In the heart of Romania, there is a historical region deeply rooted in the millennial past of this country, a place where history comes alive among the dinosaur fossils and ancient Dacian fortresses. A trip through the fascinating treasures of the legendary land of Hațeg offers a unique opportunity to travel back in time, discovering Roman and Dacian fortresses, stone churches, ancestral villages, bison reserves and paleontological discoveries. Caught between the ridges of the Carpathians and at the crossroad of historical regions of Romania, the land of Hațeg is one of the richest cultural and natural regions of the country. There is a strong presence felt through each village, road or forest here, a feeling that the past comes to life at each step.
One can almost see the footprints of ancestors marking the way towards the places that bear the soul of a nation. And by looking even further into distant times, the bones of the dinosaurs tell the story of a land teeming with life from eons ago. Today, the people of Hațeg Country continue a legacy that spans over thousands of years, being the proud descendants of the mighty Dacians.
In Romania, a country is a small area without an administrative role, but rather a historical and geographical significance. These have particular traditions and unique traits, showing the most authentic side of Romania and its people. The land of Hațeg is one of the best known and preserved historical countries, protected by mountains from all sides. There is no wonder why the Dacians and the Romans chose these lands for their ancient capitals of Sarmizegetusa Regia and Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana. To reach the land of Hațeg, travelers should search for the town of Hațeg, the most important settlement in the area, surrounded by many beautiful hills and the towering peaks of the Retezat Mountains to the south, the Șureanu Mountains to the east, the Poiana Ruscă Mountains to the north and Țarcu Mountains to the west. There are three main way to enter, either from the north along the Strei Valley, from the south through the Jiu Valley and from the west by following the Bistra Valley.
The area has been inhabited from the dawn of time, with some human bones and tools from the middle paleolithic discovered in local caves. The Orăștie Mountains located to the east were the center of the Dacian Kingdom around two millennia ago, with a complex of remote and developed fortresses, including the capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia. The decisive battle with the Romans was fought at Tapae or the Iron Gates of Transylvania, as the pass is also known, while the capital of the established Roman province was at Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana, west of Hațeg. Later into medieval times, these lands were one of the roots of the Romanian civilization. The land of Hațeg has some of the oldest medieval fortifications and churches that as far as the 12th century, including some astonishing and unique stone churches. The mountains around feature scattered hamlets, enchanting meadows and deep forests, while the snowy peaks of the Retezat Mountains are protected inside one of the most spectacular national parks in Romania. There are countless things to see and experience in Hațeg Country of Romania, places of immense beauty and significance.
Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana
The legendary capital of Roman Dacia province is located along the road from Hațeg to Caransebeș, guarding the road into Transylvania as an ageless witness of the development of Romania. Founded after the conquest of Dacia by emperor Trajan, during its heyday it was an impressive site with strong walls, temples, agoras, workshops, and other civil buildings. It used to house as many as 20.000 people and today’s ruins ca still give a sense of its magnificence and importance. The archaeological complex is located right by the national road and visiting is extremely easy, as most of the ruins are packed together, while others are scattered nearby. The fortress was destroyed by the invading Goths, yet many of its structures are still clearly visible, including the forum, the amphitheater and several temples.
Densuș Stone Church
A fascinating monument in Romania, the stone church of Densuș is locat4d a few kilometers west of Hațeg. It was built with stone brought from the nearby fortress of Sarmizegetusa and it features a unique architectural style. It is one of the oldest Byzantine churches in Romania, dating back to the 13th century. The St. Nicholas Church of Densuș is an unusual structure, with irregular shapes and volumes, covered by stone slabs and featuring a slender tower. The church also holds impressive mural painting from the 15th century, being considered among the most beautiful old churches in the country. It is included into the proposal list to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Colț Fortress and Monastery
Practically a ruin today, the spectacular fortress of Colț must have been pretty impressive to have inspired Jules Verne upon writing the “Castle in the Carpathians”. Perched on a rock at the foot of the Retezat Mountains, the fortress was built during the 14th century by the Cândea (Kendeffy) local ruler. It is located in the village of Suseni, about 3 km from the village of Râu de Mori, at the entrance of the Râușor valley. It used to have a square main tower, surrounded by defensive walls fortified with several small towers. While quite small and lacking architectural highlights, the Colț Fortress has a picturesque location and the path to reach it passes through charming forests. Travelers can also visit the Colț Monastery, located in the valley below. The old stone church with its pyramid shaped bell-tower dates back to the 15th century.
