Romania has an unlimited potential for offering its tourists unforgettable memories, to a great extent due to the phenomenal richness and diversity of its relief. If you like moving, sweating, getting dirty and filling up with adrenaline, Romania comes to meet your needs by offering a wide spectrum of sports and outdoor activities that you can choose from. Below we have prepared only a small description of what tourists can experience here, be them professional or amateur sportsmen.
The Romanian countryside roads and mountain trails are increasingly attractive for local and foreign cyclists. While some of them set their “headquarters” in one place and then start daily escapades in the surrounding areas, many cyclists start their own tour of the country. During the day they move from one place to another, discovering new places and visiting the touristic sights, and during the night they lodge in the locals’ homes, enjoying the famous Romanian hospitality. Although the Romanian cycling infrastructure is not very developed, several regions such as Banat, Transylvania, Maramureş or Bucovina offer excellent routes.
Mountain-biking has taken off rapidly in the last years, and now local and foreign aficionados can race in international marathons, championships and competitions organized in our country. The bikers can choose between challenging trails in the Bucegi Mountains, Rodnei Mountains or Cindrel Mountains (south of Sibiu).
Walks and hikes
The Carpathian Mountains are the best place where those who like long walks or hikes can practice their hobby, while enjoying wonderful landscapes. There are hundreds of trails and routes suited for all levels of experience, crossing the mountains from the highest peak to the deepest valley. If the hikers get tired or hungry, there will almost always be chalets, huts and even hotels around to offer homelike meals and a comfortable bed to sleep in.
The Bucegi Mountains offer easier trails on the mountain sides that guard Sinaia and Predeal and more difficult hikes above Buşteni. Most of them, well marked, lead to the Bucegi Plateau, where the Sphinx (Sfinxul) and the Old Ladies (Babele) - rock formations with suggestive shapes – and the cross on the Caraiman Massif compensate for the 4 – 5 hours hiking duration. An easier hike can take you from Buşteni to Urlătoarea Waterfall.
The mountains that separate Maramureş from Bucovina, the remote Rodnei Mountains, represent one of the country’s best hiking areas. They offer no less than 18 marked routes, linking small villages situated at the mountains’ feet with Prislop Pass or the 2,303m high Pietrosu Peak. During your hike you will come across small canyons and gorges, glacial lakes, caves and waterfalls, all part of the Rodnei Mountains National Park’s protected areas. Do not expect to meet on your way too many tourists (or people in general), as these mountains are as little known and visited as they are beautiful.
Also, the Apuseni Mountains, in the western part of the Carpathian Arch, benefit from an excellent network of undemanding hiking trails. This will lead tourists to some of the most beautiful mountainous areas in the world, crossed by subterranean galleries with lakes, waterfalls and caves.
If bird-watching is your passion, than the Danube Delta is the best place to be. A wildlife habitat considered to be a true heaven for migratory birds, the Delta houses over 300 species and is home to the greatest number of pelican colonies in Europe. The pelicans, spoonbills and ibises are the unmistakable stars of Europe’s greatest wetlands, while the herons, egrets, red-breasted geese and pygmy cormorants contribute to the Delta’s wonderful colouring.
From March to May and from August to October the migrations take place, while May and June represent the peak of the egg-laying season. These are the best periods for bird watching, which will reward you with a fantastic experience.
Not only bird-watchers think that the Danube Delta deserves to be placed among the natural wonders of the world; fishermen too! Romanian and foreign, professional and amateur, all fishermen dream about capturing huge zanders (şalău), pikes (ştiucă) or catfish (somn). However, you should know that this activity can only be done in certain seasons and it requires a special permit.
Apart from the Danube Delta, there are many other rivers across the country where you can try your fisherman’s luck: Jiu, Olt, Bistriţa and Mureş.
Caving is a hobby for many Romanians, but also a tradition, as the first speology institute in the world was founded by Emil Racoviţă in Cluj-Napoca. But there wouldn’t have been such an institution, had it not been for the 12,000 caves spread throughout the Carpathians, and especially the Apuseni Mountains. Many of these caves are truly spectacular, but only a few are open to the public and properly equipped. Among them, Scărișoara, Meziad and the Cave of Bears are the only ones that can offer the tourists unique views and welcome them adequately.
Summer mountain sports
Although there are many places suitable for paragliding in Romania, this sport has only recently started to develop. The mountainous relief allows paragliding in the surroundings of Rânca, at Bâlea and Vidraru in Transylvania and in Maramureş, but there are big chances to see launches also in the Bucegi and other high mountains.
Those who like to feel closer to the ground can pick other summer mountains sports. Rock climbing is a popular sport, mostly because there are many places where tourists can perform this activity. The Bucegi Mountains, Cerna Valley in the Apuseni Mountains and the mountain cliffs in Maramureş are among the best and most visited mountain climbing routes in the country. If you like speeding, entertain yourself with ATV rides, motocross and off-road in Maramureş and in Făgăraş Mountains. The ultimate experience is bungee jumping on the Transfăgărăşan, at Vidraru, or at Cheile Raşnoavei, close to Poiana Braşov, which will definitely give you more adrenaline than all the other sports and activities combined.
Winter mountain sports
From December to March, the Carpathians’ ski domain ensures good conditions for practicing winter mountain sports. In Romania, there are almost 40 mountain resorts, served by a network of over 115km of ski slopes. The most popular winter resorts are situated in the Prahova Valley, around Braşov: Poiana Braşov, Predeal or Azuga. They also offer the best facilities for skiing (ski slopes, cable cars) and other winter sports (snowboarding, tubing, sleighing), as well as for accommodation. Moreover, there are ski slopes for all levels, from children and beginners to experts and professionals.
The mountain resorts in Maramureş develop fast, offering in the winter skiing possibilities in Borşa, Cavnic, Şuior, Izvoare and Mogoşa. The skiers, snowboarders and those who prefer bobsleds and sleighs can race down the modern slopes of these resorts.
Rânca resort, now ranked among the top three winter resorts in Romania, faced a rapid growth in development and popularity in the last years. It is among the first choices of those who seek good conditions and facilities, many activities to choose from (such as snowboarding, on- and off-piste skiing or snowmobile rides), wonderful sceneries and, nonetheless, inexpensive services.
The Romanian seaside resorts are the main destinations for water sports lovers. Here you can enjoy numerous sports that involve you and water, from diving to boat and water bike rides, surfing, ski jet and wind-surfing. The southern part of the Romanian shore, in Costineşti and Mangalia, offers wonderful experiences even to the most pretentious divers.
Many of the rivers that come from the Carpathians present areas suited for rafting, another increasingly appreciated sport. The upper course of the Jiu River (Jiu’s Defile), the Cerna Valley and Nera Gorges (Banat) and the numerous rivers that cross Maramureş are perfect for this sport, the latter providing good conditions for canoeing too. However, it will be impossible to plan this activity ahead, as it depends very much on the water flows. Kayaking and canoeing can also be practiced in the Danube Delta, where you will find special boats for rent at the nearby hotels and pensions.