Today I decided to continue to talk about Romania and my choice is not a city, but one part of the most beautiful side of this country – its mountains!
I have to say that I’m a mountain girl and not really a person that enjoys being on the beach.
Romanian mountains are a chain of mountains and they are called the Carpathian mountains.
I used to travel to Romania since I was in the elementary school and most of the time, during my summer holidays, I was spending 2 or 3 weeks in these mountains, perhaps my passion for higher altitudes was born back then.
The Carpathian mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly 1,500 km long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe, after the Scandinavian Mountains, 1,700 km. These mountains are a very important habitat for the largest European populations of brown bears, wolves, chamois and lynxes as well as over one third of all European plant species are found here. The highest concentration of these animals is in Romania. Here, in Romania, you’ll have a great chance to breath clean air and walk through virgin forests, as this land is known for its large surfaces of virgin forests. In fact, it’s said that Romania has the largest surface of virgin forests in Europe (excluding Russia) with a total of 250,000 hectares of which 65% are in the mountains.
At the foothills of these beautiful mountains it is common to find thermal and mineral waters and Romania is lucky to own one-third of the European total.
The mountainous chain starts in the Czech Republic then crosses Slovakia, in the northwest then Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and it ends in Serbia.
The highest peaks are found on the border of Slovakia and Poland, in the Tatras, where the peaks exceed 2,600m. The second-highest range is the Southern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks exceed 2,500 m.
Carpathians are divided in 3 major parts, the Western, the Eastern and the Southern Carpathians. Romania hosts parts from the Eastern and Southern mountainous chain.
The Romanian part of Carpathians is split into 3 large groups:
Oriental Carpathians, which are comprising:
- Maramures and Bukovina Carpathians – Carpatii Maramuresului si Bucovinei
- Moldo-Transylvanian Carpathians – Carpatii Moldo-Transilvani
- Carpatii de Curbura
Meridional Carpathians, with :
- Fagaras Mountains
- Parang Mountains
- Retezat – Godeanu Mountains
Western Carpathians, with:
- Banat Mountains
- Poiana Rusca Mountains
- Mountains of the Sunset – Muntii Apuseni
Some other interesting facts about these mountains are:
- The Oas – Harghita range in the Carpathians is the longest volcanic mountain chain in Europe.
- The 3500-year old Scarisoara glacier, located in the Bihor Mountains – 90 miles southwest of Cluj Napoca – has a volume of 75,000 cubic meters, making it the second largest European underground glacier, after the Eisriesenwelt ice cave in Austria.
- 400 unique species of mammals, including the Carpathian chamois, call the Carpathian Mountains home.
- The Western Carpathian Mountains are also called the Mountains of the Sunset (Muntii Apuseni).
- In 2009 one of the Top Gear episodes was filmed here. You can watch the full episode here 😉
Curious about these mountains? Read more here.
As you can see the area that these mountains cover is wide and it cannot be seen in a week or two. That’s why I decided that the first trip should be focused on discovering one part of them and to be more specific: Fagaras Mountains.
The main attractions in Fagaras Mountains: Balea Glacial Lake, Balea Waterfall, Poenari Fortress (website in Romanian) built by one of the most cruel and feared rulers – Vlad Tepes (website in English), Curtea de Arges and the Vidraru Dam.
Vidraru Dam is an amazing construction and it was rated the 5th in Europe and the 9th in the world. If you stop to sleep somewhere around it, then you’ll have a spectacular view in the night, because it’s electrically lighted by night. The access to the Dam is by the East border of the lake, on the road that climbs to Balea.
For extreme sports lovers, there’s a special arranged runway for bungee jumping.
If you would like to climb, then at the end of the Dam, take left to Cumpana Depression, otherwise you could climb to Belvedere platform to admire the beautiful landscape. Another mountain called Plesa Mountain, can be climbed and on top of it you’ll find the sculpture of Prometheus, with the flash of lightning in his hand, as a symbol of electricity, made by sculptor Constantin Popovici.
