Welcome to the Carpathian Garden!
Romania is a land of natural beauty, where all types of landscapes are to be found, from mountain peaks, home to chamois and reaching 2,000m, where you can walk among alpine vegetation, to plains, coastline and the Danube Delta.
- The Carpathian Mountains are home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe.
- 60% of European brown bear population lives in the Carpathian Mountains and 400 unique species of mammals, including the Carpathian chamois.
- You can witness extremely scenic landscapes that include gorges and defiles, caves (over 12,000), glaciar lakes, megalithic stones and waterfalls.
The Carpathian Mountains cover over a third of the coutry’s territory and are forming a semi-circle around Transylvania, which one of Romania’s nine historical provinces.
Romanian Carpathian Mountainsare divided into three groups: Eastern Carpathians, Southern Carpathians and Western Carpathians. The Western Carpathian Mountains are also called the Mountains of the Sunset (Muntii Apuseni).The highest peaks are in the Southern Carpathians – Moldoveanu (2544 m/8,346 feet) and Negoiu (2535 m/8,316 feet).
In Romania’s many national parks, nature parks and reservations, you can see so many specimens protected by the law at European and international level you might be in a botanical museum.
Romanians are famous for their hospitality in the welcome they extend to their guests. You’ll be delighted both by the welcome you receive from your hosts and the traditional food, not to mention the wide range of sporting activities you can choose from.
Whether you wish to explore unique ecosystems, get a workout, relax, or do a little of everything, you’ll find yourself accommodated by Romania’s 13 national parks:
Semenic – Caraş Gorges • Nera Gorges – Beuşniţa • Domogled – Cerna Valley • Retezat • Călimani • Bicaz Gorges – Hăşmaşului • Ceahlău • Rodna Mountains • Piatra Craiului • Cozia • Buila-Vânturariţa • Jiul Gorge • Măcin Mountains
Semenic – Cheile Caraşului National Park
Within this park lies the widest virgin beech wood forest in Europe (close to 50 km2), with over 350-year-old beech woods, mountain elms measuring nearly two meters across, hornbeams, sycamore, ashes, birches, durmasts, junipers and bilberries. The park contains Romania’s largest compact karst structure, and stunning mountain landscapes are set off by beautiful naturally dammed lakes – Secu, Văliug, Trei Ape. Visitors seek out both water sports and relaxation here. Botanical and zoological diversity are both very rich, with the park home to 1,200 species of plants and 691 species of animals which are strictly protected. The rivers have cut impressive channels through the rock, and underground flows have created 125 hollows and 566 caves. At 1446m, Semenic Mountain is the highest peak in the country’s South-West, and has ski resorts. You can find accommodation in any of the boarding houses at the park’s entrance or in designated camping areas.
Location: south-west Romania, Caraş Severin county
Area: 362 km2
By car – through Prislop (DJ582E), Crivaia (DJ 582 D), Anina/Oraşul Nou (DJ 582 C), Reşiţa/Minda (DJ 582 C), Padina Seacă (DC 92), Curiaciţa (DN 58), Celnic (DN 58), Anina/ Maial (DP 9), Botu Calului (DP 5)
By train – to Reşiţa or Anina
Local accommodation: guest houses, mountain huts, 2 to 3-star villas
Contact: National Park Authority Semenic Caraş Keys
Cheile Nerei – Beuşniţa National Park
The area’s spectacular landscapes will delight you even before you enter the park. On the marked hiking trails or cycle-friendly access roads, accompanied by authorised tour guides or on your own, you will be able to admire Turkish hazelnut trees and the superb pinks of Banat iris or peony. You may see some of the local fauna – white eagle, large martin, red-breasted swallow or cirl bunting. But we recommend you stay on the paths, because it’s also possible to see a bear, a lynx, or a horned viper.
