Walking and trekking
Romania is a massive country, circular in shape and bisected with a reverse ‘L’ of mountain ranges which dominate the country’s central region and broadly fall under the classification of the Cartpathians or Eastern Carpathian mountains. This goes some way to explain the fact that Romania is an absolutely superb country for the hill-walker – atmospheric, swathed in myth, largely unspoiled and with excellent infrastructure. Camping is allowed anywhere in many of the mountain areas, and there is an excellent network of signed trails and huts.
The main areas which will draw visitors for walking and trekking are located in the regions which are unsurprisingly located along this mountain belt, namely Transylvania, Muntenia, Oltenia, Moldavia, Bucovina and Maramures.
Within these there are several particular mountain massifs which draw special interest: the Fagaras, which contains the highest mountain in Romania, the Ciucas, the Hasmas, the Retezat, Piatra Craiului and Baiului Mountains.
The highest peak of Moldoveanu (2544 m) itself is located almost in the geographical centre of Romania, and is a gothic-silhouetted, serrated peak which dominates the Fagaras range. While largely non-technical, there are some approaches which aren’t for the faint-hearted due to precipitous ridgelines, scree and large drops. The most popular paths to reach Romania’s highest peak take you over the Vistea Mare Peak (2527m), by routes coming from Podragu, Sambata, or by the Vistea Valley.
The nearest village is Victoria, on the north side. On the south side it is accessible from northwest of Câmpulung.
A popular expedition is linking the high glacial ridges of the Fagaras mountains together into a series of traverses, such as that between the Fagaras and Iezer mountains between Iezeral Mare and the Transylvanian village of Sebesu de sus. The Fagaras Ridge is an exemplary mountaineering expedition: almost 70km long, it is one of Europe’s longest high-level walk, staying over 2,000ft for most of its length. Accommodation can be found along the way either by camping or staying in the mountain huts (‘cabana’) of which there is a very good network across Romania.
Another trekking attraction is the crossing of the main ridge of the mighty Carpathian Mountains, which can be done either from east to west or west to east in the north of the country.
Accommodation may be found in tents, mountain chalets and boarding houses.
The Ciucas Mountains are gentler, easily accessible mountains, convenient for Brasov and provide a fascinating ridge dotted with landforms of exceptional beauty, sculpted from limestone and conglomerates. These mountains are exceptionally varied and interesting, and the higher reaches are home to a unique display of towers, columns, mushrooms, and bare rocks.
The Hasmas Mountains, situated in the centre of the Eastern Carpathians, are a popular tourist attraction due to their landscape, which features the impressive Gorges of Bicaz, with their challenging mountaineering routes and caves.
There is also interesting trekking on the Baiului, Bucegi and Postavaru mountains, situated in South East part of Transylvania. Accommodation for a trek into these is best located Brasov city and Poina Brasov resort, and there are huts in the hills.
Another lure of Romania is quality winter mountaineering, which can be found in South-Eastern Transylvania in the Piatra Craiului and Bucegi Mountains. They belong to the Southern Carpathians and cover an area of 300 square miles, culminating in Omu Peak – 2,505m. This can be climbed in winter by a number of its varying difficulty routes, though there is avalanche danger to be aware of and you must be an experienced winter mountaineer.
The Retezat mountains are the highest and rockiest of the western half of the southern Carpathians, they have the highest average altitude in the entire chain of the Romanian Carpathians, reaching the maximum height in Peleaga peak (2,509 m.) The Retezat mountains form an extraordinary landscape dotted with uncountable glacial lakes. Here is the deepest glacial lake of Romania ( Taul Zanoaga, 29 m). The Retezat Mountains and also Rodna Mountains located in the northern part of the Eastern Carpathians. Both are National Parks, with walks for all abilities.
Mountain skiing combined with ski touring are popular in Bucegi and Fagaras Moutains. Going up the Bucegi Plateau from Busteni or Sinaia, and going down the northern valleys of Morarului and Cerbului Valley are just two excellent options. These tours are more challenging in Fagaras Mountains and their length is considerably longer than the ones in Bucegi. Also, snowshoeing is superb in Romania; the best time is December, January, February and March in the Moeciu de Sus – Fundata area.
Considering these tours are taking place in open air and temperatures could be lower than – 10 degrees, anyone intending on doing either of these activities must have the appropriate equipment, who are in great physical shape and are used to the rough stuff.
For amateur geologists, the Bucegi plateau’s wind and rains have turned the rocks into spectacular figures, such as the Sphinx, a rock with the shape of a human face, similar to our own Sphinx Rock on Great Gable.
Romania also has a potent, folky culture, especially in the cities of Bucharest and Brasov, where wandering the atmospheric streets is really all you need to amuse yourself. You can enjoy some watersports on the Black Sea Coast, or take a cruise down the Danube, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and an important biosphere reserve.
Dracula was real, and lived in Transylvania. True and False. Dracula was reputedly based on Prince Vlad Tepes III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, an unfortunately-moustached monarch who had the questionable habit of impaling his enemies on stakes. Although Vlad was born in Transylvania, his main stronghold was Poenari Castle in the Fagaras Mountains. And unsurprisingly, he wasn’t a vampire.
Must see and do
- Visit ‘Dracula’s’ Castle not the tourist castle in Bran (which was the inspiration for the fictional Dracula’s Castle) but the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes. The castle is called Poenari Castle, in the Fagaras Mountains.
- Walk the Fagaras Ridge The Carpathians are Europe’s second most impressive mountain range, and are worthy of proper exploration. The ridge is also called the Transylvanian Alp Ridge, and at 70km is one of Europe’s longest high-level walks.