©Bucura Lake (copyright: creative commons)
The Retezat National Park spans over a surface of 38,000 hectares, comprising a portion of the Retezat-Godeanu Mountains.
Within the park there are three distinct areas: the Gemenele area – a strictly protected nature reserve that covers 1630 hectares; the Central area – which covers most of the Retezat Massif; the Buffer area – an area on the periphery of the park where human activities are less restricted.
The Retezat National Park has been shaped by tectonic and glacial forces, resulting in a spectacular landscape with dozens of jagged ridges and numerous glacial lakes.
Over half of the park’s surface is covered by woods, including some of the largest contiguous patches of primeval forests in Europe.
The jewel of the Carpathians, as the Retezat area is known, is home to over 20 peaks that are higher than 2000 meters, and about 100 clear blue glacial lakes. The lakes are said to be the “blue eyes of the Carpathians” by the locals and nature enthusiasts. The largest glacial lake in Romania is found here – the 8.9 hectares Lake Bucura. Also, the deepest glacial lake in Romania is Lake Zanoaga, at 29 meters. These bodies of waters formed when glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age, with water from the melting snowcaps accumulating in their places.
The Retezat park is a paradise for botanists – lush forests cover much of its surface and almost a third of all plant species in the country are present in the park. Almost 90 species grow only here in Romania, while 130 species are considered rare, including the iconic edelweiss.
Hikers, climbers, and skiers are spoiled with a great number of options, and considering that the area is not a tourist hotspot like the Bucegi Mountains those who prefer to get away from civilization will find bliss in the Retezat National Park. The park administration’s policy is to keep mechanization away from the park’s premises, meaning that tourists will find no cable car or even paved roads. If you’re not put off by that, one of the most popular routes starts from the Pietrele area, goes by some of the most beautiful mountain lakes, and ends at the top of the highest summit in the area, the 2509 meters Peleaga Peak.
Wildlife spotting, bird watching, and photography are ideal activities for families in the Retezat Mountains. Over 185 species of birds visit the park, and most of them nest here, including the majestic golden eagle, making a fruitful bird watching expedition almost guaranteed. Large and small mammals are also numerous, including the brown bear, grey wolf, lynx, the iconic chamois, and even a large population of cute marmots, introduced here in the 70s.
Complementing the scenery of the Retezat National Park, the traditional culture of the nearby area provides a respite from the routine of city life. Historic monuments are also present in the area, including the ruins of the ancient Dacian Sarmizegetusa city, the Kendeffy Castle, and many other vestiges of Romanian history.
How to get there:
The Retezat National Park is accessible from two main directions – from the mining town of Petrosani in the south of from the traditional Hateg area in the north. Petrosani is only 15 kilometers from the border of the park, with taxi and minivan services available to transport tourists.