The local stone is mainly calcarous, so water has been able to sculpt many caves – Dubova, Gaura Porcarului, Sfânta Elena, Ochiul Beului, Lacul Dracului (Devil’s Lake) – and rock formations including Nerei, Minişului and Şuşarei. Popular visitor destinations include Bigăr, Beuşniţa and Şuşara waterfalls and the cultural and historic sites Călugăra Monastery and Socola Fortress. During spring and in early summer you can raft on Nera River and try canyoning in the gorges.
Recommended tourist routes:
Ochiul Beului Lake – Beuşniţa
Grade: blue triangle Duration: 1 hour
Sasca Montană – Şuşara Waterfall – Nera Keys
Grade: blue cross Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Nera Keys – Poiana Meliugului – Tişului Spring
Grade: blue circle Duration: 2 hours
Location: south-west Romania, Caraş Severin County
Area: 377 km2
By car – Caransebeş (E 94), DN 58 Caransebeş – Reşiţa – Anina, DN 58B Timişoara – Reşiţa;
By train – to Reşiţa, Aninaor Oraviţa
Local accommodation: forest range huts, camping areas, 2 to 3-star guest houses
Contact: Nera Keys – Beuşniţa National Park Authority
Domogled National Park
Domogled’s natural diversity has something to please every eye
– its limestone landscapes feature gorges, soaring ridges, canyons, mountain hamlets, sub-alpine meadows, and thermal caves that are unique in Europe. Here you will find rare plants protected by law, including sângele-voinicului orchids (nigritella nigra), globe flowers (bulbucul-de-munte/trollius europaeus), snow roses (smârdarul/rhododendron kotschiy), irises (iris graminea) and saffron crocuses (crocus moesiacus). Many unique animal species, especially insects, thrive. The park’s thermal caves create a tropical microclimate (35-45°C), their steam heating streams to 52°C. Filtering through the bedrock, these waters have sunk through fissures as low as 1,200m, emerging hot and mineralised, making them an elixir harnessed in famous spa resorts ever since Roman times.
Location: south-west Romania in Caraş-Severin,Mehedinţi and Gorj
Area: 612 km2
By car – DN 6 Bucharest – Timişoara near Băile Herculane resort, DN 67 D Băile Herculane – Târgu Jiu near Godeanu area, and county road Padeş – Valea Mare near Padeş locality– Gorj
By train – to Băile Herculane
Local accommodation: 2 to 4-star motel
Contact: National Park Authority Domogled Cerna Valley
Retezat National Park
Glacial reliefs formed during the Quaternary period and its geological composition makes the Retezat Massif a distinctive and wild landscape. Its many peaks exceeding 2,000m, countless glacial cirques and lakes together form an unmistakable geography, enhanced by different levels of vegetation.
Above 2,000m large glacial cirques and moraines testify to the former existence of large masses of ice. Bucura Lake is the largest of the 82 Carpathian glacial lakes, and here too are Romania’s three deepest glacial lakes (more than 20 metres) – Zănoaga, Tăul Negru, Galeşul. The area between Gemenele Lakes – Tăul Negru – Valea Dobrun has been declared a scientific reservation and public access is forbidden.
In Retezat, 90 types of plant specific only to the Carpathians are found, as well as a remarkably dense population of zâmbru (swiss pine/pinus cembra). Sub-alpine vegetation is dominated by scrub trees. The fauna is also extremely diverse, comprising deer, chamois, wild boar, marmots, wildcats, bears, wood and hazel grouses, and others. Venomous horned vipers prefer the chalky areas, while fast-water fish such as trout swim in the local lakes and rivers.
Themed tourist routes with puzzles and riddles, created by the Park Administration:
1. Chamois and their neighbours: Pietrele (the Stones) – Stânişoara Valley – Ciurila Saddle – Lolaia Ridge – Pietrele
2. Nature, people and history: a) Visiting centre Nucşoara – Cârtog – Mălăieşti Fortress – Nucşoara,
b) Sălaşu-de-Sus – Paroş – Peştera village – Lotrilor Cave (Gura Cetăţii)
3. Spre Cetatea Colţ interpretative route: Nucşoara viaduct – Cetatea Colţ and back
Călimani National Park
The Călimani are extinct volcanic mountains among whose crater is the largest in Romania at 10km in diameter. Up to 2,000m, on Pietrosu, Retitis and Călimani Izvor Peaks you will find rich vegetation. Among areas protected for their geographic importance are the Twelve Apostles geological reserve and the Iezerul Calimanului reservation – a naturally dammed lake surrounded by junipers, mountain pines and snow roses (rhododendron kotschyi). Another highlight for visitors is the 8m-high Tihu waterfall on the Pârâul Umed rivulet.
