Bejewelled by 80 glacial lakes and with peaks towering above 2000m, the Retezat Mountains are a spectacular stretch of the southern Carpathians. Retezat National Park, the oldest reserve in Romania, is the primary draw as much for its wildlife as its dizzying walking trails. Marmots scamper in its grasslands, wolves and bears slink through forests, and golden eagles nest on its cliffs. The reserve is spangled with alpine flowers like gentians, peonies and – more rarely – fuzzy edelweiss clinging to limestone crags.
The town of Haţeg, north of the park, is a good place for hikers to circle their wagons before embarking on trails. Haţeg is an equally good base for road trippers to explore intriguing sights such as a small bison reserve, some minor monasteries and fortresses, and Sarmizegetusa Regia, ancient Dacian remains that bring to mind a Romanian Stonehenge.