The Danube Gorge – Danube’s spectacular passing through the Carpathian Mountains

Welcome to one of the most spectacular places in Romania: The Danube Gorges, also known as The Danube Boilers. It’s the place where the Danube passes through the Carpathian Mountains.

We visited this spectacular area in the few free days we had on the 1st of May 2012. So, if you haven’t already made any plans for this year’s 1st of May vacation, I urge you to take a 2-3 day trip down to the Danube Boilers 🙂 It’s perfectly suited for adventure fans but also for a good old family trips.

Unfortunately first you have to get there and like it is with some tourist attractions in Romania the road is terrible. This road makes no exception. What could have been an amazing coast road, which makes its way along the Danube shore, it was in 2012 a terrible road, full of potholes and missing tarmac in some areas as you can see below…

DN 57
DN 57

We arranged accommodation just outside Dubova. So we had to go on the terrible DN 57 road. We are very upset that such roads still exist in Romania and more upset because it is the coast road along the Danube. Anyway, we reached the guest house and surprise! There was a big banner outside which announced that the guest house was for sale :)) Great! However they honoured our booking and later other tourists came here.


It was clear though that they were not prepared for tourists so soon. The grass was not cut, the swimming pool was full of dirt and all seemed abandoned really, at least outside in the yard. However we had the best view we could possibly have from the guest’s house pontoon on the shore of the Danube.

the pontoon
the pontoon
view towards the Danube Boilers

Right after we checked in we hired a boat to take us on a trip on the Danube right into the Danube Boilers. We managed to gather a group of tourists so that the cost would be lower. Off we were to see the famous Danube Boilers and discover some of the secret places hidden in the tall vertical mountain sides. Everyone hopped in the boat, the engine started and we were soon on our way, full speed ahead, to see these spectacular places. Talking about speed, we were pretty cold although outside there were over 25 degrees Celsius.

The Danube Gorge (Danube Boilers) are special because, for 9 kilometres, the Danube narrows to about 230 meters. In this narrow place the Danube flows much quicker and that’s why it’s also called the Danube Boilers since here you can see numerous vortices that give you the sensation that the water is boiling 🙂 Here, the maximum depth is about 75 meters. It’s a show for tourists but a nightmare for navigators who have to struggle with the changing water speed and the narrowness.

view towards the Danube Boilers
view towards the Danube Boilers
vertical mountain side on the Romanian side

The Big Boilers, the longest of the Boilers, are 4 km long and are surrounded by the Ciucarul Mare (Romania) and Veliki Strbac (Serbia) mountains. The vertical limestone walls hide two jewels, two beautiful caves. Lucky us that we had our guide to show them to us 🙂

The first cave we visited is the Veteran’s Cave. This has been properly arranged for tourists. You hop off the boat and climb some stairs up to the cave. This cave was inhabited starting 4000 years ago, first by the cave men for shelter, then by the Dacians who were praying to the Zamolxis God and finally by Turks and Austrians for military purposes. Today only tourists come here and visit. The cave is pretty massive inside. It is very tall, wide and long and has only one room. Unfortunately back then we had an older camera and all the photos we took inside are blurry because of the low light 😀 A good reason to go see it yourselves 🙂

vertical mountain side on the Romanian side
Veteran’s Cave

The second cave we discovered here is Ponicova Cave. The entrance is very spectacular: you go with the boat straight from the Danube inside the cave! 😀 It’s true that you are only able to enter for just a few meters but the sensation of entering inside the huge mountain side straight from the Danube is unique. It was very cool! 🙂 Even though we entered for just a few meters we’re not finished with this cave yet because this cave is truly special: it has another entrance on land. The cave is 1666 m long and if you cross it you’ll reach the Danube, in the exact same point where we entered by boat. More about this adventure, later in the post 🙂

entrance in the Ponicova Cave from the Danube
entrance in the Ponicova Cave from the Danube

Our trip with the boat which lead us through the spectacular Danube Boilers and through some fantastic caves has come to an end. It was really cool and I guarantee it is worth hiring a boat and taking the same trip. There are a lot of ads on the side of the road and all the guest houses on the Danube shore have contacts for hiring boats.

