hiking trip in the nature reserves of the Western Carpathians

on demand for groups of minimum 4 persons

 

Trips can be done between 1 May and 31 October

White Rocks in Rachitele, day 2
Wedding veil waterfall in Rachitele, day 3
Hibernating lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros ) in a small cave near Rachitele
Entrance Cetatile Ponor Cave, Padis, day 5
Petasites albus (White butterbur)
One of the balconies at doline 3, Padis, day 5
The Calineasa Meadow, day 6
the 70m wide entrance of the Coiba Mare cave, Padis, day 7
Lizard
karst spring Tauz, day 7
Black swallowtail caterpillar
doline 2 in Padis, day 5
ice formation in the Scarisoara cave, day 8
The Ghetarul de la Virtop cave, day 7
Scarita Belioara nature reserve, day 11
the Scarce Swallowtail butterfly
the Turda canyon, day 12
view in the Turda canyon, day 12
Tropinota hirta 
Aesculapian Snake in the Turda Canyon
Rimetea with Piatra Secuiului rock, day 12
Colchicum autumnale or autumn crocus
Centaurea atropurpurea
Cluj Napoca
tailors tower, Cluj Napcoa

 

The trip is made for all ages. It is a hiking trip that brings you through the most exciting nature reserves of the Western Carpathians. You visit the volcanic Vladeasa Mountain ridge, you hike at the karst plateau of Padis with wild canyons, enormous dolines and numerous caves. It goes further to the limestone reserve Scarita Belioara, one of the oldest reserves in the Western Carpathians and you visit the small but very rich nature reserve of the Turda Canyon.  The last night you stay in the historic town Cluj Napoca.

 

 

The well selected hiking trails are going through a large variety of landscapes. About every other day you enter in a complete different biotope thanks to the very complex geological diversity of the Western Carpathians, the different altitudes and micro climates. The hikes are not more then 4-5 hours and you will be transferred by car.   

 

 

Spring is the time of the year when the wild crocuses color the higher meadows purple and the time of the year where you find an enormous variety of special flowers in the lower and warmer valleys. It's the time of the year when you have most chances to see the brown bear. As there is often snow till half May in the mountains, the trip in June offers spring conditions above 1000m.   

 

European dog's tooth lily

May-bugs

Crocus near Padis

 

 

 

Summer is the time of the year when the meadows are completely covered with a carpet of thousands of flowers, the time when you can easier access the canyons and caves. There is an abundance of butterflies and other insects.  

 

Storks

Yellow Aconite

Colorful insects, 5 spot burnet and Dusky Large Blue

 

 

Autumn is calmer again, but after the first frost you'll enjoy the superb gold, reds, yellows and browns of the deciduous trees. There is an enormous variety of mushrooms in the forest.  

The first frost can appear as early as 20 August above 1000m. 

 

Autumn in Rogojel

Fly Agaric Mushroom

Autumn in Rachitele

 

 See special page about the Apuseni Mountains:

click here:

 

 

You can watch a short video clip by clicking the link:

 

 

 

 

Practical:

You make daily hikes in the different reserves. Transfers are made by car. 
Accommodation is provided in guestrooms and small hotels or pensions.  Every day you’ll enjoy a typical local dinner, in the morning you’ll have a continental breakfast with lots of artisan products and homegrown vegetables. Food will be provided to prepare your lunch-packet. Daily you only need to take your lunch packet and some extra clothes with. 
A specialized guide stays with you the whole program and will give you all tourist information about the area and brings you in contact with the local people.

 

 

Physical condition:

The trip is made for everybody with a normal physical condition. For those that hesitate whether they will be able to make this trip, just this: We always walk at the pace of the slowest hiker. During the trip there are several roundtrips, that means you don't have to reach the next destination, so you can take it easier those days. 

 

 

Highlights of the trip:

- You walk on the eastern slopes of the 1835m high Vladeasa mountain. The volcanic mountain is declared natural park.  

-The Stanciu river and canyon with karst springs and subterranean galleries, the cave Virfurasu and the 25m high Rachitele waterfall. 

-The Somesu Cald canyon: A wild 4-km long canyon with fantastic flora. The canyon starts where the 220m long tunnel-cave Radesei ends. The tunnel-cave has 5 natural windows in the ceiling and you can walk through the cave without artificial light.

-Padis: the Padis karstic plateau lies in the Bihor mountains, declared natural park in 2004. The region is known for the numerous caves, spectacular canyons and enormous dolines. The most spectacular is Cetatile Ponor wih 3 enormous dolines, connected with a tunnel-cave. The biggest doline is 180m deep and 800m wide. Nearby is the ice cave Focul Viu.  

