Retezat Mountains – the most beautiful mountains in Romania

The Retezat Mountains are one of the most beautiful mountains in Romania. Here you can find spectacular scenery, glacial lakes and extraordinary people. This trip impressed us deeply and it remains one of our favourite trips until today. We stayed for 4 days with our base camp at Gențiana cottage. We did 2 tracks: on Peleaga peak (2509 m) and Tăul dintre brazi (1730 m).

Brief useful information:

Date: September 2011
Accommodation: Gențiana cottage (1670 m), reservations: Jantu Marin (tel: 0721 331 125), Gianga Gicu (tel: 0728 028 409), Crișan Petru (tel: 0737 671 778), Pricing: 25 RON/pers (attic), 30 RON/pers (ground floor)
 
Day 1: 
– by car: Timișoara – Caransebeș – Hațeg – Ohaba de sub Piatră – Nucșoara – Cârnic

– trail:+Cârnic – Cabana Gențiana (3.5 h, medium, short sections of steep slope)
Day 2:  
Gențiana cottage – Pietrele lake – Șaua Bucurei (2 h, medium)
Șaua Bucurei – Bucura II peak (2372m) – Peleaga peak (2509m) (2 h, medium)
 
Day 3:
++Gențiana cottage (1680m) – Tăul dintre Brazi (1730m) (2 h, medium)
 
The road towards Retezat mountain

We came through the town of Hațeg. On DN 66/ E79 highway, in Ohaba de sub Piatră, look for the indicator towards Nucșoara. You have asphalt until Nucșoara and it’s very good. From Nucșoara until Cârnic you’ll go on a dirt road and it’s pretty OK. You have only a few sections where you need to be careful.

Cârnic

Once we reached Cârnic, a very small village (no more than 20 houses I think), you can leave your car in a private parking lot which you’ll have to pay. It’s not much, I don’t exactly remember the amount. Also you can buy maps of the mountains and food from the same place. We went through a funny moment when I tried to telephone my parents that we arrived OK and we’re continuing on foot. I couldn’t get any signal and the lady who owns the place showed me a spot where I could receive some signal. It was very funny because there was grass everywhere only this single spot half a meter in diameter was only dirt. So that told me it was heavily used to make phone calls :))

reddish boulders in the valley. iron rich waters
Pietrele creek
As I was saying, after you leave your car in Cârnic you continue on foot on a forest road until Pietrele Guest House. We left this forest road before reaching the guest house because we arranged accommodation at Gențiana cottage for the next 3 nights. So we left the forest road and went on a trail signposted with. This is a shortcut which leads directly to Gențiana Cottage. You can also go to Pietrele and then to Gențiana but you’ll lose about 30 minutes.

The first part of this trail is pretty steep and we have to climb even using our hands in some parts. Don’t worry, it’s not technically difficult but it does take some energy to do it 🙂 Especially because you have your heavy backpack filled with things that you’ll need in the next 4 days. At least the scenery is wonderful and the trail goes through the woods and there’s no direct sunlight. The forest is very beautiful, full of spruce, and the Pietrele creek is always on our left side and there are boulders all over and it forms small waterfalls. It’s really wonderful.

the trail towards Gențiana
waterfalls on Pietrele creek
many boulders in Pietrele creek
moss is omnipresent on the trail towards Gențiana

So, having this wonderful background we go forward until we reach a trail fork between the trails signposted with&. Here you have a bench on which to rest and put you backpacks down for a moment to stretch your back after a tedious climb. To the left, signposted with, you head to Gențiana (about 30 minuted from here) and to the right, signposted with, you can go to Pietrele Cottage (about 15 minutes). After a well earned break we continue the climb to Gențiana jumping from boulder to boulder 🙂 We’re getting really close now to our base camp.

last bit of climbing to Gențiana

After a climb, that we thought was never ending, we reached Gențiana Cottage (1670 m), out of energy, sweaty clothes and dehydrated. So it’s no surprise that we jumped on the first bench we saw in front of the cottage. Gențiana Cottage was actually a refuge that got upgraded recently and it’s the best place you can stay for going on trails in the Retezat Mountains. It’s somehow in the centre of all possible trails so you’re never at an extremity of a given trail. You have a clean bed, heating and the best tea money can buy! What else do you need after a full day on trails?
 
