In this new article, guest writer Floriana Scanteie takes us to the Varghis Gorges nature reserve, one of the wildest, most spectacular and picturesque areas of Transylvania, the ideal place for hiking and caving.
In the north part of the Persani mountains, at the border between Covasna and Harghita counties, hidden from people’s sight, Varghis Gorges stretch along a fast river. If you venture into the beech, linden and maple forests you will discover a magical place, with limestone towers, steep slopes, valleys, avenues, deep ravines and over 120 caves of different sizes. These cavities preserve archeological, speleological, and paleontological values of international importance. Tourists come here in search of the largest population of bats in Romania and the possibility to explore some of the pits.
How to get to Varghis Gorges?
From Brasov, you only have to drive around 70 km until you reach the Varghis village. Then, if you follow the signs, a sinuous road, narrow but paved, will take you to the entrance of the nature reserve. One can also access this area from Odorheiu Secuiesc or Meresti.
After paying a modest entrance fee, you will walk through a meadow where tourists can also camp. A little further, the forest provides shelter from the sun. The air becomes humid and cool as you go deeper into the canyon, and following the Varghis river’s course, natural beauties unfold.
Wooden bridges that swing under the weight of the passers-by bind the river banks making the trip even more exciting. The hike, here and there, becomes more difficult, but not that challenging. This is, of course, until you get to explore the first cave. In order to do that in proper conditions, you will need light, warm clothes, and, occasionally, you’ll have to pull and switch to be able to enter those tiny sinkholes.
Explore the world underground
If you don’t have much time, still, you shouldn’t pass by the Great Cave from Mereşti, the Horse’s Cave or the Tatars’ Cave (back in old times, in this cave, locals used to find shelter from invaders). These pits are worth visiting because they are not just some empty holes in the ground. The wet walls abound with stalactites, crystal-like drops of water, rock formations, and living creatures who like these dark and cold spaces.
The larger caves were used by the prehistoric man in the Paleolithic. Explorers found here tools made of carved stone or bones, ceramic pots, and even metal and bronze objects. Part of the archaeological objects can be seen at the Székely National Museum, in Baraolt.
Few people know that here they will find the largest colonies of bats in the Oriental Carpathians, the yellow peony, a flower protected by law, and a glade full of daffodils. You just have to plan your trip at the right time.
The luxurious nature of Transylvania
Three marked routes cross the gorges. One of the most comprehensive of them lets you discover the caves, bridges, and river from the base of the mountain and then, after making your way up, hiking a steep slope, will reward you with a 360-degree view from up above. You’ll see a part of the 4 kilometer-gorges and the vast wooded area of Persani mountains, home to many species of animals, birds, and plants.
For any route you’ll take, two hours is the time recommended to cross the gorges from one end to the other. Consider the time spent on your way back and admiring the view and you’ll get yourself with quite a trip. Since the routes are not difficult, many families with children hit the road in search of some adventure, caves, and bats.
My advice is to visit the area soon as Varghis Gorges represent one of the most interesting phenomena in the Oriental Carpathians.
by Floriana Scanteie, guest writer
(Photos by Floriana Scanteie)