In Călimani you can enjoy cycling, horse riding, climbing, visiting tourist sheep farms cross-country skiing and winter sports on two ski slopes.
Recommended tourist routes:
Poiana Negrii Village – the Twelve Apostles – Gura Haitii village
– Calimanul Cerbului Peak – Coverca village
Grade: blue dot Duration: 8 to 9 hours
Dornişoara village – Izvoarele Dornei
Grade: yellow dot Duration: 4 hours
Location: north-east Romania, Suceava, Mureş, Bistriţa and Harghita Counties
Area: 240.41 km2
By car – through Suceava – Vatra Dornei (DN 17), Tulgeş – Topliţa – Răstoliţa (DN 15)
By train – to Vatra Dornei or Răstoliţa
Local accommodation: motels, 2 and 3-star guest houses, 3-star cottage
Contact: Călimani National Park Authority
Cheile Bicazului – Hăşmaş National Park
Cheile Bicazului – Hăşmaş National Park has the largest naturally dammed mountain lake in Romania, and the first example to be recorded – Lacul Roşu (Red Lake), also a nature reserve. The surroundings’ various geological, geomorphic and climatic features, as well as the large altitude difference (from 575m in Bicaz up to 1792m at Hăşmaşul Mare Peak) have promoted rich flora. The park’s animal life too is diverse, and includes numerous endangered species.
Accommodation is available in cottages, special camping areas and in many guest houses at the base of the park. And thanks to the Forest Authority a broad range of tourist activities are on offer – horse riding, photo tourism, guided hiking, visiting specialised local communities, wildlife-watching and skiing.
Location: central-north-east Romania, Harghita and Neamţ Counties
Area: 65 km2
By car – through Bălan (DN 12), Bicaz (DN 12C)
By train – to Bicaz
Local accommodation: 1, 2 and 3-star guest houses, 3-star camping, 1-star cottage, 2 and 3-daisy agritourism guest houses
Contact: Cheile Bicazului – Hăşmaş National Park Authority
Ceahlău National Park
Ceahlău Mountain is the most important massif in the central Oriental Carpathians. Ascents begin from Izvorul Muntelui Cottage on the mountain’s east side, from Durau resort or Ceahlău commune to the north-west or from the south at Bicazul Ardelean. On Ceahlău’s west side, routes from Martin’s and Bistrei Valleys offer a choice of many tourist trails. Other attractions include the natural monuments Poliţa cu Crini Natural Botany Reserve, Ocolaşul Mare Natural Scientific Reserve, Duruitoarea Waterfall and Avenul Mare.
Recommended tourist routes:
Izvorul Muntelui Cottage – Curmătura Lutu Roşu – Dochia Cottage
Grade: blue strip Duration: 3 hours
Staţiunea Durău – Poiana Viezuri – Duruitoarea Waterfall – Poiana Săiuşului – Dochia Cottage
Grade: red cross Duration: 4 hours
Location: north-east Romania
Area: 77,42 km2
By car – Topliţa – Borsec – Tulgheş (DN 15), Bistriţa – Vatra Dornei – Broşteni – Poiana Teiului (DN 17B), Gheorghieni – Lacul Roşu – Bicaz (DN 15D), Roman – Piatra Neamţ – Bicaz (DN 15D), Târgu Neamţ – Poiana Largului (DN 15B)
By train – to Bicaz, Gheorghieni and Topliţa
Contact: National Park Authority Ceahlău
Rodnei Mountains National Park
UNESCO designated this national park a biosphere reservation for its abundance of both glacial and cryonival features – lakes, valleys and glacial cirques – and its profusion of flora and fauna species. Here Izvorul Cailor, Romania’s highest waterfall cascades in steps for 90m. The mountains bear excellently preserved hallmarks of the Quaternary Ice Age, their landscapes fine examples of glacial shaping and lakes, caves with galleries and spectacular waterfalls.
