Natural reserves

The Natural Park Grădiștea Muncelului-Cioclovina

The Natural Park Grădiștea Muncelului – Cioclovina has been declared a protected area of national interest in 2000 and it is located in the Șureanu Mountains, covering a surface of 38184 ha. Since 2007 it has been protected both as a proposal of site of community importance, and as area of special bird fauna protection for the European ecological network Natura 2000, in view of preserving the natural habitats and the species of plants and wild animals of community interest. The aim of establishing the natural park is the protection and conservation of some habitats and important natural species in terms of flora, fauna, forestry, hydrology, geology, speleology, paleontology or pedology. The natural park includes within its boundaries six of the most spectacular natural reserves of Hunedoara County: The karstic complex of Ponorâci-Cioclovina, Tecuri Cave, Șura Mare Cave ,  Crivadia Gorges, The Fossil Site Ohaba-Ponor, Bolii Cave. At the same time, here are the archeological sites included in the Patrimony of  UNESCO from Sarmizegetusa Regia, Costești, Blidaru, Luncani-Piatra Roșie to the authentic ethnographic sites  of the Luncani Flat. (www.gradiste.ro).

Fundătura Ponorului

Dubbed “God’s Palm,” Fundătura Ponorului is a depression located at an altitude of 900 meters, surrounded by tall rocks and crossed by the winding valley of the Ponor River, which cuts the plateau in half before entering the rock. There are only a few summer homes of locals from nearby villages left here, who bring their sheep and cows to graze in the valley. In recent years, Fundătura Ponorului has become one of the most photographed places in Romania, a destination sought after by all landscape photographers. Access to Fundătura Ponorului is through the thematic route “Karst Relief in the Şureanu Mountains” (www.gradiste.ro/trasee), from the village of Federi, but it can also be reached from the opposite direction, from the village of Cioclovina.

Poiana Omului

Located southeast of Piatra Roșie, Poiana Omului was in ancient times a veritable “node” of communication for the area of fortresses in the Orăștiei Mountains. It is a very large clearing, surrounded by beech, oak, and fir forests, with an area of approximately 93 ha, a watershed, and former place of village festivals. Since ancient times, the place located on the edge of the Luncanilor Plateau has been a crossroads of local roads, where shepherds met while traversing this land with their flocks, migrating for tens of kilometers through the Retezat and Șureanu mountains. Horses left to graze freely can often be found near the shepherd’s hut in the glade. On the surrounding peaks of Meleia, Tâmpu, and Rudele, archaeologists have identified the remains of Dacian settlements, which some have presumed to have been used as stables rather than permanent settlements. The glade is crossed by an earthen defensive wall, with a double trench of about 6 m width. Local legends say that it was here that Dacian king Decebal took his own life rather than become a prisoner of the Romans. Recently, Poiana Omului has become a point of reference on the cultural route “Via Transilvanica“.

Țâfla peak

Țâfla peak (854 m) represents the Southern extension of the Ponoriciului hills. At its foot there are several large Dacian terraces, but material traces of Coțofeni culture were also found. On clear days, from the top on can see as far as Târsa, this being a good observation point. Țâfla saddle is today, as it was in the past, a passage from Piatra Roșie to Cioclovina.

Vârtoape Plateau

Located in the Grădiștea Muncelului-Cioclovina Natural Park, the plateau unfolds on a hilltop surrounded by forests, on which there are many sinkholes, known as “vârtoapele,” that give the place its name. Starting in mid-March, as the snow melts away, the 10-hectare plateau gets covered with millions of snowdrops (Leucojum vernum), a protected species with white flowers, with jagged petal edges bordered by a thin green line.
The plateau can be reached after a nearly two-hour climb on an unmarked path that starts from the center of the Grădiștea de Munte village, or by following the “Biodiversity of the Şureanu Mountains” trail that starts from the confluence of the Grădiștea valley with Rea Valley (www.gradiste.ro/trasee).

