The Blue Wonders of Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park
Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Romania and the perfect destination if you’re looking for easy wilderness hikes. Further away from Bucharest than many other popular Carpathian itineraries, this national park uses its remoteness to its advantage, conserving better its biodiversity and natural wonders, including its unique blue lakes and waterfalls.
Located in the southern part of Aninei Mountains, this protected area covers 36,758 hectares from Caras-Severin, the only county in Romania with three protected areas of this rank: Cheile Nerei-Beusnita, Domogled-Valea Cernei and Semenic-Cheile Carasului.
Vipers instead of bears
When it comes to its plant and animal species, this national park is a rare presence in the Carpathian chain. Unlike most Romanian national parks where high-altitude habitats and vast coniferous forests give plenty of roaming space for large carnivores like the bear or the lynx, in Cheile Nerei-Beusnita, the most common animals are the amphibians, the birds, the bats and the viper.
Feared by many, the poisonous viper species from the park are, however, protected and elusive, and the chances of an attack are low. As long as you pay attention to the trail and avoid sunny cliffs and rocks, you’ll dodge any unwanted encounter.
Blue lakes and wild gorges
The geomorphology of the area created a dazzling landscape with gorges, hills, valley, caves, ravines, waterfalls and rare lakes. They’re all key natural attractions of this park where swamps, wetlands, forests and cliffs are the predominant habitats. The most famous of its natural attractions are the blue lakes Ochiul Beiului and Devil’s, the waterfalls of Beusnita and, of course, its over 20 km long gorges.
Extending from Sasca Romana to Sopotu Nou, the gorges the Nera River creates are some of the wildest in the country. While hiking their complete trail will take you almost two days, the scenery is more than worth your time. A shorter, but even more adventurous option to see the gorges is to spend a full day kayaking on the river, only possible in late springs or early summers.
Either way, hiking or kayaking, you’ll see the 12 meters deep, Devil’s Lake, the only lake in Romania formed after the collapse of a cave ceiling. This turquoise lake is one of the two iconic lakes in the park and the most difficult to reach, named after the legend of a devil who drowned in the dark waters of the lake.
The second lake in the park, and the most popular attraction, is Ochiul Beiului, a lake so blue that for a moment you’ll feel you’re half the world away. Only three meters deep, this lake is just 30 minutes away from Podu Beiului, and is an all year round attraction. Supplied by a karst spring, Ochiul Beiului never changes its tropical blue color and never freezes. Like Devil’s Lake, Ochiul Beiului also gets its name from a local legend, this time of a tragic love story.
Close to Ochiul Beiului, less than half an hour away, you’ll reach the waterfalls of Beusnita, a succession of small waterfalls that lead to the most impressive one, five meters tall, covered in moss and lichens. The waterfalls Susara and Vaioaga are also easy reachable from Sasca Montana and Ochiul Bei while the world famous Bigar waterfall is further away, in Bozovici.
The park offers many hiking trails. You can cross either the complete itinerary of the gorges, from Sopotu Nou to Sasca Romana that also includes Devil’s Lake and the rock tunnels between Podu Bei and Sasca Romana. Or you can leave from Sasca Romana on the suspended bridge, through the rock tunnels to Podu Bei, Ochiul Beiului Lake and the waterfalls of Beusnita.
Another option is hiking from the old mining village Sasca Montana to Devil’s Lake. If you don’t have enough time and you really want to see this lake, you can drive from Sasca Montana to Poiana Logor and hike from there around 2-3 hours to the lake.
You’ll need at least four days to discover on foot the natural attractions from Cheile-Nerei Beusnita National Park, one of the most remote wilderness areas in Romania. The best time is from late spring to late autumn, and you can easily combine it with a visit to the nearby Iron Gates Natural Park and the watermills park from Eftimie Murgu, two landmarks from this part of Romania.
Accommodation is scarce in the area. The best option remains Sasca Romana, but reservation should be done in time. You can camp also near a small trout restaurant close to Podu Bei.
Reserve half a day to take the train from Oravita to Anina, one of the oldest mountain train routes in Romania, with many viaducts, tunnels and forest views.