Hiking the Transylvanian Alps
Hut to Hut on Romania’s Făgăraș Traverse
A challenging and memorable “hut to hut” adventure in the high Carpathians of central Romania also known as the Transylvanian Alps. Complete an exciting multi-day traverse along the main ridge of the Făgăraş Mountains–one of the longest continuous high mountain traverses in Europe. The traverse will take you over Romania’s three highest peaks (Moldoveanu, 8,350 feet; Negoiu, 8,317 feet; and Viştea Mare, 8,291 feet). Round out your Romania adventure with visits to the splendid medieval town of Sighisoara (a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site), and a sampling of Transylvania’s treasury of castles, monasteries, and fortified Saxon churches.
Note that this is a very challenging itinerary intended for experienced mountain hikers only. Daily elevation gains can exceed 5,000 feet. Lodging is in very basic mountain refuges.
Overnight in Sinaia
This morning, depart Bucharest to travel to the mountain town of Sinaia, the “Pearl of the Carpathians,” nestled in the Prahova Valley with the Bucegi Mountains rising abruptly to the west. A short walk along shady forest paths brings you to the Sinaia Monastery and its 17th century church whose interior walls are covered by frescoes. After lunch, visit the opulent, neo-Renaissance Peles Castle commissioned by Romania’s King Carol I in 1873 as well as the more intimate Pelisor Castle built by Carol for his eventual successor Ferdinand and his wife Marie. Enjoy a welcome dinner of traditional foods this evening.
Overnight in Moieciu de Sus
Ascend into the Bucegi Mountains by cable car. From the Babele Chalet strike out on a “warm up” hike across the expansive high plateau that forms the central portion of the range. A trail will lead you to the summit of Omu Peak. Depending on weather and other conditions, there is the possibility of completing a traverse of the Bucegi Mountains via the Drum Granicerilor (“Guard’s Road”) all the way to the village of Moeciu de Sus in the northwestern foothills of the mountains. Overnight at a small hotel in Moieciu de Sus.
Overnight at Cabana Negoiu
After breakfast, travel by vehicle to the western end of the Fagaras Mountains. We’ll ascend to the Negiou mountain hut from the Poiana Neamtului passing by the Barcaciu mountain refuge along the way. This is a lovely hike, partially in the forest and partially above timberline offering good views toward the peak of Negoiu, Romania’s second tallest mountain.
Overnight at Cabana Lac Balea
This will be a long day on the trail, but the reward will be some of the most scenic high-country landscapes in Romania (and all of Europe for that matter)! The route will take you directly over the summit of Negoiu peak, past the lovely alpine tarn known as Lac Caltun and over the peak of Varful Laitel (one of the best vantage points in the Fagaras Mountains). Pass through the inviting grassy meadows below the distinctive tower-like peak of Varful Paltinului before descending to the very comfortable Cabana Lac Balea built on the shores of an alpine lake just off the Trans-Fagarasan Highway.
Overnight at Cabana Podragu
Depart Lac Bâlea on foot bound for the Podragu Chalet. From Lac Bâlea the trail ascends quickly to reach the Şaua Caprei and the calm waters of Lac Capra just on the other side. The trail proceeds along the main ridge of the Făgăraş descending into cirques, crossing ridges, and traversing narrow mountain passes. After about six hours on the trail you’ll reach the Şaua Podragului, the mountain pass that provides access into the Podragu Lake basin. Descend into the basin and arrive at the Podragu Chalet perched above its namesake lake, the deepest in the Făgăraş.
Overnight at Cabana Valea Sâmbătei
This will be another long, but supremely scenic day on the trail. After breakfast, hike out of the Podragu basin to regain the Făgăraş main ridge. Head east along the undulating ridge crest toward the peak of Viştea Mare. The ascent steepens to bring you to the summit of the peak. From the summit of Viştea Mare, you can walk to the summit of Moldoveanu (Romania’s highest at 8,350 feet), only a few minutes away along a ridge-top trail. Continue eastward from Moldoveanu along the rugged main ridge to the Fereastra Mică a Sâmbătei, a mountain pass above the Sâmbăta Valley. From here, leave the Fagaras main ridge and descend into the Sâmbăta Valley where you’ll overnight in a mountain refuge at an elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level.
Overnight in Sighisoara
A three hour hike from the Valea Sâmbetei refuge will bring you to trail’s end near the Brancoveanu Monastery. Spend some time visiting the monastery; don’t miss the beautiful painted chapel on the second floor! After the visit to the monastery you’ll enjoy a home-cooked lunch in Ucea village on the north slope of the Fagaras Mountains. After lunch travel by vehicle to Sighisoara, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Spend the evening at a comfortable hotel within the walls of the old citadel.
Overnight in Bucharest
Travel by vehicle from Sighisoara toward the town of Brasov to visit the Bran Castle perched on a rocky promontory. The castle was originally built in the 14th century as part of Brasov’s city defenses. This castle has become associated with the Dracula story even though the Wallachian prince Vlad Tepeş (often recognized as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character) may have had only a fleeting association with the castle. Following lunch, continue by vehicle to Bucharest. Celebrate the conclusion of your adventure at a dinner featuring Romanian foods and music.
Please note that the hikes on this “hut-to-hut” itinerary are graded as “moderate” to “very strenuous.” You should be comfortable hiking over rocky, mountain trails and be capable of daily elevation gains of as much as 5,000 feet. Four consecutive nights are spent in mountain refuges, three of which are very basic. Showers are available on two of those four nights (at Negoiu and Lac Balea). You should be prepared for “dormitory-style” sleeping accommodations (in rooms of 3-14 bunks per room) at the Negoiu, Podragu and Sambata refuges. Private double rooms may be available at Cabana Lac Balea where the standard of accommodation is quite comfortable. Blankets, sheets, and pillows are provided by the refuges, but you may wish to bring your own sleeping sack/liner. Toilet facilities at Negoiu, Podragu and Sambata refuges are very basic and shared and some are in separate out-buildings. The Cabana Lac Bâlea features modern western-style bathrooms with sink, shower, and toilet.
Photos on this page are by John Osaki except as otherwise credited.