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Apuseni Hikes - Caves and Glaciers

If you are in the Apuseni Natural Park area and the weather isn't on your side, I will suggest a few destinations you can do by car and that will keep you busy for the whole day or at least a significant part of it. The vast cave diversity of the park will be a good destination and will be especially appealing to speleology enthusiasts. Besides this, Apuseni is a great place, full of history and traditions, so don’t be shy and get in touch with the locals to learn about their way of life. 

Hiking stats

Time: 5 hours
Distance: 20 km (by car or by bicycle)
Altitude gain: +/- 500 meters
Difficulty: easy
Route: DN75 and DJ750


Where is this?

We propose to set your basecamp in Arieşeni as it offers many close-by destinations and activities that you can do in 1 or 2 days depending on what you have planned. To get here from Timișoara, I must warn you that the road, even though it is paved, is not in the best condition no matter what route you will take. As such I recommend that you travel by day and that you are prepared to lose about 5 hours on 250 kilometers. The road should be great until you reach Arad, after this the trip will to take you through a rural part of Romania - where the road is not quite so excellent but manageable and after reaching the Arieşeni area the road really gets better and better. Most roads in Arieşeni are paved but there still are some dirt roads that fortunately don’t require an off-road vehicle.


Entrance fee?

The park itself has no entrance fee but different attractions like caves or museums usually have an admission fee of around 3 euro per person (10 lei) or less.


Let’s start!

Our first destination will be Pestera Poarta lui Ionele (Ionele’s Gate Cave) and to get here from the center of Arieseni you should go on road DN75 towards Garda de Sus and then switch left on road DJ750. The road has many signs pointing in the right direction but you could also ask around for directions as you are likely to bump into some English speakers. As soon as go on DJ750 the landscape changes into something beautiful as you are entering Ordancusei Gorge (Cheile Ordâncușei). These are one of the most narrow gorges in Romania and at points the road is made out of bridges embedded directly into the cliff wall with nothing but the cold water underneath. Ionele’s Cave is situated at about 2 kilometers distance from Gârda de Sus village center and it comes with a guide but I am not sure if an English tour is available. The entrance fee is 10 lei (approximately 2.2 euro) and for this sum the guide will give you a friendly tour of the cave, explaining what you can see there, how it was formed and where it got its name from.

The cave hosts a large family of bats that are endangered in Europe and that have been protected by closing the visitor access to the cavern they use to nest inside the cave. The guide informed us that the cave was only opened to tourists after the authorities ensured that the bat family will have nothing to suffer from tourists. The entrance to the cave is through a grand 15 meter high portal and the whole 100 meters you can visit are equipped with metal bridges and stairs. If you are lucky to visit the cave during spring you might find a running internal river that flows right under your feet.

The cave’s name comes from an outlaw that lived in the 1900 and used it as a hideout for a period of time, but he was caught by the state officials when he went shopping for supplies in the village below.

To get to Peştera Scărişoara (Stair Cave) from here we continue on road DJ750 for 15 kilometers more until we reach Gheţari (Glaciers) village where we park the car and continue on foot on a dirt road (10 minutes). You can also reach Scărişoara on foot on the 10 kilometer hiking path with Custura-Peak-Hike-cr.gif markings. There are plenty of signs pointing to the cave so it is hard to get lost. The entrance fee is 11 lei (2.5 euro) per person but there is no guide available. To get to the glacial you will need to descend about 50 meters on a long stairway that can sometimes freeze because of the low temperatures so be careful. Scarisoara holds the biggest glacial in Romania and it truly is something spectacular, especially in winter when there are many ice stalactites and stalagmites. The oldest ice here is more than 4000 years old and it offers precious data to researchers about the climate conditions of old.

The caves are open all year long from 9 AM until in the afternoon but the closing time changes from season to season.


Where do I sleep?

There are many accommodations available, finding the right one for you is just a matter of personal preference and budget. I strongly recommend sleeping at agro-touristic facilities because you will have the chance to experience the local cuisine and lifestyle. We stayed at Casa Arion, a small, cozy and welcoming hut with extremely friendly hosts that will gladly tell you about the best attractions in the area. Unfortunately they don’t offer food services but they will point you in the right direction if you wish to try out traditional Romanian specialties. Another nice but slightly more expensive place is Casa Motului, where you can enjoy good food also. Last would be Casa Noastra but the list could continue on and on.


What do I eat?

In terms of finding a great place to eat you should rest assured there are plenty of options available. I would recommend Casa Motului or Casa Vank. Many locals are selling traditional homemade gem, ţuică (schnaps), syrup, assorted cold cuts, cheese and more that I definitely would recommend you to put on the TO DO list.


Good to know!

If you are lucky and the weather is great you can reach the above caves also by bicycle in a wonderful circuit on the DJ750 road. It is an easy route but keep in mind to do it starting with Ionele’s Cave and then going to Scarisoara Cave as otherwise you would need to climb a pretty steep slope. Take your time and enjoy the scenery!


Other close destinations?

There are a lot of other destinations you can go to in the close vicinity, but for more info consult this map of the hiking routes in Apuseni Natural Park.

Check these other close-by hikes:


Hope you found the information helpful and accurate, but remember, if you have any questions drop them in a comment below!

Wonderful wild forest

Pestera lui Ionele

The river from Pestera lui Ionele

Scarisoara Cave

Scarisoara Cave

Meet the Scarisoara Glacier

Scarisoara Glacier

Scarisoara Cave

Apuseni Hikes - Caves and Glaciers Reviewed by Alex on 09:43 Rating: 5

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