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Tips for hiking in Romania

A weekend in Retezat National Park

As the song says, Everybody’s changing, I realize I am no exception. Me, who used to live and die for the city exploration, I am learning to understand my shift for nature and hiking. Although an amateur yet, my attraction for hiking in Romania is undeniable.

So, I joined a group and off we went hiking and camping for a couple of days in Retezat, a range of mountains from the Southern Carpathians with 20 peaks over 2,000 m.

Dramatic sunset over Retezat mountains
Spectacular sunset over Retezat; photo: Adrian Petrisor
Retezat and some hiking trails
Retezat and some lakes in the background

One of nature’s top destinations in Romania, these mountains are a must for any passionate hiker and wilderness lover. The name Retezat means cut off/blunt, because if you look from a distance you’ll notice this is the way peaks look. Part of the National Retezat Park, these mountains are accompanied by around 80 glacial lakes and the area is largely untouched by human hand. The alpine pastures have a special glow. Moreover, not only nature reveals its true beauty here; you will also encounter a colourful palette of wildlife.

Travel to a mountain area and discover the majestic landscape and diversity of wildlife!

Taste happiness when you see a rhododendron blooming or observe a fluffy marmot!

Feel the pure joy of hiking! And being alive!

Content

Good to know about Retezat National Park
How to get there
What we did there
Hiking trails in Retezat

Good to know about Retezat National Park

It is the first national park in Romania and a UNESCO Reserve of the Biosphere.  The park is covered mainly by pristine forests and features some peaks over 2,500; Peleaga (2,509) being the highest. Bucura Lake is the biggest glacial lake in Romania, while Zanoaga is the deepest. Retezat peak (2,482m) is the most famous one, obviously blunt, visible from anywhere in Hateg area.

Hiking in Romania is beautiful
There’s basically no hiking trail in Retezat without lakes

Hiking in Romania is wonderful and Retezat mountains are any hiker’s dream: lots of hiking trails, glacial lakes, waterfalls, abrupt and rocky landscape, plus a large variety of flora and fauna. In one word, they keep you engaged.

The area is rich in plants. You can also find a large variety of animals, but don’t be surprised if splendid butterflies cut your horizon – there are more types than you can imagine. Over 20% of all European terrestrial mammals live here, including foxes, marmots, wolves, chamois, brown bears, lynx, beautiful birds and butterflies, among others. Marmots, the cutest animals in Retezat, were brought in small number tens of years ago and they reproduced, so you can hear them chit-chat here and there.

If here, don’t miss taking a tour of the glacial lakes from Bucura area, observe the sunrise at Taul Portii to see the mountains’ reflection in the warm morning light (if you can wake up!), or climb Peleaga peak, the highest from Retezat.

Cute marmot
Cute little marmot; photo Adrian Petrisor
Spectacular view over Retezat National Park
What a view!; photo: Serban Simbotelecan
Fabulous sunrise
Sunrise at Taul Portii; photo: Adrian Petrisor

How to get there

When joining the group of hikers, I found out that we were about to camp at Bucura Lake, the largest glacial lake in Romania. I was excited, but also nervous… I have never been neither the hiker type, nor the camper one. But yes, I did it and this amazing hiking weekend in Retezat (with my teenage daughter) whetted my appetite for others to come.

The way to Bucura Lake consists of more steps. Well, hiking in Romania must be worth the visit!

First, wherever you come from, you have to reach Hateg (Hunedoara County). Then, you take the car from Hateg – Toteşti – Ostrov – Ostrovu Mic – Râu de Mori – Brazi – Gura Zlata – Gura Apelor dam on DN68 and DJ686A. This ride takes about one hour and the condition of the road is ok.

Here, you reach the entrance to Retezat National Park where you have to pay 10 lei/person (2 euro) and 15 lei/car (3 euro) if you want to enter by car. Otherwise, you can park right at the entrance. This is the place where we made car sharing more efficient because the condition of the road is worsening and from here on you can only use a car with high ground clearance. After the entrance to the National Park, you continue for 20 more km that will seem like an eternity. And when you finally make it to Poiana Pelegii, you get out of the car, take a deep breath, put the backpack on, and start hiking towards Bucura Lake (2040m).

The trail is well marked with a blue stripe. Typically, it lasts around 2 hours, depending on the physical condition. The elevation is 460 meters, and the trail is of easy-medium difficulty. We can divide it in two parts: the first half cuts across an old forest with many prominent roots (not friendly when wet – from personal experience!) and you’ll also step on rocks to cross a few creeks, and the second runs through a juniper forest. When you are over these, you will immerse in the beauty of lake Bucura!

hiking trail in Retezat
Slippery when wet type roots at the beginning
hiking trail in Retezat National Park
We’ve come a long way…
Hiking in Romania offers fabulous landscape
Yellow flowers and creek, simply beautiful!