We slept on the ground floor, not the attic. It’s better if you sleep here because there is more space. There are 18 beds. Every bed has a number on it and your bed’s number corresponds with the number on a locker you are assigned in the dinning room, just outside this large bedroom. So you also get a locker where you can safely keep your things. It’s no luxury here but there are decent and civilised conditions in my opinion. Every evening tourists gather in the large dinning room and share food, stories and laughs 🙂 It’s a very friendly and pleasant atmosphere here.

Gențiana cottage
Gențiana cottage
Gențiana cottage
Gențiana cottage
 
Day 1: Peleaga peak (2509 m)

Getting up early in the morning fits a true mountaineer so we complied and we were off to Peleaga Peak on trail signposted withI almost forgot to tell you that before we went on the trail we wanted to wash our teeth of course, like we do every morning. But we concluded that it’s a bit tricky out here. You have to go in the back of the cottage and find an appliance pipe which captures Pietrele creek and brings fresh water to the cabin. Nothing really unusual until now. The fun part starts when you try to wash with that water because it’s freezing cold, unbearably cold. That was the fastest tooth brushing I’ve ever done :))

trail from Gențiana to Peleaga
the trail goes through juniper trees until Pietrele lake

The first part is very easy, almost flat, through juniper trees until you reach Pietrele Lake (1990 m). When you reach this lake it’s a good place to relax a bit and gather you power for what is next. It’s also a good place to fill up your bottles with water since it’s the last place where you have available water. Not from the lake of course but from the tiny creek flowing from the lake. It’s safe enough.

wooden bridge over Pietrele creek

Until you reach Pietrele Lake your sight is constantly distracted by the impressive Retezat ridge and peaks that surround you. The background is dominated by Retezat Peak (2482 m). So after a short break at Pietrele Lake it’s time for the steep climb to Șaua Bucurei (2206 m). You climb 220 meters in a very short distance and this climb is pretty tough.

towards Pietrele lake and Șaua Bucurei

When you reach Șaua Bucurei though (which would be translated as Bucura saddle) the view is amazing! In front of you there Bucura Lake the largest glacial lake in Romania. To the right you have Custura Retezatului which ends with the impressive Retezat Peak. To the left you have Curmătura Bucurei and many other peaks that you have to climb in order to reach the king: Peleaga.

Pietrele lake (1990 m) and Retezat peak (2482 m)

view towards Pietrele lake, this is the valley you come through to get here

lake Bucura and Retezat peak

Lake Bucura


Now your going on the ridge stepping on big boulders and you hope that each one is stable. You should always check with your foot before fully letting you body weight on it. You’ll climb 2 or 3 peaks before you reach Peleaga and that is pretty frustrating 🙂 You climb then you descend, you climb then you descend and so on. At least you can stop from time to time to admire the view. To tell you the truth, I saw the best views in all the Romanian mountains out here. As you go further and cross the Retezat ridge the entire ridge unveils to you and it seems like you see it from an airplane. It’s awesome!

Retezat ridge seen from the trail towards Peleaga

There are a couple of exposed sections where you have to literally climb with your hands included on boulders in order to advance. The most dangerous and exposed area is just before getting on Peleaga peak. You have to literally stretch with your hands and legs to grab the next big boulder and beneath you is a huge fall. So you better be careful and don’t hurry here. It’s not so technically difficult, it’s just that care is needed. There must be a challenge to pass in order to get on a beautiful peak! 🙂

The thrill of reaching the peak was astonishing. We were very tired but once we looked at the surroundings, our fatigue was secondary. The weather was perfect. A couple of white clouds just to make the pictures interesting and blue sky. You can see many other peaks and smaller glacial lakes. Retezat has more glacial lakes than any other mountain in Romania and they contrast perfectly with the grey rocks that surround them. Beautiful!