Rodnei Mountains National Park sits at the confluence of two areas of climatic influence – Baltic and Oceanic. This location, combined with an altitude difference of more than 1,600m – the highest peak, Pietrosu Mare, scales 2,303m – has nurtured extremely rich flora and fauna. Leisure activities available here include cultural tourism, spa therapies, horse riding and agritourism.
Recommended tourist routes:
Between the Anieşe – Anieşului Mic Valley – Între Izvoare Saddle.
Grade: yellow cross Duration: 3 hours
Vinului Valley – Roşu Spring – Cisia Peak – Târniţa lui Putredu
Grade: blue triangle Duration: 5 to 6 hours
Borşa touris complex – Buza Muntelui Saddle – Puzdrele – Paltinului Saddle
Grade: blue dot Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Location: north Romania, Maramureş and Bistriţa-Năsăud Counties
Area: 472 km2
By car – through Cârlibaba, Borsa, (DN 18)
By train – to Telciu, Romuli, Rebrişoara Sângeorz Băi, Cormaia, Anieş or Rodna
Local accommodation: 2 and 3-star guest houses, agritourism boarding houses rated with three stars, hotels rated with three stars, cottages rated with two stars.
Contact: Rodnei Mountains National Park
Piatra Craiului National Park
Thirty-five kilometres from Braşov in the Southern Carpathians’ range, Piatra Craiului Mountain is a spectacular, 25km-long limestone ridge whose peaks exceeding 2000m, and a true paradise for rock climbers.
Hikers can choose from numerous trails of varying difficulty, from simple mountain footpaths to trails canto challenging to be climbed outside summer. Many remote spots have help huts – often an appreciated refuge from the mountain’s fast-changing weather.
Less demanding options include walks through the forests which hug the mountain’s feet, where seeing a bear or stag is not unusual. Some 1170 species of plant have been identified within the park’s boundaries, some rare enough to appear on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Most spectacular is the vivid pink Piatra Craiului (Dianthus callizonus), which has became the mountain’s symbol, and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Brown bears, up to 2.5m long and 1.5m tall at the shoulder and weighing as much as 600kg share this environment.
Location: central Romania, Braşov and Argeş Counties
Area: 147 km2
By car: Braşov – Râşnov (DN 73) – Zărneşti (DN 73A), Bucharest – Predeal (DN 1) – Pârâul Rece – Râşnov – Zărneşti (DN 73A)
By train to Zărneşti
Contact: National Park Authority of Piatra Craiului
Rich in spectacular landscapes and biological diversity, Romania’s 14 nature parks are Bucegi, Apuseni Mountains, Portile de Fier (‘Iron Gates’), Comana, Defileul Mureşului Superior (‘Upper Mures Gorge’), Balta Mică a Brăilei (‘Small Moor of Brăila’), Lunca Mureşului Inferior (‘Lower Mures Meadow’), Lunca Joasă a Prutului Inferior (‘Lower Meadow of Lower Prut’), Grădiştea Muncelului – Cioclovina, Maramureşului Mountains, Vânători-Neamţ, Putna – Vrancea, Geoparcul Dinozaurilor Ţara Haţegului and Geoparcul Platoul Mehedinţi. Here are some of their highlights.
Bucegi Nature Park
The complex character of Bucegi Nature Park supports many forms of recreation – hiking on marked trails with an authorised tour guide, mountain climbing – on approximately 280 routes, speleology, photography, filming, winter sports, and mountain biking on the park’s public roads. Peak Omu at 2,505m is the Bucegi Mountains’ highest peak, its symbol the rock formation Sfinx and Babele, a monument to the power of the wind. The park’s diverse landscapes, sculpted from calcareous conglomerates, its geological structure and its 2,000m-plus altitude have promoted rich and diverse flora – over 3,500 known species of plants, most of them protected by law. Fauna here too is much diversified, with around 3,000 known species of animals. Emblematic of the area are the Western Capercaillie, the chamois, the brown bear, and the lynx.
