Romania is an amazing destination for walking trips, hiking, multi-day treks, mountaineering and all sorts of outdoor adventures and sports – yet few travellers know this! 55% of our country is occupied by the Carpathian Mountains, sometimes called the Transylvanian Alps.
If you go hiking in Romania you'll be rewarded with amazing views of untouched sceneries where wild animals roam freely and mountain villages lead a simple life far from the hustle and bustle of civilisation.
- Local tip: did you know Romania is known as Europe’s last wilderness reserve? Watch the documentaries Wild Carpathia and Untamed Romania to find out why!
Our country is, without false modesty, one of the luckiest in the world: blessed by Mother Nature with a rich geography and many natural attractions. Outdoor enthusiasts will discover beautiful views of towering mountains and their high peaks, dangerous cliffs, numerous caves, mesmerising gorges, impressive waterfalls and serene glacial lakes.
All while going through picturesque and wild natural landscapes dotted by a few small villages and sheepfolds. Hiking the Romanian mountains is than what you’ll find in countries in Western Europe or Central Asia – and that’s why hiking in Transylvania is one of the best things to do in Romania and my personal favorites :)
The happy ex-corporate lawyer behind Romanian Friend on a research trip :)
So if you want to go on a hiking in Romania on a day trip or multi-day trekking trip, on a camping expedition, to see wildlife or visit popular natural attractions – in this complete hiking in Romanian Mountains guide (made by locals!) you’ll find:
- practical info and safety tips
- how to plan your trip and what to expect
- suggestions on where to go for the best hikes
- the best way to enjoy Romania's beautiful outdoors
- guided tours for the best hiking trails
As you'll see, hiking in the Romanian Carpathians is
not easy because of our underdeveloped tourist infrastructure, wilderness and risk of running into brown bears! And that’s besides the usual risks of going in the mountains…
Which makes it even more exciting - with proper planning! Also check our guide on how to visit Romania for the first time. And if you have questions, or need help planning your hiking trip or a group experience just contact us - we're happy to help!
Table of contents
- 1. The Romanian Carpathians: the basics & must know
- 2. When to go hiking in Romania
- 3. Planning your hiking trip. What to expect. Safety tips.
- 4. Hiking routes and infrastructure in Romania
- Should you hire a licensed hiking guide in Romania?
- 5. Difficulty, what to bring & technical hikes
- 6. Wildlife tours in Romania. Logistics.
- 7. Where to go hiking & see Romania’s natural attractions
- 8. The most popular hiking trails in Romania
- Fagaras Mountains
- Bucegi Mountains
- Piatra Craiului Mountains
- Apuseni Mountains and National Park
- Retezat Natural Park
1. The Romanian Carpathians: the basics & must know
The Carpathian Mountains are Europe’s second-longest mountain range stretching 1,500 km through 6 countries in Eastern Europe: Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland.
Most of the Carpathians are in Romania where they occupy a whopping 55% of our country’s land area. Forming an L-shaped arc, the Romanian Mountains are divided into 3 major groups each with its own subdivisions, specifics, natural attractions and tourist potential:
- Western Carpathians (on the map between Oradea, Cluj-Napoca and Deva; mountains of 1,200-1,800m; locally known as Apuseni Mountains: pictureque, lots of villages, caves and natural attractions)
- Central Carpathians (from Timisoara to Brasov; the highest and wildest mountains in Romania with average altitudes of 1,800 – 2,500m; home to the popular Retezat, Parang, Fagaras, Piatra Craiului and Bucegi Mountains)
- Eastern Carpathians (from Brasov to Suceava; wild and the most underdeveloped; average altitudes of 1,500 - 2,300m; popular ranges include Calimani, Ceahlau and Rodnei Mountains)
A detailed map of Romania’s Carpathians and their many subdivisions is here. Hills are yellow (up to 800m), foothills (800 - 1,500m) are light brown and mountains are dark brown. So can you imagine how many hiking routes there are in Romania?
The three groups are also the natural border for the three historical regions that form our country:
- Transylvania (inside the arc)
- Wallachia (South of the Carpathians until the Danube)
- and Moldova (from the Eastern Carpathians until Prut river).
Mountain crossings were heavily defended and the famous
Dracula’s Castle (in fact Bran Castle) is the best example of this.
