Beautiful Bucegi: an itinerary

It’s about time I tried to lure you into visiting Romania again. For reasons outlined in my previous post, I haven’t been able to put much effort into writing lately. My silence definitely doesn’t mean I’ve run out of enthusiasm or destinations – far from it! So here, finally, is an itinerary again – through the Bucegi Mountains this time. If you’re still contemplating where to go this summer and would love to tackle some mountains, I hope with this post I can tempt you to honour the beautiful Bucegi with a visit.

The Bucegi is possibly the most popular massif in Romania. And for good reasons: besides that it is absolutely stunning and offers a great variety of scenery, it is very accessible and compact, and offers something for everyone. If you don’t want to put in too much effort, you can take the cable car from Buşteni to visit the Sphinx and other natural rock sculptures at Babele – and return on the same day. If, on the other hand, you are up to a challenge, you can easily spend five days in the Bucegi massif and still feel like you’ve missed out on a lot. Below is a suggested itinerary which lets you explore the best bits in five days – although, as you will see, it is easy to cut off a chunk and do it in just two. You won’t even need to bring your tent – cabanas are scattered all over the Bucegi. Do make sure to book well in advance though, especially during the summer months – as said, this is a popular area. You might want to avoid the Babele area during summer weekends – things tend to get a bit crowded up there. Good to know too: there is plenty of water in most areas of the Bucegi, either at cabanas or provided by streams and springs – although there is no water at Omul Peak. You can buy bottled water at all cabanas though. That is one less thing to worry about. Off we go!

Day One: Buşteni-Cabana Babele via Valea Jepilor

The easiest access to the Bucegi is from one of the towns in the Prahova Valley – Predeal, Buşteni and Sinaia. Buşteni is located right below Caraiman Peak – once you get off the train you’ll see it and the rest of the main ridge towering above you. There are various routes that lead up to the ridge and of course you can take the cable car, but the ascent through the Valea Jepilor is more than worth it. If you do decide to take the cable car, make sure to check their website first to see their opening hours and whether it isn’t closed for maintenance.

Update 14/06/2018: The Buşteni-Babele cable car is closed for maintenance until the end of June 2018.

Take the train to Buşteni (50mins from Braşov, 1hr 40mins from Bucharest). As you exit the station, you will immeditately see Caraiman Peak and the rest of the ridge towering above you. That’s where you’re going! Turn left onto the DN1 road for 600m, then turn right onto Strada Telecabinei. You will see several waymarks appearing soon; you’ll want to follow the blue cross for this route. When the road ends, turn right to continue on the blue cross route. You will soon see a signpost to Valea Jepii Mici Cabana Caraiman and Cabana Babele (4hrs-4hrs 30mins). Turn left here. Expect some steady climbing and some sections with cables – none of it is very difficult though.

After about 5.5km you will arrive at Cabana Caraiman; you can stop here of course if you absolutely need to but there is no food, so I recommend you continue to Cabana Babele, which is only 30mins from here. Pass to the right of the grey derelict building and you’ll see Cabana Babele with its green roof and stone-red walls right in front of you – as well as the Sphinx and the other natural rock sculptures, which make this such a popular spot. If Cabana Babele isn’t open (it isn’t on weekdays outside the peak season, so if you do this in, say, September, make sure to bring your own food!) you can spend the night at the Salvamont base, which is just 15mins further north, up the yellow stripe trail.

Update 31/01/2018: according to the latest news Cabana Caraiman is now privately owned. You may or may not be able to stay there, but you cannot make reservations. 

Update 14/06/2018: Cabana Babele has been closed for ‘renovation’ for so long now that many doubt it will ever open again. So don’t assume it’s open; try all the phone numbers (see link above) first. You may have to resort to Salvamont Babele or bring your tent. 

Update 11/01/2020: I visited Cabana Babele in August and they have confirmed they are open all year round again. Their phone number is 0744 772710.

Distance: 6.5km | Total ascent: 1560m | Total descent: 275m | Altitude range: 886-2183m | Time: 3hrs 15mins

Day Two: Cabana Babele-Omul Peak via Crucea Caraiman

This route takes you past the Heroes’ Cross, otherwise known as Crucea Eroilor or Crucea pe Caraiman, to the Bucegi’s highest point, Omul Peak. Out the front door of Cabana Babele, turn right (northwest) and follow the yellow stripe waymarks towards the Salvamont base. When you arrive in the valley that lies between Cabana Babele and the Salvamont base, turn right (east) onto the red cross route to Crucea Eroilor (1hr).

From Crucea Eroilor, retrace your steps until the path forks; follow the signposts to the right (west). The path runs almost parallel to the other path. Go up the rocky gully; the waymarks on the rocks are sparse and do not have the usual white background – they can be hard to spot, especially in bad weather. Make your way up to Caraiman Peak (2384m); it is marked with a pile of stones. From here the path is clearly marked with signposts again. What follows is a very straightforward, level walk across the plateau. At the end of it, turn left onto a dirt road. The marked trail soon bends to the northwest, off the dirt road, onto a narrow trail into the valley. The red cross trail ends here; pick up the yellow stripe waymarks from here. After about 7.5km, head up west (left) on the combined yellow/red stripe trail. There is a marking on a shed saying Omul Peak is 1hrs 30mins from here; in reality it is more like 45mins under fair weather conditions. After about 700m on this section, you will be able to see Cabana Omu. The path swings southwest (left), goes down and round the cliffs you were walking on previously. From here, it is a short walk to Omul Peak and cabana. If you don’t have much time and would rather return to Babele than continue for three more days, this is easily done on the same day. Simply retrace your steps on the yellow stripe trail until you meet the start of the red cross route. Stay on the yellow stripe trail and walk back to Babele; this should take no longer than 1hr 30mins.