The Western Capercaillie is a protected species. Its length from beak to tail is between 90 and 112cm, depending on its environment and diet. Body weight for a male is 4.5 to 6.5kg, for a female 1.8 to 3kg.
Recommended tourist routes
Route 5 Buşteni (885m) – Urlătoarea Waterfall (1100m)
Grade: red dot Duration: 1 hour
Route 7 Buşteni (885m), Jepilor Valley – Caraiman Cottage (2025m) – Babele Cottage (2200m) – Peştera Hotel (1610m) – Padina Cottage (1525m) – Bolboci Cottage (1460m) – Zănoaga Cottage (1400m) – Scropoasa Cottage (1205m) – Dobreşti (1000m) – Căprioara – Pucheni Camp (800m)
Grade: blue cross Duration: 11 to 12 hours
Route 10 Buşteni (885m) – Gura Diham Cottage (987m) – Poiana Izvoarelor Cottage (1455m) – La Prepeleac (1750m) – Omu Cottage (2505m) – Bătrâna Mountain (2181m) – Saddle Strunga (1909m)
Grade: red strip Duration: 8 to 10 hours
Location: central Romania, Braşov, Prahova, Dâmboviţa Counties
Area: 326,63 km2
By car – from upper Prahovei Valley (DN 1), Târgovişte – Sinaia (DN 71) – Moroieni – Barajul Bolboci
By train – to Sinaia, Buşteni, Predeal or Braşov
Local accommodation: 2 and 3-star cottages, 2-star guest houses
Contact: Bucegi Nature Park Administration
Information points: Scropoasa canton, Park Authority headquarters, Saddle Strunga visitor refuge
Apuseni Mountains Nature Park
Apuseni Mountains Nature Park was among 22 destinations to be designated a European Destination of Excellence in 2009 as part of the European Destinations of Excellence project’s Tourism and Protected Habitats program. Launched by the European Commission, the project was implemented by the national tourism authorities of every participating territory. The most spectacular sights in the Apuseni Mountains, from both natural and cultural points of view, are found in this park. Its character is defined by its karst landscape, with sinkholes, deep valleys and gentle ridges alternating with rocky areas with canyons and gorges, above a network of more than 3,500 underground caves. The park’s characteristics distinguish it with Romania’s highest and largest cave portals – Cetăţile Ponorului (‘Fortress of Ponor’) at 76m and Coiba Mare Portal, 54 to 45m in width – the deepest hollow (Hollow V5 in Vărăşoaia, 642m deep), the deepest siphon (Izbucul Tăuz, 85m deep), only polje (Poiana Ponor) and the valley with highest ratio of caves to area (Sighiştelului Valley has more than 200 caves in around 10 km2).
For visitors, attractions include the karst features and spectacular natural landscapes such as Padiş karst plateau, the Cetăţile Ponorului Karstic Complex, Lumea Pierdută Karst Plateau, Urşilor Cave at Chişcău, Sighiştelului Valley, Ruginoasa Pit, Galbenei Gorge, Glacier Scărişoara, Coiba Mare Cave, Coiba Mica Cave, Şura Boghii Cave, Ordâncuşii Valley, Someşul Cald Keys, Răchitele Waterfall, Fântanele Lake and Cârligate peak. Among the area’s cultural highlights are Arieşului Valley and the hamlets of Moţilor Country. One of these, the highest permanent settlements in the Carpathians, Casa-de-Piatră is the most remote and picturesque hamlet in all the Apuseni Mountains.