-The ice cave "Scarisoara" in the village Ghetar

-Scarita Belioara: A geo-botanical reserve with an enormous diversity of flowers and endemic plants. Alpine and Mediterranean plants are growing close together.

-Rimetea: authentic German- Hungarian village with lovely ethnographic museum at the foot of the Piatra Secuiului Mountain. This is a strange naked 1128m high rock with lots of holes and caves. 

-Cheile Turzii or Turda Canyon: Beautiful 3 km long canyon carved through the rocks by the Hasdate River. There are dozens of caves and lots of endemic plants. Vertical cliffs up to 300 m high rise left and right from the canyon. There are still several bat colonies in some of the caves.

 -Town Cluj Napoca: town has a typical Hapsburg look with many baroque buildings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DETAILED PROGRAM OF THE TRIP

 

 

 

Day 1: Arrival in Sancraiu
Arrival, acquaintance, introduction in the village Sancraiu.
Sancraiu is a well known ethnic Hungarian village with lots of guestrooms. Every year several folk-dance camps take place here in the village. Accommodation in private houses, guestrooms. 

 

 

Day 2: hiking trip from Rogojel to Rachitele. 

You will be transferred to the cabana Vladeasa at 1400m by car. From there you make a beautiful 5 hour hike to your guesthouse in Rachitele. You hike on the slopes of the Vladeasa Mountain and come along the "White Rocks", further it goes to the place named "colibele Stanisoara" and you descend to the guesthouse in the Stanciu valley.  The hike brings you through mixed and evergreen forest. Hiking 5 hours, climbing 250m, descending 650m.

 

 

 

The White Rocks

This is the highest limestone rock in the Apuseni Mountains (1514 m). The weather conditions and altitude are the reason that there are here less flowers then in the other limestone regions in the Apuseni Mountains, about 250 species. But there are some special plants here as the Edraianthus graminifolius subspecy. kitaibelii, that grows here at the most northern region. The plant blossoms in May – July together with subalpine species as Saxifraga adscendens, Doronicum columnae, Hieracium villosum, Gentiana clusii. In summer there are the endemic Carpathian plants Dianthus spiculifolius and Silene dubia.  Typical limestone plants: Allium montanum, Saxifraga aizoon and Sempervivum schlehanii. In the pine forest you’ll find in the month May the tender flowers of the Soldanella hungarica subspecy major, in July-August the Homogyne alpina, the endemic Chrysanthemum rotundifolium and Hieracium transsilvanicum. There are also some rare orchids as Corallorrhiza trifida. On the grasslands there is an abundance of Crocus heuffelianus.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Roundtrip in Rachitele

The trip goes along the 25m high impressive waterfall " the wedding veil", further you come along the Virfurasul cave. You climb till the Nimaeasa Meadow and walk back along the "Burned Valley" to the guesthouse in the Stanciu valley. Hiking 5 hours, climbing 400m, descending 400 m.

 

 

 

Day 4: Roundtrip along the Somesu Cald Canyon
Hiking trip in the nature reserve Padis. You will be transferred to the Somesu Cald canyon from where you hike starts. The hike brings you along the "Cerbul" cave to the Onceasa Meadow at 1400m altitude. You come along the Dragons Cave and descend along the Ponor valley back to the Somesu cald river. 

You stay in the settlement Doda Pilii in guestrooms. Hiking: 5 hours, climbing 300m, descending 300 m.

  

 

 

Somesului Cald Canyon

The narrow canyon is mostly covered with snow till end May and that gives even the summer hikers the possibility to see typical spring flowers in early summer.  In the mixed forest (spruce and beech trees) you’ll find after the melting of the snow Soldanella hungarica subsp. major, the endemic Pulmonaria rubra, Symphytum cordatum and Cardamine glandulosa. In June – July there are a lot of toxic plants as Aconitum paniculatum and Aconitum vulparia, the orchids Listera ovata and Orchis maculata. On the limestone rocks you find the rare Edraianthus graminifolius subsp. kitaibelii, Asperula capitata, Potentilla thuringiaca, Primula columnae and Iris aphylla. Along the rivers in April-May there is Petasites albus and Petasites hybridus, their place is taken in the summer by  the higher Filipendula ulmaria, Telekia speciosa and  Cirsium oleraceum.  

