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Autumn was fast approaching, Brasov had its first sprinkling of snow, the trees were turning from lush green to that orangey-browny colour, it was freezing cold and I still had the Ciucas mountains and the bears to visit before we left Romania in search of the Bulgarian coast.
The Ciucas Mountains
These strangely shaped mountains are called Ciucas which is pronounced ‘Choo-Cas’ and they’re part of the Curvature Carpathian mountains in stunning Romania.
This was the second time we visited Romania and it was the second time that we were flattered by its absolute rugged and natural beauty.
These mountains, which are just located outside the very old town of Brasov, are best-known for their unusual and iconic karst formations (weird shapes) that make them one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Romanian region.
Not a lot of info about the Ciucas Mountains
Whilst I was trying to research the mountains, I could not find anything written on them that was either in English or when translated made any sense. I really should learn Romanian given that my sister-in-law and niece are from this beautiful country.
I couldn’t find or download any maps and I had no idea what the trails were like (I’ve since found a small amount more info). I managed to find a phone app (called Muntii Nostri) but then it turned out the Ciucas mountains were not detailed. The app is actually pretty good and does detail some local walks but not what I wanted. If you’re going to Romania, I’d recommend downloading that App which translates to ‘Our Mountains’.
It wasn’t boding well until Rich suggested we find someone to hike with us and I started looking for a tour group.
We found a tour agency but…
I found a couple of tour agencies but they left directly from Bucharest, about 2 1/2 hours away from us in Sacele – a small town outside Brasov.
In the end we managed to find a more local agency who were very polite and efficient and we paid promptly through Paypal.
Now, I’m not going to share the agency because the guide they used was surly and non-communicative and he made our hike really miserable. He pretty much refused to talk to us, he hiked very quickly, leaving us behind and he gave us no verbal guide as to the names of the mountain shapes – which is something I wanted to do with the kids to keep them interested. As a result we were all a bit unhappy and morale was very low.
This is a real shame because the mountains are beautiful and we could have had a lot of fun here! YOU could have a lot of fun here and it would be an awesome location for a holiday.
Most of the Ciucas mountains hikes are also particularly easy and you do not need a guide. The most difficult part of the hike was the walk up to the ski-lodge lol. In fact if you stop in at the lodge on the way up, you can pick up a map and do all the hikes yourself.
Hiking the Ciucas Mountains yourself
There is not much information online on the mountains BUT apparently, you can choose from twelve different hiking trails in total and most trails start from the mountain resort of Cheia – although we started near the Ciucas Cabana Varful Chalet (https://www.cabana-varful-ciucas.ro/).
Detailed hiking trails can be found here but they’re only available in Romanian. See below if you want further info on different hikes.
How to get there
The map below details how to find the Ciucas Cabana Ski Lodge by driving through Cheia. Click the points for where to turn off and park.
Hiking routes in the Ciucas Mountains
Here are some of the other routes I’ve since come across for hiking in these mountains:
- Cheia resort – The Valley of the Beer – Ciucas Chalet (3h- 3½h, medium difficulty). The route goes through the fountain Nicolae Ioan.
- Ciucas Chalet – Ciucas Peak – The Pans’ Saddle – Ciucas Chalet (2½h– 3h, low difficulty). A total height of 350m through rocks until reaching the base of the Pans. From the Ciucas Peak, the landscape opens even more where you can see The Philanderer’s Stone, Tarcau and Nemira.
- Ciucas Chalet – Gropsoarele Saddle – The Sheepfold’s Saddleback – The Thief’s Spring – Ciucas Chalet(3h- 3½h, low difficulty). This trail is relatively easy, with steeper slopes in some parts, on the crest and paths, until Gropsoarele Saddle. Descend into Sheepfold’s Valley, then climb through meadows and clusters of forest until the crest Tof he Milk’s Rock, from which you may observe the peaks Ciucas and the Big Pans.
- Ciucas Chalet – The Pans’ Saddle – Babarnuca Valley – Babarnuca Chalet (3½h – 4h, medium difficulty). Babarnuca’s Valley constitutes an inviting place with a great view over the heart of the mountain.
- The route Cheia resort – The Crest of the Buzaian – Zaganul – Gropsoarele – The Rocky Crest – Ciucas Chalet (6-8h, medium difficulty). A varied hike which requires a sense of orientation on the mountain and good physical condition.
We left Sacele before the sun was up
I’m not sure why we had to start ridiculously early but we left before the sun was even up.
We were staying 15km outside Brasov in a lovely town called Sacele. Our rental was snug and warm with the heating on and it was a hard slog to get of bed whilst it was still dark!
Where to start this hike from?
We started from just outside Cheia – see the map above for the exact locations.
Parking is by the side of the road and seemed perfectly safe. A few hikers had obviously done the same although the mountain was virtually deserted and we only met one other man hiking.
Arriving at the Ciucas Cabana Hut
The climb up to the Ciucas Hut is a bit arduous and very steep. It’s actually in part a layered concrete road and part dirt track but there’s no way our crappy rental car was getting up there so hike it up we had to do!
We always rent the cheapest accommodation and the cheapest car hire because it gives us more money to spend in the local community.
The walking tracks
The walking tracks are very well worn and there’s no doubt as to where to go. There are even signposts and marks on the rocks to guide you.
Mostly the tracks are not too steep and are of easy ability, there is just one section of up hill rock clambering to do which requires a small amount of exertion that anybody of average fitness could manage.
The Ciucas Peak is 1954m in altitude but in Autumn it is incredibly blustery up there. There is nothing to protect the peak from the wind which swirls and gusts around your head.
The strange rocks of the Ciucas mountains
The highlight of the day included the bizarre rock formations, which all have names, and trying to work out which was which. Not all are as obvious as you’d think they are.
Some of their names include: The Pigeon, The Tower of Goliath, The Elephant, Old women talking, The Dove Head and Devil’s Hand.
We didn’t get to see all of them but here are a few…
The Cabana on the Mountainside
The cabana had a roaring and comforting log fire inside when we visited and although there wasn’t much vegan food on the menu we did manage some filling bowls of soup and a few portions of chips. It was so cold up on that mountain that we felt we should treat the kids.
Alternatively they offer a vast selection of teas and coffees and you can even stay in their B&B rooms (see link above). It has pleasant and serene views over the mountains and the peace and quiet would be welcome.
Dwarfed by the trees
Up on the top of the mountain was finger-numbingly cold, so we were glad to make our way down the hill to the car.
In our opinion Romania should be re-named ‘Land of the Huge Trees‘ because the amount of forests and trees that dwarf you are numerous and spectacular. In Autumn as they start to change colour they look fantastic and as the sun sets, it looks like they’re glowing with energy.
If you haven’t considered a holiday to Romania, you really should. It has some incredibly pretty villages and some of the spookiest castles in Europe. You can even visit a castle that is said to have influenced the films of Dracula.
A Short Video of us hiking
A short video of our very windy hike in the Ciucas Mountains.
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