Archives September 2015

The Romanian Banat: a land of gorges and wilderness

Just like its inhabitants living together – Romanians, Hungarians, Germans and Serbs – the land of Banat in Western Romania reflects harmony and diversity in its surprising variety of landscapes: from the depths of caves, the wilderness of forests and mountains to the peaceful flow of the Danube through the gorge where it enters Romania. Banat’s natural attractions make up a long list worth taking the time to travel there. We came up with a top 5 places, each of them worthy of a long article:

Clisura Dunării

The name comes from the Serbian word “klisura” and means the Danube Gorge or Gate. The place also known as Defileul Dunării is actually the area where the Danube enters Romania. Located in southern Romanian Banat, at the border with Serbia this place includes tourist attractions like the Baziaş Gulf, the Dead Nera (Nera Moartă in Romanian; Nera is a river crossing Banat region and entering Danube in Clisura) natural reservation, the Dacian fortress or the castrum (Roman camp) in Divici or the Martins’ Lavin (Râpa cu lăstuni in Romanian) natural reservation in Divici. A lacustrine village opened with European funds in gulf Berzasca in Clisura should make 30 bungalows available to tourists starting this spring.

By car, Clisura Dunării can be reached from Timişoara on road DN 57 up to Oraviţa, then Moldova Nouă. In Naidăş locality take the road to Zlatiţa, Socol and Baziaş, all three of them localities in Clisura Dunării.


Cheile Nerei – Beuşniţa National Park

The wilderness in Cheile Nerei is still untouched thanks to the difficult access in the area. Spreading on almost 37000 hectares around the middle course of the Nera River, this karst area hides an amazing floral richness, very diverse and unique landscapes. The main attractions here are the gorge dug by Nera River and its tributaries, the karst lakes Eye of the Bey (Ochiul Beiului in Romanian) and Devil’s Lake (Lacul Dracului in Romanian), the waterfalls Beuşniţa, Bigăr and Şuşara, the caves and abysses Plopa, Ponor, Dubova and Ox’s Cave (Peştera Boilor).

Cheile Nerei- Beuşniţa national park is located in the south region of Aninei Mountains in Caraş-Severin County. The park can be reached on roads: Resita – Oravita – Sasca Montană, Reşiţa – Oraviţa – Anina – Bozovici, Reşiţa – Anina – Bozovici, Bozovici – Şopotu Nou – Cărbunari.


The abyss in the Clearing of the Pit (Poiana Gropii in Romanian)

With a difference of level of -236 meters and a length of 1029 meters, this is the deepest abyss (very deep chasm) in Banat. It is actually a chain of steep wells and galleries with a creek at the end of it, the trail of which gets lost in a deep gallery. Unfortunately, the abyss can be visited by experienced speleologists only, but a visit to its impressive entrance can be very interesting.

The abyss is located at about 6 kilometers from Cuptoare locality in Caraş-Severin County, close to the mountain trail marked by the blue dot which starts behind the forest canton Poiana Bichii.


The Semenic – Cheile Caraşului National Park

Canyons, caves, pit caves, sinkholes, ridges, valleys, pasture and forests that stretch on Anina and Semenic Mountains form eight natural reservations brought together under the name of Semenic – Cheile Caraşului National Park. In this strictly protected area, any form of use or exploitation of natural resources, any form of usage of the land is forbidden.  That is why, tourists can experience untouched wilderness in the caves Răsuflătoarei, Comarnic, Popovaţ and  Exploratorii ’85 (Explorers ’85 in Romanain), Nera’s Springs (Izvoarele Nerei in Romanian), the gorges Cheile Caraşului and Cheile Gârliştei, Caraşului Springs (Izvoarele Caraşului in Romanian), Buhui, Turbării.

From Bucharest, the Semenic – Cheile Caraşului National Park can be reached on road E70 (Bucharest – Craiova – Drobeta-Turnu Severin – Orşova – Topleţ) and national road DN6 – Mehadia.

By car, access to the park is possible from any locality surrounding it: Reşita, Iabalcea, Carasova, Anina, Prigor, Crivaia or Gărâna (the last of them hosts of one of the most popular jazz festivals in Romania).


The Sphinx of Banat

Also known as the Sphinx in Topleț, this enigmatic megalith is still a reason for controversy among specialists. According to some, the 16 meters high and 8 meters wide rock resembling the head of a man was naturally formed in time, through wind and rain erosion. Others believe that its striking resemblance with an impressive, mysterious human profile is the result of an anthropomorphic representation.

The rock is located on Cernei Valley in Caraș-Severin County, on road E70 Bucharest – Timisoara. It can be seen from distance, across the Cerna river, on the right side of the road to Timisoara, after Toplet, about 3 kilometers before reaching the train station at Băile Herculane.


Photo source: Clisura Dunării facebook

Schitul Dărvari, a hermitage at the heart of Bucharest

If you didn’t know it’s there, the thick walls at 3 Schitul Dărvari Street would tell nothing about it. Although the name of the street makes it clear enough for a child to figure out the riddle, it is still hard to believe that this is a hermitage at the heart of the capital.

