When you think of hiking destinations in Europe, what places come to mind? For me, it’s usually the Alps, the Dolomites, or the Pyrenees. Hiking in Ceahlău National Park which is part of Romania’s Eastern Carpathians? That’s a mountain range that I wasn’t really familiar with until I arrived.
I came to the country with a group of fellow bloggers to explore Neamt County – a part of Romania that few travellers know about and even fewer venture to – so I guess in a way it isn’t so surprising that I had never heard of Ceahlău National Park. Yet knowing very little about the place, once I heard that we would be hiking and then spending the night in a little cabin atop the mountain, I was hooked on the idea!
I may not be a great mountaineer – you certainly won’t catch me climbing the Seven Summits anytime soon! – but I have gone trekking in Sapa, climbed an active volcano in Bali, and tackled Drakensberg in South Africa. Not bad considering I wasn’t all that interested in the outdoors until I started travelling. Hiking in Romania was a challenge I was happy to tackle.
Our jump-off point for this hike was the little mountainside town of Durau, so we arrived there the day before the big trek to get some rest and scope out the area.
The following morning, we started towards the mountains with the fog still hanging over the forest and the sunlight slowly trickling in through the foliage. The ground was still wet from the previous night’s storm and the falling droplets from the leaves above us were cool and refreshing.
I’d like to tell you this hike is easy, but it’s one that you’re going to have to work hard for. We started walking uphill the instant we entered the forest and the ground levelled out only for a few brief moments as we made the long ascent to Ceahlău Massif. It was the most intense day-hike I have ever attempted, but beauty was all around us and I felt fortunate to be experiencing this despite the burning calves and being out of breath.
By the time lunch rolled around we all stopped for a picnic next to Cascada Duruitoarea, which I was told is the second tallest waterfall in the country. We all quietly munched on our sandwiches half-dazed by nature and half-exhausted by the climb thus far.
I spent most of the morning hiking with people in our group, but in the afternoon I tackled the mountain solo. I set my sight on that imaginary cabin at the very end of the trail and how wonderful it would be to reach the top and sprawl out on the grass with a Kindle in one hand and a glass of iced lemonade on the other. I didn’t even know if I would actually find lemonade at the very top, but the thought was enough to push me forward.
I followed the markers through the forest until they led me to this very spot where the peak of a majestic mountain loomed before me. At this point, the trail faded and gave way to an open field so I continued walking knowing the cabin had to be close by. I may or may not have gotten kind of lost and ended up in front of a church rather than a cabin (okay, yes that did happen), but I eventually stumbled upon a French hiker who pointed me in the right direction.
When I finally did reach Cabana Dochia, my home for the night, I bought a fresh bottle of iced tea, found a cosy dip in the hill, and pulled out my Kindle to unwind. I then proceeded to fall asleep within seconds. I’m not sure how long I was out for, but it was a well-deserved nap after a long day of hiking. If it hadn’t been for the next batch of hikers stirring me awake, I probably could have slept there all afternoon.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty low key. We all hung around the cabin, either playing with the owner’s dogs or gazing at the mountains…and then it was time for some more hiking!
After eating a hearty meal, part of our group set out again to do a sunset hike. (Yes, I surprised myself too.) This was a much shorter 45-minute trek that took us out to a peak where we watched the sun put on a magical display of pale pinks and golds.
I may or may not have gotten lost again when I decided to walk back early (okay, fine guys, that did happen for a second time), but I eventually found my way back just as twilight fell over the mountain range.
The following morning it was time to bid farewell to Ceahlău National Park. We packed up our things shortly after breakfast and began the long descent down the other side of the mountain. Oh, and because this is Romania, when we finally finished the hike, everyone gathered at a local resto-bar for shots of Romanian palinca. That’s how you end a wonderful trip hiking in Ceahlău National Park!
Have you done any hiking in Romania?
Are there any places you’d recommend?
My trip to Neamt County was organized in partnership with Eventur Bucharest.
Love the forest photos.
Were you afraid of vampires:)
Beautiful photos! I’d love to visit Romania, and may have to look into this area when I make that trip hiking. I’ve not yet had any hiking trips in Europe – though I read about some beautiful hikes in Germany and Poland when planning my recent trip there.
Thank you for sharing the experience and photos! Sounds like you had a great trip.
you should also consider visiting Retezat National Park and Rodnei Montains… they are absolutely beautiful 🙂 https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfp1/v/t1.0-9/10359147_726139654091265_7747408495398429960_n.jpg?oh=4b34a6d6431d785411879b7b9cef1eed&oe=569DDA67 // https://scontent-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/10384655_729181177120446_7800589051209932832_n.jpg?oh=419f945052be7dcc5e2637dbe67a2199&oe=56620B11
I have never gone hiking in Europe. Or abroad for that matter! I would love to expand my horizons and this looks like a totally beautiful hike. You’re right, I’ve never even heard of this range before. Thanks for taking a moment to share!
This looks like such an enchanting place to go hiking. Thanks for putting this on my radar!
The lighting certainly helped! Going out in the morning gave it a bit of a dreamy feel. 🙂
Really cool photos! I’ve wanted to go to Romania for ages, this post certainly didn’t help. Why do you think it is that not so many backpackers go to that area? I mean, the scenery looks quite spectacular.
Ah, your photos are lovely! Romanian mountains are on my wishlist for quite some time. If you liked it, I strongly recommend Tatra Mountains in Slovakia 🙂
Absolutely stunning! I’ve been hearing so much about Romania recently. The food, the scenery, the towns. Definitely adding to my must-visit list. I’ve done a bunch of hiking in Scotland, primarily on the Isle of Arran, or a “mini-hike” up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Otherwise, as a Canadian Rockies gal, I do most of my hiking in Alberta. That and trekking/spraining my ankle in Sapa, of course.
I think if you miss out on the outdoors while traveling, you miss so much!
It’s beautiful. It reminds me a bit the French Alps, where I used to hike. 🙂
Absolutely! ‘Love the post.
Europe is crammed with exciting mountains and hills to climb – Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, France, Italy, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Andorra, the Czech Republic. Everywhere really LOL!
Thank you for a great post on a country that I am looking forward to going to next year. Go you having the energy to do the extra sunset hike!
Gorgeous pictures Audrey! LOVE the sun shining through the trees. 🙂
Mind blown Audrey! These photos look incredible, but Romania is now added to my hiking destinations. I meant to venture there last year while in Europe, but never made it, so while saving up this time I’m definitely making Romania a must.
Thank you for presenting Romania from a total different angle. The country it’s definitely underrated! You did some beautiful photos. Absolutely love the twilight shot!!!
Take care. Uelito.
Wow! Your pictures are absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing.
Wow, this area looks stunning! I’d like to do more hiking around Europe so this is definitely now on the list 🙂
I love the trips that include alot of nature is my favorite things to do see the beauty of the world
Durau is lovely this time of year ( or was, since I just now realize that I’m at the end of November). I’ve been there on the middle of October and took a walk around the mountain. It’s a very nice area, with some wild nature and lovely views for a selfie 🙂
The Transylvanian region is full of beautiful towns with great day-hikes. The area around Brasov in particular has castles, woodland trails and gorges. The seven ladders gorge is a favourite. Always take your trail maps with a grain of salt. I’ve repeatedly come across trail sections that have washed away or been overgrown – I guess there’s no money for maintenance. Be patient and ready to take alternate routes.
Hiking in Ceahlau National park didn’t open your appetite to explore other mountains in Romania? There are some great places in the Carpathians!