases, which is expressed in decrease of the number of employed people in the industry, construction and transport.

Extraction industry is represented by mining of rock materials (granite, etc.) as well as sand and gravel from the old river sediments near Kazichene, Dolni Bogrov, Chelopechene, Chepintsi and Negovan villages, and the open cast extraction of ferrous minerals near Kremikovtsi. Because of economic and environmental reasons the extraction activities are being limited during the last years.

The development of agriculture in the region is based on continuously increasing number of the population in the capital. Southern slopes of Stara Planina mountain and the northern foots of the mountains standing to south of Sofia are used for agricultural activities. On the territories having lower elevation (Krivina, Kazichene, Busmantsi villages) production of vegetables and some fruits is developed, as well as production of cereals and forage. At higher elevation mainly forage is produced. In relation to the market demands green house production and flower production is also developed.

In the near vicinity of the capital, there are animal farms that produce meat and milk. Semi-mountainous and the mountainous pastures are basis for development of pasture husbandry.

The economic analysis of the Region of Sofia shows that within the industrial structure heavy industries have significant share. Production is characterized by high consumption of resources, energy and funds. Development of numerous activities is not in compliance with the requirements of the environmental legislation, which requires improvement of the sectoral structure of the economy or improvement of the infrastructure of the enterprises aiming at environmental protection. In general the multi-sectoral structure of the economy corresponds to the specific features of the capital.


The Region of Sofia, despite its small area, has various natural and anthropogenic tourist resources, which prerequisite development of holiday and business tourism, mountain summer and winter (ski) tourism and weekend recreational activities. Even tourism is not the main sector of the economy in the Region; Sofia tends to be an important tourist center. The capital takes second place regarding number of visitors (after Varna), as regarding the number of nights spent in a hotel Sofia is after the biggest Bulgarian seaside resorts. About 34% of all foreign visitors of the country in summer pass through Sofia, and about 61% in winter. The concentration of business visitors is very high in Sofia – 76% in summer.

The mountains around Sofia with their typical relief forms (picturesque peaks, rock pyramids – Katina, stone rivers – Vitosha mountain), the snow cover and sun light duration, waters (mineral springs, Iskar dam, Pancharevo lake) as well as vegetation are natural tourist resources. The natural resort-tourist potential of Sofia is concentrated in three main recreational and tourist areas: natural park Vitosha, Pancharevo lake and Iskar dam.


The landforms of City of Sofia Region are presented by pans, mountains and river valleys (Figure 10). The elevation above sea level ranges from about 500 m in Novi Iskar to 2290 m on Cherni Vrah (Black Peak), Vitosha Mountain. The Sofia pan occupies the largest area.

Iskar River and its tributaries formed in the bottom of the pan three river terraces of different height and age. The terrace of 3-5 m relative height has the widest occurrence. Almost all residence places are built on this terrace. The next terrace is about 12-15 m above the present riverbed. The remains of old pan bottoms can be observed on relative height of 18-24 m. A sedimentation level consisting of Pliocene lacustrine deposits is preserved in the range of the pan. They form a bench on the slope, which is 45-50 m above the present riverbeds. The rivers formed sediment cones on the slopes encompassing the pan.

The relief of the mountains is presented by well-shaped ridges and slope benches, which indicate stage-by-stage raising of the area. The stone rivers are typical for Vitosha. They are the result of weathering-denudation processes, screes and scree covers. The mountain raise in Pliocene resulted in the formation of faces on the northern slope and the landslip bank (Dragalevtsi - Boyana). The radial river system follows the normal fault system. The slopes of Plana Mountain have also normal fault character. Mineral water springs occur at the faults. The limestone and dolomite in the Lozen Mountain caused the formation of karstic landforms. Iskar River cuts the Pancherevo gorge between Lozen and Plana mountains. It has the typical river sills, rock faces, landslips and landslides.

In general, the pan relief of the area and the river pans are favorable for setting up of transport network and agriculture. Due to the high industrialization of the area, the agriculture is limited. The mountain relief, together with the climate and soils, are favorable for the development of forestry. The high Vitosha Mountain, the climate and the flora, as well as the short distance to the capital city are very favorable for the development of tourism.

