Key information: Carpathian Mountains
- Europe’s longest range twists through Romania, forming the barriers that nestle Transylvania and countribute to its uniqueness.
- Sub-ranges include the Apuseni [link] to the west and The Fagaras, home to Romania’s highest mountain at 2,544 m, and the gorgeous limestone ridge of the Piatra Craiului NP to the south.
- some of south-east Europe’s finest walking.
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This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
The Carpathians are Europe’s longest range, snaking for 1,500km through the heart of eastern Europe. They twist their way through Romania, forming the barriers that almost surround Transylvania and contribute to its uniqueness.
The main Carpathians run round the north and east of Transylvania, with the fascinating limestone Apuseni a protrusion to the west. There are many sub-ranges, including the Transylvanian Alps to the south, at their heart the Fagaras, home to Romania’s highest mountain at 2,544 m, and the gorgeous limestone ridge of the Piatra Craiului NP, widely agreed to be the country’s finest mountain area.
These mountains host famously diverse ecosystems, from superb and often untouched forests to gorgeous alpine meadows, to the cliffs and crags of the highlands. Some tremendous gorges wind out of their flanks. The main Carpathian range was once Europe’s longest volcanic chain, so very different rock from the limestone of the Apuseni.
The wildlife is of continental importance: a superb array includes half of Europe’s surviving brown bears as well as wolves, chamois, lynx, deer, boar and marmots. Birds include golden eagles, vultures and golden oriel. The vegetation is similarly diverse, from the varied mainly deciduous forests, to the high meadows and rocky wildernesses, to the flowery delights of the hay meadows.
There is a huge variety of great walks here, from short explorations to multi-dayers..
The Carpathians wrap southern Transylvania in an arm of sub-ranges, all making for some of south-east Europe’s finest walking. From west to east, they are:
Retezat NP: exceptionally beautiful scenery of rough, have high mountains, cliffs and rocky drama, and more than 80 glacially-gouged lakes.
Fagaras Mountains this long range, Romania’s highest, has superb walking, some claim Romainia’s finest. You can make a hut-to-hut traverse of the range in some 5 days.
Piatra Crauilui: a narrow ridge of high, jagged limestone peaks, with beautiful forests and meadows on the lower slopes. A beautiful, unspoilt area of the Carpathian Mountains, claimed to be the most spectacular ridge in the southern range. As well as a huge variety of wildlife and pristine landscape, the farmland and villages are also delightfully unspoilt. A variety of excellent walks, but the 2 day traverse along the ridgeline is the most famous trail here.
Bucegi Mountains [link]: a small group of high, steep mountains near Braşov. Superb landscape, including a high plateau with heavily eroded formations. Several chalets, so you can make a comfortable and thrilling multi-day walk.
There is a lot of superb landscape – wild mountains and forests – in the main Carparthians, which form the eastern boundary between Transylvania and eastern Romanian provinces.
Bicaz Gorges-Hasmas Mountain NP: a wild area of dramatic limestone mountains, deep gorges and a famous red lake, with huge biodiversity and plenty of good trails to enjoy.
The nearby Ceahlau Mountains Have some very fine walking, including to Toaca Peak at [6,200ft]. The Duruitoarea waterfall is worth a walk. You can make a “Neamt Monasteries” walk between the villages of Varatec, Agapie and Neamt: a remarkable world
Rodna Mountains: this long Carpathian range in the far north of Transylvania reaches 2,300m. Beautiful and remote. (We currently have limited information on this range, and plan more research: contributions welcome!)
Caliman Mountains: this once volcanic area in the north-east has rich mixed forest and a wide diversity of wildlife. (We currently have limited information on this range, and plan more research: contributions welcome!)
Apuseni (north-west) [link]
The Apuseni are limestone mountains on the north-western borders of Transylvania. While they aren’t huge (1,400m-ish, highest 1,849m), they make up for that with superb scenery of peaks, cliffs, spires, gorges, many vast cave systems, huge and famous sink holes, karst plateaux, even waterfalls. Much of it is covered in fine, unspoilt forest. There are plenty of good walking trails, and you can spend several rewarding days here. The Padis Plateau is particularly exciting, a rugged karst area with many classic features including disappearing streams, vast sink holes and huge caves. There is also an exciting-sounding 6km ridge walk which takes in Bohodei Peak (1,650m). The Galbena Valley [link], of gorges and waterfalls, is also too good to miss.
This can be demanding walking in remote mountains with uncertain weather. Come fully prepared.
