For tips and itineraries check out also our walking and hiking trips in Transylvania:
When to start a walking holiday in Romania
Romania has a temperate-continental climate, so a walking trip is possible in any season. But the best time to visit Romania and spend time outdoors is late spring-early summer (May – June) and autumn (September and October). Statistically, the weather in this time frame is rather mild, without extremes (cold or too hot temperatures). Of course, rain can be expected in this period, but rainy days can occur almost every month.
May is perfect for walks or hiking trips in the Transylvanian countryside, at lower altitudes. Is the moment of the blossoming of wildflowers and nature is showing its fresh green coat. In June, hiking trips can be organised at higher altitudes, although above 1500 meters, there is still snow, and the chances of precipitation are quite high, especially in the afternoon. Late June is the period when rhododendron is blossoming and the high mountains are covered by its bright pink flowers. June is also perfect for visiting the Apuseni mountains, which on average are shorter than the Fagaras Mountains and the pastures are dotted with a rainbow of hundreds of different wildflowers.
July and August are the hottest months of the year in Romania, so hiking is preferable to be done at altitudes of around 2000 meters or above. Temperatures are descending at a rate of 6 degrees every 1000 m, so expect to feel around 10-20 degrees on the mountain tops when the temperature is rising over 30 degrees in the cities.
September is also a good month to hike in the mountains, but expect colder weather at high altitudes. There is no surprise to see fresh snow on the Fagaras mountains this month, but in the lowers plateau of Transylvania, summer is still present, especially in the first part of the month.
October is the best month to enjoy the autumn colours in Romania, so walking trips in the countryside or lower altitude mountains are best to be done this month. Temperatures are usually moderate, perfect for outdoor activities.
Where to go
There are so many options when deciding about an itinerary for a walking trip in Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains. But to make the choice easier one can take into consideration the following destinations:
Hiking in the mountain villages near Bran Castle. Every year, crowds of tourists are visiting Bran Castle, but only a few of them venture further into the picturesque villages located just a few kilometres from the famous castle. The area is incredibly beautiful, being surrounded by 2 mountain groups, Bucegi to the east and Piatra Craiului to the west. The hiking trails are the streets of the villages, most of them gravel roads. Although it is a tourist area, the atmosphere of the traditional village is still present, and visitors can stumble upon farm animals, villagers working their land or traditional houses. The mountains are made of limestone, so, in addition to villages, there are many karst phenomena to see: Dâmbovițioara and Pestera cave, Dâmboviței and Zărnești gorges, just to name a few.
Hiking on Via Transylvanica. Via Transilvanica is a hiking trail that connects Romania from north to south. It starts in Bucovina, crosses Transylvania and reaches the Danube at Drobeta Turnu Severin. Although not yet fully completed, 2 sections of the Transylvanian part are marked and available for tourists. Terra Sicullorum crosses the Szekler region, and Terra Saxonum crosses the former Saxon villages of Brașov, Mureș and Sibiu counties. Hiking trails cross old villages with fortified churches, forests, farmland or wildflowers pastures. There is a whole tourist infrastructure developed around Transylvania, and hikers can find accommodation in traditional guesthouses, eat home-cooked food or find assistance in every village they cross.
Walking around the villages near Sibiu. The villages near Sibiu are offering a diversity of hiking paths: from easy ones, with mild altitude difference, to more difficult ones, leading to the mountain pastures where shepherds are taking their sheep to graze during summer months. There are hiking paths from one village to another, or trails around the village, offering great views of the mountains nearby. Tourists can choose rural accommodation, in the village or can choose to spend the night in Sibiu, to enjoy also the city life.
Walking trips in the villages from the Sureanu mountains, to the antique Dacian fortresses.
For lovers of history and hiking, there is no better destination than the Dacian Citadels in the Orastie Mountains (Sureanu). Perched on heights, in the middle of dense forests, in order to be as difficult as possible to be reached by the enemies, nowadays the ancient sites are having access ways which are excellent hiking trails. The most famous Dacian settlement, Sarmisegetuza Regia, has had car access on an asphalt road for several years, but hiking lovers can choose to go on the old ancient road, which starts from the Sargetia River valley. The same is true of Piatra Rosie or Costesti Cetatuie, where the road is leading the tourists quite close to the ancient site, but which, for lovers of hiking, offers longer access paths through the forest, perfect for an easy hike. Costesti Blidaru and Fetele Albe are the only fortresses where cars can’t go near, the only accessway being the trails through the forest which are leading to the ancient fortresses after an hour of hiking.