The Region of Sofia is dewatered by Iskar River and its tributaries. The river is supplied with waters by precipitation and snow melting. The maximum run-off is in May – June, as the minimum in August – September. The bigger tributaries of Iskar, which pass through the territory of the Region of Sofia are: Vladajska, Perlovska, Suhodolska, Slatinska, Boyanska, Bistrishka, Bankjanska rivers. Their riverbeds within the boundaries of the town of Sofia have been corrected. On Iskar River, in the southern part of the region, Iskar and Pancharevo dams are constructed. The region is rich of mineral waters. The hydrothermal resources on the territory of Sofia represent significant share of those in the country (15 springs with total flow of 130 l/s mineral water). Some of the famous springs are Gorna Banya, Ovcha kupel, Kniazevo, Centralna banja and Bankya.


In geotectonic aspect, the City of Sofia Region is situated in an area comprising the Sofia graben and Liulin, Vitosha, Plana, and Lozenska Mountains. On the graben structure formed the Sofia pan. The underlying geology of the pan and the mountain slopes comprise Upper Cretaceous volcanic and volcanic-sedimentary rocks in the western, southern and central parts; Permian and Triassic sandstone, breccias and breccias-conglomerate, sandy siltstone, slate and marl in the northern parts; Upper Jurassic limestone in the north-western parts.

The basement rocks of the Sofia pan are covered by Neogene sand, sandy and salty clay, gravel, conglomerates, lignite, and rarely sandstone, marl and limestone. They are overlain by Quaternary alluvium, proluvium, and diluvium.

In seismic aspect, the Sofia pan and the surroundings belong to the Srednogorie seismic region. The maximum expected magnitude (M) of earthquake in the Sofia zone is 7.0. In this respect, Sofia and the surrounding areas do not bear the highest seismic risk as the seismic zones of Shabla and Struma with maximum magnitude up to 8.0 and the Maritza Zone with maximum magnitude up to 7.5.

Natural Environment

Regarding their origin, the landscapes are relatively homogeneous territorial combinations (complexes) of interconnected environmental components (rocks, relief, climate, water, soils, flora and fauna). As a result of the economic activities these complexes change into anthropogeniesed territorial systems. Depending on the expression of the factors that determine the landscape differentiation the following natural landscapes on the territory of the Region of Sofia are distinguished: ridge, sloppy, pan-gorge, mountain-foot, landscapes of the hollow-bottom.

Under the influence of different forms of land use, the greater part of natural landscapes is transformed into anthropogenic. The main categories anthropogenic landscapes in the geographical area of the capital are: agricultural (agrolandscapes), residential (urban), industrial (technogenic), and recreational – the places for recreation and tourism. The largest area is taken by the agrolandscapes with species suitable for crop rotation, perennials, meadows and pastures. The residential landscapes also take considerable area. Along with the built-up areas, green territories and the parks are also typical for the urban landscapes, as well as sports facilities, cultural and historic monuments, etc. Within the technogenic and degraded landscapes, the industrial zones of the capital, the developed engineering infrastructure, the mine and quarry pits, and the dumpsites of these mines are included.

The so far industrial development and the existing technical infrastructure have not been in compliance with the environmental and aesthetic landscape features in the regions with high technogenic load, which creates environmental problems and requires alternative regional planning solutions. This fact forces the relief, flora, waters and climate features of the region, as well as the impact of the social-economic factors and the population needs to be taken into account in the future regional planning.


As per the forest-vegetation division of Bulgaria, the Region of Sofia belongs to the Mizian forest-vegetation area. In vertical direction 5 elevation zones are presented here:

  1. pan bottom – 500 – 600 m above sea level;
  2. foot 600-800 m above sea level;
  3. low mountain belt – 800 – 1 200 m above sea level;
  4. middle mountain belt – 1 200 – 1 800 m above sea level;
  5. high mountain belt – 1 800 – 2 290 m above sea level.

On the territory as a whole 44 plant formations are determined. The native vegetation is presented by 20 formations and 24 formations belong to the secondary vegetation. Here 6 groups plant communities are differentiated: forest (witch are 45% of the all established), scrub (6.8 %), pastures and meadow (25 %), agricultural (15.9%), forest cultures (6.8%) and ruderal.

