When I think Romania, I think
vampires mountains, so I couldn’t wait to pull on my hiking boots and explore them for a few days! After about a billion Google Image searches Dan and I decided that Piatra Craiulu National Park has the prettiest peaks so we stuck out our thumbs and grabbed a ride down to Zarnesti.
Actually we caught a ride to Brasov, and then hopped on a tiny electric commuter train to Zarnesti. The ride took about an hour and was BEAUTIFUL. I tried to convince Dan to scrap this hiking idea and just ride the train back and forth all day, but apparently he had bigger plans for us.
Would I come to regret following Dan up that mountain and wish I were still on that little train? NO. Well, maybe. Actually, yes.
You see, while Romania has some gorgeous mountains with tons of hiking trails, there’s very little information (at least in English) about those trails. I searched for ages for details – or even just a map of the park – but came up empty. And then we tried to find Piatra Craiului National Park’s Visitor Center in Zarnesti, but the spot marked on Google Maps turned out to be… a barn?
The cows and horses didn’t have anything helpful to say to us, so we headed into the park on our own. (It turns out we just needed to continue on that road another 20-30 minutes out of town, whoops).
Luckily there was a map at the start of the park, so we picked the yellow route and headed up! It was a really steep hike, but after about an hour we reached the prettiest mountain meadow, so it was worth it. (Plus we had lunch, so it was like, actually worth it.)
Tummy and my camera’s memory card both nicely filled, I turned to walk back down the mountain. And was stopped by Dan because apparently the real hike hadn’t started yet.
We were going to the Piatra Craiului peaks!
Did it matter that thick clouds were descending? They only made the hike more magical!
So, the route we chose up to one of the peaks was beautiful and so, so worth it, but I’m pretty sure we also accidentally were on a rock climbing route. Of course I can’t be sure because there is zero information about this hike online, but we were climbing vertically for a lot of it – at least we had those helpful bolts to hang onto!
After seeing all the views that needed to be seen, we headed back to Zarnesti through a gorge!
It was fun, until the sun started to disappear alarmingly quickly and we found ourselves on a steep slope of frozen snow. It was one of those times I was happy no longer to be traveling solo, as Dan basically had to carry me down the gorge.
Yet still somehow I was the one who couldn’t walk for several days afterwards. I swear I’m going to join a gym when I get to Norway. (I’m not, but I will be going on a lot more hikes!)
We spent another day in Zarnesti, and if you take a look at where it is on a map I know what you’re going to think: “Great, so you had time to visit Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle)!”
Um, no. We spent the day in bed binge watching Treme. Didn’t I already mention the sore muscles? Even two days later I could barely walk with my backpack on.
It was a shame to miss Bran Castle, especially when it was only 10 kilometers away from our guest house, but I was actually way more interested in seeing Corvin Castle.
You see, while Bran Castle is famous for being Dracula’s Castle, Vlad III only visited a few times. On the other hand, Vlad was held prisoner in Corvin Castle for 7 years. Even more visit worthy though: legend has it that Corvin Castle was never taken by enemies because anyone who approached was overwhelmed by ominous feelings. Because it’s haunted.
A hitchhiking fail + a lot of rain meant that we ended up missing Corvin Castle and heading straight to Timisoara instead, but it’s at the top of my list for my return to Romania!
In Zarnesti we stayed at at Pensiunea Garofita in a huge double room. It’s a really pretty wooden lodge run by the sweetest couple, and makes the perfect base to explore Piatra Craiului National Park. And there may even be a yellow lab named Maximus living there. Maybe! Check current rates for Pensiunea Garofita here
The views are amazing! It looks like a very adventurous hike, mainly the snowy slope!
The views really were spectacular. One of my favorite hikes of the trip! Well, until I couldn’t walk the next day(s)…
Emily S says
That sounds like an extreme hike! I don’t think I would have made it! Looks like it was worth it though. Those pics are amazing!
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that I couldn’t walk for days afterwards – I don’t think I’ve ever had sore muscles for that long! But it was worth it.
Deborah K Earnest says
Take l-glutamine a couple weeks before, about 1-2 tsps a day and your muscle soreness and recovery will be significantly decreased by about 90%. Body builders use it for that purpose. Get the powder (cheapest) and mix with water, it’s tasteless and will help you tremendously.
Jane M says
Sounds like a fun / slightly harrowing kind of day. At least you got lunch – I always say the real point of any hike is getting to eat!
YES. My thoughts exactly!
Bahahaha Silvia! This post made me laugh the entire time and simultaneously made me homesick for Romania even though I’ve never been. It’s so beautiful! (And I really want to visit Dracula’s castle. Like really, really bad).
You neeeed to go to Romania! It’s so, so special. And I need to return!
