Ceahlau Mountain: Legends from the Romanian Olympus

Diana Condrea
Diana Condrea
Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer. You can find Diana on LinkedIn

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Ceahlau Mountain is the oldest and perhaps the biggest tourist attraction of the Eastern Carpathians due to its beauty and moderate difficulty that makes it accessible even for inexperienced hikers. Bordered by large valleys that separate it from the surrounding mountains, Ceahlau has the appearance of a dominating massif, easy to spot from the neighboring areas of Eastern Romania.

Ceahlau National Park

Hiking towards Toaca Peak

The mountain covers 290 square kilometers from the 7.7 hectares of Ceahlau National Park and reaches its highest altitudes at Ocolosul Mare Peak (1,907 meters) and Toaca (1,904 meters). It’s almost like an open-air exhibition of bizarre and interesting rock formations —  Panaghia, Dochia, Cusma Dorobantului — shaped over thousands of years by strong winds and precipitations.

Iconic wildlife and rare plants in Ceahlau National Park

The territory of Ceahlau National Park is also an important element for the conservation of the Carpathian biodiversity. Its protected areas – the Scientific Area Ocolasul Mare, the Natural Botany Reservation Polita cu Crini, Duruitoarea Waterfall (25 meters), and Avenul Mare – host over 1,100 species of flowers and 90 protected species of birds and animals.


Photo credits: Visit Neamt

Many of these species are rare or endangered, among them plants such as the Lady’s Slipper and the Edelweiss, mammal species like the chamois, and, of course, the top of the chain big carnivores: the brown bear, the wolf, and the lynx.

Easy and scenic hikes to the top

Ceahlau is the best choice if you like to take your time and plenty of photos as its scenic hiking trails will simply take your breath away. You can choose from seven well-marked routes departing from Durau, Izvorul Muntelui, Bicazul Ardelean, and Neagra. Most trails are accessible all year round, and they vary in length and difficulty, but you can be sure you’ll find one that fits every level of experience.

Ceahlau Mountain

Dochia Chalet

Two accommodation options exist above 1,000 meters, Fantanele (1,200 meters) and Dochia (1,790 meters), this being one of the oldest Carpathian chalets in Romania and an excellent starting point to explore the rock formations and the mountain plateau. Be sure to book your room in advance as Ceahlau is a very popular destination.

Legends and religion at high altitude

Ceahlau Mountain is at the origin of many legends that go thousands of years back, to the ancient gods of the Dacians. Don’t be surprised if you’ll hear a legend for every bizarre rock formation, waterfall, or peak you’ll see. This is why Ceahlau is known as ‘the Romanian Olympus’. Its fame made it, in fact, the first mountain mentioned in a Romanian novel and the first official mountain tourist destination since 1809.

Ceahlau Mountain

Sunrise view from Ceahlau Mountain

Ceahlau is also considered the second holy mountain of the Orthodoxy after Athos because of its religious edifices built right on the top plateau. Plus, it’s the only mountain in Romania that has its own religious holiday. But, luckily, you don’t have to a devoted member of the church to enjoy a great hike up to the highest peak.


Photo credits: Visit Neamt

The perfect destination for an active weekend in the Eastern Carpathians, this mountain has it all, from easy family hikes to longer and more difficult trails, a diversity of landscapes that include lakes, waterfalls, and geological formations that inspired countless legends. Plus, it has some of the most photogenic views in the entire Carpathian chain. Be sure to have your camera, enough memory, and extra batteries.

Travel tips

If you’re not a big fan of crowds, avoid summer weekends.

Bicaz Gorges and Bicaz Lake are a short drive away on two of the most beautiful roads in Romania.

Read more about the park on www.ceahlaupark.ro.

Discover the hiking routes from the Carpathians with this great guidebook The Mountains of Romania.


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