What we did there

As you reach your destination, you need to close your eyes and be proud of your achievement. At least, I was. Step two, make the tent (less of a big deal than I thought) that will serve as home for the next night/s. Step three, indulge in one of the sweets from the backpack!

We didn’t do much, otherwise. We put on one more layer of clothes as the temperature at Bucura lake can be very unfriendly and sometimes even negative in summer. Being rather unexperienced, we had some jackets, but I wouldn’t have imagined that a cap or gloves would also come in handy in summer. Hell, yeah, mountains are mountains!

Anyway, we decided that movement would keep us warm and reached a mini-lake called Bucurel, ideal for some pics at sunset. The true beauty resides in the light that plays upon Peleaga Peak and creates an area of serenity. All serenity was forgotten after sunset when I could almost hear my own shivering. I even suggested my daughter to use the Salvamont shelter from the vicinity, but she declined. (It is the only building in the area and it can be used only when there are no mountain rescue people there). So, we contented ourselves with the tent and played lots of games that were real fun and warming until we finally fell asleep laughing …Well well, I promise I’ll be more careful next time and improve my mountain clothing apparel.

I found this hiking weekend in Retezat very inspiring, so I wrote a post that helps you discover if camping is for you.

small lake in Retezat National Park
Mountains, lakes and rocks – a must of every hiking trail in Retezat
Amazing volours of the sunset
Simple, but nice – Bucurel lake

The next day started in a splendid atmosphere. The sun was shining and there wasn’t any cloud in the sky. The freezing temperature from last night melted entirely and I was woken up by tens of bees that got caught under the canvas of the tent. We had some relaxing moments, so we went on to explore Taul Portii (a lake), about one hour distance from the camping site. Because there had been a warm spring, we only found some remains of snow. Everything looked fabulous and the patches of pink rhododendrons and yellow flowers next to a creek seemed from a fairy-tale. But the panoramic view you have from Taul Portii is just spectacular! The pairing of mountains and lakes form a unique landscape in Retezat! If you want, you can continue the trail from Taul Portii to complete the 7 glacial lakes!

The second part of the day caught us with some serious plans. We set off from the tent to Curmatura Bucurei. This place has a special fame: it is the only spot with slight internet signal:) Just in time to check the weather forecast, which didn’t look encouraging. However, we started heading towards Bucura peak.

The climbing follows a narrow path with a sliding slope on both sides. On top of it, large part of the hiking trail is made up of huge chunks of rocks that look like polished… so not too long after, we returned. Hiking on slippery rocks didn’t sound like the adventure we were looking for, especially for unexperienced people like us. The weather was kind and the rain avoided us until we got back, but we could hear the stubborn drops throughout the night.

And yes, the unpleasant rain came with more degrees in the thermometer.

typical Retezat view
Typical Retezat view
wildlife - pretty fox
Fox; photo: Adrian Petrisor
hiking trail
The trail towards Bucura Peak

Hiking trails in Retezat

Hiking in Romania is so diverse and magic!

Although I’ve never been on these hiking trails, I may want to try them at some point. So here you have some hiking trails for Retezat mountains. Most of them seem long, but you can just cover a part of them. Muntii Nostri app and retezat.ro website offer plenty of useful info.

Don’t underestimate the importance of appropriate gear, especially hiking boots.

However, these are some trails that seem to be a must for the experienced hiker:

  1. Tour of glacial lakes starting from Lake Bucura (Salvamont): Bucura, Florica, Viorica, Analia, Taul Portii, Bucurel – easy, 3 hours
  2. Lake Bucura –  Saua Judele – Lake Zanoaga – medium/difficult, 3 hours
  3. Pietrele chalet – Gentiana Chalet – Saua Bucurii – Lake Bucura. – medium difficulty, 4 hours
  4. Gura Bucurii – Lake Bucura – Căldarea Berbecilor – Peleaga peak – Pelegii Valley – Gura Bucurii – medium/difficult, 8 hours
  5. Cârnic – Gențiana Chalet – Pietrele lake – Curmătura Bucurii – back – medium difficulty, 8-9 hours
  6. Râușor – Lacul Ștevia – Șaua Lolaia – Retezat peak – Culmea Prelucele – Valea Valareasca – Râușor – medium/difficult, 10-11 hours

For more info on hiking trails in Retezat and impressions, read here.

Majesctic view when hiking in Romania
dramatic sky
Dramatic sky

Recommeded by TTF:

  • Explore and discover the most picturesque mountain range in Romania with pristine forests and lots of glacial lakes;
  • Retezat is home to a large variety of plants and animals;
  • Over 20% of all European terrestrial mammals live here;
  • A large variety of hiking trails for the more and less experienced alike.

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