I can’t believe you guys went up a rock climbing route! not being able to find good hiking information is really annoying. I don’t think missing Bran castle is too heartbreaking. Its pretty….but there are definitely better places to see. I always feel guilty when I skip big sights because I’m tired so I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that
Haha I’m glad I’m not the only one either! And I’m glad you said missing Bran isn’t so bad – other travelers were shocked when we said we skipped it, especially while being so close.
UGH DAN YOU WOULD
Laura @ Bottled Air says
Ha! Last time I followed someone (Will) up a mountain we got so lost we had to sleep in a tiny Burmese village in the house of strangers. Was still fun though! 😀
This Romanian mountain looks awesome. And makes me miss Europe and its amazing nature! 🙂
Haha typical boys, always making us do adventurous things!
We all know you are going to be back in Romania (to open a hostel with dogs) so missing the castles isn’t that big of a deal.
I would have laid down and died if I accidentally found myself on the rock climbing path. Or fallen and died. I have panic attacks walking down uneven steps (stems from falling down them at Longsheng rice terraces) so a rock climbing path? Would. Not. Survive.
Haha you’re right! Um, I also sometimes have serious trouble walking down stairs. If the staircase is really long I panic halfway down and have to go super slowly haha.
Hahaha hilarious post (I mean not hilarious that you went on a crazy hike that left you bed-ridden, but I love the way you wrote about it!). Such a shame that you missed Corvin Castle though!
It was a shame! I need to go back to Romania, I guess 🙂
Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki says
Those views are just amazing! I am always finding myself following the boy and then stuck up somewhere high up to scared to get down. Darn those adventurous boys 😉
I love all your posts from Eastern Europe. Hiking in Romania looks so beautiful!
Romania was such a great place to hike!
becky hutner says
How dare you miss Corvin Castle! You are fired travel blogger, fired I say.
Just kidding, I love your binge-watching admissions almost as much as your reviews of famous sites. “Travel Bloggers, they’re just like us…”
Haha sometimes travel bloggers run out of steam…
Katelyn Bierl says
This looks amazing!! I’m curious how long the hike took you and where you started? My husband and I are headed there this summer and based on your pictures it looks like you’re on the blue dot trail which, believe it or not, I actually found the tiniest bit of information about in a Lonely Planet book! I’d love to do this hike! Thanks for the great posts!
Oh… Such nice but painful memories from my hike on Piatra Craiului Crest. But you do feel like you are on the roof of the world.
Haha glad I wasn’t the only one in pain!
Nice story! Pity you didn’t ask for some advice before going. Or maybe the best, since you went to some great places! 🙂
Piatra Craiului are one of the most spectacular mountains of Romania, but also have some of the most difficult paths, with a higher degree of technical difficulties, although they are touristic trails.
Hey, you should check out the “muntii nostri” app. It details every trail in some mountains in romania, including piatra craiului. In the settings you can choose english. And there are some blogs about the trails, in romanian but you can translate in google tr. So blogul alexandrei for example and some hiking trails are described by the youtube vlogger – pe poteci spre inima ta. Hope it helps!
I am so proud to read such beautiful reviews about Romania and it’s mountains. I hope you will come back soon and I promise to give you any information you might need about the routes or you can even join me on one of my hikes. Until then, just know that you route you took was to Piatra Mica (part of Piatra Craiului Mountains) and it’s not a climbing route, but a difficult hiking route. You should have reached a big metallic cross, but I don’t see it in your photos, so I guess you didn’t go all the way.
The mountains are wonderful and wild in Romania and everyone should plan a hike while they are here. The scenery is amazing, but be careful about the route you choose so that it is according to your fit and your scrambling abilities.
All my best wishes!
Andre Pur says
We really loved your blog, and since it was written back in 2015, you couldn’t find info about the trails also maps, but in 2016 Zarnesti opened a Tourist Info Center in the center of the town( where you can also find maps and alot of infos about Zarnesti and Piatra Craiului, stop here first on the next vacation). Also in 2016 The National Park opened a visitor Center which is a museum and also a good info center too for tourists. We reccommend to visit this!
Also we do have a travel site for Zarnesti-Piatra Craiului area, where you can also find downloadable hiking maps, visit us on http://www.visitzarnesti.ro.
Such a pitty you stayed indoor after the hike, yes it was a hard one for beginners, instead you should visited the uniq Bears Reservation inZarnesti( is the largest bear reservation in Europe, it helds more than 100 bears).
Maybe next time;)
I stumbled across your blog and I saw your post, actually I am a romanian and I did the trail you did. The Piatra Craiului Mountains are very hard to hike, are trails are like that, involving a lot of climbing. But in the future maybe ask a local about hiking spots 😁 and check other mountains like Bucegi or the highest peak in Romania, Moldoveanu. 😄
What time of year was this?
This was in May
Got some great pictures