Many visitor activities are possible here – summer and winter hiking, cross-country skiing on designated trails, downhill skiing on the slope on Vârtop, Arieşeni, rock-climbing on special routes, cycling, visiting the caves, rafting and white-water kayaking, visiting cultural and heritage attractions, photography, nature watching (the flora, the fauna, underground photography), horse riding and, in winter, dog sledding.
Recommended tourist routes:
Stâna de Vale (1,080m) – Bohodei Saddle – Fântâna Rece – Cârligatele – Cumpănăţelul Saddle – Piatra Arsă – Poiana Vărăşoaia – Vărăşoaia Cottage – Padiş Plane – Bălileasa Depression – Poiana Glăvoi – Poiana Căput – Bârsa Cohanului – Poniţa Saddle – Vârtop Peak – Vârtop Saddle (1,160m) – Piatra Grăitoare Peak (1658m) – Tarniţa Bihorului Saddle – Cucurbăta Mare Peak (1849m)
Grade: red strip Duration: 12 to 13 hours
Valley Sighiştelului – Sodolul Laurului – Brusturi Hill – Urşilor Cave – Brusturi Valley – Dosuri Hill – Faţa Plaiului – Poiana Măgura – Sighiştelului Valley
Grade: red dot Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Location: north-west Romania, Bihor, Cluj and Alba Counties
Area: 760 km2
By car – through Oradea – Cluj-Napoca (E 60) – Huedin (E60/DN1) Oradea – Deva (E 79/DN 76) – Ştei – Lunca – Câmpeni (DN 75)
By train – to Beiuş, Ştei or Huedin
Local accommodation: 3-star villas, 3-star camping, 3-star guest houses
Contact: Nature Park Administration Apuseni Sudirigiu
Information: The new administrative headquarters of Apuseni Mountains Nature Park in Sudrigiu, Bihor County has a visiting and information centre, and three further tourist information and visiting centres can be found in the Padiş Plateau (Padiş Plane area), in the villages of Gârda de Sus and Doda Pilii.
Vânători Neamţ Nature Park
Vânători Neamţ Nature Park is a refuge for many rare and endangered species, including lynx, otters, brown bears and aurochs, a kind of huge wild cattle and Europe’s largest animal. In 1927, less than 50 aurochs survived worldwide, and all of them were in captivity. Today, 55 aurochs live in Romania in three reservations. Dragoş Vodă Reservation from Neamţ County has more pairs of them and three ponds – Zimbrilor, Cerbilor and Căpriorilor – lie nearby.
Location: north-east Romania, Neamt County
Area: 308 km2
By car – on E85/DN 2 Suceava – Cristeşti, then on DN15 B through Târgu Neamţ – Vânători Neamţ;
on E85/DN2 Roman – Cristeşti, then on DN15 B
By train – to Piatra Neamţ
Contact: Nature Park Administration Vânători Neamţ
Porţile-de-Fier (‘Iron Gates’) Nature Park
Distinctive geological, geomorphic and biological diversity including important wet areas – habitat for some species of internationally protected birds – and traces of settlement from the Paleolithic era make Porţile-de-Fier Nature Park a veritable outdoor museum. In the Cazanele Mari area, the Danube river’s narrowest gorge, 53m deep and 150m wide, forces the water through such a constricted space that it creates extremely strong currents which make the surface appear to be constantly boiling, hence the name cazane (‘boilers’). For many years, this barrier of rocks rising from the Danube and the turbulent water made navigating the river, at its entrance to Romania, almost impossible.
In biodiversity terms, Porţile-de-Fier National Park is one of Romania’s richest regions, harbouring many species which are of great scientific interest. Beech and Durmast forests cover 75% of Almajului and Locvei mountains, while many species unique to Romania also flourish. Beech, yew and bilberry trees are unusual at such low altitude, while some lowland varieties – wild lilac, Turkey oak and flowering ash can be found in the Danube gorge at uncharacteristically high altitudes.
