If you turn to Google to ask about “Bigar waterfall”, you’re going to read a lot of positive things about it, like “the most beautiful waterfall in the world” or “most amazing waterfall in the world”. And since you are already traveling in western Romania, you might just go see it, right?!

Well, we’re here to tell you the other side of the story. Yes, Bigar waterfall is indeed beautiful, but we think there are so many other lesser known places that are more worth your visit.

 

Amazing place or tourist trap?

Yes, Bigar waterfall looks pretty amazing in those professional photos that you’ve seen online. Yes, the water falls nicely on the green moss, forming an interesting water curtain on its way down. But no, it’s not as big as you may think. And no, it’s not a hidden-away gem.

Yes, it’s a very pretty waterfall, but Romania has so many beautiful waterfalls, it would be unfair to call this one the most beautiful. Is it a tourist trap? You could call it that. Why?

  • it’s smaller than you think
  • it’s a highly accessible place (the main road passes near by), hence the fact that it has attracted so much visibility
  • it lacks the natural beauty of a naturally preserved place, as the surroundings have been adapted to cater to the needs of tourists.

bigar-waterfall-timisoara-daytrip

The amazing professional photographs of Bigar waterfall have done their share of good marketing. Which is in itself not a bad thing, because people should know more about Romania’s wonderful sights.

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In case you are wondering where this marketing comes from, from what we’ve managed to find out, the photo that started the rising fame of the Bigar waterfall dates back from 2010, from the international tourist guide “National Geographic Traveler – Romania”. Since then, amateur and professional photographers from all over the world have helped increase the place’s fame.

 

I still want to see it for myself. How do I get there?

The Bigar waterfall and the Bigar spring are located next to the Bozovici village, in the Caras-Severin country in Romania. It is part of the “Cheile Nerei-Beușnița National Park” and a protected area. Another way to find is to keep in mind that the 45th parallel runs pretty close to Bigar.

If you are traveling from Timisoara, there are 2 ways to get there:

  • Timisoara – Resita – Anina
  • Timisoara – Oravita – Anina

 

 

If you use Google maps, it is going to tell you that the road through Resita takes approximately 3 hours, while the one through Oravita should take you about 2,5 hours. In reality, the difference is not that much. At the time that we are writing this article, the road through Resita is better, as far as functionality is concerned. So if you don’t mind spending some extra 15 minutes on the road, this is – in our opinion – the way to go. And your (rental) car might appreciate it too!  

 

The bottom line: is it worth the trip?

If you are in the neighborhood, definitely, do drop by to see it for yourself. It is a pretty sight and it may be worth making your friends envious with pretty pictures of one of Romania’s most famous waterfalls. If you just want to travel there for the waterfall itself, you might be disappointed. As it easily accessible by car – no hiking is required to get there – you might as well plan a visit as part of a bigger trip. Take the time to enjoy the other beauties of the “Cheile Nerei-Beușnița National Park” as well!

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Our recommendations would be to visit the Bigar waterfall as part of a bigger trip, maybe on your way from:

  • visiting the beautiful Semenic Mountains and chilling by one of its beautiful lakes.
  • visiting the gorgeous Danube Gorges and enjoying some sun or fish soup there.

 

Have you visited Bigar waterfall? How did you find it? 

 

As you may already know, Romania is rich in beautiful natural landscapes. If you are visiting the country, don’t miss out on the chance of exploring some of the more “off the beaten path” locations too. These are usually the most spectacular!

Luckily, Timisoara is not that far away from the mountains that host some of the most amazing views that the country has to offer. Like we have mentioned in our previous articles, a 3-hour drive can take you-you to Semenic mountains, while another 3-hour drive can you to the Danube Gorges. Well, a similar drive from Timisoara can take you to one of the country’s most beautiful natural reservations, the Retezat National Park.

 

A drive to the Retezat National Park

The Retezat National Park is a protected area located in the Retezat Mountains in Hunedoara county, Romania. The park currently covers an area of 380.47 km2 and shelters one of Europe’s last remaining intact old-growth forests. The highest peak of the Retezat Mountains, Vf. Peleaga, at 2,509 m. It is also part of the national park.
To reach the Retezat National Park from Timisoara, it will take you a 3-3,5 hour drive, depending on the traffic. If you have time to spare, you can also stop and visit the ancient Roman city of Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa on the way.

