Bucegi Mountains: more than the Sphinx!
Located in central Romania, Bucegi Mountains and Bucegi Natural Park is one of the most impressive natural attractions in Romania.
With more than 15 peaks at over 2000 meters - a very high altitude for most countries in Eastern Europe! - and Omu Peak at 2505m, the highest peak, towering over everything below and offering a spectacular view, Bucegi Natural Park is Romania’s tourist cradle and it is also known as the Transylvanian Alps.
Local tip:check our list of the 10 best national parks in Romania out of 30 to get a better idea of Romania's natural beauty
Rising high, massive, and bold above the horizon, with fierce peaks and steep valleys, alpine limestone grasslands, caves, springs, and waterfalls, the Bucegi Mountains offer a breathtaking view, especially seen from the Prahova Valley.
Bucegi are also very popular because they're easily accessible via cable car which means city folk can go for a walk at high altitudes on Bucegi plateau.
Check our guide for hiking in Romania for more practical info on this topic.
the famous Bucegi Plateau
Natural attractions in Bucegi Mountains
Due to the versatile local geology, the fauna and vegetation are also very diverse. A number of endangered plants and flowers are to be found in the rocky valleys, such as the edelweiss flower and the white ivy.
The Bucegi Natural Park is home to more than 3500 animal species such as the wood grouse, the rare and beautiful black chamois, brown bears, wolves, deer, and the endangered lynx.
The Bucegi Natural Park hosts around 46 natural monuments such as waterfalls, caves, chutes, glaciers, and unusual rock formations: towers, arcades, and, most interestingly, organic shapes resembling old ladies, mushrooms, and sphinxes.
The most well-known are the peculiar rock formations named
- Babele (the Old Women)
- the Romanian Sphinx
- Omu Peak
- Cascada Ialomitei waterfall,
- Abruptul Prahovean mini natural rezervation
- Zanoagei chutes or gorges
There are 39 marked trekking routes covering the entire mountain. Climbers and cavers can also find challenging adventures in the Bucegi Mountains. There are many routes, chutes, valleys, and headwalls which require technical knowledge for climbing, such as the Adanca Valley, Valea Poienii, and rapa Zapezii.
Start from: Bucharest OR Brasov
The Romanian Sphinx is the main attraction here
Why is the Romanian Sphinx in Bucegi Mountains so popular
Probably the most visited attraction in all the Romanian Mountains is the Bucegi Plateau. Situated at over 2000 meters, the plateau is accessible by cable car from the Busteni resort in Prahova Valley.
The main attractions of the plateau are its spectacular figures made of rock. The most popular one is the Sphynx which resembles the man-made Egyptian sphinx except that this Romanian version is a natural rock formation created by wind erosion over thousands of years. It strongly resembles a human head which is why there are several legends and myths about it!
Nearby you will see the Old Women rock formation (Babele in Romanian), a natural monument with the same origin as the famous Sphinx.
Once you set foot on the platform, some say you can feel the special energy of the place. More than just peace and quiet, but a feeling of being recharged. This is so intense that every year on November 28th people all over the world gather on the plateau meeting place around the Sphynx to see, what they say, are the sun’s rays creating an energetic pyramid around it.
The look and feel of this unique natural monument have often sparked the imaginations of many who sought to explain it by giving it sacred meaning or connecting it with an alien civilization. Some have seen the existence of Jesus confirmed, and others have felt closer to Nirvana.
To each his own :)
One thing is for sure: this place is constantly swarming with lots of tourists with different interests.
The steep valleys and spectacular views in Bucegi Natural Park
Popular hiking trails in Bucegi Mountains
Probably one of the most accessible trails in the Bucegi mountains is the forest walk to the Urlatoarea Waterfall from Busteni resort. It’s best done on a hot summer day, because the forest is so nice and cool. Not to mention damp. Even in summer, there are small water springs watering the ground.
If you are confident about your physical condition and hiking abilities, you can skip the cable car and climb to the plateau on foot. Two main trails start on the valley floor in Busteni: Jepii Mari – a 3-4 hour climb on forest trails and on the plateau. Not necessarily difficult, but challenging as it is lengthy.
There is also the Jepii Mici trail, a steep climb up a part of the mountain where holding on to chains pinned to the stone is required. Not recommended for beginners or people lacking the optimum equipment for such a hike.
Start from: Brasov or Sinaia or Busteni
Omu Peak the highest in Bucegi Mountains
The highest peak, Omu is maybe the most accessible of the top 10 highest peaks in Romania. Several trails are leading up to Omu Peak depending on where you start your journey from.