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5: 

Nature reserve Padis
Transfer and roundtrip in Padis. You visit the "Cetatile Ponor" or "Fortress of Ponor" This is the most spectacular site in Padis. It consist of 3 enormous dolines that are connected by tunnel caves. The entrance of the cave in doline one is 70m high. The biggest doline is 800m wide and 180m deep. On the borders of the dolines is a hiking trail with several balconies from where you have superb views. You stay again in the settlement Doda Pilii in guestrooms.  Hiking: 5 hours, climbing: 550m, descending: 550m

 

 

 

Nature park Padis, Cetatile Ponorului  

The Padis plateau is mainly covered with spruce and fir trees. The geo-morphic structure, the height and some traditional human activity all are factors that define the flora of the nature park.  Specific are the open grasslands and silted dolines where you find a typical wetland and swamp flora. There are several relicts from the past.   After the snow melts in the month May the grasslands are transformed in purple carpets by the Crocus heuffelianus. In the summer their place is taken by Viola declinata, Potentilla ternata or Ligusticum mutellina. The acid grass land has small bushes of Calluna vulgaris, that colors the grassland pink in August. Plants from the sedge family grow in the silted dolines:There are relics from the last Ice time as the Carex pauciflora and Carex limnogena. In the same region you find specific plants form the peat-bog as Eriophorum vaginatum and Drosera rotundifolia, insectivore plants and also relicts from the past. In the dense evergreen forest there are not many plants but you find Soldanella hungarica subsp. major, and a lot of Vaccinium myrtillus and V. vitis-idaea, with tasteful berries in July-august. 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Transfer to the village Ghetar. You travel along the village Poiana Horea and the Calineasa Meadow to the village Ghetar. It is a long drive completely through the mountains. We make several stops and short hikes. 

 

 

 

Day 7: 

Ghetar - Casa de Piatra Roundtrip
A splendid roundtrip in one of the most spectacular karst regions of the country. You walk to the village Casa de Piatra, one of Romania's most authentic villages. There is the karst spring "Tauz", the cave system Coiba Mare - Coiba Mica and highlight of the day the Ghetarul de la Virtop cave that you visit.  After that it goes back to the village Ghetar.   Hiking 6 hours, climbing 600m, descending 550m

 

 

 

 

Day 8: Ghetar: Ice cave and free afternoon for bird-watching.

Visit of the ice cave "Scarisoara" in the morning. The Ice cave lies at an altitude of 1165m.  The impressive entrance is 48m wide and 50m deep. In the first room is an enormous bloc of ice of 75.000m3, of which the lower layers are 3000 years old. In the church room are many stalactites and stalagmites, some up to 4m high. After the visit free afternoon.

A few years ago the university of Freiburg (Germany) had here a project. One of the students Christoph Purschke, made a list of the birds he observed in the village. May be the perfect day for birdwatchers to make some unique observations. There are in the region still some patches of primeval forest.

 

 

 

Spotted woodpecker

Red-backed Shrike

Jay

 

Birds observed by Christoph Purschke:

Nutcracker, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Dunnock, Alpine Accentor, Serin, Linnet, Wryneck, Chaffinch, Crow, Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Fieldfare, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Redstart, Treecreeper, Raven, Magpie, Cuckoo, Swift, Tree Pipit, Greenfinch, Crossbill, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Starling, Collared Dove, Tawny owl, House Martin, Robin, Blackbird, Ring Ouzel, Tengmalm's Owl, Bullfinch, Wren, Dipper, Wheatear, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer, Bee-eater, Swallow, Red-backed Shrike, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Woodcock, comun Buzzard, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch, Goshawk, Kestrel, House Sparrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Ghetar - Girda de Sus and transfer to Salciua  

Hike along the Odrincusa Canyon to the village Girda de Sus. You come along the Poarta Lui Ionel cave. You sleep in Salciua in guestrooms

Hiking 4 hours, climbing 100 m, descending 550 m

 

 

 

 

Day 10: The hiking trip starts at the monastery Sub Piatra and you walk along the Bedeleu limestone ridge. Near the monastery is another protected monument, the Huda lui Papara Cave. The hike brings you along the beautiful waterfall "Sipote" 

Accommodation in the guesthouse in Salciua.

Hiking 4-5 hours, climbing 900m, descending 200 m

 

 

 

 

 

Scarita-Belioara

By many called the „pearl of the Apuseni mountains” It is a small reservation on a mountain plateau. It is a very spectacular landscape with vertical limestone rocks, caves and grottos, open grassland and patches of forest. There are about 450 plants species. Interesting here is the mixture of arctic alpine plants with sub Mediterranean -Balkan species. The first flowers that appear after the snow in May are Gentiana verna and Gentiana nivalis, both sub-alpine plants that normally grow on higher grounds. In June there is Daphne cneorum, Gentiana clusii, Centaurea pinnatifida and Dryas octopetala flowering in a colorful mosaic. In summer there is the rare Balkan plant Saponaria bellidifolia that flowers together with the arctic Arctostaphyllos uva-ursii, a relict that grows here at its most southern place. There is the sub-alpine orchid Nigritella that grows further nowhere else in the Apuseni Mountains. There are the endemic plants rubra Aquilegia subscaposa, Centaurea reichenbachioides, Dianthus spiculifolius, and Dianthus simonkaianus. In autumn flowers the Aster alpinus, Sorbus dacica.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Scarita Belioara nature reserve. Transfer to the village Runc and Lunca Larga.

