Piatra Craiului National Park is located in one of the most spectacular mountain areas in Romania.
In 1938, with the area only measuring 440 ha, it was granted protected status. In 1972 the surface was doubled, and in 1990 the national park was set up.
Mircea Verghelet, director of park administration company, told us about the most impressive sights: “What is unique about Piatra Craiului National Park is the fact that it is the only lime rock crest in Romania with heights over 2,000 m. It is a lime rock area with a major alpine bare ground. Also, in the western side of the crest we have spectacular relief, with vertical walls hundreds of meters high, pebbled areas and all sorts of formations, incredibly beautiful and a major attraction for the tourists who visit. Also, both in the north and the south sides, at the extremities of the crest of the massif, there are spectacular gorges. I would mention here the Zarnesti Precipices in Brasov County, which are famous, the Dambovicioara Gorges, the Brusturel Gorges and the Dambovita Gorges. All these are nature reserves that are now included in the strictly protected area of the national park.”
The biodiversity of the park is impressive. The Piatra Craiului carnation is unique to the park, and is its symbol. It can be admired on the sunny crags in the lower alpine area, or at the upper edges of pastures. In the summer months you cannot fail to spot its beautiful pink colour. 41 species of orchids, edelweiss, yellow poppy and wild lilies add to the park's natural wealth. From spring to autumn, the area bursts with colour. The caves provide shelter for over 15 species of bats, while over 100 rare bird species and 216 species of butterflies can be spotted, some of them unique protected species.
Mircea Verghelet: “In Piatra Craiului National Park we have over 1,100 species of plants, about one-third of the total number of superior plant species in Romania, on only 14,800 ha. We have the unique Piatra Craiului carnation, Dianthus callizonus, the symbol of the park, an endemic species that flowers only in the second half of July. It can be seen in high areas, but also in lower areas, and this is the only place in the world where it grows. The park is also home to many kinds of mammals. We have large carnivores that are not characteristic only of the park, but of the entire Carpathian area, such as the wolf, the bear and the bobcat. This winter, thanks to the monitoring activities we do, with camera traps placed in the park, we managed to capture four lynxes on film, some 25 to 30 bears and two wolf packs, one of them in the south and the other one in the northern part of the park, with each of the packs being made up of some 5-7 members. Another species which is iconic for Piatra Craiului and is a symbol of the massif is the chamois, which used to have a steady population here. When the Park Administration Company was set up in 1989, we managed to stop the hunting for that species, and right now we have more than 250 chamois living here. In time, they changed their behaviour and became very friendly with the tourists who are allowed to take pictures of them, even from as close as 10-15 metres.”
Mountain lovers can also visit areas around the park by bike, and several routes have already been set up. Also lying on the outskirts of Zarnesti, a locality in Brasov County, you can find a gorge whose walls are 200-meter tall, and which stretches along a distance of some five kilometers. These are the Zarnesti Precipices, which represent one of the main access ways to the tourist tracks in Piatra Craiului massif, and the most sought-after climbing and bouldering area. Dozens of routes have been set up on the walls of the gorge. The longest one is 115 meter-long.
Mircea Verghelet: “Last year we ran a project by means of which we set up 11 mountain bike tracks, both inside the park, and along its limits. We marked the tracks on-site by placing some 160 route signs, there are three degrees of difficulty, there is also a map with those tracks that can be purchased from the park administration headquarters. Also, there are 10 boards we placed at major cross-road points around the park, which include the same map as well as directions for tourists. For mountain climbers, climbing and bouldering routes are also included. The most frequently used are those in the lower areas, as they are more accessible, in the regions of the Zarnesti Precipices, where we placed several info boards including details on the park’s wildlife species and habitats and a chart with the routes that can be found on the wall, with various names and degrees of difficulty.”
Each year, around 110,000 tourists visit the Piatra Craiului National Park. 25% of them are foreigners. (Translated by C. Cotoiu and E. Nasta)