One of our guides and two happy hikers on the highest peak in Romania
The highest point in the Romanian Carpathians is in Fagaras Mountains and is called Moldoveanu Peak which reaches a maximum altitude of 2,544m
(8,380 feet). The second highest peak is also in Fagaras - Negoiu Peak at 2,535m. And then there are 10 other mountain peaks over 2.500m (mostly in Fagaras) and 47 over 2,400m
(7,875 feet). Towering guardians offering beautiful views once they’re summited!
But you don’t have to be an experienced hiker with professional hiking gear to enjoy Romania’s mountains! There are many places to go hiking in Romania for inexperienced hikers looking for a short walk or easy trails to spend a beautiful day outdoors. And also for average and fit travellers who want more than just the typical sightseeing on their holiday in Romania. We've got something for everyone!
Here's a quick summary with examples of what Romania’s mountains can offer, other than beautiful scenery:
- the most picturesque hikes in Transylvania are in Apuseni Natural Park (starting from Cluj-Napoca), Piatra Craiului National Park (from Brasov) and some lesser known areas close to Sibiu and Timisoara; you'll go through hills and valleys passing mountain villages that preserve a simple and traditional way of life; plenty of easy and medium difficulty hiking routes (5-15 km, 4-6h, 400-700 altitude difference) starting from
- those looking for challenging hikes and to see raw, wild scenes should aim for the high peaks of Fagaras Mts, the main ridge of Piatra Craiului Mts, the mountain lakes circuit in Retezat National Park or the Western side of Bucegi; long hikes through wild, virgin landscapes with glacial lakes and little signs of civilisation will immerse hikers in the impressive beauty of Romanian nature; logistics and trails are more so these hiking trips require more planning, time and guidance
- popular natural attractions include the Sphinx and Babele rocks on Bucegi plateau, Zarnesti Gorges in Piatra Craiului, the impressive Szekler’s Stone and Turda Gorges close to Cluj-Napoca, King Decebal Statue and Ochiul Beiului Lake close to Timisoara, and the famous Seven Ladders Canyon close to Brasov
- for hiking adventures you can try your via ferrata skills (secured rock-hiking) in Turda Gorge, rock climbing or escalade in Piatra Craiului, caving and white-water rafting; lots of MTB and bike trails around Brasov and Cluj-Napoca too
- unfortunately hut-to-hut hiking trips in Romania are
NOT possiblebecause there are not enough huts and refuges in the mountains, and most hiking routes are circuits; but our guides can organise something very close to that in Piatra Craiului or Fagaras, so contact us for details
- Fagaras and Retezat Mts are the perfect place for camping expeditions which allow you to explore these wild mountains, but we going without a guide who knows the areas well since the risks, including of running into wild animals, are high
- wildlife tours are done - which hiking guides are NOT; so these activities
can’t be combinedon the same trip because for wildlife watching or tracking you have to go into wild, non-touristic, often unmarked areas; we partnered with a non-profit conservation that does hiking and wildlife trips
I hope by now you start seeing how Romania is a great choice for your next trip to enjoy the great outdoors :)
Check all our hiking tours for the best hiking trails and natural attractions all over the country with different starting locations:
2. When to go hiking in Romania
The best time for a hiking trip in good conditions in Romania is between late-April – late Oct for most mountains and trails (1,500-1,800m). If you’re aiming for high peaks and trails at altitudes over 2,000m then it’s from mid-June - late October.
Romania’s climate is temperate continental, so generally warm and fair. But temperatures and weather conditions in the mountains can be tricky and change fast, especially at high altitudes. Check our article on when to visit Romania for more info on what kind of weather to expect and suggestions for each season.
But Summer months are generally the perfect time for a hiking trip anywhere in Romania – as long as you have sun cream!
For example, the popular Fagaras, Bucegi and Retezat mountains are still covered in (lots of)
snow in May so they’re inaccessible without adequate winter hiking gear (crampons, gaiters, etc). Others in Transylvania such as Apuseni or Piatra Craiului are good for hiking as early as April. And some months, for example February, March and November are known to be more rainy.
Pro tip:what I do is look at the temperatures and forecast in the nearest small village of where I’m going hiking. Then I deduct 5 degrees to be on the safe side with my clothing, especially for early mornings or late evenings.
If you book one of our hiking trips our guides will inform you of local weather conditions before you come and tell you exactly what to bring and what to expect.
Hiking in the Bucegi Mountains near Bucharest
3. Planning your hiking trip. What to expect. Safety tips.
don’t skip this section. I think it’s the most important one from this hiking guide and you won’t find this info anywhere else.
