Hiking in Romania – 5 of the best routes to explore Romania’s wilderness

Hiking in Romania is one of the few activities that everyone should experience at least once. Whether you’re looking for a long camping escape in the mountains or for a short hiking trip, the Carpathian Mountains provide countless opportunities to enjoy the unspoiled nature and their rich wildlife.

But with hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails waiting to be explored, it can be pretty hard to decide where to go and what route to take.

Below you will find some of our favorite hiking routes in Romania, sorted by difficulty.

1. Bucegi Mountains

Located in the central part of Romania, the Bucegi Mountains are part of the Southern Carpathian Mountains and south of the city of Brasov. They are widely known for the Bucegi Plateau, the place where wind and rain have formed over thousands of years the rock formations known as the Sphinx and Babele.

the sphinx bucegi mountains
The Sphinx, natural rock formation in the Bucegi Mountains

Besides the spectacular rock formations, the Bucegi Mountains are also home to some of the most stunning caves in Romania, such as the Bears’ Cave and the Ialomita Cave.

bears cave bucegi
Bear skeleton in the Bears’ Cave. Photo by Zátonyi Sándor.

Most of the trekking and hiking routes in the Bucegi Mountains start from the resorts around the Prahova Valley, such as the Sinaia ski resort.

Awesome tip: If you find yourself in Sinaia, make sure to visit Peleș Castle, the famous summer residence of the Romanian Royal Family.

Recommended route: Bușteni – Urlătoarea

The most accessible hiking trail in the Bucegi Mountains starts from Bușteni and takes you up to the Urlătoarea Waterfall. This route is perfect for beginners, and although it has an estimated duration of an hour, you can easily spend half a day admiring the beautiful scenery and enjoying the quiet nature.

urlatoarea waterfall bucegi mountains
The Urlătoarea Waterfall

If you’re looking for a more adventurous route, you can leave from Busteni and head to Peretele Costilă – Cabana Poiana Izvoarelor – Cabana Diham. This route is recommended for those that have more experience, as it has a length of around 6 hours, with Cabana Diham (the Diham Cottage) being located at an altitude of 1320 meters.

2. Piatra Craiului Mountains

The Piatra Craiului mountain range is renowned for its difficult hiking and trekking routes, but with stunning landscapes that attract thousands of adrenaline junkies each year.

piatra craiului mountains
Piatra Craiului Mountains as seen from the Rucăr-Bran Pass. Photo by Horia Varlan.

But don’t let that intimidate you.

You can also take a short and relaxing walk through the Piatra Craiului National Park and discover some of the wonderful wildlife that inhabits this area.

One of the best highlights of the Piatra Craiului Mountains are the Zărneștilor Keys, a vertical rock formation that reaches heights of 200 meters and that spreads over a length of 2 kilometers.

zarnesti keys rock formation
Zarneștilor Keys. Photo source: xplorio.ro

In this area, the temperature is lower than in the rest of the natural reservation because the sun doesn’t reach the surface for more than a few hours each day. So if you’re looking to hide away from the burning summer sun and take a short break from your hike, this is the perfect spot.

Other attractions worth mentioning are the Magura and Pestera mountain villages, where you can experience the quaint local life and the hospitality of the people that live there. Who knows? You might even get to enjoy a traditional lunch at a local sheepfold.

Recommended route: Fântâna lui Botorog – Zărneștilor Keys – Cheia Pisicii – La Table – Peștera Village – Munteanului Hill – Fântâna lui Botorog

Although it takes approximately 6 hours to complete the route, the difficulty is reduced and you even take it by bike. You can reach Fântâna lui Botorog by car, and then take the forest road through the mountains. This route is filled with stunning rock formations, small waterfalls, and thick vegetation, and once you reach Măgura you can even meet some of the locals and discover the Romanian countryside life.

3. Retezat Mountains

The Retezat Mountains are one of the tallest mountains in Romania, with its highest peak, Peleaga, reaching an altitude of 2509 meters. But the most impressive feature of the Retezat Mountains is its Natural Park.

retezat national park
Hiking in the Retezat Mountains

The Retezat National Park is home to thousands of species of plants, hundreds of species of birds and 55 species of mammals, 22 of which are protected by law. Among the 55 species, you will find wolves, lynxes, black goats, deer, roebucks, and brown bears.

The Retezat Mountains are also renowned for their high number of glacial lakes, Lacul Bucura being by far the most spectacular of all.

The park administration has created several hiking and trekking routes through the park, most of which are low-difficulty and even kid-friendly, requiring between 2 to 4 hours of activity.

Recommended route: Pietrele Hut – Bucura Lake

The Pietrele Hut cannot be reached by car, but you can reach it after approximately two hours of walking from the vicinity of the Nucșoara village.

retezat mountains
Overview of the Retezat Mountains

From Pietrele, the hike to the Bucura Lake will take you approximately 3 to 4 hours. Over the course of the hike, you will have the chance to enjoy some truly amazing views from the Retezat Mountains, reaching altitudes of up to 2206 meters in Curmătura Bucurei.

4. Fagaras Mountains

The most famous landmark in the Fagaras Mountains is, by far, Transfagarasan.

transfagarasan road, fagaras mountains
The Transfăgărășan Road

The Transfagarasan road is definitely the most spectacular in Romania, and Jeremy Clarkson even named it the best road in the world. This “stairway to heaven” reaches a maximum altitude of 2042 meters, and it passes through numerous other landmarks such as the Poenari Fortress and the Vidraru Dam.

vidraru dam
Vidraru Dam

However, keep in mind that the Transfagarasan is closed between November 1st and June 30th, but you can reach Bâlea by taking a cable car.

Recommended route: Bâlea Waterfall Hut – Bâlea Lake

balea lake
Balea Lake

This hiking trail has a length of 10 kilometers, and you can complete it in about 5 hours. The Bâlea Waterfall is a great spot to admire the middle of the Făgăraș Mountains, and once you reach Bâlea Lake you can check in at one of the wonderful chalets near the lake or at the Bâlea Lake Hotel of Ice.

5. Apuseni Mountains

The Apuseni Mountains are literally the lands of ice and fire. Being home to the jaw-dropping Scarisoara Ice Cave and to the Living Fires, these mountains have many beautiful stories to tell that will impress travelers of all types.

living fires romania
The Living Fires

The Scarisoara Ice Cave is home to the largest underground glacier in Romania, and it is the perfect spot to cool off in the summer, as temperatures never exceed 1°C.

scarisoara ice cave
Scărișoara Ice Cave

Another impressive landmark that you can visit in the Apuseni Mountains is the Ponorului Citadels Cave.

Recommended route: Stâna de Vale Mountain Resort – Adăpostul Padiș – Cabana Scărișoara

The best way to enjoy this route is to take it in 2 days of hiking. You will need approximately 6 hours to get to Adăpostul Padișului from Stâna de Vale, as the route has a length of approximately 20 kilometers. In Adăpostul Padiș you can either choose to check in at a lodge or even camp out.

apuseni mountains
Misty morning in the Apuseni Mountains

On the next day, you can leave for Cabana Scărișoara, which is also 20 kilometers long, but the hike is a bit more difficult than on the first day, so you will need some 7 hours to complete it.

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