What better way to escape the daily routine than spending time in the mountains? We decided to spend a gorgeous day hiking Romania’s “ROOF”: MOLDOVEANU PEAK, and we are more than thrilled with our decision. Although it was a beautiful and enjoyable experience, it was also a physical challenge. We performed 30 kilometers in 14h40′, with several rests included. Will we do it again? Definitely, but maybe we would break the hike into two parts and spend the night at Podragu Cottage. If you want to find out how to get to Moldoveanu Peak on a day hike from Balea Lake, read the complete article!
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Things to Know Before reaching Moldoveanu Peak on a Day Hike from Balea Lake
I recommend this hike only between June and September since the days are longer and warmer.
Always check and double-check the weather forecast, especially the humidity. If it is too humid, the possibility to rain at some point is high.
You’ll have to cross several mountains to make it to Moldoveanu Peak. The trek is quite demanding, so do not underestimate it and remember it will be a very long day, therefore start early morning.
Bring a headlamp in case it gets dark, and you haven’t reached the final point.
Wear trekking shoes and trekking poles if you have some.
Wear a hat, sunglasses and some sunscreen.
It would be a great idea to bring gloves for the chain crossing part.
Bring a lot of water, considering there are no water facilities in the area. You could refill your bottles with water from the lakes along the hike, but I was not too fond of its taste. However, in case you run out of water, go for it!
It’s going to be a long day, with no dining facilities on the way, so bring some snack bars, fruits or sandwiches, whatever pleases you.
The famous Transfagarasan Road
Balea Lake, situated at 2.042 meters altitude, is the starting point of your ascent to Moldoveanu Peak. To get to Balea Lake, you have to start from Cartisoara and cover a distance of 30 kilometers. This part is known as Transfagarasan Road, famous for its winding and steep parts.
This spectacular section is closed from October to June due to extreme weather conditions, so if you’re planning to drive the famous road, plan accordingly.
Short info about Transfagarasan Road
Have you watched the episode of the popular TV show Top Gear where Jeremy, James, and Richard drive some fantastic cars on the Transfagarasan Road and declare it one of the world’s most scenic drives? Well, here it is, one of the best roads in the world, only 100 kilometers from Brasov!
The famous road was built between 1970 and 1974, under Ceausescu communist regime, to guarantee a secure way through the Carpathian mountains. It starts at Cartisoara, in the north and ends at Bascov, in the south, covering 150 kilometers. Now it’s a popular weekend and holiday destination among Romanians and tourists from different parts of the world.
Driving the Transfagarasan Road the day before getting to Moldoveanu Peak on a day hike from Balea Lake
As we already visited Brasov and made a couple of day trips, we wanted to spend some time in the mountains. We double-checked if the weather forecast would be okay for the weekend, so we packed our bags and hit the road. Before heading to our accommodation, we decided to drive the famous Transfagarasan road that crosses the Fagaras Mountains.
The road was easy to access from Brasov, and the ride up was epic, with sharp turns that drove us up to 2.042 meters. In the beginning, the road had a few corners, revealing nothing spectacular. Then, suddenly, the scenery changed entirely, and we were blown away by the beauty of the mountains in front of us. We stopped a few times, took plenty of photos, and admired the landscape and the views over the valley.
Once we arrived at Balea Lake, the first thing that drew our attention was a young married couple, originally from Russia, who decided to take some wedding photos dressed as groom and bride. Since it wasn’t common to see on top of the mountain, few tourists stopped and wished them all the best. Once we enjoyed the views and spent some time at Balea Lake, we drove down to the accommodation.
Indeed Transfagarasan Road is one of the most amazing roads in the world so you should give it a try the day before or after the ascent.
Overnight near Balea Lake
There are plenty of options to choose from, starting from Cartisoara and ending at Balea Lake. But the closest you’ll stay, the better for the ascent. You can even consider camping, a popular option in the area, eighter at Balea Lake, eighter at Capra Saddle. While the last one is the most beautiful, keep in mind there is no vehicle access up there. You’ll have to hike with your camping gear to reach the lake.
