Semenic – Cheile Caraşului National Park is considered by many to be the wildest Romanian national park thanks to its large areas untouched by man and to the rare fauna and plant life found here. The park is also home to the largest area of virgin beech forest in Europe, which spreads over 5028 ha. These wild, untouched places in the Southern and Eastern parts of the park contrast highly with the historical settlements found o its Northern and Western reaches.
On this tour we will have three main bases, for the first two parts of the tour in the North of the park in the villages of Gărâna and then Văliug and for our last part in the West of the park in the village of Carașova. The biking routes are not technically difficult but they are physically demanding as each day accumulates more than 1500 m of total ascent, making them suitable only for tourists in great fitness.
Day 1: Transfer to Gărâna
On this day you will be transferred to Gărâna, a small village in the north part of the park and the central point for our first third of the tour in Semenic-Cheile Carașului National Park. This lovely village has been founded by German settlers from the Bavarian forests and Southern Bohemia in 1828 under the name of Wolfsberg. Nowadays it is mainly a holiday and vacation destination, the last census only registering 26 permanent inhabitants.
Day 2: Gărâna - Carpin - Goleț - Slatina-Timiș - Poiana Măgura - Brebu Nou - Gărâna
We start out tour with a nice bike ride in the north-western part of the Semenic Mts. among sunny hills and forested valleys, to the Timiș couloir separating two major Carpathian segments: the Occidental Carpathians and the Meridional Carpathians. As we leave our comfortable lodging we will have to climb Radomir hill to an altitude of 1050 m, some parts requiring a little bit of push bike. However this part is quite short and in about 30 mins we get to the ridge of the hill which we will follow north, over Pietriceaua and Ferigeaua ridges. The ridge offers some nice views over the Gărâna-Brebu Nou basin in the beginning but it takes us into forested terrain as we move northwards. From Soharu hill (989 m) we change direction and head east on a forest road following the Goleț stream valley for about 12 km to the Lime Hill where we climb to the ridge of the Goleț hill on an easy road. The ridge road offers great views over the Timiș couloir and Țarcu Mts. in front of us. We pass next the villages of Goleț and Slatina-Timiș where we will stop for lunch. After we've refilled our tanks we head back west on the Secașu valley, enjoying the coolness of the forest's shadows. After about 15 km we arrive in Brebu Nou where we have two options to return to Gărâna: over Stâncii Hill or along the Trei Ape lake's shore.
Day 3: Gărâna - Prislop Pass - Molidu - Cireș pass - Trei Ape Lake - Văcuței Hill - Brebu Nou - Gărâna
Our third day is a short one with biking mainly on forest roads among dense beech and coniferous forests. Our first point of interest is the International Sculpture Park in Gărâna where we will enjoy the wooden sculptures spread all along the meadow. From Prislop Pass we take a winding forest road taking us on a rolling ride through the forest all the way to Trei Ape Lake where we will spend the afternoon enjoying a bit of sun time and a splash in the water for those courageous enough. The return trip is an easy 30 mins ride to Gărâna.
Day 4: Gărâna - Radomir - Prislop pass - Poiana Goznei - Baia Vulturilor lake - Piatra Nedeii peak - Poiana Goznei - CIreș pass - Trei Ape Lake - Brebu Nou - Gărâna - Văliug
This day's ride will take us to the highest reaches of the Semenic Mts. where we'll experience the amazing views of the surrounding region these mountains offer. For the start we head towards Prilsop Pass (1000 m) where we take the asphalt road to the Semenic plateau. The 350-400 m height difference requires sustained effort but the ride gets easy going once on the summit plateau. Right at its beginning on the northern side we climb up Semenic peak (1446 m), the second highest in these mountains for a spectacular view over the entire National Park and also towards the Tarcu-Cernei Mts. From here we head towards the resort located next to Piatra Goznei (1447 m) peak where it's possible to stop for refreshments. From here we move on south through alpine pastures, past some small lakes and springs up to Piatra Nedeii peak (1437 m) where we turn left on a forest road that takes us on the southern slopes of Semenic peak which we visited earlier during the day. Here we enter the forest and descend to Trei Ape lake on a succession of trails and forest roads. From here we take the road back to Gărâna where everyone can decide whether they want to take the bike to Văliug or ride with the car.
Day 5: Văliug - Poiana Bichi - Baciului Pass - Padina Seacă - Comarnic Cave - Bârzava Pass - Văliug
The day comes as an introduction to the carstic landscape we will be riding in the last part of our tour. From Văliug we take the main road towards Reșița for about 10 km to Poiana Bichi where we turn left on a beautiful forested road lined with limestone hills dotted themselves with countless sinkholes, especially on our right towards the Caraș Gorges. After about 15 km we make a longer stop to visit Comarnic cave, considered by many, the most beautiful cave in the Banat region. Next we head uphill towards Bârzava pass (836 m) where we take the ridge road north towards Poiana Beții peak (867 m). Following the road we descend in the valley below and after a short ride we are back on the Gozna lake's shores and into Văliug.
