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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 11/11/2019
4/5

Ramblings in Romania (with bears!)

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Magura itself! Such a beautiful setting, particulary with the Autumn foliage lighting up the surrounding hills. The bear sanctuary was very thought-provoking and it was inspirational to see the passion felt by Katerina and the others involved in the project. Having lunch in the local 'pub' in Pestera with a few bewildered, smiling locals who watched in amazement as 16 very wet and bedraggled hikers walked in!
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was excellent: very knowledgeable and good humoured. He was also very patient when dealing with the differing levels of walking abilities within the group. His organisation was excellent and he changed the itinerary around when needed to ensure we could enjoy most of the activities during the better weather days. Special mention too to Theo who ably assisted Thomas during the week, and was very friendly and helpful. Sebastian, who guided us on the first couple of days, was also an excellent leader.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for changeable weather! We had everything from cold (with light snow on the mountains) and wet to sunny and warm. Sandwiches are made up from the breakfast buffet, but bring any other snacks with you if needed as these are not provided at the hotel. ATM machines are available at the airport (although a charge is incurred) and we were given the opportunity to use them before we left the terminal. Excluding the bear hide, which we paid in Euros, we spent about £100 in local currency for 2 of us over the week, which included the meal out, a few souvenirs, tips and drinks at the hotel (although the latter can also be paid in Euros). Hairdryers are available in the rooms, despite checking with Exodus and being advised that I needed to take my own! Tap water was perfectly potable (no ill effects felt by anyone in our party as far as I know!), so bring refillable bottles as advised by Exodus. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of time travelling in the vans and be prepared for crowds at Bran Castle!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We found Villa Hermani very comfortable, with friendly and helpful staff. The food at the hotel was enjoyable and varied, although not always piping hot (particularly the soup). The bread was a bit stodgy and was not to everyone's liking, particularly for making sandwiches. We were also a bit disappointed there was a charge for teas and coffees (apart from breakfast time). We think it might be useful if the hotel sold some juice drinks or similar for the walks as a change from plain water. The seating arrangements in the bear hide were not ideal for such a big group. The front row of seats only had space for 5-6 people and these were the people who obviously had the best view and were able to take good photos. People in the second and third rows of seats had restricted views and this was very disappointing for many. On a positive note, we did see a lot of bears! In my opinion, the walk on Postavarul Mountain was not worthwhile. It was quite a long drive to get there and the walk itself was not particularly inspiring. I would have much preferred another local walk around the Magura or the nearby National Park which are far more attractive areas.

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

Reviewed On 07/10/2019
5/5

A vegan in Romania

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing wild bears from the bear hide. It is great that the forests are being kept wild and are protected. Every thing else was also great. The visit to the bear sanctuary was very emotional.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas had a great love for the area and he was able to share this with us. He was well organised.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There is no need to take any local currency as the hotel keeps a drinks list. There is no shops nearby. You then change money in Brasov you don't need much, less than £100. May be useful to take Euros and to borrow a small amount if you want to buy some souvenirs in Bran. Take some snack bars etc for the walks. You make up a good lunch from the breakfast table. A walking pole is useful for some steep down hills.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We are vegans and were a bit worried about the food. The hotel catered well, with a different meal every night. The portions were good and very flavoursome. There was a good variety of non dairy milks. You make the lunch from the breakfast table which had 3 different spreads eg homemade Houmas & Beetroot pate. We took our own snack bars & nuts as well. The Romanian restaurant didn't have much choice, we just had chips, salad & sautéed veg, which was cheap & we were glad of a lighter meal so was ok. Brasov has a vegan café with raw cheesecakes. Our hotel room had a balcony with an amazing view of the mountains.

Reviewed On 07/10/2019
5/5

Great holiday

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The highlight for me was definitely watching the bears in the wild, it is worth every penny, we were fortunate enough to see 8 adult bears and 2 cubs, I could have watched them all night.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Could not fault our group leader Sebi he was excellent - attentive, knowledgeable and extremely professional. He saw to it that everything ran very smoothly and he looked after everyone in the group equally very well (we had a full group of 16 people) he was quietly passionate about Romania and it’s wildlife and had a lovely sense of humour. On several days he was assisted by Radetch a guide in training who was equally delightful.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip to the bear Hyde is a must, take some binoculars.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We were very happy to have travelled with a group of really lovely people. Everyone got along very well, we had lots of laughs, many happy memories made.

Reviewed On 20/09/2019
5/5

Beauty, as to be found nowhere else.

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When I managed to make it to the top of the mountain on the long hike without collapsing :-). Seeing Bran castle. Sitting up at the monastery, looking at the mountains with the sun behind them. The views of the scenery during our lunch breaks in various locations. Being on top of the mountains and looking down at the clouds.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the natural environment of Romania and its history. He also has a great sense of humour that kept us entertained. With his experience as a leader and training in the army, I definitely felt safe and in capable hands. And he was unexpectedly charming.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Try to remain as healthy as possible the week before this trip. I came down with a 24 hour stomach virus 2 days before the trip and it made the first few days difficult as I was still weakened. Also, walking poles are your friends. Definitely learn how to use a pair before you begin.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No.

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