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Carpathian Walking & Bears

from $1,549.00

Explore Romania’s majestic mountains and rustic villages looking for Brown bears

  • Reviews 10 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Guided
  • Activity Level Leisurely / Moderate
  • Group Size Small Group
    4 - 16
All about the Carpathian Walking & Bears.

History and geography conspired to make Transylvania in central Romania one of Europe’s most beautifully wild and fascinating regions. For centuries the locals have existed in harmony with a variety of wildlife, including Europe’s highest concentration of wolves, lynx and bears – almost half the European population of Brown bears is recorded in the Carpathian Mountains. Meanwhile, dense forests have remained largely untouched. Our days are spent on walks through spectacular canyons, virgin forests and Saxon villages. We go in search of Brown bears and explore the mediaeval town of Brasov as well as Bran castle, best known as the residence of Count Dracula.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

* All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 dinners
* 7 nights accommodation at the Villa Hermani Guesthouse
* Airport Transfers (at designated times)

Tour leader throughout. Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs

What is not included in this tour?
  • Flights
  • Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)

Highlights

  • See Brown bears from a hide
  • Discover one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Europe
  • Have a unique opportunity to observe a great variety of wildlife in its natural environment
  • Hike through meadows, forests and along mountain trails
  • Stay in comfortable private guesthouse providing an authentic Carpathian experience and a very warm welcome
  1. Day 1 Start Bucharest; transfer to Magura in the Carpathian Mountains

    The start hotel is approximately 165km from the airport and will take around three hours to reach by road. Therefore, we highly recommend you wait for the group at the airport and join the group transfer.On arrival of the group flight at Bucharest Airport we are transferred by minibus to our private guesthouse at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. Food and refreshments will be served during the transfer. Our guesthouse is situated in the quaint village of Magura at 1020m and within the boundaries of the Piatra Craiului National Park.*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  2. Day 2 Daywalk visiting Kalibash villages and bat cave.

    After breakfast we spend the day walking around the area surrounding the unique Kalibash villages of Magura and Pestera, where the houses are built along the mountain ridges with deep ravines and valleys in between. We visit these traditional houses and learn about the history of the settlements, which were built against the mediaeval invasions of Mongols, Tartars and Turks. Near Pestera we visit a bat cave, home to five separate species of bats (though not found year-round). Make sure to bring a good torch with you!  *Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  3. Day 3 Horse-drawn cart and hike in Barza Valley; optional evening Brown bear watching.

    Today we travel the traditional way as horse-drawn carts take us into Barza Valley, a long valley stretching along the Barsa River. As we make our way slowly through the valley we can enjoy the spectacular view to Piatra Craiului Mountain and the dispersed settlement of Poiana Marului. We leave the horse-drawn carts and hike through the hay meadows uphill to a hermitage in the rocks where we have lunch and enjoy the tea made by monks from herbs picked in the meadows.This evening, those who want can take the opportunity to go Brown bear watching. A forester will take us to a safe hide deep in the forest. The hides are managed by the forestry commission and access is dependent on their permission which is why it is organised and paid for locally. Not being able to get access to the hides is extremely rare.*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  4. Day 4 Hike through alpine pastures to Coja and Pestera

    Setting off from Magura, we hike up to the alpine pastures. From here we can see the 25km ridge of Piatra Craiului as we enjoy the calm of the area. The silence is broken only by the bells of cows and sheep that are brought to these high pastures in summer to graze. We return to Magura in the afternoon.*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  5. Day 5 Walk along a high alpine trail.

    Today we explore the second biggest mountain in the region, Bucegi. After driving to Busteni we take a cable car up to Babele (which means ‘the old woman’) at 2,216m. Nearby, an odd rock formation has been named ‘The Sphinx’ due to its resemblance to the Egyptian monument. From here we start our high alpine trail heading for Omu, the highest peak of the Bucegi Massif at 2,505m, and enjoy breathtaking vistas as well as a large variety of alpine flowers en route.We have lunch at Cabana Omu before returning to Babele along a different trail.Please note that at times the cable car may be closed due to high winds and the road may be closed. In this case, we will hike along an alternative high alpine trail in the region.*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  6. Day 6 Visit Dracula's Castle and Brasov; observe local birdlife.

