Cheile Nerei are the longest and wildest gorges in Romania, with a length of about 20 km.
The Nera River, which springs from under the Semenic Mountain, flows into the Danube, after 133km. Here, it forms a small delta – Balta Nera Danube reservation that belongs to the Natural Park Porţile de Fier.
Cheile Nerei flows on 23 km between the Sasca Română and Şopotul Nou Villages. This portion belongs to the Natural Reservation Nerei-Beuşniţa Gorges, along with Beiului Valley, Ochiul Beiului Lake, Beusnitei Waterfall and Vaioaga Waterfall.
The Natural Reservation Nerei-Beusnita Gorges is one of the 6 reservations from the National Park Cheile Nerei-Beușnița. The other 5 are: Bigăr spring, Suşarei gorges, Liciovacea, Ducin and Ciclovei – Ilidia valley.
All along Nerei gorges there is a red line marked trail. Even if the walls are no higher than 200-250 m, and the narrowings can be up to 20 m. The gorges are spectacular and wild. Nera river meanders between the calcareous walls – named in Banat “cârşii”.
The gorges can be done either from upstream or from downstream, the elevation gains being almost the same from any direction.
Thus, the Nera at Sopotu Nou is at about 200 m altitude and near Sasca Romana, the Nera river reaches an altitude of 150 m.
Due to its length, the gorges are difficult to be done in only one day, especially if you wish to do a circuit journey.
For tourists, the gorges are divided in two by the Beiului Valley, an affluent of the Nera River.
The main access point in the Natural Reservation Cheile Nerei – Beusnita is near the outfall of Beiului River into the Nera. The place is known as the Podul Beiului (the Beiului Bridge).
Access to the Podul Beiului:
- from the road coming from the Potoc Village. You can find here a small parking for your car as well as the paying point for the reservation fee (5 lei/person).
Other access points to Nerei Gorges are Sasca Romana, Sasca Montana and Sopotu Nou Villages.
Sasca Romana and Sasca Montana Villages are the place where many tourists begin their hiking. You can find here many guest houses.
- Sasca Montana Village was a mine area and a metal processing even from the 18th century.
- The Sasca Romana Village was a centre for the regional ceramics. Nowadays, the tourism led to the revival of these villages.
Sopotu Nou Village is used as a starting point especially by those who want to raft along the Nera River in their rafting boats. The only possibility for staying overnight is in your own tent, in the glades near the Nera River. For camping, ask permission from the inhabitants first.
Eastward from the Beiului Valley, the tourist trail that goes along the Nera River upstream, follows in the beginning a 5 km forest road up to the former Damian Forest House. For those who are carrying a tent, they will find here a place to camp.
From here to Dracului Lake (Devil’s Lake) you will find the most spectacular part that may take you about 5 hours. The trail either climbs on the rocks, or surrounds the pointed rocks. It goes through rock dug areas or footpaths equipped with cables and even through tunnels.
At about 1 hour from the Damian Forest House, you will have to pass through water (the only passage of the kind) near the area La Cârlige. Thus, the path switches from left to right.
It is advisable to have a pair of mountain sandals or sneakers as the rocks on the bottom of the valley are slippery. In general, there should be no problem in crossing the river, as it is a large space and the current is not strong here. Nevertheless, avoid crossing it after rainy periods.
In fact all the gorges are better not to cross after rains, as many parts of the path can be under water.
You will come across a suspended footbridge, in a very poor state. It is not necessary to cross the Nera River here as the path stays on the left bank.
The footbridge leads to a glade – La Vogiun. At 1 km upstream the bridge, you will find here the shelter with the same name. There is also a good camping place.
The limy walls hide some caves: Dubova, Boilor, Rolului, Hicleană, Găuri etc. You can only enter the Boilor Cave for a few meters, being just near the trail.
At about 1 hour from the Vogiun footbridge and 5 hours from the Damian Forest House you will arrive at a trail crossroad. The place is known as „La Scaune”
- From the right side there is a trail that comes from Cărbunari (around 1h and a half on blue line)
- Straight ahead there is a variant of the red line trail.
- On the left side the trail goes to Dracului Lake (15 minutes) and the second variant of the red line trail.
Dracului Lake is hidden in the middle of the forest near the Nera River. The lake has a special charm due to one of its banks which is rocky and overhung as well as due to its changing colors, depending on the light that goes through the tree branches. The lake was formed after the collapsing of a part of the nearby ceiling cave. It is a cave of only 70 m long without speleology formations.
Dracului Lake is one of the biggest karst lakes in the country with a diameter of about 25 m. The depth of the lake is 13 m being supplied by the Nera River waters and rains. You can camp near it or opposite, on the right bank of the Nera River.
Between the forest house Damian and Dracului Lake there are 2 springs. One at about half an hour from the forest house. The other one, Izbucul Iordanului a little bit more upstream the suspended footbridge on the way to the Vogiun Glade.
For those who want to go back from Dracului Lake to the Sasca Montană Village there is here the possibility to do a circuit.
From the crossroads “La Scaune” you can go up to Cărbunari, on blue line. There is a 1:30-2 hour journey until the forest road. The road links Sasca Montană to Şopotu Nou in Poiana Logor, 2 km from Cărbunari. From the end of the Carbunari village continue on blue cross till Sasca Montană (another 2 hours). This trail passes by another renowned place in the area, the Gorges and the Waterfall Susarei.