We chose to stay at Albota Farm – a compound with a vast trout farm, a guest house, and a large restaurant with a terrace. In addition, there are horseback riding facilities, angling options for children and adults, and a store with homemade products. Not the closest stay, but we enjoyed the facilities over the weekend. We went to bed early that evening, right after savoring a delightful dinner and packing our essentials for the ascent.
We loved the rustical Romanian ambiance, the quietness of the area, and the traditional food, which was delicious. During our stay, we encountered many families with children, paragliders, and tourists from all over the world.
Moldoveanu Peak – One Day Hike from Balea Lake
Balea Lake to Capra Saddle
We woke up early that morning, and by 6 am, we were already at Balea Lake. With no one around at that hour, we quickly found a place to park the car, took our belongings, and began our ascent from Balea Cottage.
The first part of the climb is quite challenging, mainly steep and less visible in the early morning. However, it took us no more than 30 minutes to reach CAPRA SADDLE(Saua Caprei), and on our way up, we were greeted by a beautiful chamois.
The few tourists who spent the night in a tent at Capra Lake were still asleep. We tried to be as quiet as possible and not wake them up. After admiring the place’s beauty and appreciating the silence, we bypassed the Capra Lake on the left side and followed the path. Unfortunately, the trail is not well signposted, but we knew we had to head east.
Capra Lake to Three Steps to Death
We walked on a rim for 2.5 kilometers from Capra Lake, up and down, until we reached a junction of two trails. We ignored the path to Podragu Cottage (Cabana Podragu) and headed instead to THREE STEPS TO DEATH (La 3 pasi de moarte).
Soon we reached a section of slippery rocks and iron chains, which we had to pass over. Luckily we knew about this part and brought gloves, making the ascent easier.
Note. Be careful in this section; it’s pretty challenging and slippery. I’ve heard some ugly stories about people who fell here. Keep in mind that you might find it more demanding on your way back when you’re already exhausted.
Nerlinger Monument – Saua Vartopului – Saua Podragului
By now, we’ve made some good friends, two lovely dogs who followed us up to Vistea Mare.
Next, at NERLINGER MONUMENT, we came across another tricky descent with slippery rocks, which seemed like it never ended. Finally, we realized we were getting closer as we could see Moldoveanu Peak for the first time. And it looked so beautiful and so far, but we didn’t give up!
We pushed ourselves, and on our way to the Vistea Mare, we passed some gorgeous mountain lakes, Saua Vartopului and Saua Podragului.
Challenging Vistea Mare
Another tricky part before reaching Moldoveanu Peak is the VISTEA MARE ascent. Rocky, slippery and challenging. We were already eager to reach the summit, but we found this part very tricky. Another half an hour and we were already on VISTEA MARE PEAK, at 2.527 meters, the third highest peak in Romania. The “best” part, you have to descent the same way!
Reaching Moldoveanu Peak
Another 20 minutes from Vistea Mare Peak, we approached the summit. After 15 kilometers and 6h40′, at 12.40, we reached the highest point of Romania, MOLDOVEANU PEAK, at 2.544 m altitude! What a joy! We took a well-deserved rest, ate for the first time, and enjoyed the view and the silence.
Moldoveanu Peak to Balea Lake
The route back was the same, but the motivation was gone. There are many steep climbs and descents on the way back, but the walks along narrow ridges are gorgeous. It took us another 6 hours to reach Balea Lake! And the last section, Capra Saddle, was challenging once again since the sun began to set.
Alternative: Balea Lake to Moldoveanu Peak in Two Days
If you still wish to reach Moldoveanu Peak, but not in one day, you could easily break the hike into two days.
On day one, start early and follow the same steps until you reach the junction to Podragu Cottage and Three Steps to Death. Then, track the route to Podragu Cottage and overnight here. Consider hiking for more than 9 kilometers on day one.
On day two, you’ll have to wake up early, hike until you reach the same junction, and follow the steps from above until you reach Moldoveanu Peak. The second day will be long and demanding, with more than 15 kilometers, but the views are impressive, so it’s well worth it!
Moldoveanu Peak – One Day Hike from Balea Lake. Interactive Map
Underneath, you’ll find a customized map that includes all the locations mentioned in this article. Just open up this article on your phone and click on the frame in the upper right corner of this map. Google Maps app will open up, and you can check all the details. I hope it helps!