Lonely Planet Writer

Romania to get a new national park and open one of Europe’s longest caves to tourists

Romania will get its 14th national park by 2020, as the country’s government has announced that it will turn the Făgăraş Mountains into a ‘European Yellowstone’. Not only that, but the country’s longest cave, the Peștera Vântului (Wind Cave) in the Pădurea Craiului Mountains, will open for tourists in 2017.

Fagaras mountains, Romania
Fagaras mountains, Romania Image by 500px

The massive cave, also considered the most extensive in south-eastern Europe, is approximately 50 km long, and has only one entrance. It was discovered in 1957 but until now it has only been explored by speleologists, who need eight hours to cross it from one end to another.

The cave is also famous for its geological formations, water courses and a colony of bats. It’s a multi-level system with three main fossil floors. The average temperature in the cave is 11.8 °C, and a powerful draft that can be felt at its entrance and in the far corners gave it the name Wind Cave.The project of opening the cave to tourists also includes nine other grottos located nearby.

The 2000-square-kilometre Făgăraş Mountains are home to Romania’s highest mountain peaks, Moldoveanu (2544 m) and Negoiu (2535 m). They are considered the most important part of the Carpathians (aka Transylvanian Alps) in terms of biodiversity, with six species of mammals and 66 types of endemic plants. However, according to environmentalist groups, the remaining virgin forests in the region are under threat due to illegal logging.

The Romanian government is hoping that the national park status will help boost tourism and support the area’s sustainable development. The popular Transfagarasan Road, the highest asphalted road in Romania (open roughly between May and October), also cuts through these mountains.