Not too far from the dam, there’s a famous among locals fortress called Poenari Fortress. It was built on top of a mountain and it was one of Vlad Tepes (also called Dracula) residences. This residence was built as a fortress against the Ottoman invaders. To get to the top of the mountain and see the ruins of this fortress and the beautiful mountains and lake, you’ll have to count over 1000 steps.
If you would like to sleep comfortably somewhere here, in the mountains and not in the city, then you’ll have to pick one of the many chalets or cottages that offer beds/ rooms for rent. If you’d like to sleep in a tent under the open air, then such camping places are also available.
One short note here: the booking must be done in advance because these houses are booked for the entire year. Before booking a room in this region, you ask the host about the accessibility to the place and make sure the road is open! From November to March you might have the unpleasant surprise of not being able to drive on this road, due to bad weather conditions
“Valea cu Pesti” (Fish Valley) Chalet
It’s a 4 star hotel, located on the East side of Vidraru Lake, at an altitude of 870 meters, the chalet was one of the protocol places used by Nicolae Ceausescu. Nowadays it has 60 rooms and areas for leisure services, restaurant , conferences and trainings.
“Cumpana” (Sweep) Chalet
It is located on the West side of Vidraru Lake and has 84 rooms, a restaurant for 100 people, a disco, a sport field, a pool that floats on Vidraru Lake on summer. It has a camping area of 3000sqm designed for tents and caravans and for those that want some more privacy 26 wooden houses, in each house has 2 beds. The website is in Romanian, but the link will take you to the contact page, therefore a call or an e-mail should help you get in contact with them.
Dracula Boarding House is located on Transfagarasan route, at about 6 km far from Vidraru Dam and 1 km far from Poenari Fortress. In the facilities list you’ll find double, triple, quadruple and for 6 people rooms, apartments with 2 rooms, a small wooden house, a camping and free parking lots, terrace, BBQ place, restaurant and bar. The page is in Romanian, but some words that you must look after are : Tarif, pret = price, camera = room, lei = Romanian currency. You must contact the boarding house, in order to arrange your booking and to find out more details regarding the price, facilities and other things that you may want to know.
“Paraul Capra” Chalet
Capra Tourist Complex is located at an altitude of 1585 meters and has 22 rooms, a restaurant and some additional facilities and activities.
It is located at the foot of the Balea Waterfall, at an altitude of 1234 meters. The chalet has 69 accommodation units, restaurant, a day bar and, on demand, a conference room. To contact them, go on the bottom of the page.
Balea Lake Chalet is located on a half-isle that goes into the Balea Glacial Lake, at an altitude of 2034 meters. The present chalet was rebuilt in 2000, because the old one had been destroyed in a fire in 1995. On its three floors there are double rooms, rooms with four, six or ten places and also apartments. It has its own restaurant and facilities for renting sport equipment, baby sky and scooters.
I have to say that a stop in Arges is a must, when you’re around here!
Few more things to mention:
- At just one hour drive from Curtea de Arges you will find Baile Govora – a SPA town (English)
- Another point of interest, especially for those who want to buy world renowned pottery – it is included on UNESCO World Heritage list! Horezu is at one hour and 20 minutes away from Curtea de Arges (on the way to Horezu you’ll most probably pass by Govora). Be aware that in Horezu there are shops that sell made in China products and they may say that they are made locally! I would suggest you to look for Laurentiu Pietraru’s Pottery Workshop for unique items and 100% local products.
Also in Horezu, there’s another UNESCO monument – the Monastery of Horezu. It was founded in 1690 by Prince Constantine Brancovan and is considered to be a masterpiece of the ‘Brancovan’ style.
The Holy Monastery of Cozia is another place that is around Curtea de Arges. In fact, it’s at just one hour drive.
I hope this post will make you curious, adventurous and ready to hit the road.
If you need some help, drop me a line here or on my Facebook page.
I wish you a great end of the week and the traditional:
Travel safe and wise! 🙂