The Carpathian Mountains: The Wildest Side

The Carpathian Mountains stretch for more than 900 km inside Romania, in the shape of an arch that isolates Transylvania from the rest of the country. Their territory is covered by vast areas of pristine forests, in fact the largest track of unfragmented forests left in Central Europe, and is home to the largest brown bear population in Europe and 45% of the big carnivores’ population of the continent (brown bears, lynx, wolves).

In Romania, the Carpathian Mountains are divided in three groups (the Eastern, the Southern, the Western) according to their geographic position, and are bordered by vast areas of plateaus and hills. Each group has distinct landscapes as they developed on various types of rocks (glacial, karstic, structural, and volcanic). You can choose from hundreds of trails, according to your preferences, skills and hiking or climbing experience. You can also go rafting, caving, horseback riding, mountain biking or on specialized tours like photo safaris or wildlife watching.

Uncovering the Romanian Carpathians is truly a unique experience due to their diversity, wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Moreover, exploring these mountains will give you the chance of traveling to small and remote rural communities with distinct cultures and traditional lifestyles, no longer existent in other parts of Europe.

carpathians romania

Wilder than the rest of the European mountainous chains due to the centuries old sustainable lifestyle of the surrounding rural communities, this mountainous range faces, however, dramatic changes and menaces like massive illegal deforestation, poaching, pollution and a lack of a sound environmental policies for their protection.

Travel tips for the Eastern Carpathians

This is the longest group of the three and you can explore it by foot, bicycle or horse riding. Either way, you’ll have a great time. 

Cycle through beautiful passes (Bicaz, Tihuta, Prislop) shaped by nature ages ago.

Walk or climb in the spectacular Bicaz Gorges where some of the most difficult rock climbing trails in the country are located.

Carpathian moountains

Go hiking. Don’t miss the volcanic Calimani, the high and difficult Rodnei Mountains, scenic Ceahlau or Rarau Mountains.

Discover the traditional rural life in its scenic valleys of Maramures, and take a ride with the narrow gauge steam train Mocanita on the last forestry railway in Europe.

Take a tour of its unique lakes: volcanic (Sfanta Ana), glacier (Lala, Buhaescu) and natural damming (Cuejdel, Red Lake).

Travel tips for the Southern Carpathians

Also called the Transylvanian Alps for their height and compact structure, this group offers challenging adventures for passionate hikers, climbers and experienced mountain bikers. 

Complete the tour of Piatra Craiului ridge, the longest and highest limestone ridge in the Carpathians.

Hike in the toughest, highest and most impressive mountains Romania has: Fagaras, where the maximum altitude of the country is reached on Moldoveanu Peak (2,544 meters), followed by seven other peaks over 2,500 meters.

Fagaras Mountains

Explore Retezat National Park, perhaps the wildest territory in Romania. Here you’ll find more than 80 glacial lakes and tarns, many peaks over 2,000 meters, rare flora and iconic wildlife species.

Take a two days tour of Cozia National Park where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking mountains landscapes. Go for one day hikes in Bucegi and Iezer Papusa.

Cycle or ride on the longest and highest (over 2,000 meters) mountain roads in the country: Transalpina (148 km), and Transfagarasan (92 km).

Travel tips for the Western Carpathians

The Western group has the lowest altitudes of the Romanian Carpathians, but they over compensate through their traditional villages, numerous caves and karst formations. The best way to explore this group is by foot, bicycle or horse riding. 

Stop in the small and hospitable villages of the Aries Valley to enjoy and relax in the natural and slow rhythm of traditional life.

carpathian-mountains

Photo by Laurentiu Pop

Visit the largest wind mill park South-East Europe, in the village of Eftimie Murgu  where locals still use 22 traditional water mills to grind their grains.

If you like caves you’re in the right place because in  Apuseni you will find more than 400 caves, gorges and karts constructions like Cetatile Ponorului from the Padis plateau, a singular phenomenon in Romania’s landscape that you shouldn’t miss.

Explore the Wind Cave (47 km), the longest cave in the country, the Bear’s Cave, Meziad Cave and Scarisoara Cave where you’ll see the biggest underground glacier in Romania, and second largest in Europe.

Sustainable tourism is one of the few viable options for preserving the wilderness of the Carpathians, giving local communities alternative sources of revenue. Next time you go hiking, keep in mind that your behavior makes things better or worst. Use only local accommodations, don’t hunt or scare wild animals, don’t litter and always keep to the marked trail.

About the author

Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer, focusing on sustainable tourism practices and destinations. You can find Diana Condrea on Twitter and Google+

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