Hațeg Bison Reserve
Located close to the town of Hațeg, inside the majestic Slivuț Forest, it is the oldest bison reserve in Romania. Established back in 1958 with two bison from Poland, the reserve grew in size along the years and the resulting calves were sent to other parts of Romania, establishing new reserves. Spread over a large area and surrounded by enchanting woods, this is one of the best places to admire these impressive, yet gentle giants. The male bison can reach up to 900 kg, while the females usually weigh a lot less. The true stars of the reserve are usually the baby bison and the small ticket price is worth the unforgettable experience of admiring these magical creatures up-close.
Mălăiești Medieval Fortress
Driving south from Hațeg towards the mountains, travelers pass through charming villages that lead to the medieval fortress of Mălăiești. Located on a hill just south of the village and with the towering peaks of the Retezat Mountains behind, it was built during the 14th century by a noble family to defend the area. Completely renovated recently, the Mălăiești Fortress features a central tower surrounded by defensive walls and smaller towers. It makes for a nice trip, with its beautiful natural surroundings and traditional villages discovered along the way.
Among the most important Orthodox monasteries in Transylvania, Prislop has become a pilgrimage site in Romania. It is famous as the resting place of father Arsenie Boca, considered the saint of Transylvania. The monastery dates back to the 14th century while its beautiful stone church was built during the 16th century. It is located near the settlement of Silvașu de Sus, among enchanting wooded hills. Through the centuries, it passed through difficult times, yet now it is visited by thousands of people during each religious event.
Other Stone Churches
Throughout the land of Hațeg, there are many other impressive stone churches besides the ones at Densuș, Prislop Monastery and Colț Monastery. These fascinating structures are scattered around the villages and bear witness to a troubled past. The stone church of Ostrovul Mare features the best preserved medieval bell-tower, with Gothic windows and splendid interior paintings. It is surrounded by an unusual fence made of sculpted stones from the Roman ruins of Sarmizegetusa. The Cistercian church of Sântămărie-Orlea has impressive dimensions and features some exceptional frescoes that were saved and ae considered among the best medieval religious paintings in the country. The church of Sânpetru also includes stones from the Roman ruins, with a marble altar piece that used to be part of a temple dedicated to the god Silvanus. The small Pârvești Church is a relatively newer construction, being built in the same medieval style as the other churches. Although not geographically included in Hațeg Country, the stone church of Strei is built in the same style during the 13th to 14th century by a local nobleman. It is considered one of the oldest medieval structures in Romania, also including valuable old paintings.
One of the most charming and authentic places in Romania, the remote hamlet known as Fundătura Ponorului is hidden away between the mountains and the forests of Orăștie Mountains. A small river creates a valley that seems almost magical, with a few cottages spread around and a dirt road passing through. The nearest village is a few kilometers over the ridges and the best way to reach this blessed place is by following one of the ancestral paths through the forests. An endearing glimpse into the soul of the Romanian countryside, a visit to Fundătura Ponorului is an unforgettable experience. Also known as the Palm of God, this marvelous place can be reached in 1-2 hours from the village of Federi.
Retezat National Park
Retezat Mountains are the most complex and fascinating in the Romanian Carpathians and the national park covers most of its ridges. It was established in 1935, being the oldest national park in the country and one of the most fascinating natural destinations in Europe. With dozens of peaks surpassing 2.0oo meters, the greatest concentration of glacial lakes, countless exciting hiking trails, a uniquely rich biodiversity and some of the most spectacular landscapes in Romania, the Retezat National Park is an astonishing destination. The northern ridges of these mountains delve abruptly into the land of Hațeg, with several valleys providing access towards the higher alpine marvels. Along the way, travelers can admire beautiful forests, lakes, waterfalls, creeks and meadows.
Hațeg Dinosaur Geopark
Rather a complex experience of an entire land than a singular geographical place, the UNESCO Geopark is a unique concept that set out to expose the distant past of Hațeg Country, which used to be an island during prehistoric times. Also known as the island of dwarf dinosaurs, with multiple species discovered throughout the area, the land of Hațeg is a trove of treasures waiting to be discovered. The geopark includes many centers to learn about the past and present of the region, as well as themed discovery paths and educational activities. During the past years, there were many small spaces organized in the villages of Hațeg Country as part of the Dinosaur Geopark, the most important ones being the Dwarf Dinosaurs House in the village of Sânpetru and the Geopark House in the town of Hațeg. Other places include the House of Volcanoes, the House of Traditions and more.
Best Accommodation in the Land of Hateg
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This amazing hotel is located in the town of Hațeg, close to the center. It has excellent reviews and features stylish and comfortable rooms, private parking a free Wi-Fi!
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Located in the beautiful village of Hățăgel, close to Hațeg and Densuș. this traditional house offers one bedroom, bathroom, living room, fully equipped kitchen and a garden!
9.6 Rating from 153 Reviews!
This splendid guesthouse is located in the village of Clopotiva, surrounded by the mountains of Retezat. It features excellent rooms with great views, a restaurant and fitness center!