From Dracului Lake up to the Şopotul Nou village there are 7 km, the trail has two journey variants. You can either go on the left bank or the right one, climbing back to the crossroads “La Scaune”.
If you choose to follow the right slope red band marked trail, you will cross the Nera through the riverbed, at Dracului Lake. A little bit further you will have to surpass a rock. There is a small wooden stairway to help you. After this rock you’ll reach the Meliug Glade (Trifu’s Glade).
- If you chose the left slope you will arrive at the crossroads “La Scaune”, where you will follow the red line. The trail goes down along the Nera, passes by the Untan mill where there are two suspended footbridges.
Cross the Nera on the new footbridge, into the Meliug Glade (Trifu’s Glade). It is here that you will meet the variant that comes from the Dracului Lake, on the right bank. Beyond the glade, the trail will come out of the narrowness of the gorges. It’s continuing on through the glades and the households of the inhabitants of the Dristie Hamlet. Now and then you will have to go through the inhabitants’ gates, it’s better to close them after passing by.
The last 2.5 km the trail becomes a narrow road you can cross by car. If you wish to camp in one of the glades you cross, ask permission from the inhabitants first.
During springtime the glades and the forests are filled with flowers. In April, you can even see the spotted tulip, an endangered species.
Just as in the Danube area, you have to pay attention to vipers.
For those who think that crossing the Gorges takes too long, you can choose to do only the area that is situated westward of the Beiului Bridge. The trail starts at the bridge. 20 meters further you enter a rock dug tunnel, the first of the seven tunnels.
The longest is 40 meters. The tunnels can be easily crossed; all you need is a flashlight. Between the tunnels, the trail is suspended at about 15-20 meters above the Nera. In order to feel safer, some areas are provided with cables.
The area “La Tunele” (The Tunnels) takes about 30 minutes to cross, then the trail goes down to the river. It is said that the tunnels were dug during the Turkish reign in Banat. They wanted access for their troops to the border.
The red line trail crosses the Nera on a suspended footbridge and goes to the Sasca Romana Village (around 1-1:30 hours from the Beiului Bridge).
Before crossing the Nera over the suspended footbridge you can make a detour of 500 m upstream, up to the Casa Verde (the Green House), a clay house. There are courses held here on how to build a clay house, in harmony with nature.
This portion, between the Beiului Bridge and the Sasca Română Village, can be crossed by the experienced ones, by mountain bike. You can combine the tour with other trails in the National Park Cheile Nerei-Beusnita.
Rafting in the Gorges.
During spring time, the gorges are the place to be for the rafting lovers. The Nera is best for the beginners.
The difficulty and the time for crossing the gorges depend on the water level and speed. The total time for crossing them is 5 to 7 hours, depending on how many stops you make.
After rainy periods, when the Nera flow is high, you need extra attention and quick reactions. There are many obstacles to avoid, rocks, fallen trees etc.
In normal conditions, the journey is quite smooth, with areas where the waters are deep, giving you time also to admire the fauna around you. You can come across wild ducks, egrets, otters, dragonflies etc. as well as plants specific to the sub-Mediterranean climate (the lilac, the Turkish hazel, the Oriental hornbeam, the smoke bush).
On a scale from 1 to 6, the difficulty of the Nera tour is of 1 with a few areas of 2.
Launching/landing the raft on the Nera.
- The launching can be done at the end of the Şopotu Nou Village, near the bridge over the Nera, the place where Nera changes direction towards the Nerei Gorges
- The landing is done in the lower part of the Sasca Română Village around the overhead power line area. Here, a car road can get down to the Nera.
Car access to the launching place.
If you choose to come with your own raft you must consider the difficult access by car.
The road, of 25 km, on the portion Sasca Montană – Ştinăpari – Cărbunari – Stăncilova – Şopotu Nou (DJ571), is bad, full with potholes. From Stăncilova to Şopotu Nou, you have also an option to go on asphalted road. This variant goes through Urcu Hamlet and makes the road longer with 1 km.
If nobody can leave/take you from the launching/landing place, a possibility for active tourists is to combine rafting and cycling. For example, if your accommodation is in Sasca Montana drive to the launching place and after rafting on the Nera come back for your car on mountain-bike.
The cycling tours around the Nera area allow you also to know better the scattered villages on the slow tops of the Locvei Mountains.
- The Ştinăpari Village dates to 1755 when the Romanians from Oltenia came here. They were woodcutters for the industrial installations from the Sasca Montană Village.
- The Cărbunari Village, as its name shows us, reflects the main occupation of its inhabitants in the past. They were preparing the charcoals for the foundries from the Sasca Montană Village.
- by car – from DN57 Oraviţa – Naidăş there is an asphalted road (but with potholes) Ciuchici – Sasca Montană (26km). From Oraviţa you can also take the road 571C, asphalted, but with potholes as well – Ciclova Română-Socolari-Potoc-Slatina Nera-Sasca Montană (25km). You can reach Oraviţa also by train.
- from DN57B Oraviţa – Anina – Bozovici (52 km) breaks off a road in a very poor state Bozovici – Dâlboşet – Sopotu Nou (22 km).
- During weekdays local buses reach Sasca Montană (from Oravița) and Șopotu Nou (from Reșița or Caransebeș).