Exploring Romania's mountains is challenging even for locals due to several reasons. And it’s even more so for non-locals. Sadly, our government is not doing a good job at promoting our country or developing tourist infrastructure and that’s why I’m going to give you an honest, realistic picture of what to expect.
Firstly, Romania is an underrated and undiscovered tourism destination in general. More tourists visit Hungary’s capital Budapest then of Romania...
If that’s true for classical tourism and sightseeing then for hiking it’s even
worse - most people don’t even think of Romania as a hiking destination – although our potential is huge! So you’ll meet very few hikers, if any, especially outside Summer months.
That’s why there are
no group hiking tours like you’d expect in other countries with such rich outdoors - except for our highest peaks of Romania trip. So most hiking tours are private and customisable – so please to join existing groups because there Instead, move fast to secure our guides’ availability.
NO locally-made online database in English with up-to-date and detailed info on hiking trails, maps, what to expect etc. And I’m reluctant to recommend websites you’ll find on google because I don’t know how accurate they are and who made them.
Thirdly, to get closer to the mountains you’ll probably need a car. Public transportation in Romania is underdeveloped and can take a lot of time especially if you’re going into remote parts of the country. For example you'll need 1 full day to get from Bucharest close to Fagaras or Retezat National Park.
And even if you can get to small villages on your own, the starting point for trail or entries into national parks is further away – so again you’ll need a car. There are no shuttles and or taxis in these parts – other than hitchhiking! And then, how will you get back to civilisation?
What our hiking trips in Piatra Craiului look like
Fourth, in areas like Piatra Craiului or Apuseni you’ll see a small village here and there. But in Romania's rural areas few locals speak English and even fewer can give you accurate hiking info.
And in some popular areas like Fagaras, Retezat, Parang, Bucegi or Ciucas Mountains it’s completely wild meaning no people - just animals!
Which brings me to my last point - there were
many incidents with brown bears or wild boars showed up on mountain trails, going on food-finding expeditions in nearby local communities lured by the smell of cooked food (or trash bins) from campers or guesthouses. Like I said – Romania is Europe’s last wilderness reserve for good reason!
And if that weren't enough - you may come across shepherds with overly-protective dogs. Trained to keep bears and wolves away, these dogs roam free - far from their masters - and can be dangerous for hikers. So having a pepper spray is just as important as your water bottles...
But if you don’t want to worry with any of this and miss out on Romania’s beautiful outdoors – hiring a mountain guide is a great option, if not the best. And if you think you don’t need one, keep reading :)
Typical hiking signs in Romania's mountains
4. Hiking routes and infrastructure in Romania
Now that we’ve covered the general points, let’s get into specifics.
Trail signs, maps and info are all in Romanian. And, like I said, there’s no English database with up-to-date info on hiking trails. So if you’re planning to do a self-guided hiking trip in Romania's mountains you’ll need to do some research Read about the hiking signs in Romania here and use Google translate to figure it out.
Pro tip:if you really want to go hiking on your own, go to a local library and get a guide of Romania’s mountains with detailed maps. That’s what I – and my guides – use. They’re in Romanian but the maps and details are reliable.
There are info points with staff selling entry tickets to national parks - but I’m not sure who speaks English there. You need to have a ticket cause otherwise you can get
fined by park rangers or rescue crews.
Accommodation in the mountains. At (up to 1,000m) there are small villages with tourist guesthouses called pensiune. Rooms start from 20 Euro/night and you can check Booking.com or AirBnB to find one. Expect basic facilities, fixed menu food, little, if any, English, and if they accept card payments.
A typical 'cabana' in the high mountains of Romania
At high altitudes (from 1,200m) you'll find mountain cabins or chalets that offer very basic accommodation and a fixed food menu. Most of them have shared dormitories with 12-16 bunk beds, shared toilets, no showers, very basic facilities and cash only. You’ll also need a to stay in most of them.
