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DAVID CALINPhotos Supplied by DAVID CALIN & Wikipedia

Apuseni Forest

Photos - click to enlarge.


The Apuseni Mountains and Valea Ariesului (Aries Valley)

Romania is situated in South Eastern Europe and since 1997 is part of the European Union (EU). It has a population of over 22 million and great tourism potential. Visitors will be amazed by the diversity of scenery varying from mountains, hills, fields and beaches of the Black Sea, from rapid mountain water streams to the Danube Delta, Romania is named “The Garden of Virgin Mary, the Mother of God”.

The Apuseni Mountains, part of the Carpathian Mountains and are situated in North-Western Romania, in Transilvania. Even though they are not the highest mountains, rising to just 1849 metres for Bihor Peak, they have marvelous landscapes, beautiful forests, virgin nature and unique carstic limestone formations.

Across the clouds

The landscape is full of mystery and the mist that rises from the mountains after rain adds even more to it’s mystique. Visiting the caves in the Apuseni Mountains, and there are many of them and considered to be the gems of Romania, you will have plenty of opportunities to explore these subterranean marvels of nature. In fact this is a cavers paradise, some of the caves are open to the public while others can only be reached by the more adventurous explorers and only when accompanied by a local guide.

The Aries Valley is the heart of the Apuseni Mountains and it’s full of treasures. It’s no surprise that gold mining started here over 2000 years ago.

Turda Gorges

The route up Aries Valley starts in Turda, the city at the base of the mountains. Here you can visit the Turda Gorges, a beautiful natural reservation with amazing landscapes, vertical walls hundreds of meters tall and small caves that were used by the locals as a refuge during the mongol invasion in 1241.

Going upstream in the Aries valley, 45 kilometres from Turda in the Posaga area, you will find the Scarita – Belioara Botanical Reservation. Here the rocky walls have a 800 metre difference in height, offering impressive views of the Aries Valley and Posaga. Because some of these scenic slopes face different compass points, you will find Mediterranean plants on the southern wall and arctic plants on the northern one – a unique phenomenon in Romania.

Scarita – Belioara Botanical Reservation

Another 10 kilometres upstream in Salciua village, you can visit the Huda lui Papara Cave and the Vinatara area where you’ll see traditional sheep pens, similar to the ones that existed hundreds of years ago. The more adventurous can visit the cave with a guide. Huda lui Papara is a difficult cave, very active with lots of water dripping, running and cascading down. The effort is rewarded by the beauty and wildness of it’s rooms. The cave shelters the biggest bat colony in Europe.

Huda lui Papara Cave

In this cavern there is a phenomenon unique for a Romanian cave. One of its halls, the ‘Wonder Hall’, has a warm air accumulation, keeping it at a constant temperature of 20oC throughout the year, no matter what the outside temperature is. Because of this constant temperature there appears another unique phenomenon; the stalactites are not vertical but are “broken”, resembling a deer’s leg.

10 kilometres further from Salciua into Brazesti, were our guesthouse, Shanti, is located, you will pass by Piatra Bulzului (Bulz Stone, bulz meaning a piece of polenta). Here is the starting point for the most important trips in the Apuseni Mountains.

Old houses in Apuseni

Another 45 kilometres upstream, in Rosia Montana, you can visit an old goldmine that dates back to 100 A.D during the time of the Roman Empire. The Goldmine Museum will show us just how hard life was for the locals in those days.

The 2000 year old goldmine galleries are unique and are a ‘must visit’ on your sightseeing list. While passing through the small galleries (just big enough to fit a slave and his ore basket) you get a real sense of the past, a very different world from today. It is quite a spiritual experience.

Moving another 20 kilometres further up the valley is the Detunata Reservation with a very special landscape comprising of 200 metre vertical cliffs of volcanic rock (it’s like God planted a handful of his matches in the ground!) .


Going further from Campeni, we arrive in the Garda area, full of caves and lime scale formations. Here you can visit the only glacier in Romania in Scarisoara Cave which is the second biggest cave glacier in Europe. With 75000 cubic metres of ice and many stalagmites and other ice formations with graphic names such as ‘ the Sea Horse’,’ the Elephant’, ‘ the Church’ and many more, this is an awe inspiring spectacle. Part of this cave is open to visitors and meets EU standards.

Scarisoara Ice Cave

In the same area you can visit the Vartop Glacier Cave and the beautiful water Cave Coiba Mare. It has an impressive entrance; a portal 74 metres in wide and 47 metres high.

If you wish to see the whole Apuseni Mountains, a great view point is on the Bihor Peak, the highest of these mountains.

The trip along the Aries Valley continues through the Vartop Pass and then down the Sighistel Valley where, in the short space of 10 square kilometres, you will find over 200 caves. Names like the Corbeasca Cave with the Crystal Lake, Coliboaia Cave and Magura Cave to mention just a few of them.

Magura Cave

The most important of them is Magura Cave which is 1.5 kilometres in length. It’s name comes from the mist that is formed each morning in the main gallery. This is one of the most beautiful caves in the Apuseni Mountains with chalk formations like montmilch, stalactites, stalagmites and draperies.

You can also explore these mountains by taking an off-road tour or a canoeing trip on the River Aries. Whatever means you chose, a trip into the Aries Valley will be an unforgettable experience and one you will always remember.

Off-Road on Big Mountain

Why not come and see for yourselves. Click on or e-mail us at [email protected] .

The Shanti Pension - Your base for adventure

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