Hiking in the heart of Apuseni mountains

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Tour highlights:

  • Hike on Padis Plateau, the heart of Apuseni Nature Park
  • Cetatile Ponorului karst phenomena
  • Lost World Plateau
  • Beyond hiking: easy caving, traditional way of life, mountain culture

General description for Hiking in the heart of Apuseni mountains

  • Tour type: individual travel
  • Duration: 6 days/5 nights
  • Start point: Cluj-Napoca/Oradea/Debrecen/Timisoara/Budapest
  • End point: Cluj-Napoca/Oradea/Debrecen/Timisoara/Budapest
  • Nr of participants: minimum of 3 persons
  • Activity level: moderate

Price: 630 Euros/person in triple room

On Padis Plateau, the heart of Apuseni Nature Park, hikers begin each day with a fresh approach to life, getting ready for a new challenge, while campers proudly display their hammocks for what promises to be another lazy day in the shade. At Cornel’s “terrace”, everybody greets each other with a familiar ‘Neata!’ (‘Mornin!’). La ‘belle vie’ of Padis, that wonderful, natural pace of life, surrounds the foggy glades. We invite you to experience it with us, from the greatness of Cetatile Ponorului karst phenomena to the textured karst relief of Sesul Padis. Walk through the labyrinth of the Lost World Plateau and explore the story of the water that creates it. Pair a bottle of ice-cold beer with a Romanian sausage grilled on the campfire, along with some baked potatoes, in the sound of a guitar played by one of the regular visitors of the area: the simple pleasures of life!


Day  1  | Arrival , Hike Lost World Plateau ( 3-3,5 hours)

Lunch, dinner

Transfer to Apuseni Mountains. Arrival at Cetatile Ponorului mountain cabin, check-in, rest and warm lunch. We will start our first day in the mountains with a warm-up hike at Lost World Plateau (Lumea Pierduta) karstic  plateau (3-3,5  hours  round  trip).

The  plateau  hides  a  huge underground network of active galleries, revealed at the surface by  vegetated sinkholes. Two of these are gateways to the underground through potholes with spectacular vertical walls, some of the most impressive of the Romanian karst patrimony.  Here we will visit the entrances in Avenul  Negru  (Black  Pothole), Avenul  Gemanata  (Twinned  Pothole) and Avenul Acoperit (Covered Pothole).

Rest and evening programme. Dinner and accommodation at  Cetatile Ponorului Mountain Cabin.

Day  2  |  Ponor Glade, Cetatile Ponorului (Ponorului Fortresses) ( 7 hours)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

In the morning we will head on towards Poiana Ponor (Ponor Glade) on a 3 hours round trip.. On the way we will admire, from a height, the wonderful landscape (a polje) revealed by this glade and will visit Ponor karstic spring and the strainers.

Ponor Glade – a typical karst glade, is a closed depression surrounded by partly afforested lopes. The glade, covered by tiny grass, climbs the  neighboring  slopes  to  the  adjacent  catchments.  The most remarkable feature of this glade is the way the waters are absorbed by the ground. The waters disappear in the waterbed through narrow holes, covered by sand called strainers.

In the afternoon we will hike to Cetatile Ponorului (Ponorului Fortresses) karstic complex (4-4,5 hours round trip).Considered to be the most impressive karst phenomena in Eastern Europe  this  is  worth  to  visit  not  just  for  the  3  gorgeous sinkholesand the surrounding wild forest but also because here is one of the biodiversity hotspot of Apuseni Nature Park.

In  the  Southern  part,  the  route  climbs  on  the  steep  slope  of  a torrential valley towards 4 view points (two above Sinkhole III, and two above Sinkhole II) which allows the contemplation of the impressive karst system of the The Fortress of Ponor, from high above.

Rest and evening programme. Dinner and accommodation at  Cetatile Ponorului Mountain Cabin.

Day 3  | Padis plain and Groapa de la Barsa (Barsa Pit) ( 6-7 hours)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Today we will take a day long (6-7 hours round tour) hike to the Padis karst plateau.  On our way we will pass though  Glavoi (also known as La Grajduri) Glade and the Balileasa Depression.Balileasa  represents  a  long  plain  situated  in  the  Western  part  of Padis, non-forested and pierced by sinkholes. The plain resembles a valley with a wide floodplain, but without a water course flowing through it.Glavoi (La Grajduri) is the main camping place in the Padis area, being very close to the most important tourist attractions:

Cetatile Ponorului (Ponor Fortresses), Focul Viu( Living Fire) Ice Cave, Piatra Galbenei Barsa  (The  Barsa Pit).The  trail  will  take  us  through  an  area  that  is  renowned  for its wilderness in the Apuseni  Mountains, with a wet climate which favoured the development of dense herbaceous vegetation resembling a swamp. Nearby, the thick forest, the blueberry bushes, the blind valleys and the lack of sighting points transform the Barsa trail into a true adventure.