Unfortunately, in the most popular mountains there are only one or two cabins that offer accommodation for hikers who want to summit Romania’s highest peaks. Some are all-year-round, online (only by phone) and usually require full payment in advance (nonrefundable!) via bank transfer due to Examples:
- Cabana Curmatura at 1,400m is the only place to stay if you want to hike the main ridge of Piatra Craiului and summit its highest peak, La Om at 2,238m
- Cabana Podragu at 2,136m is the only place to stay in Fagaras Mts if you want to summit Moldoveanu - the highest peak in Romania
- Cabana Negoiu at 1,546m also in Fagaras Mts is the only option if you want to summit Negoiu - the second highest peak in Romania
- Cabana Padina in the heart of Bucegi Natural Park is the best place to explore the area’s many natural attractions
Warning: due to high demand from hikers aiming for the highest peaks in Romania, very few alternatives in the area and their limited accommodation capacity – it’s very hard to find beds in these places unless you book them in advance (min. 2-3 weeks or more if traveling on weekends or Summer months). But if you book one of our hiking tours
As for unmanned mountain refuges - they’re few, small (6-12 people max), far in between and very basic = walls and a roof! Finding ‘free spots’ depends on how lucky you are. I couldn't find an online up-to-date map of where these are other than verbal descriptions with very local names. At least they’re located in areas with amazing views!
After Winter most of them need to be checked and see if they’re still usable while others are not well taken care of by their ‘users’ or are indefinitely ‘under maintenance.’ I personally relying them on my trips and we don’t usually include them on our tours either.
As for camping in Romanian mountains - there are no special designated areas for this because everything is so wild - so in theory you could set up camp anywhere! But doing this alone in a foreign country... and having to carry lots of equipment and supplies... with wild animals roaming around... well, your choice! :)
One of our guides is really passionate about camping expeditions especially in Fagaras Mts (to avoid the tourist trails) or Retezat National Park (where camping is the accommodation option!) so if you’re interested in this kind of adventure then contact us. He’ll give you a tent and everything else you need.
Should you hire a licensed hiking guide in Romania?
As you can see, going on hiking alone in Romania won't be easy - especially if you've never been to Romania before or looking to do a multi-day trek.
In recent years, unrealistic expectations, relying on inaccurate or outdated info and underestimating Romania’s wilderness have caused more and more incidents of people who got in trouble hiking in Transylvania. They either got lost, or were unprepared for changing weather conditions, ran into a mama bear or had accidents and needed rescue.
So if you want to have a stress-free and safe holiday exploring the Romanian Carpathians in the best way possible – is a couple of hundred Euros not worth that?
Paint me like I'm one of your guides :)
I’m not trying to sell you our tours – but just to give you a of what to expect. I want you to have a good time hiking in Romania so you can tell your friends and show them beautiful pictures - so they come visit too!
Besides being the CEO of Romanian Friend, I'm also an avid traveler and hiker. But even so I rarely go on my own and wouldn’t recommend non-locals to go hiking in Romania alone they’ve done this before in a foreign country with underdeveloped tourism like ours (think Georgia, Kazakhstan, Bhutan), are up for a challenge and the risks associated with that.
And because we care more about safety than making a few bucks -
we don’t give info on specific hiking trails or self-guided itineraries. We can’t determine your fitness level, hiking experience or equipment through email and would rather putting you in danger.
And our guides have
refused to take some clients up in the mountains because they were wearing sports shoes instead of proper hiking boots or didn’t have adequate clothing despite being informed of weather conditions.
Our hiking guides are licensed experts passionate about our mountains. Besides being your friendly travel companions, they’re armed with encouragement, jokes and pepper spray – so they will keep you safe!
And since all our hiking tours are private they can be adjusted to your physical conditions, interests and weather conditions. Our guides will describe in detail what trails are available in the area so you can choose which one you want.
Pro tip:NOT all tourist guides are licensed for hiking so we strongly recommend you before going on a trip with them (must be issued by AGMR, SGLM/UIMLA, the local hiking certification bodies)
The via ferrata route in Turda Gorge
5. Difficulty, what to bring & technical hikes
The Carpathian Mountains have an incredibly variety of hiking trails and multi-day trekking trips. No matter your fitness level, if you’re a passionate mountaineer, an average person looking for an easy hike in nature or an adrenaline junkie – there’s something here for you.
Each major mountain group usually has several trails of varying difficulty levels from different starting points.
- the difficult mountains are in the Central Carpathians: Fagaras, Retezat, Bucegi, Parang and Iezer (the highest mountains and most inaccessible); expect long hikes 6-9h, averaging 12-25 km, on rocky paths, 600 - 1,500 altitude differences and completely wild sceneries - so you’ll be alone and lots of preparation is key.
