Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture
Optional single supplement from £180 - £200.
Minimum age 16.
Description of Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture
A Carpathian Mountains holiday is all about hiking, history, wilderness and wildlife. We cover the most eclectic mix during this week of wandering through Transylvania, best known for Dracula but most celebrated for dramatic landscapes of canyons, virgin forests and remote ancient villages.
Travelling in a small group with an expert local guide this trip is centre based, staying in a locally owned guesthouse in Magura at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, from where we take trips out by private bus or the traditional horse and cart. Also traditional in this region are the Kalibash villages of which Magura is one and Pestera another. We take a day trekking around these ancient settlements, which are poised on elevated ridges overlooking dramatic ravines and valleys.
Other mountainous treks include Piatra Craiului ridge with tranquil alpine meadows to soften our trek en route, and then the most dramatic of all – Omu, the highest peak of the Bucegi massif at 2,505m, although we do take a cable car up part of the way. More untouched traditions and landscapes await in the Barza Valley which we explore by foot and by horse and cart, with an option to seek out its most famous resident wildlife, brown bears, from a night time hide run by local people.
We also get a chance to study bears at the country’s famous Libearty Bear Sanctuary, home to over a hundred rescued bears, often used for tourism purposes in the past, dancing and being caged up for tourists. Ironic, given that this is a country where the untouched wilderness gives one a great sense of freedom and discovery. Thankfully, the country’s attitude to wildlife conservation is changing, so bring your binoculars for bird watching and a torch for night time tracking. Packing garlic for your visit to Bran castle, best known as the residence of Count Dracula, is optional!
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18 Reviews of Carpathian Mountains holiday, conservation & culture
Reviewed on 08 Oct 2023 by Allan ColverExcellent Read full review
Reviewed on 25 Sep 2023 by Paul JefferyExcellent! Not what I expected to be honest and a bit daunting at first but now much fitter! Final note: Thomas (our guide) really made this trip. He was local, new the area and so many people. Read full review
Reviewed on 18 Jun 2023 by Marian ReynoldsExcellent. Read full review
Reviewed on 24 May 2022 by Nigel SummerellExcellent...Meeting the Bears, accommodation was great as were the staff and the location was stunning. Read full review
Reviewed on 25 Aug 2019 by Ann WhitehouseIt was excellent- excellent value for money, wonderful food and accommodation, great itinerary, wonderful varied walks, excellent guide, very good group size. All worked towards a fab holiday experience. Read full review
Reviewed on 21 Jul 2019 by Sarah BascombeThe most memorable part of the holiday was seeing the bears in the hide Read full review
Reviewed on 28 May 2019 by debbie hillSeeing the bears from the hide was memorable, especially Mum bear with her two babies Read full review
Reviewed on 21 May 2019 by William WalkerJust being in the wonderful location was memorable - seeing the snow covered mountains of Bucegi on one side and the Piatra Craiului on the other was wonderful. Apart from seeing the bears, the other (unexpected) highlight was the wonderful ride in the horse cart, through the meadows with the sun shining. Read full review
Reviewed on 30 Sep 2019 by Clare JayesThe bears but it was all excellent. Read full review
Reviewed on 01 Sep 2019 by Elaine HowellsThe most memorable and exciting part of the holiday was watching the bears from the bear hide. Read full review
Reviewed on 24 Sep 2018 by Christine GreenFabulous, it was our 1st group holiday and would definitely be happy to do similar again. Read full review
Reviewed on 05 Aug 2018 by Emma CowenAn excellent trip with places to hike and see, friendly and helpful people and fantastic hosts and guides. Read full review
Reviewed on 21 May 2018 by Julie ToplissThe whole trip was memorable but I loved the walk in the snow and rain at the top of a mountain. Brilliant. Read full review
Reviewed on 03 Sep 2017 by Alison MitchellWalking in the Carpathian Mountains was stunning. Watching bear and wild boar at close quarters and visiting the bear sanctuary was definitely one of the highlights. Gaining an insight into the history of Romania by visiting castles, fortified churches and local towns was also fascinating. Read full review
Reviewed on 06 Jun 2017 by Mauveen JonesThe most memorable were the painted monasteries and the village of Viscri and Transylvania generally. Read full review
Reviewed on 07 Aug 2016 by Stella JalesThe 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. Read full review
Reviewed on 26 Jun 2016 by Stuart WhiteThoroughly 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. Read full review
Reviewed on 29 Jun 2015 by Diane RoweThe most memorable or exciting part of your holiday? Seeing wild bears! Read full review
PlanetAccommodation 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 the leader will accompany clients to dinner at a local restaurant in Brasov where we can enjoy regional cuisine; a good opportunity to support the community through local businesses.
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.
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 local partners are the only local employers in their village and we also support local cafes, pubs and shops wherever possible.
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.
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.
PeopleLocal Craft and Culture:
We get an insight into the rural, agricultural lifestyle of many in Romania when we walk through rural villages and countryside through the week. There will also be excellent opportunities to learn about some local crafts and traditions. 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.
Association for Ecotourism in Romania:
Our local tour partners 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.
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