Many people already know the mountain resort of Sinaia, with its famous Peles Castle, the monastery (and those who don’t, should pay a visit to discover these). Those who’ve already been to Sinaia countless times may think that the famous Romanian mountain resort has nothing new to offer. They’d be wrong.
What I like and don’t like at the same time about many beautiful places in Romania is how easy it is to get there by car. One of them is the Stana Regala (The Royal Sheep Yard) and its mountain vista meadow. One can drive there from downtown Sinaia; it probably does not take more than 10 minutes, and you’re there, to enjoy a barbecue and the view. It sounds like something worth doing, but let me tell you there’s something even better: a road through the forest that gets you there in two hours, and which offers much more than the short car drive ever could.
The option I'm about to share however seems a less beaten path and less popular among tourists. I wonder why?
I’m talking about the former royal path through the woods, which starts near the Peles Castle, and leads to the mountain vista of the Royal Sheep Yard. Unlike what I had read on various Romanian blogs, which were saying this is an easy-peasy route, it is not quite so, but it is so worth the effort.
First off, it’s hard to find the entry to this paved path through the woods. Once on the path, it’s sometimes confusing as to which way to go next. But our group of 10 people managed to find their way around (only two got slightly lost when returning, but this was quickly fixed, thanks God for mobile phones and good reception).
To enter this paved path, go to the smaller Pelisor castle near the Peles castle, and just before reaching the small castle, take the tiny road to the right, straight to the woods, just near an annex house. It’s a bit confusing, I know, this path is not marked in any way in this area, we had to ask a guardian at the Pelisor about this ‘secret’ entry point, which we also advise you to do. The royal family used to take this route from near their castle to get to the sheep yard.
Once on the paved path, the beginning is confusing again, as you should not take the right turn (and go past the ‘access forbidden’ mark like we did!), but rather keep the road up, and then left. During this confusing part of the route, you can see the Peles castle and the Pelisor through the trees, so it will be less confusing knowing that you can always return should things get too stressing for you.
We chose to continue and it was a good decision. On our way through the woods, on the ‘magical’ royal paved path (Oz, anybody? ), we’ve met a couple which told us the road stops at some point, and they could not continue, hence they chose to return. We took our chances however, trusting that a team of 10 might find solutions better than the two people we’ve met. And indeed we have.
The road through the woods is not very physically challenging at first (though it challenges the orientation skills). The weather was nice at this beginning of July when we had our one-day hiking team-building, it was not very hot through the woods, so we kept walking happily, and honestly not really knowing if this roads leads to anywhere. It made the whole thing turn into something exciting for most of us, as we were delving somehow into the unknown. We knew we had to follow a mountain route marked with red, so armed with that and keeping our paved path, we continued the adventure.
Things got a bit more challenging when we reached the main crossroad on our way – where we also saw the first official mark announcing we were on the Royal Path. Two asphalted roads, apart from the one we came from, and the one going further up, led to that crossroad, where we also saw some parked cars. So there must be another way to reach that point, except I don’t know exactly what it is, and perhaps and I don’t even want to try it. (But if you do know an alternative walking route, please comment below. )
We started the second part of our trip with a quite steep ascent, which called for various stops for small groups within our 10-person team. With each loop of the path, we kept wanting to go up some more, but at the same time hoped the path will soon reach its end and we can finally rest.
We only met another group of people on this way up; they had not reached the Royal Sheep Yard, instead they went back to their cars parked at the crossroad, and chose to drive; we saw them already at our destination when we also arrived.
After passing by a clear water spring where we filled our already empty water bottles, we shortly reached this amazing meadow surrounded by mountain peaks. A short stop at one of the terraces there (yes, restaurant and terrace available) to get some drinks, and we camped in the middle of the meadow, for a picnic lunch and some relaxation in the sun.
The view is spectacular, and the feeling while resting in the grass after about two hours of walking is irreplaceable. I’d recommend it to anyone – it’s also good for the mind anf for the body.
Very close by, ten more minutes up on a marked path, we reached the Franz Joseph cliffs – the place where Romanian king Carol I took Emperor Franz Joseph to see the border of his empire, at the end of the 19th century. A great view over the Prahova valley awaits, and you’ll probably want to take lots of pictures, like everyone else who goes there.
The Royal Sheep Yard is just a stop point for some people, who can continue their hike elsewhere – to the Poiana Tapului (and extra hour of walking) and to the cross on Caraiman even (which can be seen from the meadow), which is however many hours away and which requires a longer trip.
The way back down takes less time than the one up, obviously. In less than two hours, we were back at our hosts, the Piatra Soimului hotel in the Cumpatu neighborhood, and ready to have dinner on the terrace of the Kuib restaurant.
We managed to fit everything into a day – we left Bucharest early in the morning, traveled by train for about two hours, we stayed in the mountains for about two hours, hiked for about four hours, and enjoyed breakfast and lunch at Kuib, then went back to Bucharest in the evening, two more hours (on top of the extra hour in the Sinaia railway station waiting for our delayed train), and arrived home close to midnight, pretty tired but happy.
So this can definitely be a one – day trip away from the Bucharest madness, avoiding the traffic madness on Valea Prahovei, and enjoying what nature has to offer.
By Corina Chirileasa, [email protected]