Sohodol Gorges & Tismana Monastery by MTB

Since Monday, 1st of June 2015, was a free day in Romania we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head towards the mountains with our bikes 🙂 We decided to make a circuit in the area between the Small Retezat and Piatra Cloșani mountains. We had 3 days at our disposal to travel over 200 km in the mountains 🙂 This post is our report from the first day of our adventure.

Brief useful information:

Date: 30th of May 2015
Route: Buții Gorges – Câmpu lui Neag – Valea de Pești Dam – Sohodol Gorges – Arcani – Tismana – Tismana Monastery – Baia de Aramă – Brebina (Izvorul Rece guesthouse)
Distance: 89 km
Duration: 9 h
Slope: +300 m/ – 900 m
Friday, 29th of June 2015, we reach our guesthouse late in the evening. The next day, Saturday, we wake up early in the morning. Well as early as we could :)) We prepare all our equipment, we put our luggage on our bikes, we double-check everything on the list and off we go at about 10 AM.

Today is the longest day, distance-wise, because we’ll travel almost 90 km out of which 40 km are on the mountain. We always put the hardest day the first one because we are well rested and have enough power to take a longer route. Well, we thought this would be the hardest day, but as it turned out it wasn’t as you’ll find out in the post regarding the last day in this bike tour 😀

We reach Valea de Pești dam and the artificial lake formed here. We start climbing gently on the banks of the lake. It’s a forest road we’re on and continue to be on until Sohodol Gorges. It’s pretty wide and mostly tapped. As you continue the gentle climb you reach a wooden abandoned house just before crossing a concrete bridge. Here, you must be very careful because you must turn left 90 degrees instead of following the road which naturally continues in front and seems the main road!

After you turned left on a least circulated forest road you start a steeper climb and it was push-bike time for us 🙂 You gain almost 300 m in 2.5 km. Slowly but surely you reach the peak of the climb somewhere in the forest. You take a little break and then the descend begins for the next 10 km. You drop 500 m in altitude and about 3 km of the descend is a bit technical but definitely doable. After the slope softens you reach an intersection where you must turn left. There’s also a sign indicating towards Sohodol gorges. It’s simpler to remember that from this point you meet up with the Sohodol river which you will follow from now on and will mainly be on your right. So if you’re not lost by now, you’re safe from now on 🙂
I should mention that the descend through the forest is filled with small springs on the side of the road and their water gets on the road resulting in quite a bit of mud there :)) It’s true that we had a lot of rain in the days before we came and maybe the night before. As a result we were full of mud which strangely made us feel really good :)))

40 km from the start we reached Sohodol Gorges. We only found out quite recently about these gorges in the Southern part of Romania but I was really impressed when I saw some pictures of them. I made them the central point of our first day in this 3-days circuit 🙂

When you enter the gorges high stone walls surround you. An impressive sight. The forest road looks more circulated and due to the fact that you’re slowly descending you have time to admire the scenery. And what a scenery! It was really worth the effort of the earlier push-bike, mud and technical descend 🙂 We stopped and took many pictures because the gorges walls look so aggressive and sharp.

Soon after you enter the gorges you reach an information panel (which you can see in the pictures below) and from that point on we trade the dirt road to a tarmac one until Baia de Aramă. Lucky us! 😀
We are totally charmed by these gorges. As you go deeper between the high stone walls the better it gets. It’s getting more spectacular every meter and you can see small caves and weird rock formations high up in the walls. It’s a true stone labyrinth here and I must say I wasn’t expecting such a nice surprise 🙂

We soon reach a bridge over the Sohodol river (which you can see in the pictures above) and we spotted some benches and tables for resting right after crossing the bridge to the right. I think it’s the best place to take a break in the Sohodol Gorges as you’re just on the banks of the river and in front of you there’s a 30-40 meters high wall. There’s also an interesting cave with two holes and a stone strip in the middle, making it look like a human face. Pictures below 🙂

It was a really cool place for resting. We also managed to wash off the mud from us and our bikes and also to take a bite to eat. We visited the cave, which is really cool by the way since the Sohodol river crosses it, and then we hopped on our bikes and continued towards Arcani. We went slowly through the gorges in order to make the most of our time here. We took a lot photos that you can see below 🙂

These gorges are only 20 km away from the city of Târgu Jiu and if you happen to pass by this city I recommend a visit in these amazing and spectacular gorges 🙂

We reached the national road, DN 67D, and continued towards Baia de Aramă where we had accommodation. This part was pretty boring and we spent a lot of time worried about passing cars but, as it turned out, traffic was light and we had no problems at all.

At some point we reached the village of Tismana and here we had the option of taking a 14 km detour to visit Tismana Monastery. It’s 7 km away from the main road so it would have been a 14 km round trip detour. We considered we had enough time to visit it because we moved pretty good until now. We heard this monastery was very beautiful.

We quickly reached the monastery and boy was I glad we came here! 🙂 I must say I think this place is a small peace of paradise. Everything is restored, is extremely well maintained and taken care of. We’re not religious or anything but we like to visit Romanian monasteries because of their astonishing architecture, heritage, traditions, peace and quiet.
The courtyard is full of flowers and where there are no flowers there is perfectly cut grass. Behind the church we were surprised to discover a large collection of cacti as you can see in the images below 🙂 Really cool!

This monastery, located at the base of the mountain and just meters away from a huge stone wall, is the most peaceful place I’ve been to. It’s really calming and it’s impossible for you not to be affected by the calmness and the peacefulness you find here. Even if Moldova, in North-Eastern Romania, has the most monasteries in Romania (and are the most visited by Romanians and foreigners) I find Tismana Monastery to be my favourite as I was amazed by the beauty, care and calm this place offers to people coming here.

After we left Tismana Monastery we returned to the DN 67D main road and headed towards Baia de Aramă. Actually we passed Baia de Aramă and went to the nearby village of Brebina where we had accommodation at the Izvorul Rece Guesthouse (Cold Spring Guesthouse). It’s an okay place to stay for one night. Everything is big here including the rooms. Looks a bit communist but they had Hațegana beer, which is nowadays a rarity, and a bottle cost only 3 lei (less than 1 Euro) 😀

Stay tuned for the next to posts in which we’ll tell you our adventure of the next two days in our 3 day circuit 🙂

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