However many books and articles are being written about Bucharest, some places remain unknown by most passers-by and tourists, to the delight of hunters of urban hidden treasures. Regardless of religion, this hermitage is an oasis of tranquility for anyone to enjoy, just a couple of minutes away from the heavy traffic in Romană Square.

Schitul Dărvari was founded in 1834 in the central area of the city, near the Grădina Icoanei (Garden of the Icon in English) park. Some years later it hosted 12 nuns who cared for the church and sang at the offices. In 1864, the hermitage was closed, only to reopen five years later when Romanian monks returning from the famous Athos Mountain in Greece found shelter here. In 1933, Schitul Dărvari was restored by the grandson of the founder and the church was painted in fresco by Iosif Keber, in neo-Byzantine style. In 1959 the hermitage was closed by the communist authorities, leaving the hermitage to reopen only in 1996, after the fall of the communist regime.

Today, Schitul Dărvari is inhabited once again and has been officially declared a historical monument.

Visiting hours

The gate of the hermitage opens every morning at 07:30 and closes in the evening at 19:30.

Office hours

For those who want to listen to an Orthodox office, the church at the hermitage holds daily offices: in the morning, from 07:30 to 10:30, and in the evening, from 17:00 to 18:30.

Frankincense workshop

Schitul Dărvari opened a frankincense workshop using the original recipe and technology from the monasteries at Athos Mountain in Greece. Frankincense (tămâie in Romanian, from thymanea in Latin) is used in all Orthodox rituals and symbolizes a gift offered to God as a sign of thankfulness. It is actually an aromatic resin of exotic trees of the genus Boswellia from India and South Arabia.

At Schitul Dărvari, you can find six fragrances: Bizantino, Pascalia, Athos, Bethleem, Jasmin, Gardenia and Rose. A 50 grams box costs RON 5 and a 10 grams box – RON 1.5.


Photo source: Schitul Dărvari official website

Taking a walk on the wilde side: Retezat National Park

Probably the most impressive mountains in the country, the Retezat National Park –is the place to visit for those looking for wild adventures in Romania. With twenty peaks of over 2.000 meters (the highest peak, Peleaga, reaches 2.509 meters) and 80 glacial lakes, including Bucura Lake (pictured) – the largest glacial lake in the country – this is the most complex mountain massif in Romania’s Carpathians. Located in the Southern Carpathians, in Hunedoara County, this UNESCO biosphere reserve covers over 38.000 hectares of the Retezat-Godeanu massif. Not only does it have spectacular, truly breath-taking views, it is also the home of the rare chamois, lynx, wildcats, roe deer, red deer, bears, wolves or wild boars. Retezat is also famous for its floral diversity, sheltering around 1190 superior plants species of the 3450 species known in Romania. Out of them, 130 are rare ones, included in the “Red list of superior plants in Romania”.

To enter the park costs only RON 10, while for kids under 14 years old entrance is free. The ticket is valid for one week, regardless of the number of times you enter the park during this period. The ticket can be paid at the visiting points in Nucşoara, Gura Apei, at the Codrin (Cârnic) Hut, the Pietrele Hut and at the other access points in the park available on the official website (page in Romanian).


Tourist attractions nearby

  • The Dinosaur Geopark in Ţara Haţegului – a special protected area where dwarf dinossaurs, unique in the world, have been discovered;
  • The bison reservation in Haţeg – Slivuţ – read more about it here;
  • Defileul Jiului National Park – a gorge formed by the Jiu River between the Vâlcan Mountains and Parâng Mountains;
  • The ruins of the Roman camp at Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, the former capital of Roman Dacia and the museum with artifacts from that period;
  • The Prislop Monastery – one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Romania, built in 1400 by the monk Nicodim with the help of legendary ruler Mircea cel Bătrân.


How to get there from Bucharest, by car

The easiest way is to take the road E81 from Bucharest to Râmnicu Vâlcea, then road 67 up to Târgu Jiu. From Târgu Jiu turn right on E79 and enjoy the view as you cross the national park Defileul Jiului. When you reach Ohaba de Sub Piatră, turn left on road 667 A and drive through villages Sălaşu de Jos, Sălaşu de Sus and Mălăieşti to reach Nucşoara. This is where you will find the park administration, at number 284.

The administration of the Retezat Park can be contacted by e-mal at [email protected] or by phone at +40 733 888 586.


Where to stay (guesthouses)

Pensiunea Retezat
Address: 351 Nisipoasa St., Clopotiva village, Râu de Mori locality, Hunedoara County
Phone: +40 254 897 119, +40 758 836 582

Cabana Retezat
Address: 321 Clopotiva village, Râu de Mori locality, Hunedoara County
Phone: +40 754 037 921, +40 374 901 243

Casa Iulia
Address: 112 Horea St., Haţeg, Hunedoara County
Phone: +40 761 320 778

Cabana Foresta
Address: 10 Cabanelor St., Câmpu lui Neag, Lupeni, Hunedoara County
Phone: +40 741 155 151

Address: 82, Sarmizegetusa, Hunedoara County
Phone: +40 744 794 051