Also, if you are still in the area, we recommend that you walk the paths that lead to the isolated hamlets in the mountains, some of them inhabited only in summer. An excellent one-day hike is the one leading to Fundatura Ponorului, an isolated hamlet overlooking a valley with an interesting karst phenomenon: the river which is meandering slowly through the pastures is disappearing beneath a limestone wall, just to reappear a few kilometres below from a cave.
Apuseni mountains. It takes a whole summer to cover all the hiking trails that the Apuseni Mountains offer. The mountains have a really generous offer for an active tourist: hiking trails of varying difficulty and length, natural attractions of hundreds of caves, gorges, waterfalls, and lookouts combined with anthropogenic elements such as Roman gold mines, traditional villages or isolated hamlets where life goes on as it did centuries ago.
We have 3 suggestions for the Apuseni mountains. The first would be the Trascau Mountains, a subgroup of limestone in the eastern part of the Apuseni. There are picturesque old villages, with houses with thatched roofs perched on top of the mountains, impressive gorges (such as Turdei Gorges, Aiud Gorges, Rimetului Gorges) or the jewel of Trascaului, the beautiful Rimetea village. The village, one of the most beautiful villages in Transylvania, whose houses have been perfectly restored in recent decades, attracts thousands of tourists every year due to the possibility of hiking nearby. The most popular hike is the one that leads to the limestone massif that guards the village to the east: Piatra Secuiului. Although not long, the route is steep and crosses some areas with rock debris. With suitable hiking boots, the route is accessible to all those who have minimal mountain experience, and the reward of climbing Piatra Secuiului is a superb view over the village and the surrounding Transylvanian plateau.
In the Apuseni there is a group of mountains called Metaliferi (metalliferous). They are former volcanic mountains and the name comes from their metal-rich content, including gold. Gold exploration has been done there since antiquity, and in Roșia Montană there are still Roman galleries carved 2000 years ago, which can be still visited. Roșia Montană, recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was under the radar for years in Romania due to a controversial mining project aimed at extracting gold using cyanide. Fortunately, the project is blocked, and the recent listing on the UNESCO list opens the possibility for the small mining town to restore its historic part and become one of the most important tourist attractions in the area. In addition to a visit to the Roman galleries, visitors can take a walk through the narrow streets of the historic centre (prepare, though to see a lot of ruined historic buildings) to the artificial lakes created hundreds of years ago for the rock mills. The trails are leading also to excellent lookout points offering great views over the Apuseni mountains and Rosia Montana.
Garda de Sus is another jewel of the Apuseni mountains. It consists of several small hamlets, located around the valley of the river Aries, over the large caste in the western Apuseni Mountains. There are so many things to see in the area: caves (Ioneles Gate, Coiba Mare), gorges (Ordancusei), underground glaciers (Scarisoara), waterfalls (Virciorog, Patrahaitesti) or other karst phenomena, such as rivers rushing to come out of the underground (Tauz Spring).
The beauty of the Apuseni is also found in the countless pastures that are dotted with hundreds of wildflowers in June. Later, in July-August, the villagers prepare the hay and the haystacks begin to be seen everywhere. Some of the hamlets are indeed isolated, the access is only forest roads or hiking trails, while other hamlets, although connected on an asphalt road, are inhabited only during the summer. One of these hamlets is Poiana Calineasa, located at 1200 meters altitude, a large meadow dotted with wooden huts, where the inhabitants of the valley go every year in May with their animals to be closer to the rich grass pastures. They return in September, and in winter the hamlet is deserted.
What to bring
A hiking or a walking trip implies carefully chosen equipment. Although it’s easy to buy hiking gear from Romania, is not a good idea to lose time in Hiking shops during your holiday.
So, a minimum equipment set should include:
- Hiking boots or hiking shoes. it depends on the terrain you intend to walk, but a good pair of hiking shoes is crucial for a successful active holiday. We suggest hiking boots, as they can be used on any type of terrain, from rocky mountain slopes to wet green pastures. They should have a waterproof membrane, and solid hiking soles and should cover the ankle. Test your shoes in several hikes at home to avoid any risk of blisters. Also, a few pairs of hiking socks should be included in the luggage, as they also play a crucial role in the comfort of the feet. Choose merino hiking socks as they transfer sweat to the outside, keep odours away and keep your foot cool in summer and warm in winter.
