Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture

“This is a group walking holiday of alpine pastures, Saxon villages and incredible wildlife teamed with comfortable accommodation, minimal travelling and excellent local food.”

Highlights

Magura | Pestera | Visit to a bat cave | Wild bear watching | Traditional Saxon village visits | Piatra Craiului ridge | Libearty Bear Sanctuary | Vulcan | Bucegi Massif | Bran Castle | Brasov | Birdwatching | Horse-cart ride through the Barza Valley | Piatra Cruilui Mountains

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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01 Oct 2016
£ 1049
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Our top tip:
It's worth investing in a decent all-weather walking boots and don't forget your insect repellent.
Trip type:
Small group, 4-15 adults (min. age 16), tour leader.
Activity level:
Moderate. The fitter you are the more you'll get out of it.
Accomm:
7 nights comfortable guesthouse.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available for a surcharge.
Meals:
7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners.
Included:
Accommodation, transport, listed activities, tour leader.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture

Environment

Association for Ecotourism in Romania:
Our local tour operators are founding members of the Association for Ecotourism in Romania (AER) and hold positions on the Director’s Board. The Association is involved in promotion and marketing of sustainable tourism activity and accreditation of ecotourism tours and green accommodation. In a place where ecotourism is still in its infancy, this group is significant in raising public awareness of responsible ways to travel and this is reflected in the nature of this trip.

Conservation:
In the Carpathian Mountains above the Transylvanian town of Zarnesti, we visit Libearty Bear Sanctuary. This is Europe’s largest bear sanctuary and is set in 70 hectares of oak and hazel forests. The sanctuary is home to nearly 100 bears which have been rescued from captivity, having suffered as dancing bears or in circuses. By visiting, we are supporting the work goes on here with monitoring, maintenance and providing educational facilities for school groups to learn about animal welfare.

Activity:
We regulate our environmental impact by frequently using carbon free transport alternatives like hiking and traditional horse drawn cart. This trip is predominantly nature based and we are careful to enforce a ‘leave no trace’ policy- particularly when watching the bears and other wildlife. A local forester will accompany us to the bear hide and with ensure that our behaviour is in line with regulations set out by the forestry commission. In terms of community, our operators are the only local employers in their village and we also support local cafes, pubs and shops wherever possible.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Accommodation and Meals:
We spend the week in a comfortable, locally run guesthouse called Villa Hermani. The Villa uses LED lighting and solar panels in order to save energy, whilst their recycling policies are in line with Romanian environmental law. The majority of meals are included on this trip and they comprise of fresh, local produce and Romanian specialties like smoked meats, cabbage dishes and vegetable soups. On one evening guides accompany clients to dinner at a local restaurant in Brasov where we can enjoy regional cuisine and listen to traditional music; a good opportunity to support the community through local businesses.

Local Craft and Culture:
We get an insight into the rural, agricultural lifestyle of many in Romania when we visit a sheepfold. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn about some local crafts produced from sheep’s milk and wool. Other highlights include Bran Castle, which was home to Vlad the Impaler in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We also have a guided tour of Brasov and the unique Kalibash villages of Magura and Pestera, where the houses are built along the mountain ridges with deep ravines in between. Through this, we hope to contribute to the local economy by paying for guides and entrance fees.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

Reviews of Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 07 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable part of my holiday was watching the brown bears from the bear hide. While we were there we saw around 10 different bears including a mother with her two cubs. Katrina, the hotel owner who accompanied us on the trip, had excellent knowledge about the bears and was able to identify most of them.

My second memorable part was the scenery, so breathe taking, beautiful.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't be put off by the length of the longer 20km walk. It's easy going and covers a range of beautiful scenery, from walking along a limestone river gorge, through a forest and out into alpine pasture. Udo, (the local guide) gives you plenty of rest breaks and leads at a leisurely stroll. Before you realise it you'll be back home in the village. One of our group didn't go and later regretted it.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


All food is locally grown, much of it by the hotel owners and the hotel benefits the village by drawing in tourists and employing locals. As this is a walking holiday the main thing we left in the countryside were our footprints which had little impact on the environment. We also traveled by horse and cart but when we needed to travel further we went by minibus. During our stay we went to Libearty, Bear Sanctuary which had been set up to give a home to bears that have been rescued . We heard about how the bears there had been rescued from many years in captivity as dancing bears or in circuses

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent!!
Udo, the guide, was very knowledgeable about the area and a good walk leader. The hotel, Villa Hermani, was in an idyllic setting with breath taking views and Katrina (owner) made us very welcome. She went out of her way to cater for those with dietary problems getting in foods suitable for them. The food was simple but healthy and very tasty. The walks gave a showcase of the Carpathian mountains.
The only suggestion we could make is the Romanian restaurant visited we felt was too modern and did not have a traditional feel.

