[Romania] Camping and caves in the Apuseni Mountains
For this year’s 1st of June (International Children’s Day) we were looking for a new opportunity to spend some quality family time outdoors with our daughter and a camping trip seemed about right. We combined it with exploring some caves in the Apuseni Mountains and with having some friends with us and it turned out to be quite a nice experience.
We are constantly looking to spend as much time outdoors with Nina, away from the city noise, but closer to nature, allowing her to explore surroundings, observe plants, mushrooms and animals, play in mountain rivers and sleep in a tent. Her curiosity is growing and days in the wild are always very well received. If we also include some play friends, it gets even more exciting.
For the 1st of June, we spent three days in the Apuseni Mountains National Park and, besides spending the nights and afternoons in and around a tent, we also visited some of the many caves that this region has. The Apuseni Nature Park (Parcul Natural Apuseni) – known as the cavers’ paradise, protects one of the most interesting cave fauna in Romania. Traces of prehistoric man, as well as fossils of animals that lived in the Ice Age, were found in several of the caves, along with rare bat populations. Out of the 200 caves already discovered by speleologists, only a dozen of them are open for visits to the wide public. Only a dozen, but still fascinating, each unique in its own way.
We chose caves because our daughter is more and more curious about nature around her and because caves have somehow a mystical feeling, letting her imagination run free and turning into reality what she has read in books and seen in animations.
We’ve been to the Apuseni Mountains some 10 years ago on a long and extensive trip, but this time we took things slower, following our daughter’s pace, making sure that the trip is enjoyable and not tiring.
Day 1 – from Sibiu to Scărișoara Glacier Cave
We left Sibiu in the morning and in about 3 hours and a half we arrived at the parking place close to the Scărișoara Glacier Cave. From there it’s a 10 – 15 minute walk on a path through the forest until reaching the entrance of the cave.
Hosting a 3,500-year-old glacier, Scărișoara is the world’s second-largest underground glacier, after the Eisriesenwelt ice cave in Austria. 105 m deep and 720 m long, the cave is divided into five areas: The Big Hall, The Church, comprising over 100 stalagmites, Great Reservation, Coman Gallery, and Little Reservation, but tourists have access only to the entrance shaft, The Big Hall and The Church, the other locations being reserved only for scientists. To reach the glacier, you have to follow a path of stairs going down. With the temperature inside the cave reaching a maximum +1°C in the summer, it’s better to have some warm clothes with you while visiting.
The visit doesn’t last more than 15 – 20 minutes, but for a child with a growing curiosity, it’s quite impressive to learn about and see in front of her eyes that a big block of ice exists and has not melted since the prehistoric age.
Quite close by you will also find Poarta lui Ionele Cave, but when we stopped by it was closed and the guide was not to be found. There’s a phone number you can call, but it might be that no one answers. Still, it’s worth trying as Poarta lui Ionele cave hosts one of the biggest bat colonies in Romania.
For us, after visiting Scărișoara Glacier Cave, it was the end of the journey for the day and we made camp a few kilometres further, at Camping La Danut. Enough room for setting the tents, plus kitchen, bathroom and all needed facilities. Extra, a river that the kids happily explored and a large playground.
Day 2 – Peștera Urșilor (Bears Cave)
Known as one of the most spectacular caves in Romania, Peștera Urșilor got its name from the cavern bears fossils found inside, the place being used by animals as a shelter some 15 000 years ago. Besides that, the cave is full of stalagmites and stalactites, in various shapes and sizes, allowing adults, but especially kids to play with their imagination and figure out what each rock formation represents. For our daughter it was quite fun to discover such a cave and see what nature is capable of creating even underground.
After visiting the cave, we found a nice camping place with no one around, set camp, started a fire and enjoyed some baked potatoes and fried lard while the kids played around in the river.
Day 3 – Farcu Crystals Cave and Meziad Cave
For our last day of the trip, we had 2 more caves in plan before heading back to Sibiu. The first one is quite a unique and special one and it’s probably one that the kids liked the most. Farcu Crystals Cave is quite a small one, but you will get the chance to see crystals growing on the walls, having different shapes and sizes. For kids, it’s quite spectacular to see that crystals actually grow naturally underground and that humans don’t interfere in the process.
The last cave we visited was the Meziad Cave. Meziad Cave is one of the largest caves in Romania discovered so far, with a length of about 6 kilometres out of which about 1 kilometre is open for visiting and a maximum height of 89 meters.
The Meziad cave has the status of a natural reservation, due to the richness and diversity of the cave formations, as well as the presence of a rich cave fauna (one of the largest bat colonies in Romania). In addition to the deposit of bones that belonged to the cave bear, discovered in the Hall of Bones, in the Meziad Cave were also identified traces of the existence of prehistoric man. The best known of these is the skull of a young man who is supposed to have been sacrificed in a ritual ceremony.