We tend to travel to places that we can easily find or where we can easily get to, ignoring the fact that we can miss so many hidden treasures of the world. For those of you who are ready to get out of their comfort zone and want to see what it really means to be breathless, I have the perfect destination for you, located in Romania – Ochiul Beiului Lake (Romanian: Lacul Ochiul Beiului). This amazing part of the world also has other natural beauties for you, such as Beusnita Waterfall (Cascada Beusnita), The Devil’s Lake (Lacul Dracului) and Bigar Waterfall (Cascada Bigar).
What can you expect?
The following list of sights is meant to be explored in about two days, but keep in mind that there is a lot more to be discovered. Some sights can be reached by car, but some can be reached only by foot. This trip is suitable for everyone, no matter their age. If you are wondering what’s the best time to visit, then the answer is definitely in the spring, so that you can see the rivers, springs and waterfalls at their highest water volume. First, remember that when you travel it’s not all about the destination, it’s also about the journey itself. Your new adventure will take place in south-western Romania, more precisely in Nerei-Beusnita Gorges National Park (Parcul National Cheile Nerei-Beusnita). This place has been on my travel list for more than 10 years, and now I can finally share my “little hidden gem” with the world!
Take your time
To enter the reservation you will need to pay a next to nothing fee (5 lei which is just a little over 1 euro). You will be able to drive by car only up to a trout farm, where there is also a campsite. Depending on the moment of the day when you get there, you can either camp and continue your trip the next day, or you can park your car and get going by foot.
The hike is an easy one, and if you walk at a slow pace it will take less than an hour to get to Ochiul Beiului Lake.
During the hike you will find astonishing surroundings. The crystal clear river with a beautiful bluish color, the limestone walls following the path, the wild forest and lush vegetation makes you think of some kind of tropical rain forest. Trust me, that’s a pretty rare view in Europe nowadays!
On your way to Ochiul Beiului Lake make a stop at La Vaioaga Waterfall. It’s rather small, but it’s worth taking a moment to enjoy it.
Ochiul Beiului Lake
Once you get to the karst lake, the mesmerizing view will leave you breathless. With a surface of 284 m² and a maximum depth of 3.6m, Ochiul Beiului Lake has a bright turquoise color, due to the light reflecting on the lake bed sediments and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the water. The lake is continuously filled with fresh water from an underground spring, so even in winter season it doesn’t freeze. Sorry, ice fishing fans!
I know, it’s hard to leave the lake behind, but keep in mind that you will return to it on your way back. Follow the trail marked with a red cross and take a 30 minutes hike until you reach Beusnita Waterfall. It has an impressive structure, even in summertime or in time of droughts, when the water volume is not that high. If you are not afraid of heights you can manage to climb all the way on top of the waterfall. Just be careful because the moss covering the rocks is very slippery and sometimes unstable.
The Roman Tunnels
When you are ready to go, retrace your steps to the point where you paid the entrance fee. Ask for the path that leads to the Roman Tunnels. You will find them very close to the main road, only five minutes away. Like the name suggests, the tunnels have been built during the Roman Era, their main purpose being to facilitate the access through the mountains. There are six of them in total and very often you will find playful bats that fly from one end to another, switching the tunnel every few minutes, so watch out your head as they might accidentally get into your hair. Also, beware of horned vipers, which is a venomous species, although they don’t typically attack unless provoked or stepped on. As long as you try to respect and protect the wildlife you should be fine.
If you still have time, I have one more suggestion: Bigar Waterfall. Some consider it to be the most beautiful waterfall in the world, so it’s totally worth to visit. You can easily find it on National Road 57B. The waterfall is a natural phenomenon of extreme beauty, as the water is covering the rocks like a white silk mantle. While you’re here you can walk upstream and you will find a series of small waterfalls, the Bigar Spring and the Bigar Cave.
Much more to be seen
This article covered only a few of the sights in the area. There are still many places on my list, such as The Devil’s Lake (Lacul Dracului) which some may find even more intriguing than Ochiul Beiului Lake. This is a karst lake, originally formed underground, but at some point in time its ceiling collapsed and made the lake visible from the surface of the ground.
I hope this little virtual tour sparked in interest in you to visit this hidden gem of Romania. If you give it a chance, I promise you won’t be dissapointed.