The Carpathian Mountains – National Parks
Romania’s national and natural parks, displaying a unique variety of landscapes, vegetation and wildlife, protect some of the largest remaining areas of pristine forest in Europe. Grasslands, gorges, subterranean caves, volcanic lakes, and extensive river network add to the richness of the park system that also includes the Danube Delta, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Europe’s largest wetland. (For more information about danube Delta please visit www.RomaniaTourism.com/Danube-Delta)
Romania’s diverse natural landscapes offer numerous choices for exciting outdoor experiences. Travelers can walk through serene alpine meadows covered with scores of wildflowers, trek around glacial lakes, take in the lush-green scenery while horse riding or mountain biking, climb curious rock formations, photograph fossil traces of 15,000-year old cave-bear species, track gold eagles or other rare birds, study endangered flora, wander in the countryside, picnic in the fields, try your hand at traditional crafts, – or just relax in the home of a village family and sample wholesome, country fare with home made wine and plum brandy.
The Oas вЂ“ Harghita range in the Carpathian Mountains is the longest volcanic mountain chain in Europe.
The 3500-year old Scarisoara glacier, located in the Bihor Mountains вЂ“ 90 miles southwest of Cluj Napoca – has a volume of 2,649,000 cubic feet (75,000 cubic metres), making it the second largest European underground glacier, after the Eisriesenwelt ice cave in Austria.
Adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts who hear the call of the wild can add these unique experiences to the top of their activities list:
В» Spotting wild egrets, Dalmatian pelicans, glossy ibises or some other 300 species of birds in the Danube Delta
В» Rock climbing the unusual-shaped rocks Pietrele Doamnei in the Rarau Mountains
В» Visiting the Scarisoara ice cave in the Apuseni Nature Park вЂ“ the 153.6 ft. deep entrance shaft leads to some impressive ice structures, including spectacular six meters high ice stalagmites.
В» Exploring the Berca mud volcanoes near Buzau вЂ“ a stark lunar landscape of erupting mud.
В» Taking the Sky Highway challenge вЂ” a trek around the Capra glacier lake in the Fagaras Mountains.
В» Paddling through the frothy waves of the Crisul Repede and Bistrita rivers.
В» Trekking Retezat, the rockiest mountain massif of the country, home to more than 80 glacial lakes and over three hundred flower species.
В» Watching wolves at play in the natural park of Vanatori-Neamt in the Stanisoara Mountains, once the hunting ground of Stephen the Great.
В» Horse riding in the Calimani National Park, renown for its volcanic bizarre
shapes, traces of old craters, and the largest volcanic caldera in Carpathians.
В» Completing an exciting multi-day
hike along the main ridge of the Fagaras Mountains – one of the longest continuous high mountain traverses
in Europe, taking you over three of Romania’s highest peaks (Moldoveanu – 8,346 ft.; Negoiu – 8,317 ft.;
and Vistea Mare – 8,291 ft.).
The Carpathian Mountains are home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe.
400 unique species of mammals, including the Carpathian chamois, call the Carpathian Mountains home.
60% of European brown bear population lives in the Carpathian Mountains.
The Carpathian Mountains are forming a semi-circle around Transylvania, which one of Romania’s nine historical provinces.
The Western Carpathian Mountains are also called the Mountains of the Sunset (Muntii Apuseni).
National parks encompass extensive areas of particular geographical interest or outstanding natural beauty.
They have an important conservation role and offer protection to many rare species of animals and plants. In addition to nature conservation, Romania’s natural parks also play an important role in preserving local customs, traditional crafts, historical settlement patterns, and regional architecture.
Most of Romania’s national parks have arrangements for outdoor activities with a network of marked paths and trails and overnight accommodation in either staffed lodges or local guesthouses. In vulnerable areas where it is desirable to limit the impact of visitors, paths and accommodation are minimal.
- Cheile Bicazului (Bicazului Gorges) вЂ“ Hasmas
- Domogled вЂ“ Valea Cernei (Cerna Valley)
- Muntii Macin (Macin Mountains)
- Cheile Nerei (Nerei Gorges) вЂ“ Beusnita
- Piatra Craiului
- Muntii Rodnei (Rodnei Mountains)
- Cheile Semenic – Carasului (Semenic вЂ“ Carasului Gorges)
- Balta Mica a Brailei (Small Moor of Braila)
- Gradistea Muncelului-Cioclovina
- Lunca Muresului
- Muntii Maramuresului (Maramures Mountains)
- Portile de Fier (Iron Gates)
- Vanatori Neamt
Romania’s natural areas captured scientific attention early in the 20th century. The first law on environment protection was passed in 1930; the first forest reservation (Domogled-Baile Herculane) was set up in 1932, the first National Park (Retezat) in 1935 and the first geological reservation (Detunata Goala – Apuseni Mountains) was recognized in 1938.
APUSENI NATURE PARK
The Apuseni Nature Park (Parcul Natural Apuseni) – known as the cavers’ paradise, protects one of the most interesting cave fauna in the country. Traces of the prehistoric man, as well as fossils of animals that lived in the Ice Age were found in several of the caves, along with rare bat populations. The higher ridges of the park are covered with spruce fir, while at lower levels the forest is dominated by mountain beech.
Limestone underlies most of the park and is responsible for the area’s impressive landforms. Sculptured mountain ridges, mysterious underground rivers, and delicate cave decorations will surely keep visitors’ photo cameras busy.
The complex karst landforms of Apuseni Nature Park are an attraction on their own, especially hikers with a fascination for geology. Deep valley and gorges, karrens and karst depression вЂ“ where underground rivers and streams flow – give the landscape an exceptional character. Below ground lies the important and fragile ecosystem of the caves, the main attraction for amateur and professional cavers.
Note: Apart from the Bears’ Cave and Scarisoara Glacier, caving in the Apuseni Nature Park is not visiting nicely prepared tourist caves but visiting them as the first explorers have seen them. That means that you’ll have to climb, use ropes, crawl and creep to see their splendid beauty.
As opposed to other national and nature parks in Romania, the Apuseni Mountains are populated up to high altitudes, with permanent and quasi-permanent dwellings. The hamlets on the Ocoale вЂ“ Scarisoara plateau, at 3840 ft., are among the highest settlements in the country.
If you wish to discover local life and preserved traditions, one of the main points of interest is the Aries Valley, where the beautiful villages of Albac, Garda, and Arieseni are located. Skilled artisans, the Motzi people, carve musical instruments, hope chests and houses from the local wood, the spruce. The Apuseni Motzi villages are some of the best places in which to find tranquility and timeless wisdom of the traditional village way of life. In Patrahaitesti, a little mountain village, you may hear the famous Bucium (“Alps horns”), used for generations in the Apuseni Mountains.
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