 

 

The Retezat National Park also includes about 80 glacier lakes. One of the most famous ones is lake Bucura, the largest glacier lake in Romania.

 

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Hiking to lake Bucura

Lake Bucura is a very accessible and yet impressive attraction of the Retezat National Park. It is located at an altitude of 2,040 m, it has a length of 550 m, an average width of 160 m and a depth of approximately 15 m. Lake Bucura can be visited by almost anyone, as the mountain trail leading to it is rather accessible and the hike up shouldn’t take you longer than 1.5-2 hours.
If you will start your day trip from Timisoara, the road to the Retezat National Park will lead you to the Gura Apelor dam. We recommend that you to take a short break for taking pictures here because the view is worth it!

 

baraj-gura-apelor

 

From here, you will have to follow a “rustic” road (don’t expect it to be a very modern road!) and you soon be entering the Retezat National Park. The mountain road will end in Poiana Pelegii, where you will have to leave your car. As this is a rather touristic spot, you will find a parking lot there. From here, you will have to hike, following the mountain trail. If you want to spend more time in the area, Poiana Pelegii is a good place to camp. This is a starting point for several mountain trails in the Retezat Mountains, one of them being the route to Lake Bucura.

The hike to Bucura Lake should take you about 1.5 to 2 hours. The trail is of a medium difficulty, it is easily accessible and well-marked (follow the blue stripe markings); the climb is not very steep and since the views are breathtaking, you always can pause to enjoy them and take pictures.

 

lake-bucura-view

 

If you are traveling during the summertime, please keep in mind that the temperature will drop as you go up the mountain, so don’t forget to pack an extra blouse or jacket.

Once you reach Lake Bucura and enjoy the scenery you can either follow the same trail back, explore other trails from there or camp on the lakeside. Other interesting trails that start here are: to Peleaga peak (2-3 hours), to Bucura peak (2-3 hours), to Pietrele cottage, etc.

 

camping-lake-bucura

 

Camping by Lake Bucura

This is actually quite a popular camping spot, probably because of the many interesting trails that start here. If you want to spend the night in this picturesque landscape, you can do just that – camping is not illegal in Romania.
You will probably see small “stumps” of stones on the shore of the lake: the wind can be quite strong here, so tourists often camp behind these stones to shelter them from the wind. We recommend that you do the same, especially if you want to spend several nights there.

Other camping and accommodation options are:

  • Camping in Poiana Pelegii, as we have mentioned at the beginning of the article
  • accommodation at one of the pensions in the nearby towns (Rausor, Clopotiva etc.)

 

Don’t forget that you are visiting a natural reservation!

We probably shouldn’t have to mention this, but as we have noticed on our previous trips, not everybody seems to know this: please pack your trash and take it with you on your way down. The mountains won’t clean themselves and we should respect and preserve their beauty. It is a shame that sometimes people forget that, but let’s leave the mountains clean so that others can enjoy them too!

The Danube is one one of Romania’s most beautiful natural assets. It flows across the whole southern part of Romania and creates the wonderful Danube Delta just before reaching the Black Sea. Right after entering Romania, it creates the stunning Danube Gorges, which are a very popular tourist destination. The whole are a is worth a visit, as the Danube carves some spectacular sights through its flow. And the good news is: it’s quite close to Timisoara!

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A trip to the Danube Gorges – how to get there

From Timisoara, it will take you a three-hour drive to reach the Danube Gorges. There are actually two ways of travelling there, but the best one (as far as the road itself is concerned) goes from Timisoara to Lugoj and then through Caransebes.

If you want to road trip through Romania to see as much as possible, you choose one way to reach your destination and the second one to get back to Timisoara.

Accomodation near the Danube Gorges

While you can choose to see the Danube Gorges during a one-day trip, this is also an excellent destination for a weekend trip. Whether you just want to sunbathe or relax, or enjoy some hiking, this destination has plenty to offer.
What we locals call the “clisura Dunarii” (the Danube Gorges) stretches from the “Cazanele Dunarii” (the best-known area) to the Nera River. Along the length of this area, you can find many locations willing to host travelers. The most popular towns, which are located on the banks of the Danube, are: Dubova, Berzasca and Eselnita.