- medium difficulty ranges: Piatra Craiului, Piatra Mare, Leaota (all close to Brasov), Rodnei (North), Apuseni (West) and Cernei (South-West); but even here you can find hard difficulty trails, especially if you're aiming for the peaks.
- for an easy walk with beautiful scenery, there are lots of day trips you can do starting from Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara; they usually start from nearby mountain villages – but unfortunately there’s little info about them for non-locals (eg. no info point or brochures) and there's no way to get there without a car
So to have a great experience in our mountains you only need the typical hiking gear: good boots (and gaiters for snow), windproof & waterproof jacket, thermal clothing, some energy bars, sun cream, backpack, etc. You can rent hiking sticks from our guides.
Most hiking trails don't require any technical hiking gear except if you’re planning to do rock-climbing, a via ferrata route, caving or canyoying. But in the areas where you can do these activities there are to rent equipment. But our specialist guides have all the equipment you need so all you need is to book a tour with them or send us a message.
6. Wildlife tours in Romania. Logistics.
The Carpathian Mountains are home to a large and varied wildlife population: brown bears, wolves, wild deers, chamois, re-wilded bisons, boars, elusive lynx, the rare capercaillie, black goats and many small mountain-dwelling creatures and birds. And if you add the Danube Delta biosphere in the mix where over 160 species of birds live - Romania is truly a wildlife paradise!
Wildlife tours are done only by specialist wildlife guides which are - so you need to book them well in advance. Hiking guides
don't do these trips so these activities on a multi-day trip unless we arrange logistics with 2 different guides.
Pro tip:we partnered with a non-profit conservation who do 3-day hiking & wildlife trips in the wildest part of Fagaras Mts; you'll stay at their private eco-friendly cabins and support local conservation efforts
To go on a wildlife trip in Romania you should travel to Brasov and from there there are two types of trips you can go on:
- for brown bear watching
- for wildlife (incl. bears) tracking and watching
Our country is home to the largest brown bear population in Europe estimated between 4,500 – 7,000. By comparison, the next country is Slovakia with 1,000 – 1,500 :) Most bears are in Sibiu, Brasov, Prahova (ironically the main touristic and hiking areas!), Harghita and Covasna counties. So basically in the Central and Eastern Carpathians.
So brown bear watching in the wild is one of the most popular and unique experiences you can do in Romania. You've got two options - both super-safe - for this:
- 1. a half-day observation trip for everyone going to special observatories in the forests (no hiking involved) where you’ll see brown bears (85-100% chance)
- 2. a private bear safari going into wild areas where you'll do a short hike to a place with panoramic views and then use binoculars to spot bears and other animals (60-85% chance of seeing them)
Pro tip:don't confuse these with Libearty bear sanctuary in Zarnesti (close to Brasov) where rescued bears are held captive for their own good; this is where most tourists are taken - but not on our tours
Proper wildlife trips are complex, always private and require more logistics. You'll go deep in the mountains, possibly on unmarked trails and rough terrain, early in the morning or late in the evening when animals are active. So very good physical condition is needed.
Each animal is 'more active' during a certain period of the year - but generally the best time for wildlife trips is late May – late Sept. A wildlife guide will try to pick up animals' trails and take you to known observation points with panoramic views - but seeing animals is as nature can't be controlled! Especially for lynx and wolves who will pick up your smell from far away.
Start from: Rucar, Arges county or Brasov
But if you go hiking in the high mountains you may see deer, black goats, chamois, bisons and bears from a distance - and that's when you'll be so happy you chose Romania for your hiking trip!
7. Where to go hiking & see Romania’s natural attractions
Romania has 14 national parks and 16 natural parks each with its own natural attractions. Check our article on the best national parks in Romania for more info on how to visit.
- most beautiful natural parks: Apuseni, Bucegi, Danube Gorges (Portile de Fier) and in the mountains of Maramures.
- most popular national parks: Piatra Craiului, Buila-Vanturarita, Bicaz Gorge-Hasmas, Rodnei, and 4 parks close to Timisoara (Cheile Nereu-Beusnita, Domogled-Valea Cernei, Semenic and Retezat)
- the famous Danube Delta is worth mentioning, even if it's not hiking-related
Those who want to go hiking in Transylvania should set up base in the medieval towns of Brasov or Sibiu, or the largest city in the region, Cluj-Napoca. Many of the best things to do in Romania can be done or visited from here and you'll also find lots of 1-day trips going into the mountains or to natural attractions nearby.