Since our trip on the Danube was over we decided to explore the surroundings on foot. First stop was one of the peaks in the Ciucarul Mare Mountains where you have an excellent panorama over the Danube and the Danube Boilers. Unfortunately we don’t have a GPS track to provide but at the end of the post you’ll have a map with the point where the trail signposted withstarts.

friendly lizards

The trail towards the peak where you’ll have this beautiful panorama starts on the side of the DN 75 road. First you cross a meadow and then the trail continues into the woods. At the start of the trail you’ll see an information panel. You’ll see quite a lot of lizards here but the area is also known for vipers. So I recommend you have trekking poles in order to cause vibration in the ground so that any snakes head for cover. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the peak and here you will be high up on the cliffs looking over the beautiful Danube. Images below:

panorama from one of the peaks in Ciucarul Mare Mountains
panorama from one of the peaks in Ciucarul Mare Mountains – Serbian shore
panorama from one of the peaks in Ciucarul Mare Mountains

We spent about half an hour here enjoying the view after which we head back to the car which we left on the side of the road. Our next stop is Ponicova Cave which we’ll explore on foot this time 🙂

We continue on the main road towards the village of Dubova and just before Dubova there is a bridge after which you should leave your car. There is a big meadow there where you can leave it. Then you follow the course of a small creek crossing the meadow. Then you enter the forest and then you hit rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Huge boulders actually. It’s not very difficult going through them but it is intimidating. By the way, you have the map with the GPS track at the end of the post. Again, snakes and lizards can be seen here, so trekking poles are a good thing to hold around and cause vibration in the ground with them.

colourful lizard
the trail towards Ponicova Cave – the world of boulders

Pretty soon you’ll reach some big boulders and then you’ll reach a place where you see a big hole in front of you. That’s where the trail continues! 🙂 Just go a bit to the left and when you reach the edge of the hole you’ll see a ladder which you must use to go in the hole and continue towards the cave entrance. The land forms are impressive. You are surrounded by high limestone vertical walls, huge boulders and vegetation. You feel very small in this world 🙂

the trail towards Ponicova Cave – the world of boulders
the trail towards Ponicova Cave – the ladder on which you must climb down

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the cave entrance. Once you get there you’ll see a big entrance and everything around you is rock. We cautiously entered the cave. It was pitch dark. The cave is not arranged for tourists and there is no lighting. We were in luck because a group of tourists were coming behind us and they had flashlights, so we visited the cave together with them. We didn’t have a flashlight with us because we didn’t even know the cave existed when we initially made our itinerary. So we were pretty lucky and we managed to cross the entire cave. We reached the Danube and we saw the exact place where we entered with the boar earlier. Pretty cool! 🙂

the trail towards Ponicova Cave – the world of boulders
entrance in the Ponicova Cave
Ponicova Cave
Ponicova Cave
Ponicova Cave

Our last day here near the Danube Boilers meant going back to Arad through the city of Orșova. On our way back we stopped to see a few other beautiful places such as: Dubova Gulf, The Little Boilers (part of the Danube Boilers, closer to Dubova) and Decebal’s bas-relief.
 
Decebal’s bas-relief is 55 meters high and is placed on the rocky Danube shore close to Orșova city, just between Eșelnița and Dubova villages. This impressive bas-relief represents Decebal, the last Dacian king, and is sculpted in the mountain side. It is the biggest rock sculpture made in Europe. It was made between 1994 and 2004 by the Romanian historian and businessman Iosif Contantin Drăgan. It is truly impressive and a tourist magnet.

view from Dubova Gulf towards the Little Danube Boilers
Decebal bas-relief
Decebal bas-relief

Maps: 


Start point of the trail towards the Ciucarul Mare peak with a beautiful panorama over the Danube:


Trail towards Ponicova Cave:

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