Between the mountains of southwestern Romania, there is a valley of an almost surreal beauty! Passing through places where man and nature are still in perfect harmony, Cerna River has created a valley that protects an impressive number and diversity of natural wonders. A fascinating land with high mountain peaks, narrow canyons, limestone ridges, artificial lakes, endless forests, unknown caves, rich biodiversity and isolated villages, the Domogled – Cerna Valley national park is a complex and bewildering destination.
In the land of black pines and butterflies!
The park stretches along the valley of Cerna River and over the nearby mountains of Godeanu, Vâlcan, Mehenți and Cerna. The remote and wild character of this valley gives is a special charm, with few settlements and picturesque landscapes. Between high mountain meadows where thousands of butterflies roam and remote cottages perched high on the ridges, this area is simply astonishing. There are three main ways to reach the national park, with a road coming from the south (DN 67D) and following the valley for half its length, then continues eastwards through the mountains towards Targu Jiu, making for the second entry into the park. There is also a road (DN 66A) that follows the valley further to the north, although in pretty bad shape, reaching the village of Cerna Sat and then the lake of Valea lui Iovan. From there, it becomes only a dirt road that follows the valley to its origins and continues into the Western Jiu Valley, making for the third access option. Inside the Domogled – Cerna Valley National Park, there is an overwhelming diversity of landscapes, as well as plant and animal life. There a great number of tourist attractions, including hiking paths, springs and lakes, alpine meadows and steep ridges, waterfalls and gorges or isolated mountain hamlets.
The northern part of the park is dominated by the Godeanu Mountains, with its imposing high crest with peaks that rise over 2000 meters. These are some of the most isolated mountains of Romania, with their majestic silhouette being surrounded by other wild areas. There is a spectacular hiking path along the main ridge, offering unique views towards Cerna Valley and other mountains. The highest peak is over 2200 meters and offers a sensational panorama in all directions. Godeanu Mountains feature splendid landscapes, with glacial valleys and lakes, alpine meadows and dense forests at lower altitudes. On the other side of the valley, the park includes a small area of Vâlcan Mountains, while along the valley there are some small limestone ridges. Steep and isolated, these strange forms of relief are known as Ciucevele Cernei and are a protected natural area. From the valley, there are a few hiking paths climbing towards the main crest of Godeanu. Cerna River gathers its springs from the nearby mountains, forming the small yet spectacular Cernișoara Gorges, while the main spring known as Izbucul Cernei is truly impressive with its rich debit. Several kilometers to the south, the river was dammed into the Valea lui Iovan Lake. It is one of the biggest artificial lakes in Romania, with a total surface of almost 3 sq. km. and over 100 meters depth. Chained between the wooded ridges of the Godeanu and Mehedinți mountains, the lake creates a magnificent natural scenery.
The Mehedinți Mountains stretch along the left side of the valley for about 50 km, offering impressive landscapes with unique geological features. With relatively low heights and pretty fragmented, they are crossed by many tourist paths exploring the various natural wonders. Several kilometers south of the Valea lui Iovan Lake, and just north of Cerna-Sat village, there is a small treasure, the Corcoaia Gorges. These were created in short limestone area by the river and has some unique and amazing features, including a semi-tunnel that follows the gorges several meters above the water. The park also includes an isolated ridge of Mehedinti Mountains that is located on another nearby valley. Piatra Closani Massif is wild and features many karst formations, including some protected caves. Further to the south along the Cerna Valley, there are some other limestone ridges known locally as geanțuri and are clearly visible in the already spectacular landscape. Yet maybe the most fascinating destinations in Mehedinți Mountains are hidden above behind the high ridges. Known as crovuri or Upper Meadows by the locals, these look like large and flat cauldrons, surrounded by limestone ridges and clint fields. They are actually sinkholes and the most beautiful are Crovul Mare, Poiana Beletina, Crovul Medved, Poienile Porcului and others. They can be reached through difficult paths from the valley, the most popular and interesting being through Fueroaga Tâmnei, Țăsna Gorges, Fueroaga Ploștinei and several others that are less known. These hiking paths reveal wild and stunning destinations, as well as unforgettable panoramas of the valley below. There are a few waterfalls, gorges and caves along the way. There are also other routes exploring the heights of these amazing mountains. In their southern edge, the landscape is dominated by the Domogled Massif, a higher ridge with spectacular features.
On the right side of the valley and south of Godeanu Mountains, there are the Cerna Mountains, with heights that go from 1500-1800 in the north, to just about 500 meters in their southern end. There is also a main ridge trail, as well as several others ascending from the Cerna Valley, especially in its southern part. On of these hiking paths connects the isolated villages of Romania: Ineleț, Scărișoara, Cracu Mare, Prisăcina and Dobraia, spread among the high meadows and forests of Cerna Mountains. Exploring these remote and enchanting villages reveals an authentic part of Romania that is usually unknown to many, as well as unique panoramas. Before the Prisaca Lake created on the Cerna River, another hiking path ascends towards the impressive Vânturătoarea Waterfall, with its 40 meters height and fine mist that sometimes creates small rainbows. The path goes behind the waterfall and continues to climb towards the ridges above. A path goes along the right shore of the lake and reaches another small and charming waterfall, while the road passes along the left of the lake. After a few kilometers, it reaches an area with thermal springs right next to the river, known as 7 Hot Springs. From there, hikers can start two other paths that climb into the mountains.
The southern limit of the Domogled – Cerna Valley National Park is close to the resort and town of Băile Herculane, continuing along the mountain ridges around. From Băile Herculane, there are many other hiking trails exploring the mountains, reaching interesting sights. An important feature of the park is the impressive diversity of vegetation, with over 1100 species of plants discovered, some of them extremely rare and protected. Of these, the remarkable Black Pine of Banat is an endemic species that grows exclusively on high rocky ridges and creates astonishing scenery. The fauna diversity is equally rich, with rare species like horned vipers, scorpions, bats, wolves, lynx, bears and countless birds. Yet the most fascinating inhabitants of the park are the thousands of butterflies, with almost 1500 species enlivening the surreal atmosphere of mountain meadows.
Accommodation in Domogled – Cerna Valley National Park
9.4 Rating from 197 Reviews!
Located in Băile Herculane, this new and modern hotel with amazing architecture offers spacious and fully-equipped rooms, a restaurant, shared lounge, bar and outdoor terrace!
9.1 Rating from 189 Reviews!
This superb guesthouse is located along the Cerna Valley north of Prisaca Lake, with several hiking trails starting nearby. It features amazing rooms, restaurant, bar, lounge and garden!
9.8 Rating from 247 Reviews!
Located in the middle of the Cerna Valley with idyllic surrounding nature, this guesthouse is close to the Ineleț mountain village. It offers high quality and comfortable accommodation!