Recommended tourist routes:
Dubova Gulf – Cazanele Mari (‘Large Cauldrons’)
Grade yellow triangle Duration: 2 hours
Dubova Gulf – Cazanele Mici (‘Small Cauldrons’)
Grade: red triangle Duration: 1 hour
Starişte – Trescovăţ
Grade: red triangle Duration: 6 hours
Location: south-west Romania, Mehedinţi and Caraş-Severin Counties
Area: 1271 km2
By car – through Drobeta Turnu-Severin – Orşova (E70/DN6) – Moldova Nouă (DN 57), Reşiţa – Oraviţa – Naidaş – Moldova Nouă (DN 57)
By train – until the train stations Drobeta Turnu-Severin, Orşova or Reşiţa
Local accommodation: 3-star hotels, 2 and 3-star guest houses
Contact: Porţile-de-Fier Nature Park Administration
FĂGĂRAȘ MOUNTAINS – the highest highs
In the Făgăraş Mountains, you will find Romania’s longest mountain ridge, stretching 70 km.
Here are picturesque glacial lakes, the largest of which is Bâlea Lake, the centrepiece of Bâlea Nature Reserve. Sitting at 2,040 m, the lake has a 4.65ha surface area and a depth of 11 m, and is easily accessible, close to the highest point of the Transfăgăraşan road which crosses the massif from north to south. The sunny southern ridge is reached via a highway tunnel (or, for rock-climbing enthusiasts, over the ridge. Plant life here differs from that on the north side, but also features some of the plants specific to the higher ground of the Transylvanian ridge – juniperus, juniperus communis and bilberry (vaccinum myrtillus). Hiking on the ridge trails (we recommend visitors hike accompanied by a tour guide or a local) you can see rare species of birds, including several varieties of falcon, kestrel and spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes). During summer, it is possible to see chamois here, especially in the remote depressions and away from frequently passed tourist routes in places such as Arpăşel, Albota, Lăiţa. Foxes, bears and wolves rarely climb higher than 2,100m, but roam the lower ground in the dense coniferous forests, as do stags, lynx, European pine martens, wild boar and roe deer from the broadleaf forests.
In Făgăraş Mountains Nature Park you can also visit Arpăşel Fauna Reservation, the limestone landscape of Turnu Roşu and the highest peaks in Romania, eight of which rise above 2,500m, with the highest, Moldoveanu peak, reaching 2,544m.
The ridges of Făgăraş Mountain are narrow and make for fairly challenging hiking, but the beauty of the landscape affords unique rewards. And between Bâlea Waterfall and Bâlea Lake, you can admire the views from the cable car high above a classic glacial valley.
Recommended tourist routes:
Sâmbăta de Jos – Complex turistic Popasul Sâmbăta – Piatra Caprei – Cabană Valea Sâmbetei
Grade: red triangle Duration: 2 to 3 hours
Porumbacu de Sus – Râul Mare – Pârâul Şerbotei – Cabana Negoiu
Grade: blue triangle Duration: 6 to 6.5 hours
Cabana Negoiu – Drumul Zmeilor – Valea Sărăţii – Piatra Prânzului – Şaua Popasul lui Mihai – Custura Sărăţii – Negoiul Mic – Peak Negoiu (2535m, the second as height in Romania)
Grade: blue triangle Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours.
To be avoided in winter.
Piatra Dracului – Lacul Buteanului – Vârful Buteanu – Vf.Netedu – Şaua Netedului – Valea Văiugii – Bâlei Caldera – Bâlea Lake
Grade: blue line Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Location: central Romania, Braşov and Sibiu Counties
Access: road E68/DN1 Sibiu – Făgăraş. In summer, on the Transfăgărăşan road (closed October to June)
Local accommodation: 3-star cottage, 3-star guest houses, 4-daisy agritourism guest houses
The Transfăgărăşan is one of Europe’s most spectacular driving routes. Beginning near the city of Curtea de Argeş on DN7C, it ends at the crossroads of the E68 and DN1 between Sibiu and Braşov, passing on its way through dense forests, skirting mountain ridges, disappearing for almost 1km in a tunnel and reaching an altitude of more than 2,000m. Due to the road’s high stretches, it is covered with snow during winter, and so is closed to traffic between November and July. A massive infrastructure investment, the road was opened in 1974.
