Short on time but wanting big adventures? Eager to jam as many adrenaline-pumping activities as possible into one trip? Then take a gander at the Carpathian mountains in Romania; adventure can be found in the air on its steep limestone cliffs, hidden in its dense forested mountains, or even underground in its plethora of cave systems.
Explorers wanting minimal faff should look to Much Better Adventures and Apuseni Experiences. I recently spent a long weekend with them enjoying bite-sized experiences across the Apuseni region (western Carpathians) during my adventurous weekend in Romania.
The western Carpathians is a place of wild and unusual beauty. Jagged limestone crags hint at its karst-influenced landscape. Sinkholes and caves continue to shape this region, with meandering springs, towering mountains and gorges, undulating forests and glens, and rocky cliffs to admire (or explore for the climbers amongst you).
Little has changed here over thousands of years, and as a result animals such as bears, lynxes, wolves and bats continue to call the region home. It’s rare you will see these on your explorations though, as they like to avoid humans where possible. Keep an eagle eye out, as it is still possible to discover unusual wildlife right in the open!
Adventurous Activities in Apuseni
The Carpathian mountains in Romania’s Transylvania region contain a variety of landscapes, meaning every adventurous activity possible can be found here. Reach new heights with a via ferrata course in Crisul Repede gorge and be rewarded in less than two hours with views of its aquamarine river and limestone rock faces. The area is also a mecca for climbers looking for bolted or trad climbing routes, but a guide is recommended to help you put the best foot forward.
Hiking is popular in Apuseni, and with its dramatic, curious landscapes, it’s easy to see why. Head to Galbena Gorge, where a variety of walking trails meander past waterfalls, enormous overgrown sinkholes and edge up steep rock faces covered in brilliant, emerald-green flora. For those looking for a more serene hike head to Padis, a karst plateau. It’s expansive and peaceful stretch of pasture and murmuring streams is an ideal destination to idly explore for a few hours. The region has an established route network for tourists and is well-marked, but a map and GPS system is recommended, particularly if you are heading out without a local guide!
Given Apuseni’s extensive cave systems, the region is a hub for speleologists – not to mention the curious visitor. From networks covered in crystals to caverns that require some fearless abseiling to access, there’s an Apuseni cave for every level and ability of underground adventurer. Caves should never be underestimated, especially in places with weather as changeable as Apuseni. A local guide is essential for exploring Romania’s subterranean environment.
Additional adventurous activities in Apuseni include mountain biking and canyoning in the summer. In the winter, Apuseni is a paradise, albeit a tricky empyrean to reach, for cross-country skiers.
Places to Stay in Apuseni
Mountain villages and secluded houses are located throughout Romania’s western Carpathian region. Whether you want a traditional Romanian homestead or a modern villa, most of the brightly-hued houses in the Apuseni region have small farms and picturesque gardens attached. Large cabanas, or chalets, are available in the protected areas of Apuseni, but spaces in these are snapped up fast, so be quick. Camping is popular, particularly with locals, but spaces can be crowded.
Food in Apuseni
Romanian food is hearty fare, and after a day of adventurous activities in Apuseni, will be all you will crave. Meals are typically a three-course affair, with a soup or stew for starters, followed by a pork- or chicken-based meal for the mains. As most Romanians grow their fruits and vegetables in small farms or keep a cow, the ingredients are as deliciously fresh as they can get. Vegetarians and vegans might struggle a little in the Carpathian mountains, as meat and cheese is used as a base ingredient for meals, but options are still available.
Before any dinner though, an aperitif in the form of palinka or fruit liqueur is sometimes provided – a perfect toast to a day of adrenaline-fuelled adventure.