Peleaga peak (2509 m)
view from Peleaga peak – Lake Bucura
many photographers up here



Peleaga peak (2509 m)
Peleaga peak (2509 m)
big crowd on the peak
Peleaga lake
Day 2: towards Tăul dintre Brazi (1730 m)

Day 1 was pretty exhausting for us. It was one our first times on the mountain so we weren’t exactly trained for the effort. Every part of our body hurt. So the second day we chose a lighter track 😀
We chose to go to Tăul dintre Brazi which could be translated as the Lake between the fir trees. I must emphasise that we thought that this track was lighter, but as we would soon discover it was not! :))

beautiful morning for trekking
bridge over the Galeș valley
Galeș valley

We left Gențiana descending on the trail we climbed the first day when we reached Gențiana signposted. We reach a trail fork. We have to continue on a trail signposted withwhich leads to Galeșul Lake (1970 m). You cross the Galeș valley and then we get to the part that we didn’t expect: a steep climb through the forest and it was pretty long too! Damn it, we wanted a light track! The only good news was that we were covered from the sun by the dense forest.
 
On this track there are two valley crossings so you have these two places where you can fill up your water bottles. Flat portions alternate with descends and steep climbs. The forest is superb, untouched since this is a National Park and logging is illegal here. The strange thing is that this track is not so popular and we didn’t encounter any tourists here. There were also some strange sounds somewhere in the forest. We tried to ignore them and hoped we weren’t gonna meet a bear. Bears live in these mountains, just like in all Romanian mountains. Romania has the largest brown bear population in Europe, with more than 3000 bears in the wild.
 
Anyway, we continued and we reached an indicator that informed us that in order to reach Tăul dintre Brazi we must switch to the trail signposted withand that we have 45 minutes left. That felt better and motivated us to go further 🙂 I must say that the Retezat Mountains are very well signposted and the indicated times are pretty accurate, maybe a bit optimistic, but pretty close though. We finally reached Tăul dintre Brazi which is the only lake found in Retezat which is not glacial.

Tăul dintre Brazi
Tăul dintre Brazi

This lake is special. It’s located in a remote part of the Retezat Mountains. The silence was deep. This lake is special because it’s surrounded by fir trees and the image of the fir trees is mirrored in the clear lake water as you can see in the photo above. It’s a beautiful sight. It’s a track worth doing, without doubt. It’s quite magical here. We rested here, actually even slept for about an hour and then made some more photos. The outcome is below 🙂

mushroom
“giants” in the moss
flavour
tree mushroom
The way back, not without seeing something, of course

We must admit the we fell in love with Retezat. To this day it’s our favourite mountain and we can’t wait to get back here. When we left Gențiana in order to get back to the car we also took all our garbage that we collected in the past 4 days. It’s the civilised thing to do since there is not garbage bin at Gențiana. You should not leave garbage in nature!
 
On our way back I remembered that there was another place that we should go to that was right near the forest road on the way to the car. That place is Lolaia waterfall. Just before you reach Cârnic there is an indicator that guides you to a balcony facing this amazing waterfall.

Lolaia waterfall
Lolaia waterfall

 

Lolaia waterfall

The waterfall is spectacular and is about 10 meters high. The noise produced by the falling water is deafening. It’s worth seeing and is easily accessible for anyone being so close to Cârnic.

After this beautiful trip we head back to “civilisation” remembering a motto that we saw at Gențiana that quotes Abraham Lincoln:

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

 



Maps:
+Cârnic – Gențiana cottage

Gențiana cottage – Pietrele Lake – Șaua Bucurei
Șaua Bucurei – Bucura II peak (2372m) – Peleaga peak (2509m)

++Gențiana cottage (1680m) – Tăul dintre Brazi (1730m)

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