The bison reserve, Hațeg

The bison reserve is located in Slivuţ forest, not far from the town of Hațeg, Hunedoara County, and it is one of the few places of Europe where the bison (bison bonasus) lives. This species that used to be dominant in the deciduous forests of mediaeval Europe is almost extinct nowadays. Slivuț forest has an area of almost 40 ha and it represents a natural ecosystem with various kinds of xerothermic oak tree forests of hornbeams, and fir trees, remnants of large areas of former oak forests, which were later deforested. The first bison in the reserve from Hațeg were Podarec and Polonka, brought in 1958 from Poland. At present, there are 8 bison in the reserve. Within the reserve could be seen other representatives of Carpathian wild life, Carpathian deer, fallow deer, chamois, bear, wild boar, deer, pheasants but, later on, they were taken to different zoo gardens from the County or the country or set free, as the bison reserve was not authorized to function as a zoo garden and no other animals besides bison could be kept here.

The dinosaur Geopark

The dinosaur Geopark is a natural park including the entire Hațeg county, which protects and turns into account the nature and culture of this space. The Geopark has been declared a protected area of national interest in 2004. Since 2005, it has been accepted in the European Geopark Network and in the Global Network (under UNESCO aegis). Since 2007 it includes a surface of 2.3940 ha, protected under the name of „The Strei-Hațeg Site”, as NATURA 2000 site, in view of preserving the natural habitats and the species of plants and wild animals of community interest. The Geopark includes elements of particular geological interest, alongside ecological, archeological, historical and cultural interest.The factor that personalizes this territory is represented by the sites with remnants of dinosaurs dating back to the Superior Cretaceous. The dwarf dinosaurs of the Hațeg Depression are unique in the world, their scientific importance and attractiveness being enhanced by the discovery of egg nests and dinosaur embryos, as well as other mammals that were contemporary with the dinosaurs like a flying reptile (Hatzegopteryx), belonging to the  pterosaurs group.

The volcanoes of Hațeg county

The volcano trail is a theme tourist track within the Dinosaur Geopark, of Hațeg county, Hunedoara County. The trail starts from the center of commune Densuș, outside the village Hall, continues for 3 km, and then splits in two secondary trails: one going North, across the Densuș river, and another one, going on along the main road to the village of Strei. If one follows the first trail, one can see the contact between the volcanoes and the bottom of the sea. 70 million years ago, there was a tropical island here, surrounded by the water of the Thetis Sea and populated by dwarf dinosaurs. The posters placed along the trail offer more information about the volcanic rocks, their shaping into forms of relief or how the development of vegetation was influenced. In about 30 minutes a panoramic viewpoint is reached; from here, one can see all the villages on the valley and a panorama of the Hațeg county. The path crosses a beech forest where various birds can be watched: woodchucks, gold finches, chaffinches, robins, jays, magpies or stock doves, while on the plateau one can see ravens, falcons or eagles. The second trail continues along the main road towards the village of Ștei, and offers a few points of geological observation, with objectives like „the boiling stones” or “fake” volcanic bombs. The volcanic bombs are fragments of lava detached from the volcanic cone and blown into the air by the explosion. The large dimensions of the volcanic bombs prove that the center of the volcanic explosion was nearby, some 20 km away, but the location of the centre has not been found yet.

Retezat National Park

It is a protected area of national and international interest, being recognized as a biosphere reserve since 1979. Retezat National Park lies in the West of the Western Carpathians, covering and area of 38.138 ha of the  Retezat-Godeanu Massif. The Retezat Mountains are outstanding by their spectacular ridges over 2000 m high and a sculptural relief, as well as for more than 80 glacial lakes, among which, Lake Bucura is the largest glacial lake in the country. The Retezat represents a mountainous natural area with a diverse range of flora and fauna, both in terms of species and of terrestrial ecosystems, housing over 1.190 species of superior plants, 90 endemic taxons, 130 rare or vulnerable plants, 50 species of mammals, 168 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians.

Măgura Uroiului

The Măgura Uroiului Natural Reserve is located near the town of Simeria, at the confluence of the Strei and Mureș rivers, and is a geological-type natural area of national interest. It also shelters many rare plant species, has a rich fauna (known especially for being the habitat of the horned viper) and is a migration corridor for birds.
The hill’s height of nearly 400 meters offers excellent visibility to the west, east, and south, which explains the traces of human habitation dating back to prehistoric times. Archaeological research has revealed the remains of a Dacian-era fortification and the remnants of houses, from which the fireplaces and traces the wooden structure have been preserved.
Since 2014, the reenactment festival “Dac Fest” has been organized on the plateau at the foot of the hill.
Măgura Uroiului is also the venue of an international paragliding festival