If you would like to sunbathe and take a bath, you can choose a hotel that hosts its own pool – there are plenty of choices. Swimming in the Danube isn’t really advisable – the Danube can pull you in if you aren’t careful.

danube-gorges-accomodation

Things to do around the Danube Gorges

So, you’ve decided that this is a trip you want to take. What shouldn’t you miss? Here is our brief list of things to do when visiting the Danube Gorges:

1. Enjoy the fresh (fish) food

If you are a foodie and fish is in the menu, you will be able to enjoy fresh fish in this area. Most of the hotels and restaurants in the are serve various kinds of fish – all of it cought fresh from the Danube. One of the local’s specialty is “ciorba de peste” – which is basically fish sour soup.

2. See (and take pictures of) Cazanele Dunarii

“Cazanele Mici” and “Cazanele Mari” are the two places where the Danube “squeezes” through the mountain, creatic a dramatic view. The name “cazane” could be roughly translated to a “big pot” – an object uses especially in the countryside to boil things in.

danube-gorges-landscape

In the same are you can also find a large statue (55 metres high) of the dacian king Decebal. This was a private investment by Romanian businessman Iosif Constantin Dragan. The sculpture was created between 1994-2004 and has since attracted many tourists, as it is indeed impressive.

dubova-decebal-statue

Also in the same area, you can visit the Mraconia monastery, which lays impressively on the banks of the Danube. The original monastery was built back in the 16th century, but was destroyed by the communist regime only to be rebuilt after the falling of the regime.

3. Go for a boat trip on “cazanele Dunarii”

Especially in the “cazane” area, you will find many local businesses willing to take you for a boat ride. This will be an entertaining ride, as it will allow you to really feel how impressive the Danube is.
If you decide to go for a boat ride, you can also stop to visit two caves that are only accessible via the Danube: Ponicova and the Veterans’ Cave. Just negociate with your boat driver to see if they can also take you to visit the caves. Different kinds of tours will include different stops, but things are negociable.

4. Go hiking up the Cazane

If you are afraid you might get seasick, maybe seeing the wonderful views from above is a better choice. Or you could try seeing both views. There are hiking trails in the area, though the trails are not always marked perfectly. Our advice is to research the trip a bit before heading out or to take a guide with you, just in case.
The area is home to a species of poisonous viper that is very dangerous to humans. If you decide to go hiking in the area, please wear long trousers, appropriate shoes and watch your step. The viper is a shy creature, but it will attack if it feels threaten.

danube-gorges-hiking

6. Visit St. Ana monastery and enjoy its views

St. Ana monastary is located on Dealul Mosului, in (and above) the city of Orsova. The monastery overlooks both the city, and the Danube, offering a stunning view of the whole area.
The monastery was built in the 60s, but was used as a restaurant during the communist regime. It was restored in the 90s and now attract many tourist, thanks to both its location and its beauty.

orsova-st-ana-monastery

 

Located in Western Romania, Timisoara is not only close to other big cities like Budapest (~300 km) or Belgrade (less than 200 km), but also to many unique natural tourist attractions.

Did you know that from Timisoara you can reach the mountains in about 2 hours?! If you are planning any day trips (or weekend trips) from Timisoara, the mountains are a great destination. One of the closest mountain you can visit is Semenic mountain. And while enjoying fresh mountain air, you can also take a dive in a mountain lake like Valiug or Trei Ape.

If this sounds like an interesting idea for a Timisoara day trip, then keep on reading, as this article is for you.

 

A drive to the Semenic mountains

To reach the full height of the Semenic mountains, you will have to drive for about 2 hours, towards the city of Resita and then up the mountain. You can choose as your destination the highest peak of the mountain, Peak Piatra Groazei (1446 m), or you can try to explore other beautiful Romanian landscapes along the way.

 

The lakes of Valiug and Trei Ape are popular attractions of the Semenic mountains, for tourists and locals alike. Since they are quite close to Timisoara, they are very popular weekend destinations, especially in the summer. These mountain lakes will give you an opportunity to get away from the heat of the city, while still working on your tan and enjoying a nice bath.  

