The mighty Carpathians are a formidable mountain range that stretches a remarkable 1,500 km through Central and Eastern Europe, forming an arc around the iconic region of Transylvania on the map. About 50% of it is located in Romania and boasts of lush, picturesque landscape and an abundance of biodiversity. It also features charming, unspoiled villages that have remained untouched by the passage of time or civilization, as well as a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy such as hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering and much more.
Without being overconfident, our country is truly blessed. We have it all to meet the needs and desires of our minds and souls. From snow-capped mountains, to tranquil and idyllic villages, from soul-soothing food to sun-kissed beaches. It is a true paradise for all explorers.
Are we proud of the Carpathians and our diverse wonders?
More than anything!
Overview of the Carpathian Ranges
But enough sugarcoating let’s get right back to the main topic, which is hiking. For those who are passionate about the great outdoors, it is truly an experience not to be missed.
If you’re looking to plan a hiking or trekking adventure in Romania, this guide on hiking in the Carpathian Mountains will provide you with essential information and recommendations on where to go and explore the stunning landscapes of Romania. Whether you’re interested in backpacking, camping, observing wildlife, or visiting renowned natural attractions, you’ll find something that fits your skill level, motivations, gear, and mood.
The Carpathians are divided into three major ranges, each of which offers something unique and special. Each range offers different kinds of trails, topography, and overall atmosphere. You can choose based on your preference, skill and interest, and you’ll find something that suits you. So, gear up and get ready for a one-of-a-kind hiking experience in the Carpathians.
- The Western Carpathians are home to the picture-perfect Apuseni Mountains, with altitudes averaging around 1,500 meters, and its highest peak being Bihor Peak at 1,849 meters. If you imagine lush greenery, untouched wilderness, jaw-dropping waterfalls, gorges, caves and all round beauty, you’re in the right place.
The trails in this area generally range from easy to medium, making it a great intro for those new to hiking.
Our favorite trail in the Apuseni Mountains Is the Galbena Valley’s Circuit, in Padis, which is the biggest karst area in the country, stunningly beautiful. The medium difficulty, 7 to 9 hour hike offers diverse landscapes and a few technical sections, including an exciting crossing over a river, which, sidenote, is pretty daunting, especially during spring when the snow starts melting and the water levels increase.
- Southern, oh the Southern Carpathians are the tallest and most exciting of them all. Here you’ll find rugged mountains, rolling hills, pristine glacial lakes and breathtaking peaks. If serendipity had a physical form, it would be the Southern Carpathians.
The ranges in this area include Fagaras, Retezat, Parang, Bucegi and Piatra Craiului.
The highest of these and our personal favorite is the Fagaras mountains. The rooftop of Romania, Moldoveanu Peak, is looking over us from an altitude of 2,544 meters.T
he trails in Fagaras are very diverse, with difficulty levels varying between medium to hard. We recommend that those who venture here, take a guide who knows the ins and outs of these mountains or those who have prior experience in hiking some high altitude mountains.
Our all-time favorite trek, and arguably the hardest multi-day trek in Romania, is the infamous Fagaras Ridge Trail. It is a hut-to-hut or tent-to-tent kind of hike with challenges and parts that can make even the most experienced hikers’ hearts race. The trail is approximately 90 kilometers long and usually done in 6-7 days, but my oh my, the vistas and rollercoaster of emotions are truly out of this world.
- The Eastern Carpathians are probably the most remote and difficult to access range in Romania. It is picturesque, wild, mysterious and this is exactly why we love it. With mountains averaging around 1,800-2,300 meters high, the ranges we can find here are Calimani, Ceahlau and Rodnei.
Our favorite among these is Rodnei. It is a must-see destination for nature lovers and hikers, as it is the second-largest national park in Romania and offers some of the most untouched and rugged landscapes in the Carpathian Mountains. With a variety of less-traveled trails and secluded routes, it is perfect for those looking for a true wilderness experience. It’s a perfect place to explore the beauty of Romania, it’s a perfect place to find peace and get lost in nature.
What now? -you might wonder.
You have a brief overview of our amazing mountains, you know their ranges, heights and difficulties, but you may still be missing some information. Worry not, dear hiker, we’ve got your back.