Dogs: sheepdogs are fierce and can attack, in numbers. Walk in a group, keep away from flocks, close up if they approach, carry/pick up a stick if near a flock. Walk steadily, don’t run.
Keep your wits about you in the forests: it really is easy to get lost, when you could become painfully aware of just how empty the area is!
Find relevant books on Amazon.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk (support us: find books using our Amazon search box)
[Note: include general guidebooks here if we know they deal with this walk in some detail]
Find these and other books on Amazon.
Other books (support us: find books using our Amazon search box)
Transylvania – Lucy Mallows for Bradt. A good guidebook, packed with interest as well as practicalities. It has an excellent bibliography.
Between the Woods and the Water – Patrick Leigh Fermour – celebrated account of his journey in Transylvania in the 1930s.
Along the Enchanted Way – William Blacker. His more recent life and lose there in the 2000s.
Find these and other books on Amazon.
There are topographical maps and well worth getting although they shouldn’t be relied on too literally when it comes to paths. [These can be got, locally [ ],although they aren’t to be found plentifully. The Scale is large, but rather peculiar.]
GPS is therefore worth having.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
It is hard to generalise, as the different sub ranges have varying weather, but late Spring through to Autumn are the best times to walk here. Winter is bitterly cold. Spring (April/May/early June) for wildflowers and Autumn for colourful leaves on the lower-to-mid slopes. The high mountains are only snow free in late June/early July (but July can be very wet in the Fagaras, at least) and are walkable until October (check for the area you want to visit). Winter walking snowshoeing are very viable if very different experiences.
Can be fine in season, but come prepared for heavy showers/storms and, higher up, very unpredictable mountain weather (expect some storms at least) and cold nights.
Check the current visa positon for people from your country.
A new airport at Brasov is being developed (as of 2017). Bucharest is further away, although logical for the mountains of the south or if you are making a larger Romanian expedition. Skyscanner is an excellent comparison site for finding good value flights.
There is no major city here, but several substantial towns.
There are some trains, but busses are generally not great.
Car hire is reasonably easy, but driving isn’t straightforward, not least because of the lack of roadsigns.
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.
Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Mountain weather in the mountains: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
- Heat, humidity, and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Harmful animals including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Bears are a potential problem: come prepared to deal with an encounter. Beware wolves, too. Take all appropriate precautions.
- Canyon dangers: gorges can be lethal, particularly as a result of flash floods. Assess and prepare for all risks on those walks involving canyons. In particular if rain is possible.
- This can be remote country: help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Beware of dogs: sheepdogs are fierce and can attack, in numbers. Walk in a group, keep away from flocks, close up together if they approach, carry/pick up a stick if near a flock. Walk steadily, don’t run.
- Confusing forests: keep your wits about you in the forests: it really is easy to get lost, when you could become painfully aware of just how empty the area is!
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Many people form or join organised/supported expeditions, particularly when doing multi-day walks. Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has huge advantages.
Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard.
If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Walkopedia spent a walking/cultural week in the Saxon South with Andrea Rost (firstname.lastname@example.org), and couldn’t have been happier: very knowledgeable, charming and patient!! A major love is the high mountains, too!
Expedition organisers include:
- Explore! - reputable and experienced organisers.
- Wilderness Travel
- Steppes Travel
- Kudu Travel
[Check TripAdvisor for some reviews of this walk and walk organisers which may prove helpful.]
PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise. [leave in unless enough sites in our list]
Transylvania, is full of excellent guesthouses in old and atmospheric village houses and even manor house.
Hotels in towns.
When in the mountains: there are mountain huts in some areas, usually in superb or at the least very pretty and charming locations. They provide food as well as comfortable sleeping. Most require you to bring a sleeping bag liner, although some a sleeping bag too. You do, though, need to book ahead.
Camping is also option, the only one in many remote areas. Wild camping is not allowed and discouraged by those who know, unless you are experienced both of the wild and of Romania!
A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com.
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Other information and tips; responsible tourism and charities
Bring eye shades and ear plugs.
Tipping is expected, so come mentally prepared and with enough cash. Check guidebooks for current rates. Do err on the side of generosity if unsure – it will make a big difference to them.
Walkopedia encourages responsible tourism! Have a look at www.stuffyourrucksack.com for projects you can take things for. The Bradt guidebook lists some good local charities.
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpathian_Mountains - big page, a good starting place as so often.
- Try www.flickr.com for pictures.
- Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this area.
Other things to do in the area
Romania has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be.
Mountain biking, climbing, birdwatching and other natural delights.
Culture, history and people watching. Dracula if you must.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more