Hiking in Padis: the heart of the Apuseni

After my three-day hike through the Vladeasa Mountains I went straight on into the heart of the Apuseni Mountains: Zona Padis, as the Romanians call it. Padis is a green karst plateau full of surprises. Its mysterious forests hide many a cave (and possibly also many a bear); spectacular dolines connected by underground rivers make for challenging hikes. Overall, hiking in Padis is very easy, because most of Padis consists of large pastures, where you can camp with the cows if you like. It’s very suitable for day trips with children or for newbie hikers, but also for multi-day hikes, as you will see below.

Lumea Pierduta: the lost world

Despite having three days of hiking under my belt already, I wake even earlier than the previous day. It’s cloudy, but it’s not raining either and the birds are giving it their all. So I snooze for half an hour and then decide to get up. My tent has performed well during last night’s thunderstorm: not a drop inside! The rain has done the dishes. I put my rainclothes on and set off towards Lumea Pierduta: the lost world. Right at the start, a man with two dogs who looks like a sheepless shepherd warns me against bears and generally against dangers I might meet in the forest. He doesn’t think me setting off in this weather is the best of plans, especially since there is a shorter route towards my destination, Casa de Piatra: over the asphalt road. He really doesn’t get why I’d want to traverse a forest on a foggy day like this.

But it is a very special forest indeed, and it is called ‘the lost world’ for a reason. Filled with a slight dread of wild animals, I enter the forest, which is as quiet as it can be, except for the birds and the twigs under my feet. Trees drip, snails slide, flowers bud – I tread with care. The pictures below really don’t do justice to the scenery, but as it turns out, it’s notoriously hard to take good pictures of caves in forests, especially on a rainy day.

A warm welcome in Casa de Piatra

Once out of the forest, I end up on an easy gravel road and close in on the hamlet of Casa de Piatra. But before I get there, I want to make a little detour: to Ghetarul de la Vartop, one of the most beautiful ice caves in this area. It’s a short hike up and soon I’m gaping at huge icy stalactites dripping from the ceiling – taking care that I don’t walk directly underneath them. Descending, I see Casa de Piatra below. My guesthouse is easy to find: it has a bright blue roof and it’s the only one around. Turns out my hosts weren’t quite expecting me: the day before I’d texted and said I might be delayed by a day if it was too rainy; and I’d forgotten to confirm that, in my opinion, the weather was just fine today. So they haven’t heated up my room yet and it takes hours for these old-fashioned stoves to heat the water. So instead, my lovely host Ioana offers me a room in her own house.

I feel more than a little embarrassed because of my negligence, but all of this is quickly waved out of the way and soon I am settled, showered, fed and surrounded by the rest of this amazing Moti family. The Moti are the people who have traditionally lived in this area; sadly their traditional houses with steep thatched roofs are now often replaced with concrete houses. But it’s hard to blame them for wanting a little luxury. This family still lives on subsistence farming; and they need to, because Ioana’s father’s pension is far too small to live on. Ioana’s mother shows me a newspaper clipping from the time she went to a world fair in France and weaved traditional fabrics at the loom for three weeks straight. My room is draped with hand-weaved curtains as well. They are proud of their traditions, and rightly so.

From Casa de Piatra to Arieseni

The next morning it’s raining cats and dogs as expected, so I take my time to devour Ioana’s excellent breakfast. Needless to say everything is homegrown and homemade. The rain relents a little after 11am, so I set off. I’ve decided to follow the red triangle trail to Arieseni, and I finally get all the pretty views! So when the rain comes down again when I’m about to make my final descent over an asphalt road, I don’t mind too much. Besides, I’ve got sweet canine company again. In Arieseni the dog goes whoring after other potential beneficiaries – and I catch a bus to Beius where I spend the night in a fancy apartment with a bike parked in the living room. The next morning a sweet former lorry driver offers me a ride all the way to Suncuius, and so I’m back home with my ‘foster parents’ at 12:30. Sweet!

Trail info

Day 1: Padis-Casa de Piatra via Lumea Pierduta and Ghetarul de la Vartop | yellow cross + red cross | 16km | 6h | +590m -880m
Day 2: Casa de Piatra-Arieseni via Ghetari | 17km | blue triangle + red triangle | 5h45min + 750 – 920m

More Apuseni

Do you want to explore more Apuseni itineraries? Here are some other hikes I did there:

Hiking in the Vladeasa Mountains
Traversing the Padis Plateau south to north
The Galbena Gorge

Want more? Buy the guidebook!

My guidebook, ‘The Mountains of Romania’, contains 27 multi-day treks, 10 day walks, free gpx files, detailed route descriptions, a useful glossary and a wealth of information. You can buy it straight from the publisher here, or ask at your local (travel) bookstore.

The Mountains of Romania by Janneke Klop, Cicerone Press

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2 thoughts on “Hiking in Padis: the heart of the Apuseni

  1. MJSpock Reply

    This is a really great article. How do you find or contact these guest houses? It seems very different than here in Texas where you just carry your own tent everywhere. Also for photography in low light (forests, caves, etc ) I always use a tripod and a slow shutter speed to let in more light to the camera

    1. roamaniac Reply

      Hey, sorry for the late reply. Contact details of guesthouses (most of them are huts, known as cabanas) can usually be found online, although not always up to date. I’ve gathered a list of phone numbers, website and email addresses in my book. Googling for ‘cazare’ meaning ‘for rent’ can also help find you a room when not looking for a hut specifically. Tripod sounds great, might invest in one sometime but for now I’m not prepared to carry the extra weight, I think.

What do you think?