Carpathian Mountains

Most of Romania’s protected areas are in the Carpathian Mountains which curve down 930 miles (1,500 km) from Slovakia and northern Poland through western Ukraine, covering some 81,000 square miles (213,000 km2) in seven European countries. In this U.N. World Biosphere Reserve is a remarkable wildlife population—largest concentration of carnivores anywhere in Europe, including over 9,000 huge brown bears, 4,000 gray wolves, 3,000 lynx, along with stags, wild boars, deer, and foxes, and at rocky, higher elevations, a thriving chamois population.

In remnants of the primeval forest that once covered most of Europe are golden eagles, eagle owls, Ural owls, green, black, and three-toed woodpeckers, mountain cocks, capercaillies, golden pheasants, and one-third of Europe’s plant species.

It is a vital corridor for dispersal of plant and animal species through the continent. Wolves are actively repopulating southern Europe through the Carpathians, which also furnish freshwater for the region’s major rivers. It’s believed that without rainfall originating from the Carpathians, more than 80 percent of Romania’s water supply and 40 percent of Ukraine’s would dry up.

Over half of the chain—55 percent—is in Romania; 17 percent in Slovakia; 11 percent in the Ukraine; 10 percent in Poland; four percent in Hungary; three percent in the Czech Republic; and less than one percent in Austria. About one-sixth of it is under some form of protection. Threats are from pollution, population pressures, excessive logging, and poaching. Wolves especially suffer from centuries of baseless fears that they attack humans, although their defenders point out that while dozens of persons are accidentally shot by hunters, there is only one record of a wolf attack in the past 50 years, and this in self-defense. As a designated endangered species, they are fully protected in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, though not at all in Ukraine.

Reserves have not always been well managed, but recent help from both the World Bank and European Union holds promise of better in the future, not only to implement park regulation and facilities but to support important biodiversity projects.

Romania’s Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP), an example, combines pioneering field studies with an innovative ecotourism program based in Bucegi Nature Reserve headquartered in Prejmer, near Brasov.

Major Carpathian reserves in Romania include:

Bucegi Nature Preserve protects the entire spectacular 116-square-mile (300-km2) Bucegi mountain range, with miles of well-marked trails—for more information, Nature Protection Society (Asociatia Pentru Protectia Naturii) in Brasov, Str Maior 44, Tel: (+40) 068-419-210; also CLCP Project, Wildlife Research Department, Soseaua Stefanesti 128 sect 2, Bucharest RO-729904, Website:

Retezat National Park was Romania’s first national park, 210 square miles (544 km2), with one of the largest tracts of pristine mixed forest in Europe, more than 80 glacial lakes, good numbers of brown bears, gray or timber wolves, lynx, wildcats, wild boars, roe and red deer, mountain goats, badgers, otters, chamois, and among birds, lesser spotted and a few golden eagles, capercaillie, pygmy, Ural, and eagle owls, wrynecks, and red-breasted flycatchers.

Rodna National Park and Biosphere Reserve, 219 square miles (567 km2) in the eastern Carpathians, with brown bears, lynx, gray wolves, black grouse, capercaillies, eagles.

Piatra Craiului National Park, with mountain goats, mountain cocks, gray wolves, stags,unusual hazel-colored bears.

Apuseni Mountains—with wild boars, deer, stags, bears, designated as future national park but at risk with uncontrolled hunting.

The city of Brasov is a good orientation point with hotels and information for Carpathian travel. From there, best access to Bucegi is from the resorts of Busteni and Sinaia. Approach Retezat from the east at Petrosani, from the north at Ulpia Traiana-Sarmizegetusa or Nucsoara. Main entrance to the Rodna Mountains is from the Complex Turistic Borsa, just east of the town of Borsa. Best access to Piatra Craiului is from Zarnesti, southwest of Brasov.

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Bucegi Nature Preserve

Retezat National Park

Rodna National Park

Piatra Craiului National Pa...

Apuseni MountainsBialowieza National Park