The Carpathian Mountains shelter the largest track of unfragmented forests left in Central Europe and 45% of the continent’s big carnivores’ population. This wilderness makes it one of the best nature destinations in Europe.
Hiking in the Carpathians is also one of the best things to do in Romania, a unique experience if you love adventure. Even better, it gives you the chance to visit remote rural communities with lifestyles lost elsewhere. It’s this old sustainable way of life that helped conserve the Carpathians’ wilderness. However, the mountains face dramatic changes. The main threats are illegal deforestation, poaching, and a lack of sound environmental policies for their protection.
Choose to be a responsible tourist, and uncover the Carpathians on foot, keeping to the marked trails. Don’t rent dirt bikes or ATVs that only hurt the biodiversity and scare the wildlife.
Discover also the best hiking destinations if you’re based in Bucharest.
The mountains stretch for over 900 km across Romania, divided into three groups: the Eastern, the Southern, and the Western. Each group has distinct landscapes because of their different rock structure, but they’re just as incredible to hike. You can choose from hundreds of trails, based on your preferences, fitness level, experience. You can also go rafting, caving, horseback riding, mountain biking, or wildlife watching.
This is the longest group of the three, but also the most remote if you land in Bucharest. Still, don’t let the distance discourage you.
Don’t miss the spectacular Bicaz Gorges where you’ll find some of the most difficult rock-climbing trails in the country.
2. The popular Southern Carpathians
Include on your list Piatra Craiului with their longest and highest limestone ridge in the Carpathians. Hike in the Fagaras if you want to reach the highest altitude in the country (2,544 meters).
Travel west to the Retezat Mountains for the most impressive wilderness. The area has over 80 glacial lakes, tens of peaks over 2,000 meters, rare flora, and iconic wildlife species. Plan a multi-day trek to cross the biggest part of the park.
Take a two days tour in Cozia National Park and discover surprising landscapes. Go on one-day hikes in Bucegi and Iezer Papusa Mountains, and don’t miss the off-the-beaten-track Sureanu Mountains.
Don’t wait for your kids to grow up. There are many family-friendly hikes in the Carpathians.
Piatra Craiului National Park, Fagaras Mountains, Retezat National Park, Buila-Vanturarita National Park, Cozia National Park, Gradistea Muncelului-Cioclovina Nature Park, Bucegi Mountains, Parang Mountains
This group has the lowest altitudes, but they overcompensate with their traditional villages, many caves, and karst formations.
Visit the largest windmill park in South-East Europe, in the village of Eftimie Murgu. There, 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’ll find more than 400 caves, gorges, and karts formations. Among the most famous are the Wind Cave, the longest in the country, the Bear’s Cave, and Meziad Cave. In Scarisoara Cave, you can see the biggest underground glacier in Romania and the second largest in Europe.
Apuseni Mountains Nature Park, Trascau Mountains, Cheile-Nerei Beusnita National Park, Cernei-Domogled National Park, Semenic-Cheile Carasului National Park
Sustainable tourism is one of the few options for protecting the wilderness of the Carpathian Mountains by giving local communities alternative sources of revenue. Next time you go hiking, keep in mind that your behavior makes things better or worse. Use only local accommodations, don’t hunt or scare wild animals, don’t litter, and always keep to the marked trail.