 

Valiug Lake: weekend sun and fun

Valiug lake is a “man-made” lake, which was created thanks to the building on a damn in 1909, to support the coal mining industry in the area. The coal industry is no longer active, but the lake has survived. More than that, it has been revived as a popular tourist destination.

A lot of travellers go to Valiug lake to enjoy the wilderness, usually camping in the area. There are several lake-side terraces where you can sunbathe, have a drink or rent a boat or a “water bike” to explore the lake.

In recent years, the “La ponton” terrace in particular has been gaining a lot of popularity and has become a very “hip” place to spend the weekend. They organize all sorts of parties and events and many find this the perfect way to spend the weekend.

 

Trei Ape Lake: a relaxed weekend in nature

If you find the popularity of Valiug Lake overwhelming, don’t worry, you may still find something more to your liking. Just keep driving a bit further and you will eventually reach the lake Trei Ape (translated as “three waters”).

This lake is 45 ha. wide and is the highest artificial lake in the area. It has been formed by building a dam to block three mountain streams (Brebu, Grădiştea and Semenic), that meet here to give birth to the river Timiş.

Located at a higher altitude than Valiug, Trei Ape is also a bit cooler and maybe a bit less popular. However, it is a beloved destination for those who just want to enjoy some peace and quiet. It offers superb views, as the lake is surrounded by a beautiful  fir tree forest.

 

As both these destinations are not too far from Timisoara, they are perfect destinations for a one-day trip in the summertime. In case you want to take some time away from city life, then do spend some time in this area. You can either camp in nature (this is not really reglemented, but a lot of people do it) or you can try to find accommodation in one of the villages: Crivaia, Garang or Valiug.

 

 

The Nera Gorges are among the most spectacular gorges in Romania, and also the longest, with a total length of about 20 km. They are also home to some of the greatest springs, waterfalls, and caves in the western part of Romania. 

 

The Eye of the Bei (or Ochiul Beiului)

The Eye of the Bei is a beautiful spot to visit in the area of the Nera Gorges. It is actually a spring which comes from deep underground: it has a depth of about 3.6 meters, with clear blue water which never freezes.

According to a local legend, a long time ago, when these lands were owned by the Ottoman Empire, the owner of these lands had a son of rare beauty. His eyes were crystal blue. The boy often went hunting around the area. While going hunting, and one day he met the daughter of a Wallachian Sheppard, whom he fell in love with. This did not please his father, as the girl was a commoner, and he ordered for the girl to be killed.

When the young son heard the news about his father’s actions, he cried in sorrow near the girl’s body, but in vain. The son chose to kill himself and from his tears and suffering the Eye of the Bey was born. It is crystal blue, as the young boy’s eyes.

The Beusnita Waterfall

Although Beusnita Waterfall is rarely featured in travel magazines, we believe it’s even more beautiful her little sister, the Bigar Waterfall, which most people have already heard of.

The Beusnita waterfall is located only 40 minutes away from the Eye of The Bei (walking distance). In order to get there, you will have to go through fairytale-like pathways and clearings. The route is excellent for hiking, as you will be hiking through the wild greenery. And did we mention that there are also many small stair-like waterfalls along the way?!

The Beusnita Waterfall has a fall of about 30 meters. The best times of the year to see it are either spring or autumn, as that’s when the rivers have the most water.

 

The Vaioaga Waterfall

Although not as spectacular as the Beusnita Waterfall or the Eye of the Bei, the Vaioaga waterfall is also worth a visit, especially since it’s on your way.  This waterfall is located just 1-2 kilometers from the camping area.

How to get to the Nera Gorges

The distance from Timisoara to the Bei Bridge is 130 km and, according to Google Maps, the drive takes about 2.3 hours by car. Once you get to the Bei Bridge you can either leave your car there and go on by foot, either follow the forest road (which is of course not in great shape) by car until you reach the camping area. From the camping area, it takes about 1 hour to reach the Eye of the Bei by foot and another 40 minutes to reach Beusnita Waterfall. The pathway is marked, so you only have to follow the markings.

Timisoara- Oravita-Bei Bridge: 2.3 hours
Walk to the Eye of the Bei: 1hour walk
Eye of the Bei to Beusnita Falls: 40 minutes.
The total trip back and forth: 8 hours.

