Travel Planner: Valea Doftanei and lake Paltinu, the stunning, yet less known pearls of the Carpathians
This week's unexpected discovery in Romania is unbelievably close to Valea Prahovei, a very popular mountain area for Bucharest weekenders. Yet, it does not seem to have the same level of popularity among travelers.
Valea Doftanei – the valley of the river Doftana, a tributary of the Prahova river, is an amazing area of Romania, and very little known, even to Romanians. Probably locals from the Prahova county enjoy it more than travelers from across the country. It is located very close to the popular mountain resorts of Sinaia, Predeal and the rest, yet it is not as crowded, and to a certain point, it is even more rural.
Getting there is pretty straightforward and doesn't take a lot of effort, in maximum two hours driving from Bucharest you're there. Take either the DN1 road from Bucharest– the shorter, but less safe road to the mountains, or the new A3 highway to Ploiesti, and then back on the DN1. From Campina, instead of going straight on to the popular resorts, turn right to Valea Doftanei, and drive for some 15 kilometers. The scenery in the mountains is simply beautiful, and the area is pretty quiet. During weekends, you might see campers here and there, and people out barbequing.
The real pearl of the area is the lake Paltinu, on the Doftana river. After driving for a while on the serpentine road up to the 108 meter Paltinu dam, you will reach the lake, just before entering the Valea Doftanei village.
It seems to be a sort of heaven for fishermen – we've seen many camping near its shore, with plenty of fishing gear. While camping is in theory not allowed near the lake – there is only one official camping site close by, overlooking the lake – we've seen plenty of people setting up tents very close to the water. It is indeed a close to nature experience. But if you plan to do that, you should have plenty of drinkable water with you and be aware of the lack of toilet facilities.
Otherwise, the scenery is breathtaking. The lake, with its unbelievably greenish water, and the secluded area itself, with its lack of cellphone reception, will guarantee a few days away from civilization.
Not to say there aren't people around – there are a couple of private villas overlooking the lake and a couple of pensions offering lodgingfor anyone who doesn't fancy camping. But don't expect the abundance of accommodation found in Sinaia and the other resorts. Probably this is why the area seems more unspoiled.
A high end accommodation option in the area is the Atra Doftana hotel, overlooking the lake with stunning architecture. Having dinner on the lakeside terrace and taking boat trips on the lake seems worthwhile, but is a more expensive kind of holiday - rooms cost RON 290 a night, with breakfast included.
There are not many boarding houses in the area overlooking the lake, but the few there are cost around half as much as the Atra Doftana hotel. If going by car, remember that if you choose to park your car very close to the lake and take one of the stone paved roads, it might be hard to get out when it rains.
On the negative side, even though the area is not as popular, there might still be some garbage left overs from campers or from people barbequing, which is a pity, as it can spoil some of the area's charm.
If you fancy a bit of traveling, a car trip or even a longer walk to the Valea Doftanei village is recommended- the view from uphill, down the valley of the Doftana river, is stunning.
We'd definitely recommend discovering the area during a weekend to anyone wanting to enjoy nature at its best.
Corina Chirileasa, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photos: Corina Chirileasa / Romania-Insider.com; photo Atra Doftana: official website)