You can reach the top of the Bucegi mountains if you start from Babele, on the Bucegi plateau, from Valea Cerbului in Bușteni, from Râșnov toward Mălăiești (at the crossroads of two spectacular hiking trails, you find the Mălăiești cabin in the glacial valley with the same name) and head for Țigănești Lake, the only glacial lake in the Bucegi Mountains.
The easier trails take about 5 hours to the Omu hut and the Meteorological station. The harder ones take about 3 hours, are very difficult and are closed all winter season. Even in summer, this is not a trail you can do in bad weather.
A nearby challenge we do not recommend anyone other than experienced mountaineers to take on are Acele Morarului (a ridge made of 4 rocky and very steep peaks) and Coștila Peak.
Omu may remain the highest point in the area, but it is fairly accessible. These other trails, however, are so challenging that you feel you could take the ring to Mordor next if you get the reference.
If you took the cable car up to the Bucegi plateau, there are several options for trails, depending on your physical condition. After taking in the beautiful landscape and taking a picture with the main attraction, you can head toward the Caraiman Cross a large metal cross visible from the Bușteni resort, erected by the Royal Family in memory of the heroes of WWI. The Caraiman peak is nearby, at an altitude of 2291 meters.
If you are on a 1-day trip to see Bran castle, you cannot squeeze a hike on the same day. Sit back and enjoy the view of Bran pass from up in the castle, and get things straight on whether or not it is Dracula’s castle (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not! ). The next day, look for an experienced hiking guide. You can reach Omu if you start from Bran on the trail that goes through Valea Gaura.
Also, from the plateau, you can go to the other part of the Bucegi massif. You can take the cable car or trek on the plateau all the way to the Padina plateau. Let yourself be embraced by a thick mountain forest.
A glacial valley
Here you can also visit the Ialomita cave, whose entrance is guarded by a church built directly into the large block of stone. Take this time tunnel and see where men and bears alike used to seek refuge from the elements thousands of years ago. And the uniqueness of the area will not stop surprising you.
If you are looking for something life-changing, know that you are ins something of a sacred place, the area near the cave being seen as „The mouth of heaven” (Gură de rai) as it has an abnormal magnetic field with unusual effects on the human body. Like making you feel instantly refreshed. Sounds good enough to try it, right?
If you continue to go down this side of the mountain, you will end up in the resort of Sinaia city, where you can visit the beautiful Peles castle. Take a small detour on the road to take in the breathtaking views of Bolboci Lake. This is one of the few artificially created dam lakes in Romania.
From Bucegi looking to the West you'll see the spectacular ridge from Piatra Craiului National Park which is another popular hiking destination that you may feel attracted towards.
A common sight in the Romanian mountains is the brown bear. Look for warnings, check with local authorities before going up on remote trails, and it is always best to opt for more circulated paths or go with a hiking guide who knows what to do in case of close encounters.
Hero's cross on Caraiman Peak and views of Prahova Valley
Where to stay in Bucegi Mountains
For accommodation, there are many hotels and mountain cabins in Bucegi massif: Padina cabin, Malaiesti cabin, Pestera Hotel, Omu cabin. But do keep in mind that some of the mountain refuges or mountain huts you come across while hiking may not offer the best conditions for staying the night. So make sure to plan ahead when hiking.
There are also camping possibilities near the cabins.
How to get to Bucegi Plateau
Access to the Bucegi Natural Park is possible from multiple directions: the national roads through the towns close to the park - Sinaia, Predeal, Azuga, Bran, Busteni, Moroieni, Rasnov, or Moieciu de Sus and Moieciu de Jos. You can also find boarding in any of these locations, and they are more than happy to have you. You can opt for villas, hotels, B&Bs, and even apartments.
There are plenty of day tours organized from Bucharest if you have a hike in mind. Otherwise, you can rent a car and see the resorts.
Do keep in mind the fact that Romanians are very keen on their weekend plans and will often flock to the mountains on weekends. Expect heavy traffic on Friday going toward Prahova Valley and on Sunday coming back to the big cities. Taking the train to Sinaia, Busteni, Azuga, Poiana Tapului, or Predeal is another option.
Prahova Valley is a very popular tourist destination with accommodations for all pockets. These small towns have everything you need to make your stay comfortable, like plenty of restaurants with all price ranges, food stores, and even shops with mountain equipment. If you want to go to a big city, Brasov is your best option.
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