 

If you are visiting Timisoara or the western part of Romania for a longer period of time, you should probably consider visiting tourist attractions outside of the big cities. For those of you visiting Timisoara and planning some day trips from Timisoara, we have a suggestion (actually two): visit Sarmisegetusa Regia and Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa.

 

A very brief intro on our (ancient) history

In case you’re not familiar with Romanian history, you should know that we go way back. Our ancestors have inhabited these lands since ancient history, the first of whom we know as being the Dacians (Romanian: daci). The Dacians inhabited the current Carpathian region of Romania, up to the Black Sea.

roman-dacia

The Dacians were conquered by the Romans in 106 A.D. and a long rule under the Roman Empire followed. By the way, Romanian is a Romanic language, just like Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese – but most people can’t really tell that when listening to it. That’s probably because of its strong Slavic and Dacian influences.

 

How can you get there?

Unfortunately, you will need to rent a car or find somebody to share the car trip with. But, if you have the slightest interest in visiting ancient (and underrated) places, it will be worth the trip.

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Both the capital of ancient Dacia, Sarmisegetusa Regia, and the capital of the Roman province of Dacia, Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa, are a 3-hour drive away from Timisoara. From Timisoara, it shouldn’t take you more than 3,5 hours to reach Sarmisegetusa Regia, in the Orastie mountains, by car. But the good news in that you can first stop to visit Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa on your way.

That’s why we recommend visiting both of them if you are planning to do some trips from Timisoara, be it a weekend getaway or a one-day trip.

 

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Sarmisegetusa Regia: Ancient with a tint of mystical

Sarmisegetusa Regia was the capital of the Dacian state, as well as the most important military, religious and political center of the Dacians, before the Roman conquest. After the Romans conquered Dacia, they built a new capital, about 50 km. away, more to their liking: Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa – as you can see, they named it after the original capital.

But the origins and the initial purpose of Sarmisegetusa Regia are still a bit of a mystery. Due to how old the place is and due to the lack of a documentary attestation, we might be missing some pieces of the puzzle. There are several theories about the purpose of this fortress – it is known that it has played an important strategic role during the wars with the Romans, but how about before that?! There is also a theory that its role was initially a religious one and many claim that it is a highly energetical place. By the way, if you get to visit – what do you think about the famous solar disk? It is supposed to have had a purpose in religious ceremonies, but no-one knows exactly how and why.

sarmisegetusa-regia-solar-disk

The Sarmisegetusa Fortress is located on Gradiste Hill, at a height of 1200 meters. It is the largest of the Dacian fortifications and it seems to have been the strategic center of the defensive system from the Orastie Mountains, which included six citadels. All of these citadels have been named UNESCO world heritage sites.

timisoara-day-trip-sarmisegetusa-regia

The location is pretty well preserved, but it could have been better. Until its introduction to the UNESCO heritage (and even after), the fortress has suffered, due to the lack of interest of the authorities and the ignorance of the local people. It seems that over the 1950s many locals used the ancient city stones for their own households. A sad story, yes, and a place with great potential. Today things are a bit better, even an entrance fee, though symbolic, is paid – 5 lei/visitor. The access road to the fortress is very good and there is also a parking lot for tourists. Access is possible only between March and November, with winter months being dedicated to consolidation work.

 

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Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa: a glimpse of ancient Roman architecture

Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa was the capital of the province of Dacia, under the rule of the Roman Empire. Ulpia Traiana was founded after the conquest of Dacia by emperor Traian, between 108-110 A.D., to take on the administrative role of the previous capital, Sarmisegetusa Regia.

You can find the ruins of the ancient city in the town of Sarmizegetusa. The ruins are quite well preserved, and in order to visit them, you have to pay a visiting fee, which currently is 10 lei/person (reduced rate for children). Close to the archaeological site, there is also a Museum of Archeology, which houses objects recovered during archaeological research.

ulpia-traiana-sarmisegetusa

Although perhaps from the main road this doesn’t seem to be a very interesting destination, the site stretches further than you may think at first glance. It’s also interesting to know that Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa may still hide some secrets, as it seems that the ancient city used to stretch over a much larger area and there are still places where no excavations were made.

 

 

Photos: Wikimedia Commons