Let’s talk about tips and tricks.
Best time to visit
Firstly, when to come, when to hike in order to fully immerse yourself, safely and enjoyably in the Carpathian Mountains. When planning a hiking trip in the Carpathian Mountains, it’s important to consider the best time to visit. For ranges that are under 2,000 meters, the best season to hike is from April to October. For ranges with peaks over 2,000 meters, we recommend planning your hike between June and October. During this time, the weather is generally milder, and there is less chance of snow and ice on the trails, making for a safer and more enjoyable experience. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change suddenly and some trails can be closed due to snow, it’s also a good idea to check for trail conditions before heading out. Additionally, Summertime can be quite hot, so it’s better to plan your hike in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Always come prepared with enough water, sunscreen, and appropriate clothing.
Secondly, it is also important to consider what to bring on your actual hike. For you to be safe, have fun and not get absolutely destroyed by blisters we recommend carrying the “10 essentials”.
You might think oh that’s a catchy yet serious name, but what in the name of the … are the “10 essentials”?
These essentials are: appropriate footwear, navigation device (such as a map, compass or a GPS based hiking app) water, food, rain gear and fast drying clothes, safety items (such as a flashlight or headlamp), first-aid kit, knife or a multi-tool, sun protection (such as sunscreen,hat and sunglasses) and last but not least shelter (such as a test or at least an emergency blanket).
Yes we know that is an extensive list for a traveler, but hey, just do your best, and remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Being prepared can make all the difference in case of an emergency.
Furthermore let’s see some general tips and tricks that come to mind, which you can use on any hike you’ll ever do, so here we go: stay on designated trails, don’t eat everything that is colorful and inviting, avoid overpacking, don’t wear cotton, as it retains moisture and can take a long time to dry, plan ahead, consider the weather and not to mention leave no trace!
We will never get tired of hiking in the Carpathians, it always brings us serenity, clarity and an escape from our mundane lives in the city. Challenges make us grow and learn, and the success of conquering a peak brings us joy. But let’s be honest, hiking in the Carpathians is pure fun. It’s a way to connect with nature, to challenge yourself and to experience something new every time you go.
Reminiscing on the day, when we did the above mentioned Fagaras Ridge Trail. The weather was perfect, and everything was smoothly planned out – from what we would eat and where we would sleep, to where we could find springs for clean water, and how much fun we would have.
All was going well, everything was happy and dandy, until day 4, when I started feeling my feet becoming a bit awkward and uncomfortable…
*spoiler alert* it was painful
I started having the worst blisters, ever. On my heel a big one the size of a walnut, oh but the best part was the ones on my sole, literally felt like walking on fire. From that point on I had to push through the pain for the rest of the hike.
On the 5th day, we had to abandon the mission. Were we disappointed? Absolutely ! But, were we also grateful? Without a doubt! We had five amazing days with crystal-clear skies, sunny weather. We safely made it down the mountain, and we knew that, hey, the mountain would still be there for us to conquer next year. We were determined to come back smarter, more prepared, and hopefully without any pesky blisters this time.
Another thing that we didn’t mention and probably one of the best things about Romania, not just in the Carpathians, are the people. The locals are friendly and open, and a smile and a friendly greeting will go a long way. When exploring nature and visiting untouched villages, you will have the opportunity to meet the locals. They will be curious and will often offer you food and drinks. Don’t be shy and accept these offers, as it’s one of the ways we show love and hospitality. Keep in mind, not everyone speaks English, especially in rural areas, but this shouldn’t discourage you. A smile is a universal language and will be understood regardless of the language spoken. The friendly and welcoming nature of the people is one of the things that makes hiking in Romania so special.
So, take all things into consideration, be safe, plan ahead, and if you are unsure you can do it on your own, consider reaching out to one of the many awesome companies that provide guidance and take you to some of the most dazzling places and trails.
Have fun, be present, heal your soul with the help of nature and mountains and remember: Romania is one of the last wilderness reserves in Europe, keep that in mind and keep it that way and maybe you’re kids and future generations can feel what wilderness and untouched places on this planet felt.