Day 6: Văliug - Vila Klaus - Berzavița - Căpățâna - Piatra Nedeii - Gozna - Văliug
The sixth day will take us again to the Semenic plateau, this time coming from its southern end. Therefore we start the ride upriver on the Bârzava valley to its confluence with the Berzavița stream which we will follow towards its headwaters. The forest road leaves the stream after a few kilometers and heads up towards Cracu Roșu Peak (1206 m). Here we turn north and take the ridge road over Căpățâna peak (1331 m) and towards Capu Muntelui Peak (1373 m) and Piatra Nedeii peak (1437 m). The plateau between Piatra Nedeii and Gozna peak is already known to us from the fourth day the only difference being that we now cross it in the opposite direction. Finally, from Gozna peak (1447 m) we engage in a provocative descent to Gozna Lake (600 m) and to our pension.
Day 7: Văliug - Breazova Lake - Trei Movile - Lindenfeld - Nemanu Mare - Radomir - Văliug
We begin the day with an easy mostly downhill ride from Văliug (545 m) to Secu reservoir (300 m). The road winds its way down on the Bârzava stream valley, along a country road flanked by dense cool beech forests on both sides. On our way, shortly after leaving behind the last houses of Văliug we reach Breazova reservoir, beautifully located in this secluded part of Bârzava valley, among the forested hills of the southern Semenic Mts. Once at Secu reservoir we engage an uphill road north and then east which will take us to the deserted village of Lindenfeld, whose tumultuous history we will try to glance among its streets. From Lindenfeld we take the ridge road to Prislop pass, taking us over Nemanu Mare (1122 m), Ferigeaua (1076 m) and Radomir (1090 m) peaks. The last part of the ride takes us on the asphalt road to Văliug, the exhilarating descent leaving us enlivened for the evening ahead.
Day 8: Văliug - Carașova - Anina-Oravița (by train) - Carașova
After the last days' rides we take a day off and head for one of the most beautiful train tracks in south-eastern Europe, the track between Anina and Oravița. Inaugurated on the 15th of December 1863, it is the second oldest European mountain rail after the Austrian Semmering. Over its 33.4 km course the rail passes 14 tunnels (totalling 2.1 km) and 10 viaducts. The two hour train tour ends at Oravița, the oldest train station in Romania (1854). Here we will make a short stop to visit the local theatre, a copy of Vienna's Burgtheatre and the oldest theatre in Romania. The return trip to Carașova can be made either by car or by bike, decision which we will take at the beginning of the day.
Day 9: Carașova - Caraș Gorges - Caraș citadel - Carașova
On this day we get our hiking boots on (swimming shorts/suits too) and head for an exciting hike in the Caraș Gorges, close to the village of Carașova. Here, besides the breathtaking scenery of the gorges themselves we will visit some caves and if the weather's hot we can also take a dip in the cool waters of the Caraș stream. The gorges are home to numerous endemic species of flora, while the fauna is mostly known for the many vipers found here, but also for the eagles and hawks nesting on the cliffs. While traversing the gorges is quite easy, visiting the caves found here require a little bit of technical climbing skills and specific equipment in order to enjoy the underground beauty safely. From the point known as ”La Prolaz” we leave the valley floor and head to the top of the gorges' north side where a trail will take us back to Carașova, passing close to the ruins of Carașova citadel, located on top of a cliff overlooking the gorges below.
Day 10: Carașova - Mărghitaș Pass - Steierdorf - Brădet - Gârliște - Carașova
On this day we prepare for an exciting 60 km itinerary, mostly on forest roads, trails and country roads. We start in Carașova, the settlement with the highest number of Croatians in Romania (84,6% of the total population, 2758 people), and head uphill towards the vantage point called La Păula, offering a beautiful view of the surrounding area. From here on we cycle a limestone plateau to Mărghitașul Mic glade where the road enters under the cover of the oak and beech forests of the Semenic NP. We continue south through the forest to Steierdorf , a former mining colony set up by Germans arrived in the 18th century to exploit the iron and coal found in the hills surrounding it. Here we can stop at one of the several pensions located alongside the national road crossing the village and refuel for the second part of the day. Once we get on our bikes, our itinerary changes direction, heading for a short while west and then north to the small village of Brădet. We continue north to the beautiful vista point on top of Moghila hill (681 m), overlooking the Gîrliște stream gorges. Following the vista point is an easy descent to the village of Gîrliște and then a short ride among cultivated fields to Carașova.
Day 11: Carașova - Socolovăț - Mărghitaș - Navăț - Comarnic - Iabalcea - Carașova
The day's ride will take us on a lovely circuit around the Caraș gorges on a track alternating from limestone plateaus to forested cool valley roads. We begin uphill on a forest road taking us 400 m higher than our starting point in Carașova, up to the limestone hills that form the southern flank of the Caraș gorges. As we continue south, around the Socolovăț hill we leave the course of the Caraș river and follow its tributary Buhui on a beautiful limestone plateau from Terie glade to Mărghitaș reservoir. From here we follow a trail going upstream to Mărghitas pass (675 m) where we turn east until we reach Buhui cave, the second longest in Banat. Following Buhui cave the road heads north on a cool forest road and, after passing Ceresnaia hill, descends back on the Caraș river valley floor which it will follow for about 5 km to Navăț. The next few kilometers have already been cycled by us from Navăț to Comarnic cave. However, from Comarnic we head uphill towards Iabalcea and its carstic plateau and back to Carașova.
Day 12: Farewell
Photo sharing sessions, delicious breakfast and see you next time.
Prices start with 850 EUR/pers. and they have a 25 EUR/pers. discount for group bookings (for example if you book for 2 persons the price will be 825 EUR/pers.; if you book for 5 persons the pricewill be 750 EUR/pers. etc.)