Reviewed on 26 Jun 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Bear watching, the tour guide who was absolutely great, slightly madcap but it all added to the experience, the people, the food, and the accommodation

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Some of the walks were challenging. My wife and are reasonably fit 55 and 63 year old but not regular 10K+ walkers. We did all the walks but I can see some people not being able too. Don't be misled by the easy label if you are not a regular walker.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes our holiday did all of those things

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Thoroughly enjoyable holiday. My wife was somewhat apprehensive but came back having enjoyed a different (for us) invigorating holiday that was much much better than either of us expected.

Reviewed on 29 Jun 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing wild bears

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for all weathers - one day blazing sunshine, next torrential downpours and mud everywhere.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - apart from the organised trip to the bear sanctuary, the guest house, walks etc were all sympathetic to the natural environment

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


9.5 out of 10

Reviewed on 25 Jul 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing wildlife i.e. Bears and Beavers. Seeing and experiencing local people, culture and hospitality.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Travel with the Tarom flights recommended not independently by Wizzair as Banesa airport is a cattle market. The programme you will have received 5 times before you arrive, i.e. brochure, booking, confirmation, paying, final, final final isn't actually the programme for the holiday, but the actual local programme is equivalent, as good or better, but slightly different.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Absolutely excellent, awesome experience, briliant hospitality from the local agent and excellent guiding. Very good accomodation that exceeded our expectations. Very friendly group of travellers that really gelled through the holiday.
Will certainly be considering other holidays from this operator for the future. Our 16 year old daughter had a brilliant time too.

Reviewed on 12 Oct 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Overall the trip was excellent with the day walk in the mountains being the highlight.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for a busy schedule.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Staff were from the area, and the food was sourced locally. Activities were based on what was available e.g horse and cart ride driven by local farmers using their farm carts. I would say that the holiday was sensitive to the environment and local culture and gave a good insight into rural Romania.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


An excellent holiday, a good destination and range of activities. One of the best group holidays I have been on, everyone got on well from the start.

Reviewed on 27 Jul 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Stunning views, great group, friendly locals.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for lots of walking and not necessarily much wildlife.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Really enjoyed it, but not quite what I had expected. A bit dissapointed that I didn't get to see much wildlife, for example the two hand-raised wolves on the operator website trip discription are in fact now dead and have been for many months. The road to the bear hide had been washed away in the rain, unavoidable of course but unfortunately the forrester who normally leads the additional forest walk was repairing the road so we missed out on both trips. It shouldn't really be named as a wildlife holiday, more a cultural and walking holiday.

Read the operator's response here:

It is unfortunate that the adverse weather affected this trip. The road is now fully repaired, so the optional bear hide visit and forest walk are both now possible once again. There is obviously an element of luck involved in viewing wildlife, but we are pleased to say that the the majority of our groups experience plenty of wildlife on the trip and frequently state this as the highlight of the trip in our feedback. One recent group actually saw 17 bears from the bear hide!

Reviewed on 02 Sep 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We were very priveledged to see so many bears from the hide one evening.

The walking is mainly in the mountains surrounded by some beautiful scenery. It was lovely to walk in such unspoiled surroundings and it was amazing to see the local inhabitants still doing things the 'old fashioned' way, such as cutting and turning their hay by hand.

On one particular walk we were taking a rest break close to someone's property and the old lady came out to ask if we would like to sample her cheeses (very tasty) - all made by hand from the milk of her own three cows.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You really don't need to take much money at all - there are very few opportunities to spend any! However, it is probably wiser to take however much you do take in RON rather than EUR.

Be aware that the operator do not use the same accommodation for all trips. Some departure dates use a lovely guesthouse up in one of the mountain villages (Magura), whereas our guesthouse was in a residential area in the town of Zarnesti and this was very noisy at night. If you are a light sleeper then you will need to take earplugs if in Zarnesti!

Other than that, I think the information sent out by the operator beforehand is pretty much comprehensive.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, I did, although we did get transported in minibuses a number of times at the start or end of a walk but I think it depends in which particular accommodation you are staying as to whether this is always the case (see above comment re accommodation).

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I thought that overall this was an excellent holiday. It was made even more enjoyable by having such a lovely group of fellow travellers to share it with.

Oh, and a week of lovely sunshine helped it along too :-)

Reviewed on 05 Jun 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing the wild animals (bears, beaver etc) in their natural environment.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go to enjoy the long walks in beautiful surroundings and treat everything else as an excellent bonus.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A unique and very enjoyable experience.