Scarita Belioara is one of the oldest nature reserves in the country. The limestone plateau is 450 hectares big and lies at an altitude of 1300m.Special about the reserve is that plants from the last ice time survived and are growing together with Mediterranean plants from warmer periods. It is one of the only places where you find the golden eagle in the Apuseni mountains. 

Accommodation in the guesthouse in Salciua.

Hiking: 4-5 hours.

 

 

 


Day 12: Transfer to the village Rimetea and short visit at the ethnographic Museum. The village Rimetea is unique in 2 ways. The typical architecture from the village and its position at the foot of the mighty Piatra Secuiului Rock. In the afternoon transfer to the Turda Canyon nature reserve and hiking trip in the and around the canyon. The Hasdate river flows through the majestic 300m limestone cliffs in west - east direction. Once this was different, witness the more then 30 caves and caverns that are north - south orientated. The gorges are also of big scientific value for they contain more then 1000 species of plants (greatest number in Romania per surface unit), and lots of butterflies some typically Mediterranean and very rare or unique. The gorges are a complex geological, biological and archeological preserve. Many of the caves were inhabit by prehistoric man. 

After that transfer to the town Cluj Napoca where you sleep in hotel rooms.

Hiking 3-4 hours, climbing 300 m, descending 300 m

 

 

 


The Turda Canyon

The Nature reserve Cheile Turzii contains more then 1000 plant species over an area of 104 hectares. The flora is very heterogeneous because of the geographic location of the canyon, (on the border of the mountains and the plains), the limestone underground and the special microclimate. Already in April blossoms the Fritillaria tenella. During the months May and June you’ll see Echium rossicum and Ephedra dystachia, rare plants that originate from Central Asia. In July and August you’ll see Allium obliquum a plant that grows further only in the Tian Shan mountains in Turkestan and the south of the Ural mountains. Another special plant is the Ferula sadleriana (endemic and an inter-Carpathian relict, that grows further only in 5 hilly regions along the Danube.)  Other interesting plants: Dianthus spiculifolius, Saxifraga aizoon, S. rocheliana, Aconitum fissurae, Dianthus integripetalus, Hieracium tordanum.  

 

 

 

Piatra Secuiului

Is a huge limestone rock that rises above the village Rimetea. Besides typical mountain plants there are plants with a typical steppe character as there is Astragalus monspessulanus, Centaurea triumfetti, Campanula sibirica and the endemic Viola joói that appears mid May. Rock plants are Saxifraga aizoon, S. rocheliana, Centaurea atropurpurea and mountain plants Dianthus spiculifolius, Draba lasiocarpa, Ranunculus oreophilus that blossom during summer. There is the endemic Thymus comosus, species Helianthemum rupifragum and  Taraxacum hoppeanum. In the beach forest at the southern and south western slopes you’ll find Lilium martagon and the endemic Aconitum moldavicum. At the end of the summer there is Aster alpinus and Seseli gracile.    


 

 

 

Day 13: Breakfast, End of program.  

 

 

 

 

map of the first part of the trip, red line = hikes, purple line = transfer

Price: 13 day program (12 nights)  

595  Euro in full board, includes: guiding, luggage transport, transfers. Minimum 6 persons, maximum 15.

guesthouse in Sancraiu dinner guesthouse in Doda Pilii

 

How to get there: (for links to airliners etc, click here)

Direct flights from London Luton, Paris Beauvais and Dortmund to Cluj Napoca with Wizz Air. 

There are also direct flights between Paris-Beauvais or Rome and Cluj Napoca. (Blue Air)

Lufthansa operates a direct flight between Munchen and Cluj Napoca.

Or:

Flights to Budapest (regular airlines and low-cost) and train to Cluj -Napoca: there are trains departing the airport Ferihegy at 08.43 (arrival Cluj Napoca at 16.40) and 13.43 (arrival Huedin at 21.33) 

Train connections: see at http://www.mav-start.hu/english/index.php  

 

Back to Budapest: train leaving Cluj Napoca at 06.23 arrives at 12.16 and train leaving Cluj Napoca at 10.29 arrives at the airport at 16.16. (The trains depart/arrive at new trainstation at Budapest Ferihegy airport terminal 1 and you have to change trains in Szolnok, time between trains is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes)