self-guided hiking trip in the Gilau and Vladeasa Mountains  

dates can be chosen free between 1 May and 31 October

Risca, day 1
Risca, day 1
view towards Rusesti, day 2
watermill in Rusesti, day 2
colibes in Marisel, day 4
Poiana Horea, day 4 & 5 
guesthouse in Poiana Horea, day 4 & 5 
Ruginoasa hill at horizon in Rachitele
Rachitele waterfall, day 8
corn harvest in Sancraiu, day 9
church in Valeni, day 10
Looking back towards Valeni, day 10
wooden church in Bica, day 10
interior church in Bica, day 10

The hiking trip takes place in the Apuseni Mountains, in the Western Carpathians. It is a sweet pastoral landscape with lovely authentic villages along the valleys and on the mountain slopes. Your trip takes place at altitudes between the 600 and 1300 m. The landscape is very varied with open meadows between dense forests. The Apuseni Mountains is a plateau, which means you don’t have to climb and descend all the time. Lots of the hiking trails follow the tracks used by the local population since ancient times.

The region has a rich cultural heritage because there are 2 different people living here; the Romanians and ethnic Hungarians. Your trip takes place along the former border with Hungary. Especially the Hungarian minority kept very strong to their traditions.

We provide you with maps and a very well described road book. Besides the description of the road, we’ll give you extensive information about the region as well. 

You walk for a couple of days in the nature park Apuseni. There are many endemic plants and the wildlife is very authentic.  If you make the effort to get up early, you might catch deer or other wild life along your path. 

All the churches can be visited and in most cases you can climb the tower and enjoy the beautiful panoramas.

The accommodation is provided in comfortable guestrooms. The Romanian people are worldwide known for their generous hospitality. We selected typical local farms and new guesthouses (as on the pictures below) where you have the best conditions. All the houses have a fully equipped bathrooms, and the houses in Risca, Rachitele and Sancraiu have rooms with private bathrooms. You’ll enjoy daily traditional dinners, prepared with mostly homegrown products. In the morning you have an extensive continental breakfast, at noon a lunch packet. Your luggage will be daily transported from one place to another.



Highlights of the program:

  - The nature park Apuseni ( you walk 4 days in the park)

  - The beautiful walled Hungarian church from Valeni.

  - The Somesu Cald Canyon and watermill in Rusesti

  - Lake Fintinele, a beautiful 25km long accumulation lake.

  - Rachitele waterfall

  - And of course the splendid nature of the Apuseni Mountains,   endless forest, colorful meadows, lovely villages where it looks as time went by without changes.



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



We've included a special page about the Apuseni Mountains: click here




Day 1: Arrival in Risca. Risca is a mountain village at 1000m altitude. The farms are spread over the hills. People live from agriculture and forest exploitation. Introduction of the program. You stay at the farm with the family Matis. It is a typical substantial farm with a few pigs, a few cows, chickens and the village Risca is known for its famous potatoes. Jeny, the hostess and her daughters Gina and Ramona take care of the tourists and her husband Trian is a very active vice-mayor.


Day 2:  Trip to Rusesti. You’ll walk over the ridge along the villages Dealu Mare and Lapustesti. At your right you’ll see the 600m lower Somesu Cald canyon. The canyon is not easy accessible and there is still brown bear around. They rarely come in the villages. You might see shepherds along your road. They gather the sheep in the spring and move from pasture to pasture, only to return home in the autumn. From the village Lapustesti, you’ll make the 7km long descent to the village Rusesti at the Somesu cald River. In Rusesti is a working watermill and a "piua" You stay at the guesthouse of Valerica Rosu. The owner will show you how that works (if there is enough water in the river). Distance 16km, 5-6 hours hiking, level difference 120m climbing, 500m descending.


Day 3: Trip to Marisel
You leave Rusesti and climb the Coadei Hill (1126m) to the village Marisel. Marisel is one of the highest settlements in the Apuseni Mountains at 1200m. The village is spread out over the huge plateau and  you have superb views over the 4-600m lower valley.
You stay with the family Nistor. Maria, the hostess takes care of you.  Distance 10km, 4-5 hours hiking, level difference 650m climbing, 100m descending.


Day 4: Trip to Poiana Horea. 
You walk through the village Marisel. and enter the nature park Apuseni. You pass some summer villages where people stay only during the summer months to herd cattle or harvest wood. Poiana Horea is a settlement in the middle of the forest where the people live from wood harvesting. Wood harvesting in Romania is done selective. Lot’s of work is handwork and most of the logs are taken out of the woods by horses. You stay at the comfortable guesthouse of Charley and Monica. (Charley is a teacher and speak fluently English)  Distance 22km, 7-8 hours hiking, level difference 250m climbing, 300m descending.


Day 5:  Day of rest. You can just take it easy or collect fruits in the forest. 

You can make a beautiful roundtrip to the mountain ridge with the Petreasa Mountain (1564m) south of Poiana Horea (trip about 12km, 460m climbing and as much descending.)

From Poiana Horea you can visit 2 very important tourist objectives: Padis nature reserve and the ice cave in Scarisoara. By foot, you can't walk back and forth in one day, but Charley can take you there with his off-rood car. Price 50 Euro for the day, the car can take up to 4 tourists. (see extra info for Padis and Ice cave down this page)


Day 6: Trip to Doda Pilii. The trip goes through the forest and over beautiful meadows to the settlement Smida. From Smida it is short walk to Doda Pilii, a harvesters settlement where you stay for the nigth at the guesthouse of Carmen and Dan and their son Horea. |All of them speak very well English. You’ll notice the typical simple wooden houses of the Romanian mountain people. The settlement lies at the confluence of the Firei and Somesu Cald Rivers. You’re here close to some of the most spectacular caves of the Apuseni Mountains. Distance 14km, 6 hours hiking, Level difference 350m climbing, 500m descending

Dan, the owner of the guesthouse in Doda Pilli also offers a trip by off-road car to the Somesu Cald Canyon. Price 10 Euro for the trip. The car can take up to 4 tourists. You walk back to the guesthouse over the Onceasa Meadow. Extra night 30 Euro/ pro person in full board.


Day 7: Trip to Scrind.  You leave Doda Pilii and climb the ridge to the settlement Dealu Botii. You'll enjoy superb views over Lake Fintinele. It's a nice trip through scattered patches of forest. From Dealu Botii it goes over the plateau to the Ruginoasa hill from where you descend to the new guesthouse Dariana in Scrind. The owners Silvia and Gitse will take care of you. Both speak a little German. Distance 23,5km, 7h hiking, level difference 250m climbing 590m descending.


Day 8: Roundtrip to the Rachitele waterfall. The Rachitele waterfall has a level difference of about 35m. The hiking trip brings you in the superb nature of the Stanciu valley at the northern border of the nature park Apuseni. You stay again at the Dariana guesthouse. Distance 20km, 730m climbing and 730m descending. About 8 hours hiking.


Day 9:  Trip to Sancraiu. You climb first the 1200 m high  Ruginoasa mountain. The steep climb is afterwards rewarded by the beautiful panorama's when you descend to the village Margau. From Margau it goes over Bociu and further over immense pastures to Sancraiu in the heart of the "Kalotaszeg" region, so called by the ethnic Hungarians. You stay with Ergy and Attilla. Both are proud ethnic Hungarians, as is about 70% of the village. They are always willing to show their nice folk costumes. There is a folk dance camp the first week of August in the village. Distance 20km, Level difference 405m climbing, 600m descending,  7 hours hiking.


Day 10:  You walk to the village Valeni. Valeni is another Hungarian village you’ll visit before you climb to the Romanian villages higher in the mountains. The original church dates back to the 12th.C. It is beautifully located on the slope of the hill, overlooking the village.  There is a bastion in the surrounding wall. Optional the wooden Orthodox church (1674) in Bica can be visited, You find inside beautiful old frescoes (1770). From the village Valeni you walk over the huge plateau to the settlement Fonogea. From there it descends through the forest along the river to the village Risca. You stay again with the family Matis. Distance 20km, 7 hours hiking, Level difference 550m climbing, 180m descending


Day 11: the program ends after breakfast.



guesthouse in Doda Pilii dinner in Risca
Dariana in Scrind guestroom in Sancraiu




Prices: (11 day program - 10 nights)


525 Euro in full board for the first 2 persons,
475 Euro in full board from the 3rd person on,
245 Euro in full board for children below 12.
Includes: luggage transport and local transfers, maps, tourist info and description.

Extra night: 30/35 Euro/ person/ night in full board.

Single traveler: 90 Euro supplement


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.

We arrange transfer between Cluj Napoca and Risca and back



Flights to Budapest (regular airlines and low-cost) and train to Huedin: there are trains departing the airport Ferihegy at 08.43 (arrival Huedin at 15.47) and 13.43 (arrival Huedin at 20.39) Train connections: see at (we arrange transfer Huedin-Risca) 

Train connections: see at  


Back to Budapest: train leaving Huedin at 07.16 arrives at 12.16 and train leaving Huedin 11.24 arrives 16.16 at the airport

(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)


Back to Cluj Napoca: by train from Huedin (hourly) or by car



Padis is a limestone mountain plateau in the center of nature park Apuseni known for its dozens of caves and dolines, canyons and colorfull meadows and lies at an altitude of about 1.500m. "Cetatile Ponor" or "Fortress of Ponor" 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. 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. In the summer their place is taken by Viola declinata (a blue violet), 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, 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 major, and a lot of bilberries and cranberries with tasteful berries in July-august.

In the summer months the people from the surrounding villages bring their horses up on the plateau for grazing as the valleys don't offer enough grassland. There are large herds of up to a few hundred horses on the plateau.


entrance of the cave

doline 3

the horses

The ice cave "Scarisoara".

The ice cave lies at an altitude of 1165m. in the village Ghetar.  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. The ice cave was formed after a collapse of the main gallery during the last Ice age. Because the air could circulate anymore, the mass of ice and snow remained more or less intact during the time. Because of global warming visits in the cave are more restricted and can only be done under guidance.

entrance of the cave

ice formations

ice formations