Bear Watching and Wilderness Hiking: Why You'll Love Romania

There is something so refreshing about visiting a part of the world that you never considered going to before, to discover that the breath-taking beauty that surrounds you is possibly one of the most enchanting things you have ever seen. This is how I felt when I went walking and bear watching in Romania's Carpathian Mountains, where delightful meadows dotted with pastel-coloured flowers rolled into soaring mountains cloaked in countless pine trees. Here are some of the reasons why I simply loved Romania. 

 

You never know who or what you are going to run into

Hiking through the incredible alpine landscapes from Magura, a little village nestled at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, we would set off each day knowing that we didn’t actually know what the day would bring or who we might bump into. Just a few of the exciting things we encountered on our hikes included a flock of 900 sheep being herded along the edge of a rocky cliff-side, five endearing puppies running around a farmer’s yard after a face-off between their mother and a stray dog, a couple of local children taking a nap under a tree with their herd of cows, and a giant bear paw-print freshly made in the mud, rousing thrilling thoughts of seeing the nearby animal.

Bear paw-print Bear paw-print

Wild bears do actually exist in Europe, and you may see them

Romania is home to around 6,000 wild brown bears, and as well as spotting their footprints when trekking through the mountains and meadows, you may even see some of them. We visited a bear hide which enabled us to watch wild bears in safety, and one of the most incredible moments on the whole trip arose when an eight-month-old cub came running alongside its mother, trying to suckle (to no avail!) and play with her before giving up and behaving.

Mother bear and cub, Romania

The people are welcoming and friendly

From the smiley shepherds who happily and willingly pose for photos and show off their sheep, to laid-back villagers who are only too pleased to give you a sample of some of their homemade cheese, the people of Romania are extremely friendly. We didn’t encounter many people when hiking in the secluded, tranquil landscape of the Carpathian Mountains, but those who we did meet were pleasant and welcoming.

Romanian Farmer Romanian Farmer

 

You can bring out your spooky side with a trip to Dracula’s Castle

Bran Castle is an imposing fortress on the border of Wallachia and Transylvania, and is often referred to as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, having strong links with the vampire legend. Bram Stoker, author of ‘Dracula’, was inspired by Vlad the Impaler who lived nearby, and felt that this striking castle would be a good setting for his tale. Taking a visit here was a highlight to exploring this part of Romania, and the hidden-staircases and narrow corridors make each twist and turn in the castle as interesting as the next. The plethora of stalls outside the castle all selling the same Dracula goods might not be to everyone's taste, but it didn’t stop me from investing in a Dracula mug!

Bran Castle, inspiration for Dracula Bran Castle, inspiration for Dracula

 

Alice spent a week on the Carpathian Walking and Bears trip, which was the perfect blend of hiking through stunning scenery and spotting wildlife along the way. This region of Romania is untouched and not in the conscious of most tourists, so be prepared to discover a part of Europe that seems undiscovered!

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