Back to the Buila-Vânturarița National Park for the third time in the last years, this time with a quite heavy backpack and on a quite long and not so easy trail.
Buila-Vânturariţa is the smallest national park in Romania, with a total area 4186 ha, located in the Vâlcea County (south-western part of Romania), in the southern corner of Căpăţânii Mountains (the Meridional Carpathians), lying on the territory of the Costeşti and Bărbăteşti villages and of the Băile Olăneşti city.
The Park comprises the linear limestone ridge of the Buila-Vânturariţa Massive, 14 km long. It lies from the western corner of the Bistriţa Gorges to the eastern side of the Olăneşti Gorges (Folea), and it is dominated by the two peaks from whom the massive took its name: The Buila Peak (1849 m) and the Vânturariţa Mare Peak (1885 m).
The Massive has the specific characteristics of the karstic landforms, with many exokarstic shapes (gorges, limestone slopes) and endokarstic (caves and pitches).
Due to its isolated nature and difficult access, there are many entirely preserved elements of the natural patrimony: natural habitats, virgin forests, numerous protected species of flora and fauna, mineralogical and paleonthological sites and caves.
Elements of extra attractiveness and added value of the Park are the cultural-historical monuments on its territory or in its vicinity: the Monasteries (Arnota, Bistriţa, Horezu, Frăsinei) the Hermitages (Pătrunsa, Pahomie, Iezer, Bradu, Jgheaburi), the churches of the former hermitages (44 Izvoare, Păpuşa, Peri), the small church Ovidenia in the Bats’ Cave and the churches of the nearby villages. Last but not least, there are the traditions, customs and the specific architecture of the villages down the mountain in the Oltenia region.
Due to its difficult access and quite difficult trails, not too many people wonder further than the Hermitages. But once you decide to venture on the marked paths of this park, you will for sure feel exhausted from time to time, but also amazed of all the natural beauty around.
Beginning of August, on a weekend with a perfect weather, we filled our backpacks with our camping equipment, water and food and headed towards the park in an attempt to get to its two highest peaks – Buila and Vânturarița Mare, with planning to camp for the night in the Buila Saddle.
Our trip started from outside the Bărbătești Village following the red cross path up to a quite steep forest towards the Pahomie Hermitage. Although it says it’s an one hour trip, it took us a bit more, considering the heavy backpack and, of course, all the beauty around that had to be photographed and admired.
After having a break next to the hermitage and getting some fresh water (the place can also be visited, for those curious to see how solitary monks live remote in this area), we continued our ascent towards the Buila Saddle, following the yellow circle path. This is when the heavy part of the trip started, as it’s not an easy ascent and for about 3 hours there’s nowhere you can go but up. Having a full backpack to carry will also push your limits a bit, especially if it’s a sunny summer day, with the sun burning.
Still, the view is spectacular, to say the least and it easily compensates for all the effort.
We managed to get to the Buila Saddle somewhere in the afternoon, left our backpacks there, had a quick snack and rested for half an hour and, although a bit tired, we convinced ourselves to get back on our feet and get moving for an extra two hours to also get to the two highest peaks of the Park. In the saddle there’s also a shelter open for hikers, so if you’re not up to carry a tent up there, there’s also the option to sleep inside the shelter.
Otherwise it would have been a pity, considering the perfect weather, blue sky, fluffy clouds and warm temperatures. The view was very rewarding as expected and not having to carry our backpacks for this part of the trip made things much easier.
Going to the Buila and Vânturarița Mare peaks its an about two hours return trip from the Buila Saddle, following the main ridge path, the red line. We were back just in time to catch the sunset, enjoy dinner by the tent and finally have a well deserved sleep.
Not before spending some time with the young shepherd talking about his sheep, about bears that keep attacking the sheepfold, about the beauty and hard parts of being up in the mountains for 6 months a year.
Right after we got ourselves in the comfortable and warm sleeping bags, a heavy wind started blowing, one that continued blowing in full power all night long. Not the ideal situation, but being inside the tent was not that bad in the end.
The next morning we woke up, again with the heavy wind blowing from all directions. We had breakfast, went to get some water from a natural spring nearby (there is one 15 minutes walk from the Saddle, following the same yellow circle path in the direction of the Costești valley), packed all our stuff and started our descent back to the Bărbătești village, where we had left our car the day before.
Going downwards was of course easier, but from the Saddle to the Hermitage the path is not very well marked so we constantly had to keep searching for the painted marks. We were in no hurry, once we left the saddle, the wind also stopped, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our trip back.
Here is a good online map for the Buila – Vânturarița Park.