The Ecotourism Destination Padurea Craiului coincides with the Padurea Craiului Mountains. The area is also a sub-unit of Apuseni Mountains part of Natura 2000 Site – The Crisul Repede (Fast River) Defile – Padurea Craiului.
- The National Roads DN1 Oradea – Cluj-Napoca in the north and DN76 Oradea – Beiuş in the south ensure the main access in Pădurea Craiului. From here an asphalted road detaches itself: DJ 764 Borod – Bratca – Roşia – Beiuş that crosses this region from north to south.
- In Bucea there is a road that follows Iadului Valley (Valea Iadului) up to Stâna de Vale (asphalted up to the tail of lake Lesu).
- In addition, the railway Cluj-Oradea allows the access from the north.
Although the altitudes are modest, around 650m, Padurea Craiului present mountain features. This is due to the accentuated fragmentation between the tops. The water courses dig deep valleys, therefore creating gorges and defiles.
Certainly, the karst landscape is the most characteristic feature in the Padurea Craiului Mountains.
On the surface, you will be surprised by the great diversity of the karst landscape forms, from deep gorges up to sinkholes, uvalas, lapies and also pit caves.
The Underground of Pădurea Craiului hides an impressive number of caves, over 340.
Karst superlatives in the Padurea Craiului Mountains:
- Firstly, we find here the longest cave in Romania, The Vântului Cave, with 42 km in length.
- Secondly, the longest underground hydrological penetration in Romania is also in this site. These is The Tinoasa Pit Cave– The Ciur Izbuc Cave– The Ciur Ponor Cave – The Topliţa de Roşia Karst Spring.
- Another example is Izbândiș Karst Spring (- 91 m), the second deepest karst spring in Romania.
- one of the first karst springs as flow rate in Romania – The Roșiei Karst Spring.
The Padurea Craiului Mountains have:
– the biggest number of touristic show caves in Romania:
- the Vadu Crişului Cave
- the Cave with crystals in the Farcu Mine
- the Meziad Cave
- the Ungurul Mare Cave
– the first network of speleological caves in Romania, there are 10 of them:
- the Gruieţ Cave
- the Doboş Cave
- the Moanei Cave
- the Osoi Cave
- the Gălăşeni Cave
- the Bătrânului Cave
- the Vântului Cave
- the Hârtopul Bonchii Cave
- the Ciur-Ponor Cave
- the Craiului Cave.
The 10 caves are divided in 3 categories of difficulty. Are offering for all, from children to speleologists, the chance to discover this wonderful underground universe.
- Gruieţ and Doboş Caves, are destined to those that are learning their first steps in caving.
- Moanei, Osoi, Gălăşeni, Bătrânului Caves are for the active ones. There are long distances to walk, up to 2 km. There is also a longer time of visit, 4-5 hours.
- Ciur-Ponor, Craiului, Hârtopul Bonchii and Vântului Caves have a higher degree of difficulty. There are difficult passages, longer times, but the effort is rewarded by exquisite attractions. For example, the longest stalagmites in the country-over 15 metres in height- are to be seen in the Craiului Cave.
Each of the 10 caves has its own visiting rules. There are a limited number of persons to enter, with guide and suitable equipment (wet-suits, helmets and in some of them special vertical equipment).
Besides the spectacular formations created by nature, you can also find here traces of the prehistoric man (stone utensils, ceramic pots and bone objects), skeletons of the Ursus spaeleus, shells and snail fossils.
Each one of these caves is unique in its way, standing out either by its impressive dimensions, either by calcite crystals beauty or by the different forms and dimensions of the stalactites and stalagmites.
Most of the caves house bat colonies; that is why 15 caves were closed to tourists in order to protect them.
On the surface, the tops that are oriented in all directions and the karst plateaus pierced by sinkholes divided by large valleys create a diverse landscape.
This chaotic landscape is completed by beech and oak forests as well as by spruce forests interrupted by villages and hamlets or hay pastures with flowers and haystacks.
The waters disappear underground through caves, pit caves or sinkholes and reappear on the surface through karst springs or springs. These springs appear either in caves or at a cliff base, in wild and charming places.
The wild gorges divide the limestone plateaus, some of them reaching 10 km long, such as the Videi Gorges.
Pădurea Craiului is divided in touristic areas: The Crişului Repede Defile, The Iadului Valley, The Rosia Region, The Vida Valley Region.
The Crişului Repede Defile and its adjacent valleys have in a relatively small area a lot of things worth seeing, from caves, gorges or cliffs to deciduous forests. Hiking, caving, via ferrata, climbing, cycling, rafting, all in just one place.
The Iadului Valley, of over 50 km long, certainly is one of the most picturesque valleys in the Apuseni Mountains. You can discover here fir tree and deciduous forests, water falls, karst springs, and also limestone steep cliffs. All of these are very near the road that follows the valley.
In the Roşia Valley Basin you can find gorges, karst plateaus with hamlets and pastures that offer in one place wilderness and traditional life.
The Vida Valley Region is a karst area with poor accessibility, almost no inhabitants but with a lot of forests and that is why it is still a wild area. Moreover in the region we find many karst springs, caves and pit caves.
The area covers both sides of Videi Gorges, from its spring up to its flow in the Artificial Lake Vida.
The best way to explore this region is by bike or by foot. Due to its small heights, as well as to the road network, Pădurea Craiului is easy to visit either by hikers or bikers.
15 marked touristic trails allow the access by foot to some of the main attractions in the area. Two thematic roads will reveal the secrets of the karst formation. With short trails and many attractions these roads are ideal for families with children.
For example, The Karst Plateau Runcuri and The Cuţilor Gorges trails will present you the spontaneous flora and fauna of the Damiş-Ponoraş Area.
For the time being, only one bicycle touring trail is marked in the Iadului Valley Area. The rest are established and described but not marked yet. You can find their description here.
The multitude of roads that cross this region allow the creation of bicycle touring trails for any level, from rides with children up to technical trails for the experienced ones. At Roşia and Remetea there are two centres for bike renting.
Padurea Craiului offer dozens of climbing trails. Fast River Defile and Lazuri Gorges area, have routes either for beginners or experienced climbers.
During springtime, Crişul Repede is a rafting destination, relatively easy and accessible to beginners.
In order to discover the whole charm of the Pădurii Craiului Mountains you must include in your ride a wood church (Beznea, Valea Crişului), a water mill (Roşia) or some hay barns.
You can see here how the land is still being worked in a traditional way. The locals still plough the land with an iron plough draw by horses and gather the hay for the hay stacks manually.
You can take part in the customs of the locals either by witnessing the making of a white clay pot in Vadu Crişului, either by the painting of the Easter eggs in Drăgoteni. Certainly, an interesting time to be here is for the Christmas holiday in Roşia or for the “Straiţa plină” Fair (The Full Sack).