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The Muddy Volcanoes: weird & unique

There are many options for day trips when traveling to Bucharest, Romania. But maybe the most unique of them all is a trip to the muddy volcanoes in Buzău County. They are real volcanoes in the sense that they work, but just like lava flows from one type of volcanoes, these ones spit (as you probably guessed) - mud!

The question of what is a mud volcano is a good one. But it's one thing to read about it - and another one to see them up close! That's why this lesser known tourist attraction in Romania is worth considering on your holiday.

The Muddy Volcanoes are a natural reserve in Buzau County, a rare geological wonder hidden behind Buzau mountains part of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains in our country. The area of muddy volcanoes is spread across 30 hectares of land in the Berca and Scortoasa communes. They are accessible from the national road DN 10 (connecting Buzau County to Brasov), or from Satuc village.

Attested since 1867, they were declared a natural monument in 1924 and became a UNESCO geopark in 2022.

The one-day trip can take up to 4 hours of exploring nature at the main sites where the large mud volcanoes are located:

  1. Paclele Mari (the Big Mud Volcanoes)
  2. Paclele Mici (the Small Mud Volcanoes)
  3. Ferbatorile Beciu
  4. Berca.

The road though paved, is not ideal and has lots of potholes. But an experienced Romanian driver will make it very accessible. Be careful when setting your navigation system because there are different routes to get there by car, bike, or on food. There is a paid parking lot close to Pâclele Mici and a free parking lot further back.

Top it with an excellent dining experience in the surrounding areas to make an entire day of it before heading back to the city.

Muddy volcanoes are very rare in Europe which makes the Romanian muddy volcanoes a curious site guaranteeing intrigue for any visitor. They give the surrounding area a “lunar tone” and coupled with the lack of vegetation due to the presence of salts, the landscapes offer a unique “out of this world” impression.

A selfie in this gray area, perhaps with the crater of a mud volcano in the background, will be a hit on your social media! :) This unique setting is also a preferred destination for family holidays in Romania.

The locals call them the “Gates of Hell,” and you can expect to find two main locations, Little Mud Volcanoes and The Big Mud Volcanoes - located in Berca and Scortoasa communes. Due to the rare phenomenon of that is the creation of muddy volcanoes, new volcanoes can emerge at any time while others disappear, so the sight constantly changes which makes visiting this area even more interesting.

They are not your regular volcanoes but rather large mud bubbles, formed by the earth’s natural gas erupting and leaving behind crater-shaped forms of thick clay-like mud or conical structures in the shape of a volcano. Depending on the composition, namely how much water is in the mud, the formations are either small cones (Paclele Mari and Paclele Mici) – less liquid, or lakes of boiling mud (the Beciu and Berca mud volcanoes) – more liquid.

When visiting Vulcanii Noroiosi, people usually start with Pâclele Mari. The most impressive thing about this site is how it resembles a lunar landscape. There are large mud volcanos everywhere, with underground water and natural gases (mainly methane with 2% carbon dioxide) found almost 3000 meters below the earth’s surface, causing the mud to bubble and spill over in a lava-like small flow.

As mentioned before, these are somewhat like real volcanoes, their volcanic activity even resembling that of the magmatic volcanoes of Hawaii. To get to the Pâclele Mici, you only need to walk 20 minutes among small volcanoes and lakes of boiling mud.
8 kilometers away, you will find the mud volcanoes of Beciu, which resemble a bubbling mud pot. Each small crater boils incessantly, and tourists have the chance to see an eruption with their own eyes.

Tons of mud are thrown like the water of hot springs into the air every few minutes, and this is the best place to see them. If time allows it, stop by to see the mud volcanoes of Berca as well. They are less active, and since many tourists put off this site and many skip it in the end, you could enjoy the place with less of a crowd, which is a real treat compared to other tourist attractions in Romania.

This nature reserve is unique in Romania. However, similar phenomena can be witnessed in Yellowstone National Park, on the island of Trinidad, in South America in Venezuela and Columbia, and in Europe in Italy, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Russia, among other places. A site more special than this would be the crater of a muddy volcano they discovered in the Barents Seas, at a 400-meter depth, where gas eruptions, along with water and other fluids.

Among other things, very impressive is the fact that this crater hosts a large community of underwater creatures, like sponges, sea anemones, sea stars, corals, and tube worms, whereas the muddy volcanoes on the surface of the earth are a barren land. The only plants that can grow there are the feather grass (Obione verrucifera), the nitrebush (Nitraria shoberi or gărdurarița in Romanian), dandelions, and other plants that thrive in the salty environment.

  • Local tip: The best time to visit would be a day without either rain or sun. For starters, if it rains, the reserve will be closed down anyway because you cannot walk on muddy, wet terrain. If it is too sunny, wear a lot of sunscreen and an outfit to protect you from the sun. Our guides will check the weather forecast before you go on a day trip with them.

Also, avoid the noon and early afternoon hours as there is no shade. None.

Never, ever step in a muddy crater unless you want to return to the city barefoot. Your home will be sucked right off. This is also why we recommend laced mountain footwear that will allow you to walk around without slipping or getting stuck.

If you want to have a panoramic view of the area and its surroundings, Magura Odobesti is an excellent option. It is not at a high altitude, but enough to give you the needed perspective.

If you get hungry or tired after a long day of exploring, feel free to check out the tourist facilities in the area. As wild and untamed as nature is, as comfortable and delightful some of these places will prove to be.

  • Local tip: While you are there, at about 15 km from the Muddy Volcanoes, you can also visit the oldest amber, dating back 60 million years, hosted by the only amber museum in South Eastern Europe. The museum, considered to have the world’s most famous amber color diversity, is located in an old traditional peasant’s house in Colti village, and apart from exquisite amber, it also showcases various rocks, traditional clothes, sewing objects, and jewelry from different eras.

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