- Rain cot. A must-piece of clothing that should always be in the daily backpack.
- Hat. Keep your head away from the sun rays. Use a hat with wide ages to protect also the face and the neck.
- Technical body t-shirts, which eliminate perspiration to the outside and dry quickly. They can be made of synthetic fibers, or better of merino (they have the advantage of keeping the smell of perspiration away, although the cheapest ones can wear out quickly under the action of the backpack straps).
- Comfortable hiking trousers
- Windstopper jacket
- A polar jacket for cooler days,
- Long sleeves hiking shirt for better sun protection or to keep you warm on a cooler day
- Hiking sticks. Very useful on steep climbing or descents
- 30 litres hiking backpack. Large enough for one day hike, the part of the backpack which is in contact with your back should be ventilated to avoid having the back always sweaty.
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Antibacterial gel, sun lotion, medical kit
- Bear spray, firecrackers, dog food – see why in the next chapter
How to avoid risks
The main risks that can appear during a walking or hiking trip in Romania are related to possible encounters with bears or shepherd dogs. During our outdoor trips in Romania, we never met a bear so far, but we saw a lot of bear tracks, some of them quite fresh. Also, we had some encounters with shepherd dogs, but we were able to manage them easily. Other risks are related to weather and the bad planning of a hike on unknown trails.
So, here are a few recommendations for hikers in Romania in order to avoid or to manage encounters with bears:
- announce your presence through noises and speak loudly, especially if the route is along noisy rivers that would make it difficult for the bear to hear you. Pay attention to the high vegetation, which will also may mask your presence. A normal bear will leave when it senses the human presence. If they are caught by surprise, they can act aggressively to defend themselves. Sometimes, bears will be interested in the food you carry. In this case, you should leave your backpack and slowly walk on the opposite direction. Do not run! It will trigger the bear-hunting instinct. As a last resort, use your bear spray, if the bear continues to come closer to you. As a final word of comfort, the close bear-hikers encounters are very rare in Romania, although the bears started to show up more and more often around inhabited areas.
- Shepherd dogs. The presence of shepherd dogs in the Romanian mountains and highlands is directly related to the presence of bears and wolves. The shepherds keep about 10-15 large shepherd dogs with their flocks to fight the wild beasts that would be interested in a feast of their sheep or cattle. Some dogs can be aggressive with hikers, but here are some rules to follow to stay safe. First of all, when you see a flock of sheep, you must also consider the presence of dogs somewhere around the flock. Try to see their position and try to adopt a trajectory that avoids direct encounters. If they start barking, talk to them firmly. Do not run! Throw them food (it’s good to have dog food in your backpack), they usually become friendlier if you feed them.
It also reacts to ultrasound devices. If nothing works, use firecrackers, if you have any. Ultimately, use bear spray. We always carry firecrackers in our backpacks and have proven to be very effective in keeping away aggressive dogs.
- Tiks. Those parasites are very active at the beginning of the hiking season, in May-June. They prefer high vegetation, from where they are waiting for the potential host to ambush them. To avoid being stung by ticks, try to avoid walking on high grass or vegetation. If this is not possible, use your hiking stick to sweep the vegetation and make the possible ticks fall down on the ground, and not on your body. Wear long hiking trousers and a shirt with long sleeves. Carefully inspect the body after the hike and remove as soon as possible the tick from the skin. Special tools used to remove them safely can be bought from hiking shops.
- Vipers are the only venomous snakes that can be seen in Romania, but the cases of people bitten by them are very low (no known cases in the last years). The vipers are shy snakes, and they are aggressive only when they are in a defensive situation. To avoid any risk, walk only on the hiking trails. If you need to walk on an unmarked trail, use your hiking sticks to hit the ground. The vibrations are felt by the snakes and they run away. Do not sit on stones before carefully inspecting them with your stick. The snakes prefer the rest beneath big rocks, so you want to avoid sitting on a such stones.
All of the risks can be minimised if you use a local guide with extensive knowledge of the hiking area. The guide will take care of the planning of the route and is in a better position to manage those foreseen and unforeseen risks that can appear in any hiking trip.