Prahova Valley is by far the most popular mountain destination in Romania. It enjoys amazing landscapes, wild legends, countless lodging opportunities and... the shortest distance to Bucharest. Which can only be good for the development of this area, but also has its downsize as well. So, before booking a trip to Bucegi Mountains, here are a few pieces of information to take into account.
A little over 100 km away from Bucharest, along Prahova river, the Carpathian mountains display another one of their magnificent sceneries. Welcome to Bucegi Massif, where four resorts (Sinaia, Busteni, Azuga, Predeal) and no less than 40 mountain routes await to be discovered by any backpacker in this world!
Beautiful, right? Any trip to this area is quite an experience. You should have Bucegi on your list because you are adventurous, because you love mountains, backpacking, hiking and so on. Because you love to explore mountain paths. And because they are the most accessible mountains in Romania, thanks to the largest airport of the country, close to Bucharest.
I won't delve now into those many hiking opportunities, at least not for now. What I wanted though is to name a few necessary heads-up, so that your vacation doesn't turn into one of your worst ever... And I don't want that to happen to you, at least not in my country and not on my watch! 'Coz I don't want you to read enthusiastic reviews online, jump into booking any trip to Romania and leave disappointed...
So, here's how to make the most out of your trip to Prahova Valley:
1. By all means, avoid weekends and public holidays as if your life is depending on that! There are three million people around Bucharest, 350.000 in Brasov Metropolitan Area, more than 750.000 in Prahova - the 3rd most populated county in Romania. Many many others who are out-of-office and wish to enjoy the undeniable beauties of Bucegi and... to secure one of the 10.000 beds available... You do the math, but chances are you will have a hard time finding a decent place to stay.
2. Say your friendly host in Predeal recommends a nice route starting from Sinaia. He or she designs a well-documented plan for you to follow the next day. You will for sure enjoy a busy yet beautiful schedule, and you are about to come back home late at night. They are well intended but... do not rely on any train or bus timetable! The one-lane national road, the lack of highway and the resulting traffic, train delays and so on will postpone your arrival back home with at least one hour... So make sure you don't get to spend the night somewhere up in the mountains - I don't need to tell you how dangerous that is!
Photo source: PH Online
My following point will upset any tourism promoter in Romania, but I need to say this:
3. Is it winter? Wanna ski or try some other seasonal sports? Then, sorry to disappoint you, but... look somewhere else! Go to Austria or where else you enjoyed most. Don't mess up your Christmas, New Year's Eve or any free time you have! Again - traffic, lots of people, crowded ski slopes, queue by the chairlift. It's a nice winter atmosphere, but potentially discouraging, frustrating and so on... Better come to Romania during summer, for your own sake!
4. Whether crowded or not, search for accommodation somewhere close to the main mountain attractions. These are best to be reached via the cable car in Busteni. Try to be there as early as possible, unless you want to spend the whole day in a very long queue... The plateau at the end of the cable ride is a must-do for any mountain lover, at least once in a lifetime, since it reveals some of the most important landmarks of Romania:
"Babele" ("the gigantic altars from Caraiman" - two huge mushroom-like rocks formed by water, wind, frost and thaw) and "Sfinxul" (a 8-meter tall block formed through aeolian erosion, looking like a human head resembling the Sphinx in Egypt);
Heroes' or Caraiman Cross (2291m) - built in the memory of the soldiers who died in the 1st World War and recognized by Guinness World Records as the tallest cross in the world on a mountain (39.5 m).
Omu Peak (2505 m) - the "roof" of Bucegi mountains, the highest populated place in Romania. I know, I know, I said no descriptions, but I had to... The Bucegi plateau is too nice not to be mentioned anywhere possible - here's a morning view by the way:
And, since I am done with negative things, let me tell you my last two hints to take into consideration:
5. I know your theme for Prahova Valley is mainly hiking, trekking, mountain biking and so on but... don't miss out the castles as well! Or walks downtown Sinaia - the so-called pearl of Carpathian Mountains. Or a day trip to Brasov - probably the most beautiful ancient city in Romania.
But your main target off the mountain should be Peles Castle - former summer residence of German Royal family, built by Carol 1, the first German king of Romania. Peles is the 2nd most visited museum in Romania, but also its smaller, cozier "brother" nearby Pelisor is not to be missed. You will need around 3 hours to uncover the mysteries, legends and beauties of these two unique masterpieces, one of the few built during the most prolific period of our history.
Also worthy is the Cantacuzino Castle in Busteni. It benefits for an impressive entrance and location, since reaching the edifice can only be done after walking or driving up the beautiful Zamora hill. The imposing structure offers astonishing views, both from the outer court, the restaurant in front of the castle of from downtown Busteni as well. Do have a coffee or lunch on the castle's terrace, it will enchant your eyes!
6. Do not confuse Prahova Valley the region with Prahova Valley the famous, internationally awarded wine In order to clear things out, organize your time so that you can have a lunch or dinner in Azuga at the Rhein Cellar. You will enjoy a delicious traditional meal, you will taste the Royal Court's favorite wine, you will learn about the techniques used since the 19th century to produce one of the finest wine of Romania! And if you had too much alcohol, you can choose one room from the 16 available at the cellar to spend the night in.
I hope you catch my drift - it is my least intention to keep you away from Prahova Valley and Bucegi Mountains. It is actually one of my favorite places in Romania, so I got used not to look at the negative side. I can live with traffic or masses of people, as long as I get somewhere deep within the mountains, where I am the happiest person alive! But I do hope they finish off that damn highway, so that we can enjoy more of this incredible natural landscape and less trucks on the road...
So thank you for reading this far, I hope you find my tips useful and will let me know when you travel to my country!
The Golden Romania
Apuseni Mountains - the Best Place to Fall in Love with Nature!
35 Romanians who Have Marked Our History
Dear Terra, Meet Romania! The latest democracy lesson our country has given to the world!
Oradea - the Rising Star of Romania
Iasi - the Place to Be in Moldavia
7 Reasons to Visit Cluj Napoca
How to Plan a Vacation in Brasov Area
No, Bucharest Is Not a Bad City Break Destination!
One Week Road Trip Idea Through Transylvania
Best of Romania - the Tourist Attractions Which Top Worldwide Classifications!
7 True Facts About Romania