The agriculture lands are presented by the biggest area, replacing forests of Field elm Ulmus minor Mill., Field ash-tree Fraxinus oxycarpa Willd., Quecus pedunculiflora C.Koch. and covers the whole Sofia pan. It is followed by the mesophytous herbaceous formations (meadow), widely distributed along the rivers, on the terraces of the rivers as assemblages all over the pan. The most spread of them is the Poaeta sylicolae type -17 associations are encountered of this type. The formation of Festuceta pratensis type is wide spread as well, with 8 associations encounter.

In the Region of Sofia it ranges Dianthus urumoffii Acht.Bulgarian endemic. At the foot of the surrounding mountains Balkanic durmast Quercus dalechampii Ten, White oak Quercus pubescens Willd., Field maple Acer campastre L. and some other tree species have been widely distributed in the past. These forest trees have been growing together with steppe and meadow-steppe grass species, witch now are encountered on the most infertile thin soils with erosion. Above 800 – 900 m above sea level growth hygrophytic type forests of Balkanic durmas Q.daleshampii Ten., Aspen Populus tremula L., Ordinary hornbeam Carpinus betulus L. and still higher – forests of beech Fagus sylvatica L. Above the beech forests in Vitosha in the attitude belt 1300 – 2000 m Scots pine Pinus sylvestris L. forests are distributed. Above this belt the sub alpine vegetation grows, presented mostly by Draft pine Pinus mugi L. and Sibiric juniper Juniperus sibirica

The prevailing part of the forests is mixed – 27% of all established plant communities. European beech Fagus sylvatica L., Balkanic durmast Quercus dalechampii Ten and Fagus sylvatica L. subsp. moesiaka (K.Mali) Hyelmq. have the great participation. Hornbeam Carpinus betulus L., Turkey oak Quercus cerris L., White oak Q. pubescens Willd., Q. virgiliana (Ten.) Ten. are encountered as well.

Pure and relatively pure forests have less participation. More distributed are these where European beech Fagus sylvatica L., Balkanic durmast Quercus dalechampii Ten and Fagus. moesiaka (K.Mali) Hyelmq participate. In the rest of them Hungarian oak Quercus frainetto Ten., Manna ash Fraxinus ornus L., Balkanic durmast Quercus dalechampii Ten., Silver lime Tilia tomentosa Moench. The pure coniferous forests are presented by Scots pine Pinus sylvestris L. forests and Norway spruce Picea abies (L.) Karst. forests.

The city of Sofia belongs to the lower hilly plain foothill belt of deciduous oak trees. The potential vegetation is mostly presented by mixed deciduous forests. Very rich composition of indigenous and introduce tree and shrub species with different ecological and adaptability of urban environment is used in the forest-parks and particularly in the lawns of the city. More than 30 species are used in the composition of alley plantations.


Fauna is represented by few species. In natural and artificial water basin the following fish species prevail Crucian carp Carasius carassius, Carp Cyprinus carpio, Sander Stirostedion lucioperca , Tench Tinca tinca and Gudgeon Gobio gobio. The amphibian, which are encountered are Yellow-bellied toad Bombina variegata, Marsh frog Rana ridibunda and Salamander Salamandra maculosa. The small rodents are represented mainly by Microtus sp. and shooting mammals – by Hare Lepus europaeus.

It is found that 310 birds species migrate, nidificate and hibernate in Sofia and his environce. Birds witch belongs to the fauna of cold, temperate and subtropic climatic belt of Eurasia prevail here. The ornithofauna of the town is dynamic one, which is connected to the season migrations of the birds. As a result of expanding of city of Sofia and urbanizing the surrounding area some birds left the town. Black Stork doesn’t already nidificate in the surrounding areas, Fern-owl/goal-sucker has been left the central parks, and Cinclus cinclus is not already here as well. The same destinies have White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Crested Lark Galerida cristata, and Swallow Hirundo rustica.

Protected areas

According to the New Natural Protection Legislation in Bulgaria and in conformity with regulations of IUCN, on the territory of the Region of Sofia а small number protected areas are isolated. These are: natural park “Vitosha”, biosphere reserveBistrishko branishte”, reserve “Torfeno branishte”, natural landmarks “Katinski piramidi”, “Boyanski wodopad” “Alekovi wodopadi”, “Samokowishteto” and lots of protected plant and animal species.