If you're a fan of hiking, then a trip to Maramures in northern Romania is a must. This stunning region is known for its rolling hills, pristine forests, and traditional wooden churches, which are some of the most unique examples of architecture in the country. The wooden churches of Maramures have been recognized by UNESCO for their outstanding cultural value, and they provide a fascinating insight into the region's history and heritage. Many of these churches date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and are known for their elaborate wood carvings, vibrant frescoes, and traditional architecture. While hiking through Maramures, take the time to visit some of these incredible churches and experience the rich cultural heritage of Romania.
Because there are so many mountains in Romania it's hard to talk about each one. So instead I'll just tell you where you can go hiking from Romania's popular tourist cities and what natural attractions are nearby, because logistics are an important factor to consider in these trips.
hiking options and tours from Bucharest:
- mountains nearby (closest first): Bucegi Mountains, the spectacular Ciucas Mountains, Piatra Craiului and Iezer Papusa (Papusa Peak at 2,508m is a wild and preferred destination for experienced hikers)
- attractions: the Sphinx, Babele and Bolboci Lake in Bucegi, 7 Stairs Canyon, Muddy Volcanoes, Zarnesti Gorge in Piatra Craiului, Transfagarasan Highway
- Fagaras Mts can be approached only during 1 July - 30 Oct when Transfagarasan Road, the main road leading into the mountains, is open; outside of this period you must go from Brasov or Sibiu
- to approach Retezat Mts you need 1 full day to get there; check our public transportation in Romania guide
hiking tours from Brasov (best choice since it's in the middle of the country):
- mountains nearby: Bucegi, Piatra Craiului, Ciucas, Fagaras, Leaota, Ceahlau
- attractions: 7 Stairs Canyon, Zarnesti and Bicaz Gorges, Piatra Singuratica, Transfagarasan Road, Sphinx, Babele, Lacul Bolboci;
- one of the most picturesque areas in the country with traditional mountain villages Magura, Pestera, Sirnea, Moeciu and Fundata (also good for inexperienced hikers)
- it's also the best place to go on wildlife trips
Start from: Brasov (pick-up)
hiking routes and tours from Sibiu:
- mountains nearby: Fagaras, Parang, Piatra Craiului, Retezat and Southern Apuseni Mts
- attractions: Transfagarasan Highway and Bâlea Lake, Transalpina Road and UNESCO Dacian Ruins at Sarmisegetusza
- lots of picturesque and easy hikes in the villages around Sibiu (Marginimea Sibiului)
for hiking in Transylvania look for tours from Cluj-Napoca since it's the largest city in the area:
- mountains nearby: the Western Carpathians, Apuseni Natural Park and Rodnei Mountains in Maramures
- attractions: Turda Gorge, Bride’s Veil Waterfall, Scarisoara Ice Cave, Rusty Ravine (Groapa Ruginoasa), Szekler’s Stone, White Cliffs (Pietrele Doamnei) and Szekler's Stone (Piatra Secuiului)
- Vladeasa Peak at 1,836m and Varful Bihor at 1,849m are the highest peaks nearby that can be summited on a 1-day trip
- lots of medium day hikes in areas with a well-preserved traditional rural life
hiking trips from Timisoara:
- mountain ranges: Cernei, Semenic Mountains and the famous Retezat National Park with its many glacial lakes
- attractions: King Decebal Statue, Bigar Waterfall [collapsed in 2021 due to natural errosion], Bucura Lake in Retezat Park, Ochiul Beiului Lake, Cheile Nerei-Beusnita and Domogled-Valea Cernei parks and the UNESCO Dacian Ruins
Start from: Timisoara
A rare sight: the re-wilded bisons in Fagaras Mts
8. The most popular hiking trails in Romania
Besides the wild and rugged character of the Romanian Carpathians, hikers will have another surprise: the beautiful scenery you'll see is either untouched by man or, if it is, it lives in an unbelievable time bubble.
But it's not easy to pick the best hikes - so here is a short description of the best places to go hiking in Romania.
Also known as Transylvania’s Alps, Fagaras Mountains are located in the heart of Romania and undoubtedly offer the most dramatic and wild landscapes. With their rocky crests and narrow hiking trails going at altitudes of 2,300 - 2,500m, they're also the most challenging. These are the highest mountains in Romania, towering guardians between Transylvania and Wallachia's vast plains: 9 peaks over 2,500m and 30 over 2,400m!