    Today we uncover Transylvanian culture at its best!After breakfast we drive to Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle. This impressive fortress was built on the border to Wallachia where Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad the Impaler), the Duke of Wallachia, once ruled. Vlad, also known as Dracula, was a brutal tyrant and provided inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous vampire story. Vlad himself never went to Bran Castle, but Bram Stoker saw an image of it and felt it was the perfect setting for his gothic tale.After Transylvania had become part of Romania in 1920, the castle was donated to the Romanian royal family. It became the summer residence of Queen Maria, a granddaughter to Queen Victoria. From Bran Castle, it is less than an hour’s drive to the region’s culture and economic heart, Brasov. This mediaeval town has been a melting pot of nations ever since its foundation in the 12th century. We have a guided tour of the town before having some time to explore at leisure. In the late afternoon, we join staff from the Brasov University as they take us to a lake area just outside of town to discover some of the local birdlife.In the evening we visit a traditional Romanian restaurant in Brasov for dinner (at own expense).*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  7. Day 7 Visit Brown bear sanctuary; hike to Vulcan.

    We head down to the valley and visit Libearty, Europe’s largest Brown bear sanctuary. Set in 70 hectares of oak and hazel forests, the sanctuary is home to nearly 100 rescued bears, many of whom suffered over years in captivity as dancing bears or in circuses. From the Brown bear sanctuary, we go on a gentle hike across meadows to the village of Vulcan. This region, around Brasov, is closely related to the history of the Transylvanian Saxons, settlers who emigrated 800 years ago from the Rhine‐Moselle valleys. Their strong fortified churches have attracted international attention and some of them are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Vulcan derives its name from the Slavonic word ’valc’, meaning wolf. In Vulcan we will be welcomed with coffee and tea in the yard of the fortified church. The churches in Transylvania were strongly fortified during the Middle Ages when the region was raided a number of times by Mongols and Tartars.*Villa Hermani Guesthouse*

  8. Day 8 To Bucharest Airport; end

    Transfer to Bucharest airport. The trip ends upon arrival at Bucharest Airport for land only clients.

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Where you stay

Guesthouse

We will spend 7 nights in the comfortable private guesthouse, Villa Hermani that offers twin and single rooms.

Villa Hermani is situated in the remote and beautiful village of Magura at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, located within the boundaries of the Piatra Craiului National Park. Our friendly hosts at the Villa Hermani possess a wealth of knowledge on Transylvania, wildlife conservation and serve delicious homemade food.

Almost all rooms have private facilities but some do have shared bathrooms. In such cases, however, there are never more than two rooms sharing one bathroom.

There is Wi-Fi available at the guesthouse. However, due to the weak internet lines in this remote location and the need to go via satellite which is provided by an external provider, the hosts of the guesthouse kindly request guests to pay a small fee of €5 for 750MB which should be enough for a week with checking emails.

Single supplements are available on request.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 dinners are included during our stay.

Meals are a mixture of fresh local produce and Romanian/Transylvanian specialities.

Transylvanian cuisine contains different dishes and is influenced by several traditions and cultures (German, Hungarian and Romanian cuisine) but still maintains its own distinct character with a love for homemade cooking. Soups are a staple and much loved dish, main meals tend to be hearty with a strong focus on local produce and desserts are varied and plentiful.

Breakfasts usually consist of a small buffet including an egg dish, cold cuts, cheeses, boiled eggs, vegetables, spreads, bread, yoghurt, cereals, jam, juice, herbal teas and coffee.

Lunches included on this trip will usually consist of self-made sandwiches, and you can choose your own fillings from the buffet in the mornings.

Each evening there is a choice of a meat dish or vegetarian option. Dinner on the first evening is typically a light snack due to the late arrival of the group.

On one evening we enjoy dinner in a typical Romanian restaurant in Brasov. This meal is not included and you should allow approximately 25EUR (without drinks) for this.

Vegetarian and special diets can be catered for, but options can be limited throughout Romania –please inform the office of any specific requirements upon booking.

The trip is Activity level 2 (leisurely/moderate) and has a safari rating of 3.

Walking times will vary from half to full days walking. There are numerous uphill sections on paths and tracks and distances walked are up to 20km with optional longer walks sometimes available. The trip goes up to altitudes of 2505m from its starting point at 750m, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. The exact trails, lengths and difficulties may be adapted dependent on local weather and trail conditions and fitness of the group.
Please be advised that the chances of seeing Brown bears from the hides are good and in the past groups have seen wolves, beavers and other wildlife too. Our leaders are knowledgeable about the local wildlife but like with all wildlife viewing, a large part is down to chance and we cannot make any guarantees.