Rest and evening programme. Dinner and accommodation at  Cetatile Ponorului Mountain Cabin.

Day 4  | Galbena Valley and Gorges ( 8 hours)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This  day  is  dedicated  to  the  impressive Valea  si  Cheile  Galbenei (Galbena Valley and Gorges), 8 hours round trip, moderate to difficult hike.On our way to Galbena we will pass by the spectacular Avenul Bortig (Bortig Pothole)  with its 35 m diameter entrance. At the basis

of  the  vertical  entrance  (of  -38  m  deep),  there  is  a  large  block  of permanent ice. The pothole has a total length of 150 m and a depth of 54 m obtained due to a short gallery which gives access to a large hall. The pothole is situated above the subterranean route of

Cetatile Ponorului underground river, but the access is blocked by the ice. The ice block is estimated to have about 30 000 m3 in volume, being the second largest in the country, after the one in Scarisoara Ice Cave, also situated in Apuseni Nature Park.

We will now descend to Galbena Valley, which acts like a drainage path for the majority of waters coming from Padis  Karstic  Plateau. Galbena karst spring resembles a lake of 7 m in diameter, situated at the base of a stone wall.

Downstream, the water coming from the spring creates numerous small waterfalls. On its way, the valley has formed narrow gorges throughout  its  length,  with  vertical  walls  and  steep  slopes  and with many waterfalls. The upstream sector is the most spectacular, between

Galbena  Karst  Spring   and  the  confluence  with Luncsoara Valley, resulting in a narrow canyon with over 100 m vertical walls. Caught  in  a  narrow  canyon, Galbena  Valley  creates  grooves  and inaccessible  swirl  holes  flowing  down  a  100  m  dis-levelment  on approximately 700 m aerial distance. A cave entrance opens on the valley where the water enters tumultuously. It’s the beginning of the underground tunnel from Galbena Gorges, over 100 m long. On the other side, the tunnel ends in a beautiful 7 m high, fan-like waterfall  which  flows  into  a  lake.  An  equipped  tourist  trail  passes  through Galbena Gorges, consisting of steel cables and support chains.On our way back, we will return through the Flowers’ Glade.Located on  the  slope  which  descends  from  below  the Stone  of  Galbena  to Galbena  Valley,  the  Flowers’  Glade  consists,  in  fact,  of  a  group  of glades lying like isles on the beech sea. Fully deserving its name, the Flowers’  Glade is Heaven on Earth in summer time: hundreds of many-coloured flowers decorate the sunny slopes delighting theeye and the heart. The hay fields are very rich hereabouts and local people make hay twice a summer.

Rest and evening programme. Dinner and accommodation at  Cetatile Ponorului Mountain Cabin.

Day 5| Cheile Somesului Cald trip (6 hours)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Somesului Cald Gorges offers: spectacular views and wide over the entire region, caves, canyons. With steep vertical walls sometimes exceeding 150 m with a very narrow bed, polished by water and numerous caves and canyons, Somesului Cald Gorges are among the wildest in the Apuseni Mountains.

Rest and evening programme. Dinner and accommodation at  Cetatile Ponorului Mountain Cabin.

Day  6  | Departure


After breakfast you will be transferred by car to the  airport or your chosen city.

The price includes:

  • 3 meals per day (starting with lunch on the first day and ending with breakfast on departure day, some of the  lunches will be packed lunches!)
  • accommodation 5 nights in mountain cabin Cabana Cetatile Ponorului in a triple room with private bathroom
  • guidance and all expenses related with the guide – English speaking (the guide will be with you every day)
  • the knowledge, support, and camaraderie of experienced guides
  • return transfer by car from /to airport

The price does not include:

  • personal drinks and refreshments
  • health insurance
  • souvenirs and personal items purchased during the trip
  • lodging before and after the trip
  • gratuities for Apuseni guides
  • other personal costs.
  • luggage carry ( each person will carry its own rucksack/s) , however, luggage carrier can be arranged at extra cost 100 Eur/group.
  • airplane tickets to and from Romania

Cetatile Ponorului mountain cabin| Padis area | Bihor Mountains

The cabin, recently restored is the only place in the area to offer a comfortable accommodation and is situated close to most of the important natural highlights from Padis area. It has rooms with 2-4-6 beds (can host up to 60 persons) with shared or en suite bathrooms, a large dinning room and all facilities such as electricity, running cold and hot water, central heating. It also has a large terrace with nice wooden benches and tables and a place for barbeque and camp fire. But if you wish to enjoy your coffee in the morning strong fresh air, just cross the road, enter the forest and follow one of the paths. You will find a log, somewhere, where you can sit, have your coffee and hear nothing but the birds’ songs and the wind’s gentle breeze. Here at the cabin you can serve cooked meals (traditionally Romanian or Hungarian recipes) or you can have your own foods.

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