- Pro tip: the main road to access Fagaras Mts is Transfagarasan Road which is open for driving only from 1 July - 30 October. Outside this period they can be approached only from Brasov or Sibiu by taking the cable car to Balea Lakea which goes over the main road. So the best time to go in Fagaras is during Summer months (July - September)
Popular hiking trails. The route to Moldoveanu - the highest peak in Romania at 2.544m - is obviously the first one. It's a challenging hiking trail that needs 3 full days with 2 nights at Podragu Cabin. Some sections are very dangerous (with cables to hold on to). Total of 22h of hiking in 3 days with altitude differences of up to 1,000m in some sections. But the reward is worth it - and our Fagaras hiking tour from Brasov is perfect for it!
The next popular trail is to summit Negoiu, the second highest peak in Romania 2,535m - which some say is more spectacular than Moldoveanu. Can be done on a 2-day hike from Brasov/Sibiu with overnight at Negoiu Cabin or Balea Lake Cabin. Other popular one day hikes go to Lacul Capra or Vanatoarea lui Buteanu peak.
There are also some easy-medium trails (4-5h) around Balea Lake for those looking for an easy walk while enjoying the beautiful views - as long as you have hiking boots!
- Local tip: don't
underestimateFagaras Mts: trails go on crests with steep ravines and rock formations below; some sections have cables to hold on to because one wrong step can be fatal! Except for mountain huts and other hikers there are no other signs of life so it’s best to be very well prepared, have enough supplies and the right equipment if you go alone. Weather conditions can also change very quick at these high altitudes. That's why hiring a guide for a trip here is highly recommended!
Yup, you can stay in that cabin and see a bear out the window!
Fagaras mountains are also known for their wilderness where a variety of wild animals rule the land: brown bears, wolves, lynx, boars, chamois, bisons etc. We partnered with a non-profit for conservation that does unique hiking and wildlife trips for those who want a real wilderness experience. On these trips you have chances of seeing wild animals while hiking but due to their very limited capacity they are in so you need to book them in advance.
Start from: Rucar village, Arges county
Of the many mountain ranges in Romania, this option is the preferred one for Bucegi Natural Park is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in Romania, with towering peaks, deep valleys, and crystal-clear mountain streams. Visitors can hike along scenic trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness or explore the numerous caves and rock formations that dot the area. Thousands of tourists (mostly city folk) come here each year because they're very accessible using a cable car that will take you up to Bucegi plateau:
- in Sinaia two cable cars will take you from 1,000m to 2,200m (20 Euro up + down in total)
- in Busteni the cable car will take you up to Babele (35 Euro up + down)
So the uphill hike is avoided - unless you're ready for the challenge? :)
Bucegi are very popular for their natural attractions the Sphinx and Babele two rocks sculpted by natural forces can be seen on the plateau, as well as Caraiman Cross a WWI memorial that offers panoramic views of Prahova Valley and the rest of the Carpathian Mountains. Omu Peak at 2,505m can be reached on a 4-5h (one way) medium hike from plateau.
Hikers looking for the non-tourist trails will go through Valea Cerbului, a narrow rocky valley like a canyon that looks frightening whichever way you look at it! Or to Bolboci Lake or Varful Grecului. Or descend on the other side of Bucegi into Moeciu/Fundata area through Strunga Saddle (7h medium hike, 900m downhill).
If you're interested in skiing in Romania then Prahova valley at the base of Bucegi Mts with the popular resorts of Sinaia, Busteni, Azuga and Predeal are top choices. There are lots of places to stay here although they've very crowded during weekends when everyone from Bucharest drives which causes a lot of traffic jams. Luckily, any train from Bucharest to Brasov will stop in these resorts so they're also easily accessible.
- Local tip: be sure to visit major attractions in the area such as Peles Castle or Cantacuzino Castle
Piatra Craiului Mountains
Probably the most jaw-dropping and scenic mountains in Romania, you'll recognise Piatra Craiului from anywhere with their unmistakable white limestone ridge that scratches the horizon and many rocky formations. Whenever I see them I can't take my eyes away and hear a soft voice saying come hike me!
The most popular hiking route here is spectacular: crossing the main ridge (approx. 20km, 8h, high difficulty, for experienced hikers only). For this you need a 2 or 3-day trip and to stay overnight in the mountains (in the villages at the base or at Curmatura Hut). While crossing the ridge you'll also reach the highest peak here, La Om or Piscul Baciului, with a maximum altitude of 2,238m.
