Hiking in Retezat National Park

View from Peleaga Peak

The Retezat owes its name to its most characteristic peak: the flattened top of Retezat Peak (2482m) is a landmark that can be recognized from afar – Retezat means ‘cut off’.  According to legend, a giant chopped off its top in the distant past, resulting in its present flattened appearance. The Retezat National Park covers an area of 38.000 ha and is the oldest national park in Romania; it was established in 1935 by botanist Alexandru Borza. To access the park you will have to buy a ticket, these are cheap (we paid each 10 RON)  and are usually sold by park rangers at the various entry points, otherwise, ask at the first hut you hit. Camping is allowed in designated areas only.

Retezat National Park is our favorite for good reason: its compact size makes it relatively easy to hike straight to its heart. It is home to some of Romania’s highest peaks – including Peleaga (2509m) and Păpuşa (2508m) – and has a great many glimmering lakes, connected by a dense network of streams and springs (58 permanent glacial lakes, lovingly referred to as ‘ochi albastri’, ‘blue eyes’). 

Geologically, it is characterized by igneous rock, with lots of glistening mica (Coprinellus micaceus – a common species of fungus) and quartz. 

Rocks in Retezat, view close to Peleaga Peak

We started our challenging route from one of the most popular and easiest access points, Cârnic, to Bucura Lake – Romania’s biggest glacial lake, which lies right in the center of the massif and is a great base for day hikes. 

We left our car in the parking lot near Cabana Codrin. If you walk up the gravel road from Cabana Codrin, and turn left onto a narrow trail up into the forest after about 300 meters; this is marked by a blue stripe and blue triangle. After 100 meters take the shortcut back to the road. After another 400 meters or so you have the option to turn left to Lolaila Waterfall; it takes just 5 min to get down there. After seeing the waterfall, walk back up to the road and continue south; when it forks, keep right towards Cabana Gentiana. Another beautiful waterfall on our way to Gentiana Hut is Maria Magdalena.

Maria Magdalena Waterfall

Expect your hike to get tougher and tougher! 🙂 

Once we’ve reached Bucura Lake, we pitched our tent there. Although the area around Bucura Lake is popular and can get very busy during the summer months, it’s easy enough to find a challenging trail away from the tents, into the wilderness.

Self-sufficiency is required on this trek; at Bucura Lake there is no accommodation (except in emergencies) so you will need to camp. The area around the lake is known for its strong winds, so make sure you and your tent are wind-proof.

Camping spot near Bucura Lake

During our first night, we had them all: rain, fog, thunder, lightning, but surprisingly …. a very good sleep.

Our tent at sunset

Next day, we went on a few trails from there, one of them to Peleaga Peak (trail marked with the yellow cross, about 2 hours). 

View from Peleaga Peak
close to Peleaga Peak

The second trail we did, in our way descending from Peleaga Peak, was the circular trail of the lakes: Lia, Ana, Taul Portii, Taul Agatat, Florica, Viorica ending at Bucura Lake (funny that most of them have popular Romanian female names), marked with the red dot.

Lake in Retezat

Our favorite was Taul Portii and Viorica Lake.

Taul Portii Lake

Viorica Lake

Over one-third of all the flora in Romania can be found in the Retezat Mountains, and it has over 90 endemic plant species.

Spotted some flowers

The animal kingdom is represented by chamois, lynxes, bears, wolves, deer, otters, and marmots, as well as the golden eagle, lesser spotted eagle, and several other birds of prey. You will most likely encounter several flocks of sheep – and therefore guard dogs. Watch out for vipers sunbathing on the rocks. 🙂

For the third day, we had in plan to hike up to Retezat Peak, but the fog, the wind, and the rain changed our plans and we decided to descend to Carnic on the same route we came. The views were totally different.

Saua Bucurei

To us, Retezat will always remain a place where we would like to return, to discover more of its unbelievable beauty that easily captivates your imagination… If there are movies for thought, books for thought, I would say that these are mountains for thought…

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