Often described as a birds’ paradise, the Danube Delta is one of the biggest wetlands in the world and a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Its 30 types of ecosystems place it in the third position in the world biodiversity top after the Galapagos and the Great Barrier Reef. The best-conserved delta in Europe, this is one of the most beautiful places in Romania and a must-see destination for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
The genesis of the Danube Delta extends over 10,000 years and is still in the making with the Danube River as the main actor. One of the youngest lands of the Old Continent, the delta extends with 40 square meters every year. Only 10% of its entire surface — almost 5,800 square km — is dry land, the rest is a lush universe of floating reed islands, tree-fringed lakes, and narrow canals covered in water lilies and bordered by willows.
The forests of Caraorman and Letea are amazing exceptions with their sand dunes, lianas, and old oak trees coexisting in the same space. The second protected area in Romania, since 1938, the forest of Letea is the most northern subtropical forest in the world.
The only delta in the world declared a Biosphere Reserve, this wonderful place has nearly 5,500 species of flora and fauna. Over 330 species of birds, the majority protected, are found in the Danube Delta that is also a major halting-place for migratory birds and for almost the entire world population of the red-breasted goose during winter, along with large groups of swans, ducks, and geese.
Cormorants, including the rare pygmy cormorants, the iconic pelicans, egrets, and predator birds find their home in the Danube Delta. The biggest bird in Europe — the Dalmatian pelican with the wings spread of over three meters — and the smallest — ‘pânțărașul’ that weights only 10 grams — are found here.
Over 130 species of fish swim in the waters of the Danube Delta, and fishing is still the locals’ main occupation. If this is your passion, do it responsibly, respecting the prohibition calendar and the protected species and areas.
The Danube rushes to the Black Sea along three major canals: Chilia, Sulina, and Sfantu Gheorghe. A veritable labyrinth of smaller canals, grinds, lakes, and islands exists around them. The only way to explore the universe of the Danube Delta is by boat, preferably a small and silent one that doesn’t scare or disturb the birds. Kayaking is another great option if you want to burn the calories from all the mouth-watering fish dishes you will eat.
The itinerary of the boat tours will depend a lot on where you’re staying. Villages like Mila 23 and Crisan are great options but consider Sfantu Gheorghe as well, especially if you want to enjoy its beautiful beach.
If you reach Sulina, don’t miss a boat tour to the lighthouse or a visit to the maritime cemetery where are buried people of 21 nationalities, a symbol of the cosmopolitan days of this small town in the 19th century.
The Delta is the home of almost 16,000 people, a cultural mix of Romanians, Lipovans, and Ukrainians who live mostly isolated and dependent on fishing and raising cattle. While you’ll be surely impressed by their way of life and delicious fish dishes, take into consideration that many of them live on the edge of poverty as there are limited work opportunities in the Danube Delta.
You can help make a difference by acting as a responsible traveler. Choose the accommodation and guidance services offered by the simple and hospitable locals.
Many guest houses appeared in recent years in the Danube Delta, but only a few meet that balance between good services, great food, and respect for the environment. Our recommendations are Doi Capitani from Crisan, Egreta Hidrotourism from Uzlina, Casa Blumarin from Dunavatu de Jos, Vila Delta Travel from Mila 23.
Late spring and early autumn is a great time to observe migratory birds.
You need at least 4-5 days for a proper trip, and you should take into consideration the schedule of the boats when planning. Boats depart from Tulcea and Murighiol. Unless you book a private boat transfer, the main option is Navrom.
For your day trips, choose the small boats that don’t scare or disturb the birds
Act as a responsible traveler, protect nature, and help local communities by buying only local products and services.