The itinerary may be followed in a different order due to various reasons such as weather and local conditions, but we will still do all of these activities even if on different days.

Overall Rating
5/5
Reviewed On 12/12/2019
5/5

What does this mean?

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Can't think of anything in particular
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent - very easy going manner with a wealth of historical knowledge

Reviewed On 12/12/2019
5/5

Carpathian Mountains a revelation

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the longest days walk through the forest and a lovely gorge where we saw wild chamoix.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was a great leader, very knowledgeable about the complex Romanian history ( especially military strategy) and the local flora and fauna. His English is excellent and he was very helpful as well as entertaining,
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You might want to take a travel kettle if you want a coffee in the evening as it was only available at breakfast. Flasks of hot water are left out for you to make tea etc which was great but the water was not really hot enough by 5ish. There is an honesty bar, the beer is really cheap and all the Romanian wines were worth trying.

Reviewed On 12/12/2019
5/5

Picturesque places, lush landscape and beautiful bears.

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the bears in the wild from our bear hide and seeing how they play, eat and look out for each other. Also the visit to sanctuary was interesting, but sad to hear how those bears had been treat in their earlier years before being rescued from their previous owners. I also enjoyed the long walk along the canyon and the visit to Dracula's castle.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly and always had an answer for every question asked. He also made sure every one's needs were catered for. He also knows the area very well. His assistant Sebi was also helpful and friendly and knows the area well too.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have a good pair of walking boots, plenty of water and waterproof gear.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hosts at the lodge were very friendly and approachable, making everyone's stay comfortable and making everyone feel at home. They also catered for vegetarians and always accommodated every one's requirements, no matter how big or small.

Reviewed On 12/12/2019
5/5

Transylvanian experience and hospitality at its finest

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The visit to the Libearty sanctuary, learning of the history and great work they do to return these wild creatures to a semblance of a wild existence they deserve. The story of Maya was very sobering and I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one to shed a tear. Seeing these bears' behaviour compared to the real wild bears from the hide was quite a contrast. I was also pleased to see they had some wolves at the sanctuary - dogs did bark for a short while in the late evening around Magura but the second night I heard distant howling and I want to believe that was some of the wild wolves! Also the bear hide is a must, we spent a good couple of hours viewing well over a dozen bears plus four cubs.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was a gentleman guide. Literally. Modest, engaging, and genuine. Wealth of knowledge about the history and culture of Transylvania, interested in the experiences and thoughts of the folks in the tour group and always willing to assist. An excellent leader in which you are in no better hands.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Because of the mountainous nature of the region it is hard to gauge the weather more than a couple of hours out and rain can start and stop fairly quickly on a cloudy day. I note from a previous review that they thought the horse cart ride should have been cancelled because it was a rainy day, but in our case it was raining up to when we got to the carts and then it stopped raining. When we finished the ride, the rain started again! The cart ride was a highlight for me and I would have enjoyed it even if it continued raining. I would also say bring more than two pairs of shoes as it does take a couple of days to dry a pair after a rainy day. And yes bring cash to cover the extras (bear hide was 210 lei and wifi access about 25 lei).
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Roll with it and find enjoyment in things that are small or simple. Don't worry too much about getting wet, possible familiarity or monotony or the basic nature of some amenities. One review stated Bucegi mountain was like Dartmore; I've never been there but I reckon it's not 2500m altitude with a gorgeous view of a Transylvanian valley. The simplest things were often the best moments: a yellow spotted salamander in the rain; barley for breakfast; a deer darting in the distance; a vivid pink wildflower; the sharpening of a scythe; a fluffy puppy; a large parasol mushroom ripe for harvest; a herd of donkeys approach while bird watching; drinks at the local "bar" on the side of a meadow hill with Benno the dog watching over us. Brilliant.

Reviewed On 11/11/2019
5/5

An outstanding holiday

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking up to high mountain meadows and then through virgin Transylvanian forest with the trees dusted with snow and sparkling in the sunlight.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas is an outstanding Leader for local knowledge and insights, great organisation and leadership and empathy for the group. First class English Up there with the best Exodus Leaders
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This holiday is a real mix of activities so wouldn't suit "hard core" walkers. Most walks were fairly easy but a degree of fitness needed to get up to high levels and enjoy outstanding views
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This holiday gives a great insight into the real heart of Transylvania and Romanian history and visits a really beautiful unspoilt area. Get there soon in case it changes

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