7 Natural Wonders in Romania You Didn’t Know About
7 Natural Wonders in Romania You Didn’t Know About was originally published in 2024
Ever thought of exploring Romania? If you’re like most people the answer is probably no. Which means you’ve found a hidden gem!
The country has much more to offer than just Dracula legends, you know. Romania is a lesser-known country in the Eastern corner of Europe almost the size of Italy and blessed with a lot of natural diversity and wonders.
Imagine trekking through the majestic 2,500m high Carpathian Mountains or kayaking in the tranquil waters of the Danube Delta while flocks of birds are passing by. It’s a land where nature tells its own stories and they’re every bit as enchanting as its folklore.
If you’ve never considered Romania as your next destination let me take you on a journey through its beautiful and diverse natural wonders. You might be impressed enough to start planning your next holiday!
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Bucegi Natural Park: Romania’s Most Diverse Habitat
Bucegi Natural Park is 1,5h away from the capital Bucharest which means it’s the closest place to discover the beauty of Romanian mountains. The site partially overlaps with the Bucegi Mountains and was created in 2003. With an area of 32,500 ha, the reservation is home to a large bear population and an estimated 3,500 species of large mammals, small animals, birds, and insects, while vegetation is similarly broad.
But the park is most famous for its unique geological structures carved by nature. The main rock formations you’d want to see are the Sphinx which depicts a figure of the same name similar to the one in Egypt and the focus point of many superstitions. The second one is a bunch of stone formations called Babele which translates into ‘old ladies.’
The best way to reach the Bucegi Natural Park is by car or train, getting off at Busteni, a small resort at the base of the massif. If you’ve got enough time and are in good physical shape, on an uphill hike you’ll get to see other natural wonders of the park, such as Juniper Valley and the Burned Rock chalet.
For everyone else, there’s the easy option of taking a cable car from Busteni to Babele plateau in only 13 minutes.
Caves of Ice & Crystals in the Apuseni Mountains
Apuseni Mountains are Transylvania’s most popular natural hotspot. This mountain range is close to the city of Cluj-Napoca, the region’s unofficial capital, and has lower altitudes (1,400 – 1,800m) compared to the rest of the Carpathians (1,800 – 2,500m). This may be the reason why more than 12,000 caves are here.
Not all of them have been explored though and only about 1,500 are open to visitors. With an unusual formation of limestone rock, calcite crystals, and underground glaciers, the caves will leave you speechless. Most hiking trails pass by at least 2 caves so all you have to do is get your hiking boots ready.
Among all of them Scarisoara Cave, located in the picturesque village of Garda de Sus, is the most famous. The formation has the largest European underground glacier estimated to be 4,000 years old. Then there’s Bear Cave where you’ll find bear remains estimated to be 17,000 years old. The cave also has three galleries with impressive stalagmites and stalactite formations.
Apuseni Natural Park is also a great place to experience Romanian culture in the countryside. People here have preserved their traditional way of life and will happily welcome you into their home and cook a meal with homegrown ingredients.
Danube Delta, the Wildest Wetland in Europe
The Danube Delta in Romania is Europe’s second-largest river delta and the best preserved. It’s also a World Heritage Site and, quite frankly, nature’s miracle garden. The Danube Delta is home to over 350 species of birds and small animals and over 4,000 species of plants.
The Danube Delta is divided into three sections. Chilia is the north region and presents the youngest and longest delta. Next, we have Sulina, where a channel was built to make navigation more accessible. Finally, the Saint George potion is the oldest part of the delta, where the alluvium deposits helped create Sacalin Island.
The only way to visit and navigate the delta is by boat, preferably ones that do not disturb the animals and pollute the environment. Most locals are very conscious of it and there are responsible tourist operators too.
While on a boat ride you’ll be rewarded with spectacular sceneries, especially at sunrise since the delta is facing East. You’ll see flocks of great white pelicans, egrets, black cormorants, or herds of wild horses around Letea Forest, a sub-tropical forest considered to be a mini natural wonder inside this place.
The entry point into the Danube Delta is the small town of Tulcea, about 4 hours and 30 minutes from Bucharest. You can get there by car, train, or bus but you will need a guide with a boat to show you around this huge wetland.