Distance: 9km | Altitude range: 2183-2503m | Time: 2hrs 30mins

Day Three: Omul Peak-Cabana Padina via Şaua Bătrâna

This is a wonderful leisurely walk that will show you an entirely different side of the Bucegi: it is as green and gentle as the main ridge is rocky and barren. You will essentially be walking along the county border between Braşov and Dâmboviţa. You will be descending most of the time; about 1250m in total. Please note there is no water on the trail, so make sure you buy plenty of water at Cabana Omul. From Cabana Omu, set off in a southwesterly direction. Follow the red stripe trail. Bypass Bucura Peak to the right and the next one to the left. After Doamnele Peak (2402m), the landscape changes dramatically; it becomes very pastoral indeed. This path is known as the Drumul Granicerilor, the Guard’s Route – it marked the border between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Romania until 1918. You will have views of the Piatra Craiului to the west, and the villages between the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului in the valley down below. After almost 9km, you will arrive at Şaua Strunga shelter (1893m). Turn left onto the combined red stripe/red cross trail here. From here, it’s just another 45mins to Cabana Padina, where you can treat yourself to a good meal and a decent bed. You have a choice between a bed in a dorm and a luxurious double room in the new building. There is a shortcut back to Babele if you want to end things here (5.5km, blue cross).

Distance: 12km | Total ascent: 300m | Total descent: 1250m | Altitude range: 1509-2505m | Time: 3hrs

Day Four: Cabana Padina-Omul Peak via Valea Ialomiţei

This walk to Omu Peak takes you through the wonderful Ialomiţa Valley; the river that cuts the Bucegi in half. It involves a 1000m climb, but it is a very gentle ascent most of the time. Along the way, you will meet donkeys, sheep and cows: it is a very pastoral route, avoiding any serious climbing but with beautiful views of the ridges to the left and right. It can be done on the same day as the previous stage, although it is definitely worth spending a day in the Padina area and pay a visit to the Ialomiţa Cave.

From Cabana Padina, walk down to the car park, where the Padina Fest sign is. Turn left (north) towards Cabana Valea Dorului; the path is marked red stripe and blue cross. After 1km, you will find the Ialomiţa Cave to your left; continue on the blue cross route which veers to the right. Cross the river and go up the staircase, past the Peştera Complex. Then turn left (north) onto the asphalt road. Follow it until the end (about 1km); turn right after the telecabina. Turn left onto the blue stripe route (3hrs to Cabana Omu). There are a sheepfold and a couple of springs at the start; several streams will cross your path. After about 5km, you will get treated to some beautiful waterfalls. After a bit of ascending, cross the grassy plateau past a huge boulder called Mecetul Turcesc; another short ascent on a scree slope brings you to a junction with a signpost. Turn left (red and blue stripe) to make your way back to Cabana Omu in about 25mins.

Distance: 9km | Total ascent: 1030m | Total descent: 75m | Altitude range: 1509-2505m | Time: 2hrs 30mins

Day Five: Omul Peak-Bran via Valea Gaura

There are many ways to exit the Bucegi, and many are shorter and easier than this one – but I promise this one is worth it. It is a long exit route through the Gaura Valley which leads you all the way to Bran, where you can treat yourself to a visit to Bran Castle if you haven’t seen it already. And you can camp at the wonderful Vampire Camping. And have pizza and cheap but good wine at Casa Thomas just down the road. 🙂

From the signpost pointing to Bran (red cross), set off in a northwesterly direction. Bear left (west) immediately and descend down the path marked red and blue stripe, red cross and yellow triangle. After almost 1.5km, turn left (southwest) onto the red cross route which takes you down into the Gaura Valley. Much of the stream is dry in August and part of it runs underground. During this part of the descent, you will have views of the Piatra Craiului and the Fagaraş looming large behind it. Cross the stream after 3.7km, passing a waterfall to the right. A tricky section with loose rocks and narrow gullies follows; tread carefully. The cables should help. After 4.7km, the path splits: the yellow triangle trail veers to the left, to Şimon village. Keep right to stay on the red cross trail. Head up into the forest until you come to a small clearing; from here the path will descend again. You have a good chance of seeing bears here, so make sure you make some noise. After 9.4km, turn left onto the forest road to Poarta and Bran, which will turn into an asphalt road after 1.3km. Walk or hitchhike the last 5km from Poarta or Bran, although it is also possible to stay in a pension in Poarta of course. Once in Bran, turn right onto the DN73 road, to find Vampire Camping on your left after 1km.

Distance: 16.7km | Total ascent: 260m | Total descent: 2010m | Altitude range: 763-2505m | Time: 5hrs

I realize this is a bit of a longish post – but hopefully it will tempt some of you to visit the Bucegi. This should definitely lower the threshold. 🙂 And who knows we will bump into each other, because I am certainly not done with it yet!

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