Today we take you to around 200 kilometers north of Bucharest, to the Southern Carpathians, that boast one of Romania’s most spectacular mountain massifs, Piatra Craiului.
Today we take you to around 200 kilometers north of Bucharest, to the Southern Carpathians, that boast one of Romania’s most spectacular mountain massifs, Piatra Craiului. Tourism is one of the park administration’s main management objectives. In spite of the fact that there are several areas, in the Piatra Craiului mountains, where tourists’ access is forbidden, in order to protect biodiversity, there are still many tourist routes, which are clearly marked, as well as a number of natural attractions worth seeing. Mircea Verghelet is the head of the Piatra Craiului National Park.
He tells us that today’s destination is unique in Romania: ”It is a special area as compared to other massifs in our country, since it is the only one reaching a height of more than 2,000 meters, with limestone being the main rock. In all massifs across Romania, limestone makes a spectacular relief, but in Piatra Craiului its dimensions are impressive. There are steep limestone walls, especially on the western slope, on the so-called western wall in Piatra Craiului. Here you can find the most spectacular tourist routes. Also, there is a unique trekking route in Romania, crossing the Piatra Craiului peak, which makes it well worth the effort.”
The area is a favorite with mountain climbers. In the Zarnesti Gorges, for instance, there are many vertical walls. All passionate climbers, even the ones who climbed the Himalayas, go there to practice. But you don’t have to be experts in mountain climbing, as there are routes accessible to everybody, some with a higher degree of difficulty and others easier to take. You can find all the information you need on the park’s webpage, at www.pcrai.ro, a page that also has an English version. There is also a detailed map of the park, also available in the 3D format, with the help of Google Earth. The head of the Piatra Craiului National Park administration, Mircea Verghelet, recommends tourists to start their visit with the Park’s Visiting Centre.
Mircea Verghelet: ”Practically, it is a museum of the massif, where tourists can get info on Piatra Craiului, on the flora and fauna species in the park, on local traditions, and even on how to prepare sheepskin cheese in fir tree bark, which is a traditional product in the area. We have a 10-minute documentary film, showing the entire process of making this kind of cheese. The Visiting Center also has lots of interactive elements, dioramas, touch screens and also a 3D model of the massif, offering a comprehensive perspective of the tourist route maps, the type of soil and the distribution habitats. The information is also available in English, with the digital information on the screens and on the boards of the Visiting Center having all a Romanian - English version. This is a rule we have implemented and which we observe. Also, the tourist route is marked, and we also have Braille boards for visually impaired visitors.”
The Piatra Craiului National Park is home to numerous wild animals. Mircea Verghelet tells us more about it: “We have a growing population of mountain goats, that have changed their behavior due to the fact that hunting is forbidden in the Piatra Craiului National Park. To our joy, these animals can be sometimes observed from a distance of only five or six meters, at high altitudes. Usually, tourists venturing to the alpine and subalpine area are sure to see mountain goats and, if they are lucky, even bears and wood grouses. There are over 120 bird species that can be observed in the park. We have ticket machines at the park’s main entrances, one in central Zarnesti, at the Post Office, where there is also a tourist information center, one at the park administration office and another one at the Plaiul Foii chalet. Tickets can also be purchased via all mobile telephony networks, through SMS or directly on the National Park’s webpage.”
In Zarnesti, we talked to Stefan Balogy, head of the National Center for Tourist Information and Promotion: “We are trying to attract families to visit the area. We want them to spend not just one day here, but a few more days. For them we have several special routes of one to two hours, and also long routes that take 10 to 12 hours. At present, we have 42 marked mountain routes, whose maps can be also be downloaded in a GPS format on the phone. As of last year, we have started developing cyclotourism. There are 11 marked trails in the park, connecting Zarnesti to Bran and Moeciu villages, with a total length of 120 km. Horse riding is another attraction. We have four centers that offer horse rides in the surrounding woods and sleigh trips during winter. Also, hiking and climbing in the most popular area of Piatra Craiului, the Zarnesti Gorges, is also worth considering. This is also the most visited tourist attraction, due to the fact that it is easily accessible. Also, paragliding and moto-paragliding, which we have also been offering lately, are becoming increasingly popular.”
Piatra Craiului is a mountain rather difficult to climb, which is why the use of proper equipment is highly recommended. Tourists should not miss out on several hot spots in the area, such as Bran Castle, Dambovicioara Cave and the city of Brasov.