Pro tip:all trails in the upper parts of Piatra Craiului go up on rocky trails with steep ravines on both sides and difficult passages where a good hiking experience is required; but the panoramic views are breathtaking and this will be a great experience you'll remember!
Piatra Craiului National Park has of trails and options for day hikes of varying difficulty levels in Romania. Most of them are accessible all year round even if there's snow (with proper clothing), which makes it one of the best places for hiking in Romania. The park is also known for its many species of plants (30% of Romania's total!) and wildlife which you may be lucky to see on your trip - so outdoor enthusiasts will be very happy here.
At lower altitudes people who want a beautiful day in nature can go on a walking trip in traditional villages of Magura, Pestera, Sirnea, Ciocanu, Satic. You will likely cross paths with many shepherds while hiking these mountains including some overly-protective dogs! When in the mountain villages of Romania, it's polite to nod your head or say hello :)
A short trail in Piatra Craiului will quickly be rewarding
Most hiking routes start from Fântâna lui Botorog at the entrance of Zarnesti Gorges (a 'must see' natural attraction) going up to Curmătura Cabin. From there there are lots of options to go on. For example, to Piatra Mica peak (8h, medium/high difficulty), Poiana Zanoaga (7h) or to Saua Vladusca and Saua Joaca.
Pro tip:if you go hiking here in Sept/Oct the Autumn foliage in these woodland areas will... I don't have words to describe, really. breathtaking. this is also the best area for photographers who want to visit Romania.
Apuseni Mountains and National Park
The Western Carpathians groups are the smallest of the three and are locally known as Apuseni Mountains. They're the most popular hiking destination in Transylvania, close to Cluj-Napoca, Oradea and Sibiu. While they don't stand out with remarkable heights (the highest peak is Bihor at 1,849m), there are many natural attractions and things to do here - besides hiking with beautiful views of traditional mountain villages - that make up for it:
- over 200 caves open for visitors
- some caves allow for deep caving and speological exploration
- karst rock formations with narrow canyons ideal for mountaineering, rappelling and via ferrata (Turda Gorges, Suncuius)
- some areas are popular among local photographers and amateur astronomers for dark sky observation
The most popular natural attractions in Apuseni Natural Park are: Scarisoara Glacier and Ice Cave, the Rusty Ravine, Scarita Belioara Reserve, Bears' Cave and Bride's Veil Waterfall. And Turda Gorges, an enclosed miracle oasis of nature very popular for one day hikes and via ferrata adventures.
Hiking trails in Apuseni are generally of medium difficulty (4-6h, 8-14km) starting from the villages of Marisel, Rachitele and Padis. Obviously there are also some harder ones going into wild areas and if you want to summit the highest peak then you should consider staying at a guesthouse in the mountains.
Apuseni Natural Park also contains the ethnographic region known as Motilor Land (Tara Motilor). The villages here preserve a traditional way of life, so while hiking in the area to visit natural sights you'll meet locals, enjoy meals with them and learn about a unique part of Romanian culture.
Start from: Cluj-Napoca or Sibiu
Start from: Cluj-Napoca
Retezat Natural Park
The hidden jewel of the Carpathians, Retezat National Park in the Southern Carpathians group (near Timisoara) was a couple of votes away from being included in the list of New 7 Wonders of Nature.
uninhabited piece of land offers wild scenes with many glacier lakes and spectacular views like no other. Most hikers choose between the lakes trail to visit the famous Bucura Lake. Or to summit Peleaga Peak the highest in the area at 2.509m which will reward the brave with a great adventure and spectacular views.
Retezat are among the least friendliest of Romania’s mountains. Besides the complex logistics of getting to Carnic - the entry point into these mountains - there are very few-to-none accommodation options in the area, not even cabins or refuges!
Which means the only way to see them is by doing a camping expedition so hikers should have an above average physical condition. But imagine having nature as your hotel and knowing that the following day you'll be lucky to choose a new place to stay wherever you want! One of our guides is passionate about camping trips so if you're interested in this - contact us!
So I hope I convinced you why hiking in Romania is a fantastic idea for your next trip in 2023 :)
Here's a drone video taken around Piatra Craiului and Fagaras Mountains:
See you on the trails!
Your Romanian Friend