©Piatra Craiului Mountains (copyright: creative commons)
The first measures to protect the scenic Piatra Craiului (King’s Rock) area were introduced in 1938, when a little over four square kilometers of mountainous terrain were declared a nature reserve. Over time, the protected area was extended, in an effort to preserve the unique fauna and flora of the Piatra Craiului mountains, reaching today 148 square kilometers.
The Piatra Craiului park is the home of the greatest variety of plants in Romania, some of which are unique to the Carpathians. Over 1170 plant species and subspecies have been identified in the park, which is almost 30% of all plant species in Romania. The yellow poppy, mountain peony, white ivy, yew, and cats foot are just some of the rare species that adorn the green extents of the park. Botany enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that 41 species of orchids are found in Piatra Craiului, out of a total of 58 that grow in Romania.
The fauna of the park is just as rich as the flora. Over 216 butterfly species, 126 insect species, 111 bird species, and 40 species of mammals (40% of the total number of species in Romania) can be observed in the Piatra Craiului Park. The area is an ideal place for birdwatchers, who get the opportunity to observe several rare bird species, protected through international conventions. Large carnivores, such as wolves, bears, and lynxes can also be admired, along with chamois, rodents, foxes, and many other small mammals.
The karst relief is one of the interesting features of the Piatra Craiului National Park, the result of millennia of erosion and corrosion. The best examples of karst relief include the spectacular Prapastia Zarnestilor ravine, as well as the Bears’ Cave, the Bats’ Cave, and the Dambovicioara Cave.
The Piatra Craiului ridge is the tallest and longest limestone ridge in Romania. Many climbers and hikers visit it every year, mostly in the summer. For rock climbers, the Prapastia Zarnestilor ravine and the three gorges in the park offer great climbing opportunities, of various difficulties. Hikers and nature lovers can get in the park from several directions, but most choose to start from Zarnesti, Bran, or Moeciu.
How to get there
To get to Zarnesti, which is about 30 kilometers away from Brasov, tourists can take the train or bus, or can travel by car.