Fagaras Mountains, the highest in Romania
If you’re looking for a mountaineering adventure then Fagaras Mountains is the place to go. You’ll find 48 peaks going over 2,500m altitude and a lot of exposed, ridge trails that offer breathtaking views of the valleys and woodlands below.
The highest peak in Romania is here too: Moldoveanu at 2,544m and you’ll need a 3-day hiking trip starting from Brasov or Sibiu to reach the summit. The second highest is Negoiu Peak at 2,535 m. which can be reached on a 2-day trip.
The famous Transfagarasan Road leading up to Balea Lake is a major tourist attraction in this area. Most hiking trails start from Balea Lake and you can get there also by cable car when the road is closed. Other noteworthy attractions include Fagaras Fortress, Capra Waterfall, the Pyramids of Sona, and Stan’s Valley.
Despite being located in the center of the country, you can approach Fagaras Mts only from the North (coming from Sibiu or Brasov) or the South only during Summer time (via Curtea de Arges). The mountains are known to be the wildest, most challenging, and dangerous so good planning is essential, or consider hiring a hiking guide.
Berca Mud Volcanoes
The next natural wonder on our list is the Berca Mud Volcanoes. Small volcanoes formed here as a result of natural gasses accumulating under layers of clay and water. Due to gas composition, there isn’t much life surrounding these volcanoes, only rare plants that withstand the salt levels in the soil. So the area looks pretty much like a scene from a Moon-landing movie!
There are two designated areas where you can watch the volcanoes and get close to them. The Liddle Mud Volcanoes in Berca and the Big Mud Volcanoes in Scortoasa are only ten minutes apart by car. However, some locations are inaccessible since water-cur ravines surround the volcanoes.
The Berca Mud Volcanoes can be found in Buzau County, two hours by car from Bucharest, Romania’s capital. One adult ticket is less than $1 and the visiting program usually starts from 8 AM and ends depending on the season we’re in.
Piatra Craiului National Park, Where the Edelweiss Flower Grows
Another notable spot in the Carpathians is the Piatra Craiului Mountains, considered the most beautiful thanks to their 22 km long limestone ridge. You’ll notice it from a distance and hikers are drawn to it like a magnet.
The park has a gorgeous wildlife of spiders, birds, small animals, and lots of brown bears and wolves. While spotting wildlife can be thrilling – most people prefer exploring the mountains and climbing the ridge.
The main starting point for most trails is in the small town of Zarnesti where you can visit the Zarnesti Gorges. The villages of Magura, Pestera, Sirnea, and Ciocanu are the highest-altitude in the country and are known for their jaw-dropping sceneries and traditional life. They’re also a good starting point and you’ll find lots of guesthouses here to spend the night.
A day trip to Piatra Craiului National Park is one of the best things to do in Brasov, Romania’s most popular tourist city only one hour away. The second best is to visit the Bran Castle nearby aka Dracula Castle!
Retezat Mountains, the Wildest in Romania
The Retezat Mountains are mostly known for their high peaks going over 2,500m altitude such as Peleaga, Papusa, and Retezat Peak. But the beauty of this range rests in its many glacial lakes and the impressive fauna you won’t find anywhere else.
Golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and black storks are the rarest species. On your hiking trip, you may also see brown bears, red deer, or wildcats. Because they’re so inaccessible and remote, there are very few mountain refuges in the Retezat Mountains, even fewer hikers, and no B&B. So they’re a perfect place for a camping expedition with a guide who knows his way around.
Because the views and spectacular natural beauty will be worth it!
To visit this area you have two access options. First, the South Retezat Region starts from the Jiu Valley and Vulcan. At the same time, you can reach the National Park directly from Cheile Butii. Or, you can take the train or drive from Petrosani to Simeria and then explore the villages surrounding the mountains that take you deeper into the park.
And that Concludes our Journey Through Romania’s Natural Beauty
From mountains to deltas, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. So, next time you’re planning your holiday, give Romania a chance. I promise you won’t be disappointed with what this hidden travel destination has to offer!
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