The Transalpine road over Carpathians, the highest road in Romania

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Though the Carpathians don’t reach the grandeur of the Alps, with tops of only around 2,500 m, they offer plenty of wild landscape and challenge for hikers, climbers and drivers. The Transalpine is a newcomer in the top of spectacular roads through Romania, challenging the fame and thrills of Transfăgărășan, the other bold passage, that connects Transilvania with the southern part of the country, straight over the tops and not following a river valley, like the other available options: Prahova Valley, Olt Valley or Jiu Valley. Each of these offer splendid landscapes, ski resorts and a variety of attractions on the way. But a rough road at an altitude where only grass can grow is a different experience.

Compared with the Transfăgărășan, the Transalpine is steeper, maybe a bit less winding and of course, lacking some attractions like Bâlea Lake and Vidraru Dam. Nevertheless it is really spectacular to see and its almost 150 km length offer some breathtaking moments that are not for the fainthearted. Also, if you usually have car sick, it’s wiser to pick a more gentile road, like DN 1.

The big asset of this fresh road, that was only paved starting with 2009, is the high altitude it reaches, 2,145 m, at Urdele Passageway (Pasul Urdele). There, local shepherds gather to sell sweet cheese („urdă”) and other local specialties and souvenirs. Close to it there is also a small glacial lake, with waters gathered from melting snow.

When coming from Bucharest or other southern city, an important tourist attraction you will encounter on the way to this road is Horezu, the capital of crafted pottery. It’s a place you must stop, either to buy a souvenir or to visit the local monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, at 230 km from Bucharest.

From Horezu, through Novaci, to Rânca, there are another 50 km on a mild national road. Rânca is a booming resort, that is steadily turning into a city. It is packed with new holiday homes of the well-to-do, hotels, and has a ski slope with cable installation.

The climbing and fun starts from Rânca, venturing into Parâng Mountains, with views of The Doll Top (Vârful Păpușa, 2,508 m) in Retezat Mountains and Vârful Mohoru. Transalpina is lacking higher vegetation in most of its part, the air might get chilling and the wind currents quite severe. Climbing and descending, the road is crossing several passageways: Pasul Urdele (the highes), Pasul Muntiu.

When approaching the source of river Lotru (Obârșia Lotrului), the vegetation gets more abundant, with fir forests that give shade and cool air. At Obârșia Lotrului, there is a camping and the road splits, offering two options: one continues on Transalpina, to Sebeș, a city in Transilvania close to Sibiu.

The other option is to continue towards the Valley of river Olt (Valea Oltului). The largest lake you will encounter is Lacul Vidra (Otter Lake), which is suitable for a boat ride. All the way this segment there are plenty of places you can camp, if you don’t mind spending the night in an unorganized place. Near the Vidra Lake there is the largest camping spot, to which you will need to take a 4-5 km unpaved road through the forest.

The segment from Vidra Lake to Voineasa is under reconstruction and has about 2 km in bad shape. To reach Voineasa Resort you need to take a slight detour, on a bumping road. The resort is at 650 m altitude and has a beautiful surrounding, in the valley of river Lotru. Unfortunately, it is notoriously poorly ran by the local trade union with almost no investments. However you will be able to find plenty of decent accommodation in and around it.

From Voineasa you can continue to Mălaia Lake, Brădișor Lake, and than through the valley of river Olt. Some tourist attractions on this passage are the 13 century Cozia Monastery and spa resorts Călimănești an Căciulata.

Mai multe despre: Nature, Romania
Other pages