Reviewed on 14 Oct 2007 by

We were very well looked after all week with plenty of notice regarding the next day’s plans. Despite an 11 hour power cut we always felt that everything was under control and were served the usual wonderful dinner, by candlelight! Wonderful hosts, informative and sensitive guides, a very cosy and comfortable hotel with real character. Had a wonderful week and will spread the word!

Reviewed on 08 Jul 2006 by

I have to say, this was an incredible holiday adventure. Our guest house in the Piatra Craiului National Park was perfect. Every morning we opened the curtains to the most beautiful scene of the mountains and alpine meadows. The Romanian Carpathians are untouched and covered with wildlife and wild flowers.

Our favorite thing was the visit to the Shepherd's camp. It was as if life had stood still for hundreds of years. Make sure to take good hiking boots. The daily walks were long, but not difficult. I think our group left Romania just as we found it, untouched by modern day society. But, I think it changed us forever!

I would give this holiday 5 stars. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Reviewed on 23 Sep 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


That is difficult, there were quite a few. The view from the top of the Piatra Craiului ridge was fantasic and so was all the wildlife that we saw,especially the bear. Just being in such an unspoilt countryside was magical.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


I don't think that I can offer any tips. If someone is prepared to come on a holiday like this, they presumably will know what to expect.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I think that the holiday did help the local people. Maybe the only downside was that we did use two minibuses nearly everyday, although maybe some of the trails that we went on would not accommodate a larger bus.

4. Any other comments?


I had an excellent holiday and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants a holiday that is out of the ordinary. Dan was an excellent guide and he certainly made the holiday what it was.

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The holiday is based in the Piatra Craiului National Park, close to Zarnesti, and the immediate scenery is very beautiful and striking. It's great to look out of the window in the morning and see the mist rolling over the hills. The walks were very enjoyable and not difficult, although some people did find them a bit long. They were made more interesting by the local guides showing us animal tracks, spotting animals and telling us about local history and the way of life. On one walk we came across really clear bear prints that were only a few hours old! Seeing the bear at the bear hide was also exciting and jumping over the abandoned beaver lodges on the muddy river bank was a laugh. I was amazed at how many animals we did see during the week and how much I learnt about them. I found this holiday very relaxing and the area feels quite remote so it's easy to leave behind normal life. It is also very well organised and the guides are really helpful.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Bring proper walking boots, good waterproofs and warm fleece - it rained for 4 days during the holiday, didn't spoil it at all but you need to prepared! Take insect repellent as well, no-one else seemed much affected but my legs were eaten alive. Binoculars would be handy as you do spend some time animal watching. The evenings are spent in the guest house so bringing a few board games would help to pass the time. A lot of the activities are based around animal watching so it's flexible, don't expect to follow the printed itinerary exactly - you'll still get to do everything listed in the holiday but maybe not in the order expected :) I am vegetarian and I felt the guest house catered very well for vegetarians, they provided good veggie dinners (on all nights except the last when there was no meat alternative), and there's lots of bread and cheese provided for breakfast and packed lunches. Make sure the airline knows if your vegetarian, otherwise you'll have no food on the flight. There is a 2.5-3 hour transfer from the airport, but that's the price you pay if you want to spend the week in a beautiful, remote area.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, all the guides and guest house staff were local.

4. Any other comments?


I would recommend this holiday to anyone who enjoys spending time in remote areas and learning about local culture and wildlife. I would also thoroughly recommend the local guides, they are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about local wildlife and countryside.

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


An obvious highlight was seeing a wild bear from a hide in the woods one evening. However, I think the most memorable moment for me was just after arriving on the first night. It was quite late at night when we got to the guesthouse, and totally dark. As I was going to bed there was an incredible soundscape of dogs barking echoing through the mountains and valleys. I then woke up just past midnight to a very dramatic thunderstorm (the dogs must have known it was coming). I went to the window and looked out of it. That's when I got my first glimpse of the landscape of the Carpathian mountains - illuminated for a second by a huge flash of lightning. It felt like I'd arrived somewhere wild.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure you are prepared for bad weather - you may not get any, but we did and waterproofs and decent boots were essential.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, it did. We did use minibuses quite a lot, but the weather was poor and most of the locals had vehicles anyway so I don't think it would have made that much difference to general pollution levels.

Reviewed on 30 Jul 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Walking in the mountains looking for wolf and bear prints, driving in a horse and cart to the mountain walks.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take proper walking boots as recommended by the company, several people didn't and it was very difficult for them.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, it benefited and supported local people, from the hotel own, the ECO shop, to the horse and cart owner. It also minimised the impact on the environment.

4. Any other comments?


I enjoyed it all start to finish -
Great accommodation
Good food
Lovely group of people
Fantastic country and scenery
Very good and knowledgeable local guide
Very relaxing and peaceful
Varied activities.
I would recommend it to anyone, the only advice I would give is go with an open mind.

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