Caves and gorges

Wet Cioclovina cave

Wet Cioclovina Cave is one of the main attractions within the territory of the Grădiştea Muncelului-Cioclovina Natural Park and consists of a network of galleries 7,800 meters long, with one of the openings in the Ponoriciu polje, and another in Cioclovina, in the form of a huge portal from which water cascades out. Between the two entrances, the karst system can only be traversed accompanied by speleologists with proper equipment, as several rappel descents are required, including through a vertical passage with a height of 20 m. The portal in Cioclovina is easily accessible, but access to the gallery is not possible without special equipment.
In Wet Cioclovina Cave, four superimposed Paleolithic layers were discovered, traces of fireplaces, bone fragments, flint tools, 600 metal adornments, several thousand amber and colored glass beads, ceramics, and colored glass. The amber and glass beads date back to the end of the Bronze Age (1350-1200 / 1150 BC) and are part of a sanctuary treasure trove comprising over 7,600 artifacts. It is plausible to assume that we are dealing with a treasure that was gradually accumulated through multiple offerings in a sacred space represented by the cave.

Dry Cioclovina cave

The Dry Cioclovina Cave, which represents an upper, fossil floor of the Ponorici-Wet Cioclovina karst system, is located about 80 meters above it and has a total length of almost 2 km and a drop of 126 meters. It is one of the first caves described in Transylvania, mentioned in 1873 alongside the Ponorici Cave.
The Dry Cioclovina Cave was the second cave in the world where guanophosphate was mined, the thickness of the deposit reaching up to 15 meters in some places. The entire deposit was estimated at 50,000 tons, of which approximately 30,000 tons were exploited between 1928-1930, excavating almost the entire surface of the sediment to a depth of 8-9 meters. The natural fertilizer was transported to Pui train station using an 8 km long funicular. During the exploitation, a skull of a woman, aged 30-40 years, of the Homo Sapiens Fossilis type, was found (the oldest in Romania), and numerous bear bones. The Dry Cioclovina Cave shows traces of human habitation over 26,000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens shared the underground habitat with Ursus Speleaus. The largest monocrystal of calcite in the country (113 cm) is found in the Dry Cioclovina Cave, and a new phosphatic mineral, ardealite, was described for the first time in the world.
The natural entrance of the Dry Cioclovina Cave is rarely used, the mining gallery carved into the slope being used instead, now closed with a brick wall and a metal gate to prevent the destruction of stalactites and stalagmites inside.

Șura Mare cave

Șura Mare cave is located on the valley of Ponor creek, on the territory of Ohaba Ponor village, at the foot of Fruntea Mare steep, in the County of Hunedoara. As it lies within the protected area of the Natiral Park Grădiștea Muncelului – Cioclovina, the cave also represents a protected area, explored for the first time in 1929. It is about 4500 m long and it has a monumental entrance of about 40 m high and 12 m wide. The cave has a sole active gallery 3.143 m long, which is hard to go through, as the dry areas alternate with lakes, waterfalls and huge boulders barricading the way and making the passage difficult. In the first large hall, with the 40 m high ceiling, were discovered remnants of Neolithic ceramics and bones of domesticated animals. There is also an underground lake, which is 60 m long and 1.8 to 3 m deep, which makes advance difficult, particularly because of the rocks that form limestone thresholds. Air temperature inside the cave is 8-10 degrees C, and the water has a temperature of 7-9 degrees C. Starting here, the gallery is full of huge water whirlpool potholes , with the walls carved by alveoli. About 2.300 m from the entrance, is the Sala Mare [Grand Hall], the most spectacular opening, its walls being covered by parietal leaks, canopies of various shapes and colors and the floor is covered in a cascade of rimstones. After the Grand Hall the cave continues for about 800 m, and then, a deep  draintrap stops the advance. Inside Șura Mare cave there is one of the largest colonies of hibernating dwarf bats in Europe. The Pipistrellus colony, with about 34.000 individuals, is at 350 m from the entrance, and it is completed higher up, by colonies of Miniopterus schreibersi. The tourists can only admire the monumental entrance and the grand hall from the entrance, advance inside the cave implying the use of special protection equipment and speleological experience.

Băniței Gorges

They are on the road between Petroșani and Simeria (DN 66), about 8 km North of Petroșani on the passage Bănița-Merișor-Baru, in the area where the Petroșani depression meets the Hațeg depression that lies in the North. Băniței Gorges are cut across the Mesozoic limestone rocks by the Jupâneasa brook. The easiest way to admire them is from the water. The gorges are rather short (250-300 metri), but they are extremely spectacular, their most beautiful part being at the entrance. Băniței brook dug a narrow passage, winding at places between the high, white limestone walls. Actually we are facing a former cave whose ceiling collapsed. In the riverbed and in the lower area, the limestone walls are nicely carved and rounded by the water which, at places, has dug extremely spectacular potholes. On the 200 m high hill overlooking the gorges there is the Dacian fortress of  Bănița that was part of the Dacian defense system in the Șureanu Mountains, guarding Sarmizegetusa Regia.

Crivadia Gorges

It is in the vicinity of the village of Crivadia, next to the feudal monument Turnul Crivadiei [Crivadia Tower] and they make up a protected area of national interest, located on the area of the Natural Park Grădiștea Muncelului-Cioclovina. The gorges are carved at an altitude of 788 and they are over one km long. The spectacular character of the gorges is given by the height of the vertical walls, which varies between 70 and 100 m, but also by the distance between them which, at places leave just 1,5-2 m space. The potholes are over 1.5 m deep in the upper half of the gorges and there is no possibility to make paths to allow the passage. Crivadia Gorges are only accessible on foot.

Bolii cave

Bolii cave belongs to the protected area of the Natural Park Grădiștea Muncelului- Cioclovina and is located 6 km North of the town of Petroșani, on the road that connects the Jiu valley to Hațeg county, at the place where the Retezat Mountains meet the Sebeșului Mounts. Bolii cave is the only cave in Romania crossed all along its 455 m length by a river; it can be visited. The name of the cave probably comes from the family Bolia who had, as early as the 15th century land and forest properties in the area. In the 60’s, in the cave were built bridges across the water, but they were destroyed in time. The cave was abandoned until not long ago, when it was enhanced by the Ecological Association Petroaqua of Petroșani. The cave starts at the point where the Jupâneasa rivulet absconds into the Jurassic limestone wall, through a spectacular portal, 20m wide at the base, and 10 m high. The main gallery of the cave is generally large, in places turning into really wide halls. Drainage formations appear in high places and on the ceiling of the cave. For a length of 466 m the gallery descends only 3 m. At present, there are footbridges that ease the passage through the entire underground void in perfect safety. The hall was named the Concert and Dance Hall, due to its outstanding acoustics; as early as the inter-war period, they organized concerts here.

Jieț Gorges

They represent another natural area of Jiu valley, which is of national interest; its surface is ten hectares. The reserve lies on the territory of the town of Petrila, on the Jieţ river. It is crossed by national road DN 7A Petroşani-Voineasa that connects the County of Hunedoara to Vâlcea County. The reserve covers 40 km2, and has an important tourist potential, irrespective of the season. The importance of this protected natural area is due mostly to the beauty of the landscape, with the steep slopes of the Parâng Mountains, with narrow gorges and wild cliffs. A lot of unexplored caves and mountain trails are also to be found here.