Romania’s habitats let visitors see unique and endangered plants and animals and many of these ecosystems are extremely valuable to science. Come and discover them.
Mud Volcanoes Reservation
In volcanic craters, natural gas surfaces from a depth of 3,000m, bringing with it cold, liquid mud. The mud’s concentric patterns in its surface film of petroleum, coloured various shades of grey, bear witness to the local soil’s sulphurous and salty nature, which supports only specialised vegetation. Here plant species protected by law can be found, including nitraria schoberi and obione verrucifera. Two separate points offer rewarding views of this environment’s phenomena – Pâclele Mari (‘Big mists’), where cones with bases larger than 100m have formed and where several craters bubble, and Paclele Mici (‘Small mists’).
Another visitor attraction in the area is also the sculpture camp at Măgura.
Location: Berca and Scorţoasa communes, Buzău County
Area: 0,30 km2
By car – on the DN10 through Buzău – Verneşti – Cândeşti – Sătuc – Berca – Joseni, Policiori – Scorţoasa
By train – to Cândeşti or Berca
Local accommodation: 4-star guest houses, 2-daisy agritourism guest houses
Creasta Cocoşului Nature Reserve
Creasta Cocoşului Nature Reserve is located in the Gutâi Mountains, approximately 35 km from the city of Baia Mare. Its name comes from a narrow and jagged rocky ridge that resembles a rooster’s crest. Part of an old volcanic crater, it rises to around 1450m. South of the main ridge are the mining centres Mare, Baia Sprie and Cavnic and two tourist centres. Rock climbers practise here and take part in rock-climbing contests on the walls of the summit, such are the challenges of its topography. A plateau lies below the ridge.
Location: north Romania, Maramureş County
By car – on DN18 Baia Mare – Sighetu Marmaţiei, up to Pasul Gutâi then forestry road to NE
By train to Baia Mare
Local accommodation: 3 and 4-star guest houses, 2 and 3-daisy agritourism guest houses
Sfânta Ana Lake Complex Natural Reservation
Sfânta Ana is Romania’s only volcanic lake. It lies in the Harghitei Mountains, on the left bank of the Olt River near Tuşnad. At 946 m, the lake occupies the bottom of an extinct volcano, named Ciomatu, from the volcanic massif Puciosu, whose 1,301m summit was the location of the most recent volcanic eruption in the Carpathians, and indeed Central Europe, several thousand years ago. Almost circular, it is 620m long and 460m wide at its widest point, has a surface of 0.2 km2 and a maximum depth of 7m. With no springs feeding it, the lake is replenished only by rain, and its water’s purity comes close to that of distilled water, containing only 0.0029ml minerals per litre. Extremely poor in oxygen, the lake supports no animal life.
A reserve on account of its natural, geological, floral and wildlife riches, Sfânta Ana Lake is linked to Băile Tuşnad resort by tourist paths and a road.
Routes in the Sfânta Ana Lake area
Tinovul Mohoş – Băile Nadaş – Tuşnadul Nou train station
Accessible by vehicle all year round, and exceptionally beautiful
Grade: red dot Duration: ascent 4 to 4.5 hours, descent 3 to 3.5 hours
Sfânta Ana Lake – Carpaţi Hotel
Grade: yellow cross Duration: 1 to 2 hours
Distance: 7km, the shortest distance between Sfânta Ana Lake and Băile Bálványoş. This route is accessible by vehicle all year round
Sfânta Ana Lake – Ţeţelea
This route is moderately difficult, and in winter it is recommended only to experienced and well-prepared walkers. Take plenty of water, as there are no springs along the way
Grade: blue cross Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Location: central Romania, Harghita County
Area: 2 km2
By car – on the E578/DN12 Miercurea Ciuc – Băile Tuşnad – Bixad and then the DJ113 Bixad – Sfânta Ana Lake
Local accommodation: 2 to 3-star guest houses, 1-star camping